Will is well-known nationally as a development and thought leader, building new and existing communities into sustainable, accessible, vibrant and beautiful places. His experience in community engagement, district-scale sustainability, building equitable and inclusive communities, and transit-oriented development serves as an ideal match for Waterfront Toronto’s overall approach and vision for community- and city-building.
Will holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania ; a Bachelor of Architecture in urban design from the City College of New York, and a Master in Public Administration with an emphasis on public finance from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is a licensed architect in the State of California.
Before joining Waterfront Toronto in January 2016, Will was the President of Communitas Development, a real estate development and advisory company in San Francisco that leads and advises on community-oriented urban developments. He has overseen multiple award-winning, mixed-use, large-scale urban projects.
Will has served in the public sector as the Director of Planning and Development for the City of Boulder, Colorado, and as the Director of Downtown Planning and Development in Denver, where he led the city’s efforts to revitalize several historical areas of the city.
Previously, Will directed the planning of many prominent transit-oriented development projects including Boston’s North Station Development Plan, Kendall Square/Cambridge Center Master Development Plan and Denver’s Union Station Master Development Plan.
Toronto’s strategic location for trade and transportation prompted a massive campaign of lake-filling in the late 1800s to make more land available for shipping and industry. Industrialization left behind heavily contaminated lands that became undesirable places to live, work or play. Within this area, Toronto’s Port Lands remain a working port and is home to a variety of light industrial uses. Once the largest natural wetland in Lake Ontario, the Port Lands are a massive underutilized, contaminated brownfield site that neighbours Toronto’s vibrant and growing downtown core. In addition to its brownfield condition, much of this area is also at risk of flooding and its potential cannot be reached until this risk is addressed.
The challenge facing Waterfront Toronto is how to execute, on a large-scale plan, flood protection, sustainability, biodiversity, adaptive urban planning and design, economic development and innovation, transit and other issues – to transform the Port Lands into a sustainable, model community for the 21st Century that can act as a demonstration project of local, national and global significance.
Waterfront Toronto was created by the federal, provincial and municipal governments in 2001 to oversee and lead the renewal of Toronto’s waterfront. As the master developer of the city’s waterfront, we are charged with restoring waterfront accessibility and delivering sustainable mixed use communities. In doing so, we are helping the city compete at the global level to attract and retain top talent, jobs and investment. At 800 hectares, this is one of the largest waterfront revitalization projects in the world.
In partnership with the City of Toronto and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Waterfront Toronto has developed a solution – the Don Mouth Naturalization and Flood Protection Project. This plan will create resilient city infrastructure, in the form of a new river channel, restored wetlands, parks and open spaces that will mitigate the risk and costs associated with major flooding and unlock the area for revitalization. In completing this project, we will remove and manage the contaminants in about one million cubic metres of soil, restore vital wetlands and create new green spaces, providing a variety of plant species, shoreline treatments, terrestrial and aquatic habitats that will enhance healthy and sustainable living. A new river channel, 13 hectares of new coastal wetland and four hectares of terrestrial habitat will result, strengthening biodiversity that will help clean our air and water.
This work will then enable the development of vibrant, complete and climate positive neighbourhoods in harmony with the working port. Recognizing that climate change is one of the most important issues of our time, and in light of the agreement adopted at the COP21, we are exploring ways, across all of our projects, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Part of our plan for the Port Lands – the Lower Don Lands project is a member of the C40-Climate Positive Development Program. The C40 program supports urban projects that demonstrate climate-positive city building, striving to reduce on-site carbon emissions to below zero. A variety of strategies, including innovative energy systems and new economic/partnership models, will be employed to help achieve this target. We are working with the City of Toronto to develop a precinct plan for the first community to be developed in the area. In line with our Climate Positive goals, City Council passed a motion to include zero net energy import and zero waste export guidelines in the planning phase.
Sustainability and resilience are core objectives integrated into all aspects of our planning, design and project delivery. Established in 2006, Waterfront Toronto’s Minimum Green Building Requirements (MGBR) aim to transform the market by demanding higher performing buildings. Leveraging one of the most recognized green building standards, our MGBR includes LEED Gold certification, in addition to high levels of energy and water efficiency, renewable energy generation, Electric Vehicle infrastructure, flexible building design, and green roofs, among others. The success achieved by our MGBR showcases the economic viability of green buildings and is stimulating a greener real estate industry. It has motivated development outside of the waterfront to require and strive for elevated performance. For example, the City of Toronto established its Green Standard in 2010.
The project includes consideration of how to drive innovation and economic development through supporting key economic sectors that leverage Waterfront Toronto’s ultra high-speed broadband network, which is currently serving residents and businesses across the waterfront. The network supports both strategic growth-oriented sectors such as digital media and production, Information and Communications Technology, film and TV production, and the use of new public amenities. The goal for the Port Lands is to find innovations that can be used to enhance quality and liveability and meet the evolving needs of the sustainable 21st century city.
One of our completed projects have informed our approach. Flood protecting the Port Lands builds on flood protection achieved further up the Don River Valley in the West Don Lands precinct. Similarly, the West Don Lands was a significant brownfield site that could not be revitalized until flood protection was achieved.
Waterfront Toronto is supporting Toronto’s economic competitiveness, planning and developing livable, sustainable communities, and building future-ready infrastructure that mitigates the impact of climate change. Facilitating innovative planning and policies in the context of climate change mitigation and embracing new approaches and technologies are key to achieving our goals of developing low carbon, transformative, sustainable and smart communities, while embracing and working with existing port and industrial activities.