U of T President Meric Gertler has been appointed to the Board of Waterfront Toronto, the public agency tasked with administering revitalization projects along the city’s waterfront.
As a new member of the Board, Gertler brings years of expertise in urban planning and development. He holds a Master’s degree in City Planning from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a PhD from Harvard University. Gertler has served as an advisor to regional and national governments in Canada.
Speaking to The Varsity about his new appointment, Gertler stated, “I will, hopefully, bring my knowledge and expertise on cities to bear on decisions that Waterfront Toronto will be making, and to help ensure that it adheres to its vision of making the waterfront a more liveable place.”
He said that his main goals while serving on the board would include focusing on the residential challenges that Toronto faces, particularly, developing affordable and accessible housing.
“So many people want to live here and the supply of housing is really [a] constraint, and in particular affordable housing. I would like to make sure that future development of the waterfront caters to a mix of different income levels, in order for lower and middle income people to live in a place like [Toronto],” he explained.
Gertler also spoke about seeing the city’s vibrant multiculturalism and diversity reflected in the waterfront area. “I am a firm believer that cultural and creative activities really animate a city and animate a neighbourhood, and I would love to see more of that kind of activity being accommodated on the waterfront in the future,” he commented.
When asked how his three years of experience as President of the university will shape the way he will think about the waterfront, he said, “It will make sure that I am always keeping the needs of students and faculty and staff in mind when I’m thinking about decisions that are being made to the waterfront, and thinking about ways that a successful redevelopment of the waterfront can help educational institutions in the city.”
Gertler is also interested in getting U of T students involved with the waterfront. “If there were opportunities for us to partner with other organizations in that part of the city, then it would be interesting,” he said.
“One idea that comes up from time to time is that as you build new communities, you can apply the latest thinking about liveable and sustainable cities,” he continued, “I would love to see U of T students and faculty involved in helping to shape those kinds of future communities.”
Waterfront Toronto was created as a joint effort between the federal, provincial, and municipal governments in 1999. The organization’s website states that, in 1999, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Premier Mike Harris, and Mayor Mel Lastman announced the formation of a task force to develop a business plan and make recommendations for developing Toronto’s waterfront.