Woman of the Week: Meg Davis

Meg Davis loves to witness change in a neighbourhood. It’s her passion — to watch a vibrant community evolve over the years. As Chief Developent Officer of Waterfront Toronto, Davis gets to see this kind of transformation on a daily basis.

Davis has worked for Waterfront Toronto for the last 10 years, and says the change within the neighbourhood is heartwarming.

“When I arrived here we had a couple small parks and wave decks, which were stunning and beautiful and got a lot of attention, but we hadn’t built a building yet,” she said. “In the last 10 years we’ve built an 18-acre park in the West Don lands, Pan Am athletes village, condos in the West Don lands, [and] East Bayfront. People are starting to build down here and one of the things we have started is programming. Cultural events, the sugar shack program, partnering with Luminato — we are really animating the waterfront.”

The waterfront, a 46-kilometre stretch of Harbourfront property along Lake Ontario between Etobicoke and Rouge River, is constantly transforming. Waterfront Toronto is a public advocate and steward of this revitalization process. It was created by all three levels of the Canadian government with the purpose of overseeing and implementing strategies to transform the area.

One of the things Waterfront Toronto stresses is the difference between redevelopment and revitalization. Redevelopment, Davis explains, refers to the selling of land to the highest bidder, regardless of what they plan on doing in the area.

“Revitalization means achieving public policy objectives such as reducing urban sprawl, providing transit, reducing carbon emissions, contributing to economic vibrancy, addressing affordability and providing excellent public realm and architecture by leveraging public land,” she said.

It’s this kind of urban development that Davis is passionate about. Her love of urban planning was encouraged by a geography teacher in high school, whose lesson plans focused on urban affairs. “It really grabbed me. I took as many courses like that as I could,” she said.

Her education is mixed. She has an Honours Bachelor degree from Western University in urban development, a Master’s in business Administration from the University of Toronto, and recently completed an Executive Leadership Program. She started her career as a junior planner with Bramalea Limited, focusing mostly on real estate. From 2005 to 2007, Davis acted as Director of KPMG Canada, focusing on public-private partnership projects, including $1 billion long-term care facilities and the sale of Highway 407.

“I love the physical aspect of it,” she said. “I love to see things come up from the ground and take shape. For me, the use of P3s were a unique opportunity to see how the government and the private sector could come together.”

This is especially true of Toronto’s waterfront, which Davis describes as essentially “one big P3.” Waterfront Toronto is putting a large emphasis on affordable housing within its neighbourhoods, and using that as a foundation for planning.

“You can have affordable housing and expensive condos, [but] if you don’t provide the public spaces, it’s not a place anybody wants to live,” she said. “You can’t squander the opportunities – being by the water is unique in Toronto and you have to make it a complete community.”

As Chief Development Officer, Davis is responsible for leading the development of all lands controlled by Waterfront Toronto. She is particularly proud of the Pan Parapan Am Games Athlete’s Village in the West Don Lands, which was transformed after the games into affordable rental housing, vibrant retail properties, student housing, market condominiums, and public art. Davis says it advanced revitalization of the neighbourhood by over five years.

“We are really animating the waterfront. I think the transformation is huge,” she says.

Davis helps co-chair the Women’s Leadership Initiative ULI Toronto. They are working on a speaking series that will help promote the voices of women in real estate, which she says is still a heavily male-dominated industry.

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Toronto to get a high-tech waterfront neighbourhood

Toronto has grown so much over the last 10 years. All it takes is a quick scan of the city skyline to see the massive influx of construction across the downtown core. The city is definitely still under development and because of this there is an increased cost of living and looming growth challenges.

Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, in collaboration with Waterfront Toronto and the Canadian federal government, announced the development of an innovative city hub in Toronto, coined Quayside. The announcement was made on Tuesday at Corus Quay to a crowd that included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

There will be 800 acres of land available for revitalization in the eastern waterfront area. This hub will be the first high-tech neighbourhood in the city, and a model of a city that reflects the future.

Quayside will be a neighbourhood that combines people, culture, environment, and technology to help people thrive. Sidewalk Labs, since their launch in 2015, expressed their desire to create a modern community hub in an international city. The aim is to use technology as a tool to address urban living challenges, resulting in a more comfortable space for residents in the city. The ‘smart’ neighbourhood will have an impact on the future of Toronto as it will generate global interest and improve economic growth and development.

“We looked all over the world for the perfect place to bring this vision to life, and we found it here in Toronto.” Said Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of  Sidewalk Labs to a packed audience.

One of the most important aspects that Quayside will provide is an increase in jobs, as well as an increase in tech talent. Creative and innovative minds will have an opportunity to work and even live in a community that matches their skills. In getting this project underway, Sidewalk Labs also reached out to many residents across the GTA to get input and feedback on the community development idea. Now that Quayside will be a reality, starting Nov. 1 , Sidewalk Labs will spend approximately $50 million to have a yearlong discussion, consisting of public meetings, with residents, universities, and the government on how the project should unfold.


Sidewalk Labs also says they hope to have a blueprint on what the proposed neighbourhood would look like by the end of the year. Google Canada will also shift its headquarters to this waterfront neighbourhood. This kind of high- tech community will attract innovation and design concepts that should set Toronto apart from other cities in the world.

The Quayside is expected to be a community focused on the overall goal of people thriving. A place to feel comfortable  and grow. While all the specifics of the development remain unclear at this time, Sidewalk Labs gave a few examples of what people can expect, such as smart robots that clean the streets or self- driving transit, which is already being tested in other parts of the world.

How excited are you to see this unfold in our city? Comment below


Cycling in Toronto: nature routes in the city

Toronto is a city of cyclists. Every corner seems to sport a bike-repair shop or a hang out catered to the cycling community. Urban cycling has become a part of the regular landscape of the city, even in the dead of winter. The war between vehicles and cyclists often leaves me craving a ride that doesn’t include competing with cars or nearly getting your hair buzzed off by some crazed driver passing by. The challenge begins: what is the best nature bike route in the big smoke?

By Maury Markowitz
By Maury Markowitz

There are many worthy contenders, ranging from a mid-town ride to a waterfront adventure. Enjoy the Ontarian scenery with the Martin Goodman Trail, a good choice for nature bike route of the year. Downtown construction on the route was completed in the summer of 2015. It is a beautiful route along Lake Ontario and spans into the eastern quadrant of the waterfront. It is 56 km long so don’t forget to bring some water and protein bars!

If you are looking for a shorter, but similarly challenging bike route that leads further into the recesses of nature, the Don Valley Parkway is the answer. This parkway extends from the Martin Goodman Trail at Cherry St. and works northward nearly all the way to Eglinton Ave. E. It is a hidden gem in the Toronto landscape because the valley is much lower than the highway and is much quieter than one would expect for a nature route in the middle of the city. The 15 km route includes sightseeing of wetlands, water crossings, and greenery for miles.

Photo by Ontario Trails
Photo by Ontario Trails

If you want to explore the western half of the city, the Humber Valley Trail system is another natural area in the city that has a variety of great biking routes. By taking the Martin Goodman Trail westwards, it is possible to cut northwards onto the Humber trails. It leads into magnificent natural areas in the western half of the city. Both the northern and southern nature routes have their beauties, but the Humber trails are often more secluded and natural than the Don Valley Parkway. This bike path is 27 km long, but can extend northwards quite far into other jurisdictions.

Taken from Toronto Savy
Taken from Toronto Savy

If you are looking for a good mid-town biking option, the Kay Beltline Park is an unpaved trail with beautiful trees. Beginning at Allen Rd., it is nine km and follows Eglinton Rd.  The route ends near Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, which also has beautiful cycling routes and then connects back to the Don Valley Parkway. It is a nice alternative to biking along heavy service roads such as Eglinton if you are traveling across town.

The city is full of cycling routes that will fulfill any nature lover’s desire to escape the city without even having to leave the urban landscape. Each of these routes offers something unique about Toronto’s topography, befitting of this unique, quirky, and beautiful Canadian city.

What are your favourite bike routes in the city? Comment below and let us know!