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Monday, December 21, 2015

A real estate developer from San Francisco will lead the next phase of Toronto’s waterfront renewal starting in the new year.

A real estate developer from San Francisco will lead the next phase of Toronto’s waterfront renewal starting in the new year.
William Fleissig, who specializes in sustainable urban planning and public policy, has been hired by Waterfront Toronto to replace John Campbell as president and CEO.
At a December 14 news conference at Waterfront Toronto’s Bay Street headquarters, Fleissig, who is currently president of cohousing and development outfit Communitas Development, called his move to Toronto a career capstone.
“This is my legacy project,” he says. “All of me will be involved in this project and this will be my sole focus going forward.”
Fleissig was chosen from more than 300 applicants after Campbell announced his intention to retire in 2015. The former Brookfield Properties head has led Waterfront Toronto since its inception in 2001, overseeing the redevelopment of some 800 hectares of the city’s waterfront, including through some tumultuous times during Rob Ford’s tenure as mayor. Mark Wilson, who is chair of the board of directors says that of the nine candidates selected for interviews, Fleissig was the only one unanimously endorsed by the board.
Prior to leading Communitas in San Francisco, Fleissig served as the director of planning and development for Boulder, Colorado. He was also the director of downtown planning and development in Denver. His projects have appeared in Boston, Cambridge, Los Angeles and San Jose.
“This is not just another redevelopment project,” he says of his new gig. “This is truly one of the most amazing opportunities worldwide. I could not think of a better place to be... creating neighbourhoods that everyone will feel is their neighbourhood.”
One of Fleissig’s first challenges will be the redevelopment of the Port Lands, an 400-hectare parcel south of Lake Shore Boulevard and bounded by the Toronto Inner Harbour and Ashbridges Bay. City councillor Paula Fletcher, whose riding includes the area, sees its redevelopment, as well as the transformation of the mouth of the Don River, as two of the most anticipated projects on the waterfront.
“We’ve been working for 10 years to get the waterfront mouth of the Don ready, so the table is set. That’s his first challenge,” she says.
In addition to tackling the area surrounding the Don River, Fletcher identifies transit and the east Gardiner Expressway as two other priorities. “All the developments that have taken place there in East Bayfront and the Don Lands, there is no transit on Queens Quay, which is a big problem,” she says.
City council voted in June to maintain the Gardiner east of Jarvis rather than tearing it down, opting for a hybrid version pushed by Mayor John Tory. Fletcher says that Fleissig’s experience in city building will come into play when it comes to “the best model for a hybrid because we can’t just have any old highway on the waterfront, assuming that’s what we end up building.”
For Fleissig, the unique complexities affecting each area along the waterfront and the sheer scale of the project is what drew him to the job. The expectations for sustainability is what sealed the deal.
“Everything that we’re trying to do in terms of energy, liveability and diversity, is represented in this project.,” he said. “I could not think of another location, market, or opportunity where the alignment that’s been created around a vision is so clear and compelling.”

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