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Sherbourne Common

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Saves approximately 18,200 gallons of potable water and $238 annually through the use of treated stormwater and lake water for the ice skating rink.
  • Reduces fossil fuel consumption by purchasing renewable energy for 100% of the power used by the pavilion, approximately 9,000 kWh per year.
  • Sequesters an estimated 2,000 lbs of atmospheric carbon per year through the planting of 182 trees.


  • Serves as a neighborhood amenity, with 70% of 18 surveyed users coming from within 2 miles.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    PFS Studio

  • Project Type

    Park/Open space
    Waterfront redevelopment

  • Former Land Use


  • Location

    61 Dockside Drive
    Toronto, Ontario M5A 1B6, Canada
    Map it

  • Climate Zone

    Humid continental

  • Size

    3.6 acres

  • Budget

    $16.5 million

  • Completion Date


Sherbourne Common is a 3.6-acre park situated in the eastern bayfront area of Toronto’s waterfront, a rapidly developing mixed-use and residential community. Inspired by Toronto’s historic shoreline, the park is built around 3 typologies: the woods, the green, and the water. The primary organizing feature, water, is expressed through a stormwater management system that evokes the journey of water from sky to ground to lake. A key element of the stormwater system, a UV purification facility for neighborhood-wide stormwater treatment, is the first of its kind in any Canadian park and stands as exemplar for the integration of natural systems and civic infrastructure into cities. Sherbourne Common celebrates Toronto’s seasonality through multiple changing features and successfully accommodates diverse users by providing both tranquil escape from urban living and a dynamic civic space that encourages visitors to reengage with the lake and the waterfront.


As part of Waterfront Toronto’s extensive multi-site development along Toronto’s waterfront, one of the main challenges for Sherbourne Common was to implement a stormwater management system that was part of a larger stormwater management strategy that had varying schedules for implementation along the lake’s edge. Because many parks were being developed simultaneously, design integration was a challenge particularly when working with multiple stakeholders, each with their own interests in the development of the site. Another design challenge and priority was to balance the design approach between a progressive client organization and the City’s limited ongoing maintenance funds, technical expertise, and capacity for specialized training. 


To respond to the need for a staggered stormwater implementation strategy, as the adjacent projects and systems were in various stages of completion, the landscape architect worked closely with engineers to develop interim solutions for elements like the UV purification facility, public art sulptures, biofiltration beds, and the skating rink, for example, using lake water for the skating rink in advance of having access to stormwater. To address concerns of multiple stakeholders while balancing the integration of the park’s design along the water’s edge, consultation and coordination occurred with the client group, developing a series of design options and scenarios that demonstrated the feasibility of ideas and interests. The design ideas were the result of information gathering about programmed park spaces around the site and the city in an effort to see the park not as a singular entity but as part of a collective. Throughout the process, the landscape architects were cognizant that some ideas, though important to the park design, would ultimately be abandoned as they conflicted with the overall direction of the waterfront. Design reviews allowed for a focus on the feasible maintenance of materials and their durability, where in some cases compromises were made between original design intent and the understanding that the park’s maintenance would be subject to inevitable fluctuations of civic budgets.

  • The UV purification facility, located in the basement of the park’s pavilion, includes 2 reactors with the capacity to treat up to 1.6 million gallons of stormwater per day.
  • “Light Showers,” three 30-ft-tall sculptures by Jill Anholt, aerate UV-treated water by sending it in thin streams from the top of each fixture, giving the appearance of sheets of water cascading down into a biofiltration bed.
  • After passing through the ‘shower’, water is further treated in a raised concrete and river rock biofiltration bed with aquatic plants like Northern blueflag (Iris versicolour) and rough horsetail (Equisefum hyemale).
  • A 787-ft-long recessed concrete surface channel releases clean, treated water back into Lake Ontario.
  • Walkways vary in width from 9 to 26 ft along their combined length of 1,900 ft. They wind through the park to the lake’s edge, allowing visitors to follow the flow of water as it moves among the stormwater features.
  • Seasonally-distinct park features include the art sculptures and an array of water jets scattered across the central plaza in the summer; once the jets are turned off the plaza becomes a stage, and in winter months it turns into a skating rink.
  • Up to 26,730 gallons of treated lake and rainwater are used to create and maintain a 9,902-sf skating rink.
  • 182 trees including 108 Pacific Sunset Maple (Acer truncatum x A. platanoides ‘Warrenred’), 45 Red Oak (Quercus rubra), and 29 American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) now thrive in a grove in the area that was formerly the parking lot. 
  • An extensive lighting system includes 47 pedestrian pole lights, 12 bollard lights, 16 integrated bench lights, 2 indirect pole-mounted lights, 19 in-ground pin lights, and 10 wall-recessed lights, allowing visitors to use the site safely at night.

Sherbourne Common is part of an ensemble of projects planned, designed and developed to rehabilitate and redefine the derelict waterfront of Lake Ontario as a new, vital district in downtown Toronto. This movement is part of a larger, coordinated effort to increase the environmental, social and economic value of formerly underutilized and restricted floodplain land that is being newly reintegrated into the city.

This ambitious urban endeavor has been almost entirely the work of Waterfront Toronto, an agency developed and funded by the federal, provincial, and city governments to revitalize the Lake Ontario shoreline. The agency’s strategy has been to create significant public spaces that catalyze the public and private development of new institutional, residential and commercial neighborhoods. Waterfront Toronto seeks to provide environmental, social and economic benefits within its area through its policies, such as its mandate that any development occurring adjacent to the parks must include a minimum of 20% affordable housing. It also has its own Best Practice Guide for sustainability, which informs decisions about park design and maintenance. Residential, retail, office, and institutional city Development Change fees apply on development occurring around Waterfront Toronto projects to make funding available for future growth-related capital infrastructure. 

Sherbourne Common was a Waterfront Toronto project built as the centerpiece of, and ahead of, a newly-constructed neighborhood. Conceived as an economic and social catalyst, the park also delivers neighborhood-wide environmental benefit through its advanced integrated stormwater treatment system. 1,260 affordable housing units and 315 low-end-of-market housing units were developed adjacent to Sherbourne Common in accordance with Waterfront Toronto’s requirements. 

  • When the park opened, the importance of selecting the right material for an urban waterfront site with multiple uses became apparent. The skating rink, designed for informal skating and scaled to discourage hockey, became a popular site for lakeside shinny (pickup hockey). As a result, several of the park elements adjacent to the rink were subject to the intense impact resulting from the unintended adjacent use. The surrounding concrete walls were subject to the occasional hockey puck while the concrete walls surfaced with embossed stainless steel panels which were specifically selected for their appearance and non-corrosive properties turned out to be more successful than anticipated in terms of their durability, wear, and resistance to vandalism and impact from adjacent hockey use.
  • Sherbourne Common’s success far outpaced the projected demand and use. By continuing to work with Waterfront Toronto, the landscape architect was able to make adjustments in materials and make significant design modifications after the fact, continuing their adaptive design process. As design questions emerge after the site opens, design ideas and maintenance should be modified to meet the realities of the site’s evolving use.

Ground Cover
Paving: Unilock Paving, Custom linear pavers
Permeable Paving: The Meaking Group, Rubberized Surface

Bench Light: Integrated with resin diffuser
Bollard Light: iGuzzini, iWay small with diffuser 40
Inground Pin Light: Sistemalux Minisparks with single window
Pedestrian Pole Light: Hess Night Elements Pole Luminaire (4500 mm height); Hess Campo pole-mounted lights
Pole Mounted Light (tree lights): Sistemalux MiniWoody Floodlight with base
Wall Light (recessed): iGuzzini Light Up Walk
Weir Lights: Hess, Ledia LL UW

Benches: 3form, Custom IPE benches with resin inlay
Bicycle Racks: Landscape Forms, Ring bicycle racks
Waste Receptacle: Landscape Forms, PetoskeyTrash receptacle
Drinking Fountain: Most Dependable Fountains, Pedestal drinking fountain
Fence: Rigidized Metals, Embossed stainless steel cladding

UV Purification Facility
TrojanUVFit reactors

Project Team

Landscape Architect: Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg (PFS) Studio
Landscape Architect (local consultant): The Planning Partnership
Architect (pavilion): Teeple Architects Inc.
Construction Management: Eastern Construction
Contractor (General): UCC Group
Landscape Contractor: Aldershot Landscape
Public Artist: Jill Anholt Studio
Engineer (Civil): The Municipal Infrastructure Group Ltd.
Engineer (Electrical): URS Corporation Canada Inc.
Engineer (Electrical and Mechanical, Pavilion): Cobalt Engineering
Engineer (Geotechnical): Alston Associates
Engineer (Structural): Quinn Dressel Associates
Ice Rink Consultant: Custom Ice
Irrigation Consultant: CIS Irrigation Inc.
Lighting (Public Art): Tripped on Lighting Design Inc.
Mechanical Consultant (Fountain): Vincent Helton and Associates

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect led a large multidisciplinary team through a 4-year process that included extensive public consultations in order to create and deliver one of the first public parks along Toronto’s developing waterfront. The landscape architect was responsible for determining the direction of the park while coordinating the integration of architecture, infrastructure, and public art into the park design.


Water conservation, Energy use, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Recreational & social value, Trees, Rainwater harvesting, Greywater reuse, Active living, Social equity, Revitalization, Play, Placemaking

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