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Fireside Chat with William Fleissig


Empire Communities attended the 8th annual Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Fireside Chat this month, an event we’ve come to look forward to, as it gives us a rare opportunity to connect with a major industry personality in a unique and exciting way.
Intended to be framed as casual conversation between colleagues, Ken Greenberg, principal of Greenberg Consultants sat down amongst 300 industry professionals with William Fleissig, Waterfront Toronto’s new President and CEO. The two discussed William’s move to the city, his vision for our waterfront and what surprised him about becoming a Torontonian. The event gave the audience a rare glimpse into the vision what will be guiding the waterfront redevelopment process in the coming years.
When asked what attracted him to the position, William stated how drawn he was to the Waterfronts unique and ambitious mission statement. Particularly the intention to ‘change the perception of Toronto’. William speaks with such obvious sincerity about his belief in the potential of the waterfront that it was impossible to not get excited about the changes that are surely to come. Ken and William reminisced briefly about a conversation they shared shortly prior to the event about what Toronto is. They concluded that Toronto is ‘becoming’; Toronto is still being shaped and the choices we make today will define Toronto’s future, not only to its citizens and the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA), but to the world.
Although Waterfront Toronto’s immediate efforts will focus on the lakeshore flanking the Don Valley Parkway, what Empire really loved about the event was Fleissig obvious commitment to making the waterfront an inclusionary tool. Being community builders in the GTA, South Western Ontario as well as the inner City, Empire can appreciate the efforts to create a space that drives everyone to visit and enjoy. As Ken pointed out, there can be a tendency in the GTHA to fall back on a ‘them and us’ mentality creating a divide between the 416, 905 and adjacent communities beyond. What William sees as a true success is the waterfront becoming a home to everyone, not just those in its immediate vicinity.
As William Fleissig so eloquently put, Toronto’s waterfront is our front porch, it is the entryway to our city and region. If we do not keep our front porch inviting, no one is going to want to come inside. Waterfront Toronto is only now beginning a long process of community involvement and visioning. Be sure to share your views of what makes a successful waterfront!
A huge thank you to ULI, William Fleissig and Ken Greenberg for an enlightening and educating event!