The federal, provincial and municipal governments will jointly invest nearly $1.2 billion to protect the Port Lands from flooding over the next seven years. It’s part of a larger plan to unlock an estimated 240 hectares of prime waterfront real estate for redevelopment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory made the announcement at the foot of Polson Street Wednesday morning.

Under the funding arrangement, the federal government will contribute $384 million of the $1.185 billion cost while the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto will each chip in $400 million.

The work, to be overseen by Waterfront Toronto, will involve the rerouting of the Don River to the middle of the Port Lands between Ship Channel and Keating Channel and the creation of a 1,000 metre stretch of naturalized river valley in the process.

It will also involve the excavation of 1.5 million cubic metres of soil and extensive remediation work that will ultimately raise the ground by about two metres throughout most of the Port Lands.

The flood protection work and eventual redevelopment of the Port Lands is expected to create about 1,500 jobs.

Once complete, the work will allow a 60 acre plot of land near Lake Shore Boulevard and the Don Valley Parkway to be redeveloped

The developer that owns the land, First Gulf, has previously said that it has plans to turn the area into a major business hub with 10 million square feet of new office space, two million square feet of new commercial space as well as new residences for an estimated 30,000 people, 20 per cent of which will be affordable housing.

Tentatively dubbed East Harbour, the development would one day accommodate about 50,000 workers.

“This is the single largest stretch of undeveloped and underused downtown waterfront in North America so we are not just talking about a national project,” Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters on Wednesday morning. “It is an opportunity that we cannot afford to pass up.”

In September, the federal and provincial governments announced $65 million in funding to remake the old Essroc quay at the western end of the Keating Chanel; however the larger plan to reroute the Don River and flood protect the rest of the Port Lands had previously been unfunded.

Wynne said that protecting the area from flooding paves the way for it to be remade into a “vibrant new community,” not unlike the development of the West Don Lands, which required flood protection work on a 210 hectares plot of land that was completed in 2012. Since the completion of that work, the area has become home to a mixed-use community that includes condominiums, a George Brown College residence and a YMCA.

“We have shown how this model can work and now we are doing it here,” Wynne said.

Tory welcomes announcement

An estimated 14 hectares of aquatic habitat and 16 hectares of new parkland will be created as a result of the rerouting of the Don River and the flood protecting of the Port Lands.

Tory said the work will “unlock new neighbourhoods, new jobs and new opportunities” and, perhaps most importantly, will allow for the construction of much needed housing “close to the jobs and transportation networks that people need.”

He also alluded to plans for a transit hub in the area. Wynne had previously agreed that “there will need to be transit solutions” once work begins on the development of the area.

“When completed, this new area of our city will create new employment and a transit hub, helping us to accommodate our city’s growth and to tap into its potential,” Tory said.

Waterfront Toronto has previously said that the development of the Port Lands would add $5.1 billion to the Canadian economy and result in the creation of 51,900 person years of employment over a 10-year period.

Speaking with reporters at Wednesday’s news conference, Waterfront Toronto CEO Will Fleissig said the eventual redevelopment of the Port Lands is a project that will “change the front porch of Toronto” forever.

Trudeau, meanwhile, called the project a “transformative” initiative that will “ensure that Toronto continues to be an attractive place to do business, both big and small.”