Coun. Shawn Lewis hopes for support in push to alter London's Back to the River project

The Back to the River project is coming back to city hall as London councillors go over the strategic plan, but one councillor is again raising concerns over a focal point of the riverfront revitalization plan.

Councillor looks to flush riverfront revitalization project in London

Coun. Shawn Lewis has taken issue with the portion of Back to the River concerning the Forks of the Thames. The current plan aims to “bring Londoners back to the river, radiating from the Forks,” and he’s hoping to convince his colleagues to take out the “radiating from the Forks” portion of the project.

“There’s $5 million that’s been earmarked by the past council for this project. We haven’t spent that money yet. Already, the project has ballooned from a cost of $7 million to $12 million,” he explained.

“I don’t see $12 million worth of value in this project.”

The design for the project, borne out of a London Community Foundation competition won by Denver-based firm Civitas in 2015, includes an elevated boardwalk over the water dubbed “The Ribbon,” an open event plaza and scenic outlooks along a five-kilometre stretch of the Thames River.

“I understand people’s desire to have a good focus on the river, but to me, I think the best thing that we can do for the river is to clean it up. Stop dumping waste water and sewage into there when we have heavy rain events because we don’t have the capacity to work on the invasive species that are along the river,” he said.

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A letter penned by LCF President and CEO Martha Powell to London’s strategic priorities and policy committee earlier this year noted that the project is about more than just a “pretty river,” and that it would “stimulate community revitalization and economic investment.”

It went on to say that LCF has received a number of charitable donations towards the project, including a $3-million estate gift for affordable housing in SoHo, and that they want the city to be a “formal partner” moving forward.

Powell will be addressing the strategic priorities and policy committee on Monday afternoon.

The committee meeting gets underway at 5 p.m.

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