Due to construction in the area, please allow extra travel time when visiting Harbourfront Centre. Details here.

History of Harbourfront Centre

Four decades as the heart of Toronto's waterfront

Harbourfront Centre has been on the cutting edge of all that is current and creative for the past four decades, bringing together the best in Canadian and international arts and culture and animating the 10 prime acres of Toronto's waterfront as free and open public space. This is our story.

Bringing the world to the waterfront

Harbourfront Centre, 1970s
Forty years ago, the central lakefront was a veritable wasteland of derelict industrial buildings. Devoid of green spaces, recreational facilities and cultural attractions, it was in need of a change.

In 1972, Pierre Trudeau's federal government created a Crown corporation with a mandate to revitalize 100 central acres of waterfront land stretching west from York Street to Stadium Road. Culture, education and recreation were to be the tools that would bring Torontonians back to the lake and attract visitors from around the globe. In 1976, Harbourfront Corporation was formed to fulfil this mandate and initiate change

Leading the way in urban revitalization

Harbourfront Centre, 1990s
Harbourfront Centre was established in 1991 as a not-for-profit charity to carry on this legacy, and the site was transformed into an international platform for theatre, dance, literature, music, film, visual arts, fine craft and cultural celebration. With over 4,000 events and programmes each year, Harbourfront Centre has become a model of urban revitalization, inspiring San Francisco, London, Tokyo, Chicago and others to follow suit.

Part of Harbourfront Centre's charm is that it has retained and restored the original industrial buildings, creating a spacious campus-like site. These symbols of Toronto's past have emerged as vibrant new centres of creativity, from the Fleck Dance Theatre and Harbourfront Centre Theatre to The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and WestJet Stage. The Bill Boyle Artport, formerly a trucking warehouse, is the central hub of Harbourfront Centre, housing administrative offices, multiple performance venues, exhibition spaces and our Craft & Design Studio.

All this and much, much more

Harbourfront Centre, 2013
Harbourfront Centre is one of Canada's most popular tourist attractions – and one of the most unique and creative cultural centres in the world – drawing more than 17 million repeat annual visitors and contributing millions of dollars to the local economy each year. Since 2005, Harbourfront Centre has been working on a series of projects that continue to transform the waterfront. Some of these improvements include an extension of the boardwalk, a 300-stall underground parking garage and three new public spaces: Canada Square, Ontario Square and Exhibition Common. And this is only the beginning of the remarkable and pioneering changes planned for the southern edge of Canada's largest city.

Harbourfront Centre has always been an innovative force in Toronto's cultural scene, introducing audiences to bold and brilliant new artists and art forms from around the world. The many events that visitors enjoy include the World Stage contemporary performance series, NextSteps national dance series, International Festival of Authors (IFOA), summer festival weekends, contemporary exhibitions in visual art and architecture, Artists-in-Residence in the Craft & Design Studio and so much more.

And that's why Harbourfront Centre means many things to so many people. To some, Harbourfront Centre is the heart of the community – a public place offering Toronto residents a wide range of educational programmes and recreational activities; to others, it is an international cultural centre – a collection of waterfront venues showcasing the finest talent from Canada and around the world; and to others still, it is simply a stretch of urban waterfront – a quiet refuge and the perfect place in which to take a stroll, to reflect and to enjoy life in one of the greatest, most creative cities on earth.

But no matter who you are or where you're from, Harbourfront Centre will always be the heart of Toronto's waterfront.

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