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Some Thoughts on Toronto Development
12/06/2003
I've been very busy with work in the past few months, and it has made it hard for me to write regularly. Despite all the potential reasons for Toronto to head into an economic slump (SARS, poor US economy, skyrocketing Canadian dollar, American animosity, bad municipal government, etc.), the business I work for hasn't ever been busier. It will be interesting to see if the economy holds up. There are several building projects underway in Toronto that will change the face of the city... if they are completed. One area where I keep noticing new signs announcing condos is in the no-man's land between Front Street and Queen's Quay. There have been projects going on to the west of SkyDome for a while -- such as the big planned CityPlace project, eventually going all the way to Bathurst. What I find interesting are all the smaller projects being promoted to fill in the spaces between SkyDome and the Air Canada Centre, to the east of the ACC, and south of the Gardiner on Harbour Street. Presently, that area is a dead zone of parking lots and vacant lands. It is arguable that the waterfront is less cut off from the city by the Gardiner or the railway tracks than it is by this space lying between. It is not nice to walk under the Gardiner, it is worse walking under the railway tracks, but it is quite worse to have to walk under the Gardiner, past huge parking lots, and then under the railway tracks in one continuous inhuman stretch. So, I'm curious about what this will be like in a couple years' time. Of course, I don't think we can count on ideal developments that will truly bring the streets to life, but things will nevertheless be quite different once this area is developed. The walk along Bay, for example, from Queen's Quay to Union Station will be changed dramatically. Another impact that all this development seems to be having is a considerable reduction in surface parking in the core. I'm sure some of this is being offset by new underground parking, but condos don't provide publicly-accessible parking as frequently as office towers do. It seems that downtown parking spaces are being replaced with downtown residents. I view this as a positive change. More of downtown's workforce is now choosing to live downtown. This seems to be a sign that the vibrancy of our urban core has "pull power". Changes that make it harder to get downtown aren't forcing the jobs and entertainment to follow workers out to the suburbs as much as people are choosing to base themselves closer to the action. (I tend to view the City of Toronto's conflict with GO Transit in this light. The City is resisting attempts to make it pay a large share of GO's costs. I think that GO benefits suburbanites more than it does city-dwellers because GO is about helping them access downtown while living somewhere cheaper more than it is about inflating downtown by pulling people in. Not that I don't think GO is a good thing.) Downtown isn't the only area where I'm aware of dramatic change coming. At Yonge and Bloor there are several projects coming along, including quite a big one on the southeast corner. Apparently, an elegant 60-storey development is successfully making its way through City Hall. At Yonge and Eglinton the two tall towers (52 and 39 storeys) of Minto Midtown are about to begin, and the TTC is about to redevelop some of their property nearby as well. As much as we may face unrelenting suburban sprawl, we are also enjoying a dramatic urban upswing in Toronto's centre. In some ways it's a miracle that this is happening despite the hostile actions of our provincial government and the structures they've imposed on us. Thankfully, the momentum is starting to swing our way.
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