The Future of Urban Planning

I recently wrote the article below for the Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan’s Inspired Minds Careers 2030 site, which is designed to help guide Canada’s education and professional pathways into the future. The site features a series of articles by leaders in their respective fields describing the state of their industries, how they might change and what students can do to prepare for those changes. The goal is to provide a vision of a “Canada of the Future”, while inspiring enthusiasm and preparation in Canada’s future leaders.

I was asked to write about the biggest challenges facing the planning profession today, and to point out some of the skills that will be required by urban planners in the future:

  continue reading

An Interview with the Winner of the NXT City Prize

An rendering of the winning entry, called Yonge Redux, by Richard Valenzona.

A rendering of the winning entry, called Yonge Redux, by Richard Valenzona.

You might be familiar with the NXT City Prize, a project that is the brainchild of a very talented group of young people who run a consultancy firm called Distl. The NXT City Prize is aimed at youth under the age of 30 and asked them to re-imagine public space (any public space) in the City of Toronto for the chance to win up to $5,000 in prize money and $10,000 in seed money to implement their idea. The City of Toronto supported this project by providing the seed money as well as in-kind support, and I offered my guidance and led the adjudication team.   continue reading

In Complete Communities, Pedestrians Take Precedence

This blog post was originally published under the same name in the Toronto Star on Saturday August 16th, 2014. Click here to go to the original article.

As one columnist recently put it, the suburbs can be a “snooze fest” for the younger generation. Echo boomers, loosely defined as those between the ages of 16 and 34 and the fastest-growing demographic in Toronto, are choosing urban over suburban and are forgoing a driver’s licence in favour of walking, cycling and transit. Our data confirms this trend in Toronto.

There are many differing reasons why, including the high cost of driving, greater awareness of environmental impacts, a rejection of the quality of life, costs and sacrifices that accompany a long commute, and importantly, it is increasingly possible to live without a car.

  continue reading

Canada’s Cities are a Model for the World

This article appeared as an OpEd in the Ottawa Citizen entitled City-building as a Canadian export on May 25, 2014.

More than half the global population lives in cities and this number climbs by 60 million people a year. It may seem that as we become an urban world, the places we live, work and play will inevitably become beacons of innovation, prosperity, sustainability, and civility. Cities, after all, represent progress. The urbanization of our world is a sign of our evolution as a species.

  continue reading

A New Zone for the City

We’ve been focusing, in the City Planning Division, on becoming more proactive and collaborative in the work that we do.

This is apparent in a whole variety of initiatives that we have underway, from our Comprehensive to the Core study, which is a two-year project looking at both hard and soft downtown infrastructure, to our recently approved plan for 19 km of light rail on Eglinton, which includes a Built Form Framework, a streetscaping plan, and a “greening” strategy.   continue reading

By densifying Eglinton, we can fight congestion

A rendering of how Eglinton Ave. will look after the light-rail, which is currently under construction, is finished.

A rendering of how Eglinton Ave. will look after the light-rail, which is currently under construction, is finished.

It’s a well-known fact that it’s not possible to relieve traffic congestion by building more roads in a rapidly densifying city. Research has shown that when we add capacity to our road network, within a very short period of time additional commuters are induced to drive, leading to impassable congestion.

  continue reading

City Planning 2013 Annual Report

I’m excited to release City Planning’s first ever Annual Report. This document provides a snapshot of our accomplishments in 2013 and lays out a framework for our priorities in the year ahead. My opening remarks can be found below and the full document can be viewed by clicking on the report cover image at the bottom of this article.

  continue reading

City Planning Division’s Top 10 of 2013

2013 was a year of serious heavy lifting for City Planning. Amidst everything, we put our noses to the grindstone and just kept doing the important work that we were hired to do. At times it has been challenging, but we continue to draw inspiration from the people of this city who are passionate about city building, who believe that together we can make the city a better place, for all.

  continue reading

City Planning’s Technological Advancement Working Group

When I launched this blog site, I invited you to Own Your City. It was a request for your presence and participation, in taking ownership over the city that you call home. I identified the existing mechanisms to do this – public meetings, open houses, advisory groups – and the need to figure out new and additional ways to engage.

Earlier this year as part of the development of the City Planning Division’s new Strategic Plan, I initiated a series of  “Quick Hits” and polled my staff to see if anyone was willing to take them on.

Maybe I should have called it Own Your Division. Regardless, that’s exactly what happened.

Staff came forward and took ownership over a series of initiatives that were designed to improve how we serve Torontonians.  These Quick Hits were actions we could undertake immediately – with existing resources – to respond to a real need within our Division, or in the City.

I wrote earlier about Planners in Public Spaces, which was also a Quick Hit, but today I would like to let you in one of our other important, although more internal, Quick Hits: our Technological Advancement Working Group.   continue reading

Mid-Rise Rising: 58 Approved Applications and Counting

A few days ago I tweeted about the astonishing number of new mid-rise buildings in the pipeline, knowing that this building type has the potential to play a vital role in transforming our future, and knowing that there is a perception that we are primarily building tall towers.  Granted, Toronto has many tall towers under construction, but we are also beginning to fill out our Avenues with mid-rise – in just the way our policy framework had anticipated.  Precisely because mid-rise buildings are able to integrate into streetscapes, capitalizing on both existing amenities (proximity to schools, parks and transit) and infrastructure in a gentle way, it’s possible to underestimate their impact on shaping the form of the city.  As a result, mid-rise buildings are a desirable way to accommodate growth, diversify our housing stock, and “complete” existing communities.

  continue reading