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.
The Chief Planner Roundtable is a public forum for Torontonians to discuss key city-building challenges. Civic leaders and industry professionals meet to review challenges and opportunities, and to identify the various paths towards resolution of the issues at hand. Residents and members of the public are encouraged to participate by attending the sessions in person or watching them live-streamed on the internet, and by submitting comments and questions by Twitter or comment card.
The first roundtable series was held in the Spring 2013. One of the conclusions stemming from this series was that the suburbs warranted much greater discussion and examination. For this reason, the entire fall roundtable series is focusing on the suburbs. The first of these, “The Shape of the Suburbs” being held on September 30, is an examination of the physical form of the suburbs. The second (October 28) will focus on social and employment issues, and the third (November 25) will focus on mobility.
These Awards present an opportunity every other year to pause, take stock and recognize the work we are collectively doing to create a great city.
The city, after all, is expressed and emerges in the places and spaces that we experience and share in common. The way we design these places has the potential to enhance our connectedness to each other, to both the past and the future, and to the environments that sustain us. continue reading
A few months ago I stumbled upon a tweet from an Australian design firm extolling the virtues of an initiative they call “Holding Public Office.” In essence, once a month, they find a fabulous public space and take the people and the equipment of their firm into the light of day for inspiration, to expose the world to their design process, and to enliven the work they do every day. They shape and define the public realm by connecting with the people and the places that matter to their professional practice. I was inspired by this interactive way to plan a city by engaging people directly as they go about their daily activities. continue reading
It would not be unfair to characterize the growth we are experiencing as “astronomical,” even in light of the current, apparent, slow down. Some believe we are experiencing a seismic shift; the very fabric of the city is being redefined with every newly approved application, and it’s tempting to question whether the “centre will hold.” I was at a conference recently in the American Midwest where Toronto was identified as “the fastest growing city in the world,” and the comment rang in my ears. What does this mean? continue reading
It’s time for a shout out to the resourcefulness of my amazing division of city planners. I would not have lasted one week if it wasn’t for their passion, commitment and professionalism. They work on the edge of the most pressing issues facing urban planners the world over – exceptional growth and the complexity of an evolving urban form, combined with social and environmental pressures that are paramount in every decision, every day. continue reading
They said I would be among friends. That’s partly why I went.
Just a few weeks into my post as Chief I met with a series of residents associations during their AGM’s , who were keen to hear my vision for the city. I talked about the magnitude of the challenges we face, the volume of work we do, and the need for the planning division to re-emerge as a leading voice on planning matters. I was questioned about staff shortages, the role of the OMB, navigating the politics of City Hall, managing growth, and protecting employment uses.
All the kind of conversations you would expect, really. continue reading
If we pull the lens out a bit, and take a more global perspective, the reality is that despite our challenges, people come to our city. Many people. 55,000 people a year. Over 50% of our population is foreign born, and you would be hard pressed to find a Torontonian who does not recognize this as one of our greatest assets.
Why do people come? To use the rationale of Doug Saunders, in Arrival City, we do a pretty good job of assimilating new arrivals with a clear sense of opportunity and in spite of the challenges in our priority neighbourhoods. Not only is this a great gift that we offer Canada, but it is a great gift that we offer the world. continue reading