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Cornell a failure?

You can't expect people to change their entire lifestyle just because they move into a neighbourhood that's built a little differently than the rest of suburbia. The entire experiment requires a shift in attitude that cannot be accomplished so quickly - it will take a generational shift. I've never spent a lot of time in Cornell, but if it's anything like other new suburban developments, I would expect there to be a higher than usual rate of younger families. If I'm right on that, I do see a lot of hope for the area to change as the children living there grow up. We already know fewer younger people are driving - more are taking transit, walking, or cycling (there was an article in the Star I believe about this a few months ago) - will it be easier for them to chose these options in this neighbourhood as they achieve more independence?

When my dad moved into his new subdivision ~25 years ago, almost every house there had a young family living in it. It took about 15 years for the area to diversify a bit. What I mean by this is that now there's a mix of young families, families with teenagers, parents with children away at school or recently moved out, older working people, and retirees. The shopping habits of each group is different enough to encourage more diversity in the area's retail. Young parents usually just don't have the time or the money to make it out to the coffee shop or the pub the same way others do. They usually don't have the time teens and retired people have to walk to where they need to be (friends' houses, school, community centres, etc.).

Subdivisions don't become neighbourhoods immediately, but they can and do grow into them as families gain histories together and newer residents have a defined community to tap in to. Plus any area looks sterile when the trees are young and the buildings brand new. Give it time and the area will mature. Perhaps Cornell will make it easier for teens to chose walking over driving (not that all will). If so and it keeps more people from buying into the automobile lifestyle, then I would say it is a success. It's far, far too early to tell now.

And even if these new urban developments do prove to be failures, in the long run as gas prices shoot up again and the car becomes less appealing, they will be much easier to retrofit for a post-suburban population than their more sprawling cousins.
 
YRT is currently (or will soon be starting?) construction on a transit terminal in Cornell, which should at least secure proper VIVA service (it was only recently extended to the hospital).

...and this finally broke ground today, 9 years later.
 
The only example of new urbanism that I've walked through is the Mount Pleasant Village in Brampton. I was there early on a Sunday morning so I can't talk to its success. The built form is nice. I noticed all the retail spaces were taken and active which points to success. What was done there that should have been done in Cornell?
 
There is a train station which encourages walking, and a central square / attraction for people to congregate. Cornell is just a spattering of random retail spaces with no real community centre.
 
There is a train station which encourages walking, and a central square / attraction for people to congregate. Cornell is just a spattering of random retail spaces with no real community centre.

The transit access is a big part of it. The library branch, with the remains of the old CPR station built into it, provides some placemaking. Cornell has a lot more of the strict 'new urbanism' built form - Mount Pleasant Village only extends a few blocks before becoming post-millennial density sprawl (tight lots, and denser than older subdivisions, but still very auto-centric). But having things to walk to, supported by transit, goes a long way.

The retail isn't that great, but at least it's there. The big-box plaza nearby (Fortinos, LCBO, McDonald's, etc.) still sucks out much of the potential.
 
I would say that Cornell has more future potential still - the central part of the plan is just starting to be built now with the first batch of "downtown" condo and stacked townhouse buildings going in along Highway 7.

I've heard that retail is an unusually hard sell in Cornell right now too - Lindvest has been trying to get their retail plaza on the south side of Highway 7 going for years with no success, and the Wal-Mart plaza on the south side of the 407 has recently applied to build townhouses on most of it's remaining land as there is no retail market.
 
I've heard that retail is an unusually hard sell in Cornell right now too - Lindvest has been trying to get their retail plaza on the south side of Highway 7 going for years with no success, and the Wal-Mart plaza on the south side of the 407 has recently applied to build townhouses on most of it's remaining land as there is no retail market.

Where are people currently their shopping in Cornell?
 
Lurked through this thread a few times. Agree with everything said here. Cornell is essentially car dependent suburbia with lipstick on. In other words, does the bare minimum with just low setbacks and garages at the back.

Mount Pleasant in Brampton is easily the best “New Urbanist“ community in the GTA. It’s right off a GO Station (and the entrance is right on the street, with parking more At the back) with ZUM busses running through the neighbourhood , added with a few nice stores that are actually in the neighbourhood that aren’t just convenience stores (there’s 2 restaurants I believe, back in February I ate at the burger place there, it was good). Even then, it’s missing a grocery store where one could walk to.

New Seaton Village in North Pickering and Windfields in North Oshawa also appear to be “new urbanist” like suburbs. They actually seem decent as commercial areas are within walking distance of residential areas (which mostly consist of townhomes). The plazas also appear to have sidewalk retail, although not every store (EDIT, after looking on Google Maps, it seems like the alot of these stores rear entrances are facing the street and main entrances are facing the parking lot. Bummer but somewhat flexible mistake). Bike infrastructure also seems amazing (separated paths that seem to be intergrated into the commercial areas)! Now, they’re pretty corporate (aside from a cafe in the Oshawa one and a few others I think) and still clearly car dependent, but, you can’t really expect areas that are naturally car dependent to easily limit cars heavily. Also, transit seems to be lacking in these areas (I’ve heard *GREAT* things about Durham transit lol).

It seems all these new urbanist developments cut a lot of corners, with Cornell being the worst contestant, but the other 3 being at least decent.
 
Lurked through this thread a few times. Agree with everything said here. Cornell is essentially car dependent suburbia with lipstick on. In other words, does the bare minimum with just low setbacks and garages at the back.

Mount Pleasant in Brampton is easily the best “New Urbanist“ community in the GTA. It’s right off a GO Station (and the entrance is right on the street, with parking more At the back) with ZUM busses running through the neighbourhood , added with a few nice stores that are actually in the neighbourhood that aren’t just convenience stores (there’s 2 restaurants I believe, back in February I ate at the burger place there, it was good). Even then, it’s missing a grocery store where one could walk to.

New Seaton Village in North Pickering and Windfields in North Oshawa also appear to be “new urbanist” like suburbs. They actually seem decent as commercial areas are within walking distance of residential areas (which mostly consist of townhomes). The plazas also appear to have sidewalk retail, although not every store (EDIT, after looking on Google Maps, it seems like the alot of these stores rear entrances are facing the street and main entrances are facing the parking lot. Bummer but somewhat flexible mistake). Bike infrastructure also seems amazing (separated paths that seem to be intergrated into the commercial areas)! Now, they’re pretty corporate (aside from a cafe in the Oshawa one and a few others I think) and still clearly car dependent, but, you can’t really expect areas that are naturally car dependent to easily limit cars heavily. Also, transit seems to be lacking in these areas (I’ve heard *GREAT* things about Durham transit lol).

It seems all these new urbanist developments cut a lot of corners, with Cornell being the worst contestant, but the other 3 being at least decent.

I've been to both Cornell and Mount Pleasant, and agree that the latter is overall a better NU community. I was in Mount Pleasant during COVID, so the retail presence was a bit underwhelming, but the transit connections were very strong.
 
Mount Pleasant is great for perhaps 2-3 city blocks with a walkable mixed-use built form and an attractive public space around the library. Then, it reverts to Brampton's typical car-dependent SFH built form for perhaps a dozen blocks.

The fact that compact, pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented design is only done on such a small scale in such a big metropolitan city is a failure on both the government and the development industry's parts. There's no leadership to achieve excellence in urban planning. It's an industry that mainly focuses on shoebox condos in the city and unsustainable sprawl in the country. And the government seems happy to let it be.

I dream of someone planning a new town in the GTA that's completely compact and walkable, with streets not even wide enough for two cars to pass like in the medieval towns of Europe, with public squares and open markets. No parking, no cars except for large parking garages on the edges, European-style service vehicles for garbage and firefighting, and with higher-order transit from the beginning.

Getting the economics right would be a challenge, but it would probably work well as a university town.
 
Don't live in the GTA anymore, but I went for a bike ride through Brampton about 5-10 years ago and Mt Pleasant was positively poppin. There must've been easily 100 people congregated at the main square. There wasn't even any particular event, just enjoying a warm summer afternoon, kids cooling off at the splash pad. With civic, commercial, residential, transportation and recreational space/public square, they did a great job of placemaking and turning the site into the center for the community.

I agree that the surroundings are typical suburbia, but at least they have somewhere they can go that has a sense of place. Somewhere that the kids can bike over to, and somewhere that pretty much everyone in the community will have a reason to go to on a regular basis. That is, ultimately, what sets apart the pre-WWII neighbourhoods of Toronto from the typical post-war sprawl. Although I understand people prefer the look of a traditional rowhouse to garage dominated frontages, to me the difference between these residential streets is not as significant as whether or not there is a properly functional center or focal point for the community, whether that's a public square, or "main street".

BTW, North Oakville has made some efforts too.
Not too bad, but Mt Pleasant is still better imo.
One thing I like about North Oakville is that the path that connects the stormwater ponds along Dundas is really quite nice.
High quality pavings, gazebos, and homes facing onto it. It still feels like a bit of an under-utilized asset though - if it had a school or more retail space directly fronting onto it, it would've been even better.

I think especially in these outer suburbs, where you're fighting an uphill battle to get people out of their cars, you really want to have a variety of uses that attract various demographics at various times - something that Mt Pleasant does well, but a lot of the other new urbanist sites, not so much. They usually do try to mix retail and residential, but that's just the start, not the end. It might be enough in Central Toronto where people aren't that inclined to drive anyways, but again, this is the outer suburbs we're talking about where the existing context is auto-oriented sprawl, and it's a very very long transit ride to Central Toronto, so you really need to stack the deck to bring people out there.

One thing I notice, is that the playgrounds and such in these communities are well used. Lots of kids, and the backyards are pretty tiny, so they do use the playgrounds. Therefore, a focal point for the community should include a playground for the kids, along with maybe something for the teens like a basketball court. Maybe the basketball court could be converted to an outdoor hockey rink in the winter, since winter programming is important in our climate.

I've noticed that especially in the heavily Sikh neighbourhoods of Brampton, the grandpas like to congregate in the park gazebos at a picnic table to chat or play cards or other games, so providing a place for such small gatherings will be appreciated and bring people out. I'm not exaggerating, it's a really big thing...
With pretty much all South Asian immigrants, and to some extent other groups too, it's popular to have big family get togethers, and they like to have them at parks in the form of cook-outs or picnics. So it would be valuable to create a nice setting for those.
Even in winter, these community parks can draw people to them in suburban Toronto.

IMO, you're an idiot of an urban planner if you put those live-work/mixed used zoned blocks on some random collector street rather than next to a community park (bonus - more on street parking there too).

And then, to further activate this community hub, you could have some civic building or public institution. Library, rec center, theatre, museum, place of worship, school (schools can be space hogs though, so the bus loop, parking lots, and sports fields should be further back since they can be a bit of dead zones). Even a fire hall with glass doors that show off the trucks would certainly draw the kids over.

A commercial anchor could help. I know you guys don't like the parking-lot-moat-in-middle-of-industrial-park design of a place like Oakville Entertainment Centrum, but, putting that aside, the movie theatre there does act as a great anchor for all the other businesses there - the pubs, glow in the dark mini-golf, etc. You could have a little farmer market/vendor/food truck area too.

And of course, there should be some transit, at a minimum, a bus stop. Due to the child oriented nature of the outer suburbs, compared to the young adult oriented condo communities of central Toronto though, I think having these community focal points along busy roads (where higher order transit often runs) is less ideal. The higher order transit routes is where you can have the shopping malls, big box stores, highrise condos, retirement homes, post-secondary institutions, hospitals and larger office buildings.
 
Don't live in the GTA anymore, but I went for a bike ride through Brampton about 5-10 years ago and Mt Pleasant was positively poppin. There must've been easily 100 people congregated at the main square. There wasn't even any particular event, just enjoying a warm summer afternoon, kids cooling off at the splash pad. With civic, commercial, residential, transportation and recreational space/public square, they did a great job of placemaking and turning the site into the center for the community.

I agree that the surroundings are typical suburbia, but at least they have somewhere they can go that has a sense of place. Somewhere that the kids can bike over to, and somewhere that pretty much everyone in the community will have a reason to go to on a regular basis. That is, ultimately, what sets apart the pre-WWII neighbourhoods of Toronto from the typical post-war sprawl. Although I understand people prefer the look of a traditional rowhouse to garage dominated frontages, to me the difference between these residential streets is not as significant as whether or not there is a properly functional center or focal point for the community, whether that's a public square, or "main street".

BTW, North Oakville has made some efforts too.
Not too bad, but Mt Pleasant is still better imo.
One thing I like about North Oakville is that the path that connects the stormwater ponds along Dundas is really quite nice.
High quality pavings, gazebos, and homes facing onto it. It still feels like a bit of an under-utilized asset though - if it had a school or more retail space directly fronting onto it, it would've been even better.
Those are nice! Even a cafe there. Aesthetically, this is nicer than Mount Pleasant imo.
One thing I notice, is that the playgrounds and such in these communities are well used. Lots of kids, and the backyards are pretty tiny, so they do use the playgrounds. Therefore, a focal point for the community should include a playground for the kids, along with maybe something for the teens like a basketball court. Maybe the basketball court could be converted to an outdoor hockey rink in the winter, since winter programming is important in our climate.

I've noticed that especially in the heavily Sikh neighbourhoods of Brampton, the grandpas like to congregate in the park gazebos at a picnic table to chat or play cards or other games, so providing a place for such small gatherings will be appreciated and bring people out. I'm not exaggerating, it's a really big thing...
With pretty much all South Asian immigrants, and to some extent other groups too, it's popular to have big family get togethers, and they like to have them at parks in the form of cook-outs or picnics. So it would be valuable to create a nice setting for those.
Even in winter, these community parks can draw people to them in suburban Toronto.
In the early years of my life, I lived in a car centric sub division near Port Union and the 401 in Scarborough (I was born in ‘02, lived hear between ‘03 and ‘07). I remember the later years quite vividly. This was mostly a late 90s/early 2000s subdivision, with a few homes built in the early 2010s. From what I remember, after school, id hang out with neighbours who were also classmates (in kindergarten at the time), and we had little supervision from our parents (Obviously, still watched us a bit, but letting us ride our bikes/walk to a nearby neighbours home). Now, this subdivison didn’t have a park like these photos (presubly due to the fact it was adjacent to an already existing park), nor did it have a school). This also wasn‘t some new urbanist community. Garages were VERY visible, most of the time, 1 sided sidewalk. That being said, the neighborhood “spirit“ (as corny as that sounds lol)/ human interaction was 100% existent.

So, social interaction I’d say very much exists in car centric suburban neighborhoods, this along with those photos you’ve shown prove that. Dare I say, despite a few urban design flaws, the neighborhoods themselves are decent. They just need to be adjacent to an arterial complete street (think, Danforth/Bloor) with stores with street front entrances, good public transit (at least busses with 10 minute frequencys, and preferably near a GO station that’s accessible without a car). This is really what sucks about most of these new subdivisions. They’re in the middle of nowhere! If they feel obsolete, this is the reason why. Sidewalks need to be on both sides and there all the time, and garages should either be places in alley ways or kind of in the back yard like this https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.6897...12xF-jnxwK3pmkgg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry=ttu .

Traffic calming should be prioritized, and thankfully, that is true in a lot of these subdivisions. I have relatives that live in a newer subdivision in Ajax, and traffic calming in that particular neighbourhood is top notch! Speed bump crosswalks, small pillars that act like objects to make sure you dont hit them by going slower, and roundabouts (more so improving the flow of traffic, but id say these are better for pedestrians given the middle island sections). Still, the speed limit on these streets are 40 and 50, and should be 30 maximum imo (except for the collector roads, which 40 or 50 is ok, but preferably 40).

IMO, you're an idiot of an urban planner if you put those live-work/mixed used zoned blocks on some random collector street rather than next to a community park (bonus - more on street parking there too).
Agree. That, or they should be on an arterial (the point I made above about an arterial complete street, although, I don’t know how well that would do politically in these suburban towns/cities.
And then, to further activate this community hub, you could have some civic building or public institution. Library, rec center, theatre, museum, place of worship, school (schools can be space hogs though, so the bus loop, parking lots, and sports fields should be further back since they can be a bit of dead zones). Even a fire hall with glass doors that show off the trucks would certainly draw the kids over.

A commercial anchor could help. I know you guys don't like the parking-lot-moat-in-middle-of-industrial-park design of a place like Oakville Entertainment Centrum, but, putting that aside, the movie theatre there does act as a great anchor for all the other businesses there - the pubs, glow in the dark mini-golf, etc. You could have a little farmer market/vendor/food truck area too.

And of course, there should be some transit, at a minimum, a bus stop. Due to the child oriented nature of the outer suburbs, compared to the young adult oriented condo communities of central Toronto though, I think having these community focal points along busy roads (where higher order transit often runs) is less ideal. The higher order transit routes is where you can have the shopping malls, big box stores, highrise condos, retirement homes, post-secondary institutions, hospitals and larger office buildings.
Agree with all of this!
 
To add to my previous comment, the subdivision where I lived from 2003-07 was more of an infill development rather than the traditional “taking over farmland in the outskirts“ type of development, though its design and the housing types is more akin to those. Basically your typical Ontario subdivision. The nearest plaza (which has a Metro (Dominion at the time), Shoppers, and a few other stores) was less than a 10 minute walk. Arguably, you could live the “15 minute city” lifestyle here, but the urban design of the area wasn’t really meant for this to be practical.
 

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