News   Jul 12, 2024
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The current and future BOOM(s) outside the downtown core

Great thread thesis. When I began noticing how many development booms were taking place outside of the downtown core, I decided to make the thread Toronto's Other Skylines to document the change as before we know it, these areas will be developed.

^ It's a great thread (a favourite but I've been lazy with my likes ) and my intent wasn't to siphon away interest there. I just thought a partial snapshot might generate some more discussion. Cheers.
6. Scarborough's huge Golden Mile Plaza Redevelopment plan approved by local councillors:

This plan would add 45,000 residents, 19,000 jobs, 64 tall buildings, a new road network and parks over the next 2 decades.

To add further weight to this, this is the ownership map of the Golden Mile:


As you can see, many prominent Toronto developers and institutional investors have their hands on pieces of the Golden Mile already, making me very confident in this corridor's development into a high-rise district with an LRT acting as it's spine.
There's many interesting subtopics that we can have interesting discussions over regarding the "outside downtown" development, and it's important to think about it, because Downtown Toronto only has so much room to accommodate the GTHA's growth, especially the residential component. If we consider that it has a current population of about 7.5 million, and may grow by about 4-5 million in the next 40 years, then Downtown Toronto only has room for less than 10% of that, maybe as little as 5%. So how and where do we handle that other 90%+ corresponding to about 4 million residents? This amount of growth would have Toronto's metropolitan area reaching a similar population as what Paris has currently.

First of all, I will say that these highrise development projects, while more auto-oriented than Downtown, are still a massive improvement over some of the truly auto-oriented development that has taken place in Toronto's suburbs.

One of the worst examples is in my parents suburb of Oakville, specifically regarding the office development. The decentralized office development along the QEW is home to several thousands of office jobs, with several thousand additional retail and manufacturing jobs, and it's served by a one way bus loop with 60 minute service frequencies.

Other highway oriented employment clusters might not be quite as bad, but they usually still suffer similar issues from a transit and walkability POV - low densities, low diversity of uses, irregular road networks and superblocks (and often being bifurcated by a highway). Developments such as Etobicoke Centre - lets call it arterial node developments, are a significant improvement and fixes most of the main problems with highway oriented development such as QEW - Oakville.

They are still imperfect though, for starters, because they have rather wide and high speed arterial roads as their focal point, which is not the most pleasant pedestrian environment. I think ideally the effort to address this will have to be two-pronged - both traffic calming of the arterials, or at least finding ways to buffer them such as with parked cars or street trees, as well as creating more pedestrian scaled environments away from the arterials (but still near enough since that's where the density and transit routes are).

Tokyo is an interesting example to study. The city is organized such that the pedestrian activity and retail is mostly focused along minor collector streets and even laneways, while the arterials (of which there are surprisingly few) often do not have as much retail. Ex
Narrow commercial street:!1s7hzxFTvlGFiRZ5LhgKjVpQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192
^I've mentioned it in other threads but I love Tokyo's central ring transit system architecture (the system architecture not the building architecture). Toronto is not a Tokyo sized city but other small cities like Vienna also achieve a kind of ring-system on a smaller scale.
^I've mentioned it in other threads but I love Tokyo's central ring transit system architecture (the system architecture not the building architecture). Toronto is not a Tokyo sized city but other small cities like Vienna also achieve a kind of ring-system on a smaller scale.
Toronto might not be as big as Tokyo, but among developed world cities that are as big as Toronto will be in a few decades (10-12m people), they pretty much all spread out their office supply and transit access beyond a single a point, whereas Toronto is still pretty downtown/Union Station focused.

They don't spread out too much though, most of the office space and transit hubs are still within about 10km of the city center. That means the equivalents for Toronto would be mostly within Old Toronto (East Harbour/Portlands, Liberty Village, Yonge-Bloor, Bloor-Dundas/Junction Triangle, Yonge-Eglinton, Danforth Village).

The further from Downtown you get though, the longer the distances involved in connecting nodes to each other and to their adjacent neighbourhoods with rapid transit, and also, these more distant nodes have more arterial roads and highways serving them that will remain relatively competitive against transit, even with congestion. Toronto might still be able to get some relatively strong nodes approx 15 km from downtown, due to the relatively high suburban densities that will exert somewhat of a "gravitational pull" towards these more outlying nodes and make them more viable as traditional CBD styled places, but we're still talking about places like NYCC, ECC, Kennedy GO/Golden Mile. I think if tax rates are adjusted to be more competitive with the 905 suburbs, and transit access is expanded, these could do well in attracting new office space.

But I think the Pickering, Mississauga, Vaughan, Markham, Oakville, Newmarket, etc growth centers will be at a disadvantage compared to NYCC/ECC in terms of being more far flung and located in more auto-oriented contexts. They might have the potential to eventually become like NYCC is today, but NYCC also has the potential to be more like Midtown or even Bloor-Yonge in terms of urbanity imo. So I think it's good to try to create more urban nodes in the outer suburbs, but the potential of the nodes 2-15km from downtown shouldn't be overlooked either.

The large pool of workers available to downtown employers is also a major advantage, with higher densities of the neighbourhoods South of Dupont with their condos and 2-3 storey rowhouses/semis being able to accommodate a large number of young talent, and North Toronto, The Beaches, The Kingsway putting the executive class also within close proximity. The more close in nodes are still accessible to the same neighbourhoods, but some of the more distant nodes will have to attract young professionals because those mostly like in Old Toronto atm. The lower income workers serving the higher income demographics will also have to be taken into account. I think the ones working in/near downtown are already being pushed out into Central Scarborough and Jane-Lawrence/West/Downsview afaik, which is pretty far out, especially if they're taking TTC rather than the faster GO trains. So there will need to be enough housing built within a reasonable commuting distance of DT Toronto that existing housing can "filter down".

Also, Toronto will have to really make the most of its transportation assets because we're always going to be playing catch-up when it comes to expanding them. Fortunately, getting development to happen is mostly just a case of zoning for it because the demand is there. The one advantage Toronto has over Paris and other older cities is that it can build to higher densities right at the rapid transit stations than 19th century development ever could, so it should make use of that. And to provide opportunities for affordable market housing, townhouses and woodframe apartments should be allowed in much of the bungalow belt.
I think it is pretty telling how basically overnight following the opening of the UPX and it became evident that people in the Weston neighbourhood were using it to commute to downtown, that the area surrounding the Weston Station became a new hotspot for development activity.

We need more transit servicing new hubs like that.

As for Pickering, strangely enough Pickering GO is only 45 minutes to Union Station, which is an acceptable commute by public transit. It would take longer in theory for me to commute from Yonge & Eglinton to a job in Liberty Village than it would for someone leaving from Pickering GO to commute to a job within the Financial District.
A lot of the SFH zoning needs to change. It's not reasonable to expect neighbourhoods to be built fully formed and then frozen in amber. Most Toronto neighbourhoods don't warrant it from a architectural preservation perspective (the post-war neighbourhoods).
I think the Cotes-Des-Neiges area of Montreal has some good examples of "missing middle" type housing that would fit into Toronto neighbourhoods.

Like there's these 2 storey 4-plexes that would fit into the kinds of neighbourhoods that already see a lot of teardown activity like Central Etobicoke and Central/Southern North York.
It would work well with the wide lots common in those areas, and the buildings have similar proportions to the new mansions being built in those areas. Having a small garage in the basement/lower level accessible from the side like that is also preferable to having a four car garage facing the street or parking in the backyard imo.

For corner lots, I think the zoning should be different from mid-block lots. It just seems silly not to consider the unique characteristics associated with them. First of all, the backyards aren't going to be able to have as much privacy due to the cross street. The common solution to that in Toronto is to have a setback from the cross street, but I think we should embrace the advantages of corner lots instead, in that they provide more access and opportunities for side windows. The side walls facing the cross street means you can have long, narrow buildings without having to worry about light access to windows being blocked by adjacent buildings. This makes them great lots for rowhouses and small apartment buildings such as this one in Chicago.
They can also function as starting points for intensification. In a neighbourhood where most houses have 10-15 ft setbacks, a building with zero setbacks will feel less out of place on a corner lot than sandwiched between two houses that do have setbacks. The access to the cross street also means you could start building laneways on these lots. That would make them particularly suitable in a place like the borough of York. In York, the lots are narrow, so there isn't really a way to build aesthetically pleasing parking that faces the street, and on-street parking only provides so many spots, so laneways would be very useful for providing access to garages in the rear of the lot, and the lots are deep enough for that. York also has rather few trees compared to North Toronto where building laneways along the rear lot lines would involving cutting down quite a few.

In neighbourhoods like Alderwood, SW Scarborough, Downsview, etc you could build townhouses like these from Calgary that fit four 3 bedroom units into a 40 ft lot (although this particular set up would require lots slightly deeper than is typical of Toronto at 140-150 ft). In this case you would need laneways too. I think that can be done though, just require developments on corner lots to give up a bit of land in exchange for density bonuses and redevelop from the corner lots inwards.
The Montreal approach of side-loaded parking would also work with the lots in these late 40s to early 60s bungalow belts neighbourhoods for combining two laneway-less lots into one to build small apartment buildings like these