For 40 years or so, the economic forces of this global economy have reshaped, physically and socially, too, cities around the world and even delivered some, once mighty, into bankruptcy. Witness Detroit. Here in Toronto, vast expanses of our car-oriented post-war suburbs have become food, transit and social service deserts with scarce opportunity for employment,
When it comes to urban sustainability, cities in the U.S. and Canada are employing innovative programs and policies to improve the health and well-being of residents and their local environments. But (with some notable exceptions, such as Vancouver and Calgary) no successful rapid transit infrastructure projects have been built in Canadian cities for decades.
The City of Vancouver has ignored how quickly digital moves in terms of technology, trends, opportunities for citizen empowerment and needs for infrastructure. For the digitally advanced, Vancouver will continue to be behind the times. For the average citizen, very little change will be seen or felt.
Density can be the most controversial aspect of how cities and communities are planned. But smart and successful cities worldwide are now tackling "the D-Word" head on, and looking to model cities who have learned how to do density well, often with the scars to show for it. Vancouver is such a city.
At this time of year, most of us are thinking hard about New Year's resolutions to make our personal, family and professional lives better. But before we finalize the list of losing weight, balancing our household finances, or cleaning out that back closet, what if we picked a few that could improve our lives, while ALSO improving our cities, towns and communities?
What last week illustrated is that even Vancouver — not really a winter city in the common use of that title — needs to think more about our ability to handle tougher winter conditions. With the weather being less predictable, and frequency and intensity of storm events getting worse with the consequences of climate change, anticipating and designing for unusual weather conditions is going to be the new normal for all of us.
Municipal politicians are in positions in which they may abuse the public trust. These controversies should be a launching point for a broad discussion of how to improve municipal governance. Canadian cities need a new model, and for accountability, transparency, and efficiency, there is no better governance model than that in Phoenix, Arizona.
On top of loving to dress up each year, Halloween is my favourite holiday because it's the most dependent on how we design and build our communities. In city planning and design, there's an old saying about the "Trick-or-Treat Test." It's often brought up in the context in suburban home design: Can kids easily find the front door to your house, or must they poke behind the huge multi-car garage, past the parking asphalt, to ring your bell?
The truth is that many downtowns are currently not great places to raise families, because they aren't designed to be. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. A city and building industry gives up on kids downtown, so no one designs and plans for them. No schools. Little daycare. No playgrounds, facilities or basic public environment to make downtown kid or teenager-friendly. Most importantly, no homes built to actually fit a family. Perhaps a couple, but as soon as baby comes, they start planning the move. This perpetuates the myth that families would never want to live downtown.
Buying a property in a neighbourhood that is in the early stages of such a process is generally considered one of the best ways to build equity in terms of real estate investments. The media constantly runs stories along these lines. Unfortunately however, they couldn't possibly be further from the truth.
Newmarket is one of the fastest growing cities in Ontario. Unfortunately, they've now run out of room to grow. Like many other cities, it has no choice but to grow upwards. The trouble is that some local residents are resisting high-density development. What they don't realize is that thanks to the provincial government, they don't have a choice in the matter.
In large part, a city's reputation rests on its central core, with a decayed and hollowed out inner-city tarnishing a community's reputation (even if it may have clean and affluent suburbs) and a healthy city core being a source of civic pride that encourages tourism and new migrants to move to the city.