By Ben Bull
Published August 29, 2007
The Whitby new urban design is one of many, similar GTA developments already in the works. The recently completed Cornell Live-Work Units walked away with the Award of Merit at the 2006 Design Excellence Awards presentation in Markham.
The ongoing development of the new urban neighbourhood of Seaton in North Pickering is being widely touted as the way ahead.
Letter writer Bernadette Zubrisky, from the Sierra Club of Canada, responds to the Seaton development in a well thought out response:
"The ecological footprint of a city of 70,000 built on top of some of the last unfragmented green space will outweigh the 'environmental' benefits it would create," she states, adding:
Many of the jobs promised by Seaton are projected to be created only if the proposed Pickering airport is a go, and that won't be decided until 2009. If developed, it hardly holds up to the sustainable standards of Seaton - air travel now known to be extremely hazardous to the global ecosystem.
Letter writer Thomas Graff notes that because of such factors as an aging population and a declining birth rate, "young families can't afford to live in the city any more. And since virtually all new residential development in the city is in the form of condominiums, it is no wonder that many families prefer to live where they can have a backyard for the kids and a place to park the car."
His proposed solution, to "reduce immigration levels," is a little off-the-mark, however.
The 'problem' of urban sprawl is not simply a matter of growth - it's a matter of how we manage it. The 'new urban' designs which are now popping up certainly have much to commend them, but I too have my reservations. I recall Jane Jacobs remarking that the idea of working and living within a short walk of each other was wishful thinking.
While good planning can certainly increase the prospects of a short hop to work, there are many jobs for which this ideal is simply not practical. My job, for instance, is a head office-only function and my tendency to job hop every three to four years - a reality for many workers these days - does not bode well for my walk to work prospects.
Graff's premature dismissal of other urban planning approaches is unfortunate, too - as if reducing immigration is going to solve anything. Our old friend infill, for instance, remains a largely overlooked and hugely effective way to re-populate our urban centers.
The letter writer is right to bemoan the lack of housing choices and the current cost of Toronto's downtown lots, but with the right kind of planning there is no doubt that affordable centrally based housing can be created for families.
Recent RTH articles have highlighted the massive waste of space in Hamilton's core.
Although it may not be so obvious and quite so wasteful, the same is also true of Toronto. Take a walk along any downtown street outside of the Financial district and you will see single story units sitting on prime space.
As RTH editor Ryan McGreal has suggested in the past, one way to encourage infill development in our downtowns could be to levy a property tax based on the potential value of the land. In this way the landlord is likely to wake up to the developmental prospects of his piece of land and start building.
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