Architecture

Big Box Barriers: Minimum Height Requirements

By Ben Bull
Published April 07, 2008

I rarely disagree with Chris Hume. For someone who enjoys a good moan with his early morning cuppa, I find this immensely frustrating, so you can imagine my dismay this morning when, yet again, the Toronto Star's Urban Affairs columnist hit the nail right on the head!

He writes that Big box architecture:

represents planning at its worst, a failure to take advantage of the urban conditions. None of these buildings deserves to exist. They are an affront to the city, painful demonstrations of what can happen once the corporate agenda is disengaged from the community in which it operates.

These large, bland, thoughtless, single-storey structures are conceived by corporate myrmidons who see no farther than the bottom line.

Bingo! Hume goes on to reflect on the increasing prevelance of big boxes in Toronto's downtown core (there's one coming to my neighbourhood very soon!) and laments the lack of political insight and will to turn these things away.

But he also suggests a frighteningly obvious solution:

The city need not roll over and play dead. Last year, when the Planning Act was amended, the province gave Toronto (and all cities in Ontario) the authority to set minimum height requirements for all new buildings.

Even if that were to be set as low as two storeys, it would force the corporations to rethink the way they operate in the city. Most likely, it would require mixed use, which, of course, is exactly what we want.

Bullseye again.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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By Concerned Observer (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2008 at 22:37:20

Yes he is right. Unfortunately local governments will rarely seek to cause developers issues or hurdles as they are afraid of the potential OMB Hearing. As opposed to compromising on things, it is more important to hold a straight measurable line and get these types of developments more "urban friendly".

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By foodlander (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2008 at 23:58:13

we have these new guidelines / whether the city or the province for some type of intensification ie commercial and/ or residential but the politicos still don't get it ,,, we are running out of land , folks.. in 50 years , some 2 generations from now, our kids kids will pay the price of total mismanagement in the early 2000's
What policies does Hamilton have inplace to embrace change ?? Anyone ? ?

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By change embracer (anonymous) | Posted April 08, 2008 at 00:35:26

*crickets chirping*

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By Frank (registered) | Posted April 08, 2008 at 09:58:00

It looks like the only policy we have in place to stop the big box spread is community anger. I'm not sure what's forcing the Mountain Plaza project to be held up but I'm happy. More public outcy is necessary in order to stop Big Box developers (read Smart Centres) from building car meccas that will quickly be ugly and obsolete and at the same time remove character from whatever environment they're built in.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 08, 2008 at 15:44:19

"Unfortunately local governments will rarely seek to cause developers issues or hurdles as they are afraid of the potential OMB Hearing. As opposed to compromising on things, it is more important to hold a straight measurable line and get these types of developments more "urban friendly".

Ugh. That's exactly what happened here:

www.thespec.com/article/351195

Now we need to expand our urban boundary cause we keep pissing away our employment lands.

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By trey (registered) | Posted April 11, 2008 at 09:14:47

Ten years from now, after Aerotropolis fails to attract businesses from Pearson Airport (why would they relocate, it's the same thing being offered?) someone on council will say "well it's just growing weeds" like Councilor Mitchell said referring to the Losani Lands in Stoney Creek. So we should rezone it for residential.

And bam there you have it, more housing crudscape. And the home builders win again.

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