The Dreaded D-Word

By Ben Bull
Published May 22, 2007

Chris Hume laments the degeneration of the 'D' word in his Toronto Star column today.

Claiming, "Density is not a scary word," the Urban Affairs columnist goes on to examine why many of us steadfastly refuse to accept the common sense and necessity of this fundamental principal of urban design.

Allow me to offer a few suggestions.

Density, in my own downtown Toronto neighbourhood and many just like it, often means ugly, eye-popping condo towers like the one being thrown up at the bottom of our street.

I took a walk through the neighbourhood this morning with my wife and we tried to work out if the last floor had gone up. We then saw, to our horror, the rendering billboard featuring about ten more floors to go. Once again we were forced to bid bye-bye to all that lovely blue sky.

I've bemoaned the blight of high rise towers on RTH before but, just to clarify, it's not just the fact that they block the sky - carving out great chunks of it like a huge grey jigsaw puzzle taking shape over your head - that bothers me.

It's also the lack of symmetry they bring to their surroundings.

Whatever happened to making new buildings fit in with their environment? Ironically, this latest downtown TO condo is going up right next to the architecturally spectacular Distillery District. It manages to block the very view it seeks to embellish.

The reason many of us 'fear' the idea of density is because so much of the inner city development going on around us is so badly done.

The sooner the province, or the feds, provide generous tax incentives for infill and retrofit development - so we can enhance and re-use what's around us rather than knock down and start again - the sooner we can stop fearing the 'D' word.

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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