Living on the edge
Running down the central core of the Square One District project will be what’s known as The Strand. This architectural feature will provide public spaces and connection points to public transit, offering a pedestrian friendly area that will connect all the condos in the area. SUPPLIED
‘Edge cities’ will be the key to GTA’s growth plans, say urban planners
‘Living on the edge’ can carry with it a lot of different meanings. But ask
experts at an Urban Land Institute panel discussion held earlier this
month, and it will be so-called ‘edge cities’ that will enable the massive
population growth forecast for the GTA in years to come.
Edge cities are mixed-use communities that offer all the attractions and amenities of a downtown city core including residential, retail and office facilities but are spread throughout a region so as distribute population growth.
Four of the new edge cities are anchored by huge shopping centres and surrounded by condos. They are: Markham Square, Mississauga Square One District, Scarborough Town Centre and the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.
Four of the “edge cities” are described as “historic downtown areas” and include Brampton, Hamilton, Oshawa and Richmond Hill.
Two other “edge locations” fit the description of a waterfront community, including the Lakeview project in Mississauga which has received full council approval and is well underway, and Etobicoke’s Mimico community where a cluster of condos already exists.
Collectively, the 10 edge locations or edge cities, also known as mixed-use communities (work-live-play) have aggressive growth plans and
will be relied upon to absorb the lion share of growth as 13.5 million people are expected to live in the GTA by 2041.
“This region will be literally unrecognizable from what you see today,” says Ken Greenberg, principal, Greenberg Consultants Inc. In the next two decades, “the concept of a multi-centre region will fully take hold.”
Greenberg further points out that there are no areas left in the GTA for so-called “green field” development (open spaces) so increasing
density is the only available option.
As to be expected COVID-19 was also a big topic of conversation at the panel and Greenberg but if anything, “it should catalyze responsible, sustainable development.”
Consensus among the panel (which consisted of Leslie Woo, chief
development officer, Metrolinx; Brian Sutherland, Argo Development ; and, Mark Cote, head of development, Oxford Management) was that while the pandemic has certainly slowed down development, the effect will be temporary as current projects are being delayed instead of cancelled.
For example, a two-tower project called Condominiums at Square
One District being developed by Daniels Group and Oxford Management will open for sales in mid-September rather than May as originally planned, says Cote.
The two towers (36- and 48-storeys each) are the perfect example of this new wave of development, as they become part of The Strand, a visionary, mixed-use community offering residential, retail and office spaces that are pedestrian-friendly and offer a wide range of amenities, as well as serving as a transportation hub to other areas.
The project, says Cote, is meeting the explosive growth in demand for
residential around “super-size” regional shopping centres,” although
he admits the office portion of it is “a bit more of a wait-and-see.”
The Urban Land Institute panel comes as a study from Ryerson confirms Toronto as the fastest growing metropolitan region in all of North America as measured by a net increase in population.
Last year, 127,575 new people came to the Greater Toronto Area
(including 45,742 in the City of Toronto), growth mostly fuelled by immigration, says Diana Petramala, senior researcher at the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Ryerson University.
In doing so Toronto has overtaken Dallas- Fort Worth-Arlington as fastest-growing, says the study, noting also that Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City have actually experienced declines in population.
Petramala expects COVID-19 to slow down the rate of population growth although too early to say by how much — actual numbers are influenced by immigration policy and targets set by the government.
Looking out 5, 10 or 20 years, expect the high growth rate to continue and high cost of living, overall affordability and the lack of housing supply will continue to be issues.
Petramala says this will be offset because the 19-34 age group is more flexible in their living arrangements — meaning shared ownership, multi-generational living and a willingness to take in room-mates will help.
As is, home ownership very much remains the Canadian dream. Also
worth noting, says Petramala: “Don’t underestimate the impact of
millennials having children,” which will effect the types of housing
being built and also where young families may choose to live.