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The emergence of ‘smart growth’ intensification in Toronto: environment and economy in the new official plan
Susannah Bunce Version of record first published: 23 Jan 2007.

To cite this article: Susannah Bunce (2004): The emergence of ‘smart growth’ intensification in Toronto: environment and economy in the new official plan, Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, 9:2, 177-191 To link to this article:

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No. is a strategy for the development of more ‘livable’ and vibrant residential and commercial areas. 9. Toronto. Faced with the creation of a new Official Plan for the City of Toronto. emphasis is placed upon the role of intensified development and compact population growth as a solution to the environmental problems of urban 1354-9839 Print/1469-6711 Online/04/020177-15  2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd. Canada. Introduction Over the last decade there has been an increase in academic and policy writing on the concept of urban intensification as a solution to urban development and population sprawl.Local Environment. 2. municipal planners have chosen urban intensification as the vision for planning in Toronto over the next thirty years. Susannah Bunce.1080/1354983042000199525 . This paper examines the nature of intensification planning in Toronto through an analysis of the language of urban intensification found in the Official Plan vision report. and intensified residential and commercial streets. York University. based on ideas of increased population density. is increasingly considered to be a stronger model of urban development than current urban growth patterns (Breheny. Email: sbunce@yorku. Within this report. April 2004 ARTICLE The Emergence of ‘Smart Growth’ Intensification in Toronto: environment and economy in the new Official Plan SUSANNAH BUNCE Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 ABSTRACT There has been a recent popularization of ‘Smart Growth’ planning in North American cities. the reuse of existing urban infrastructure. The notion of the compact city. 177–191. DOI: 10. This paper argues that the environmental aspects of intensification provide a more acceptable public rationale for future intensification processes in Toronto. Vol. that the main rationale for intensification in Toronto is not to solve regional sprawl but to create compact urban districts in order to enhance the economic and physical revitalization of the city. moreover. a focus of Smart Growth planning is the intensification of both population and physical development in existing urban areas. Faculty of Environmental Studies. The language of intensification in the Official Plan vision report suggests that urban intensification. Based upon the aim to decrease the impacts of sprawled regional development on the natural environment. The emphasis on intensified development is geared towards the attraction and maintenance of private investment and skilled labour and is a central part of the City of Toronto’s vision of economic growth. 1992. particularly in Toronto’s downtown core.

particularly the central city or downtown area. Beatley. this research takes a closer look at the language and assumptions of Smart Growth intensification in Toronto. as well as the City of Toronto’s Central Waterfront Secondary Plan. formally approved in October 2002. 2000) note. Oregon paving the way with growth boundary policies (Stephenson. It is important to clarify here that urban intensification is not a new planning policy or practice in 178 Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 . particularly in Ontario with both the Conservative provincial government and the municipality of Toronto stressing urban growth management as an issue of major public concern. What is apparent in both the municipal and provincial Smart Growth plans is an overarching emphasis on the reuse of existent urban development and a densification of population in existing urban areas as a solution to urban sprawl. Smart Growth policies have been considered a catch-all solution to urban sprawl (Krieger. urban intensification is still at the policy formulation stage and has yet to be formally implemented in municipal planning practice. The report contends that Toronto ‘needs to grow in a smarter way’ (City of Toronto. this research seeks to develop a clearer critical analysis of the rationale and objectives of urban intensification in light of its increasing popularity in Toronto’s urban policy. intensified population activity usually involves an increase in the use of existing buildings and numbers of people living and working in existing areas. 1997. Such policies in American cities have developed as strategies to decrease agricultural land encroachment. 17) by improving both the environmental quality of life of the region and economic growth through intensification. The vision report places a strong emphasis on these concepts as a way to strategize urban population growth in the city over the next thirty years (City of Toronto. Through an examination of the planning vision report that forms the basis of City of Toronto’s new Official Plan. The City of Toronto’s planning vision report. As Williams and colleagues (1999. 1999). Thus.S. such as the development of undeveloped land and the redevelopment of existing structures in cities. 2000). Toronto at the Crossroads: Shaping Our Future. As a term first popularized in the United States in the 1990s. p. with cities such as Portland. Yet. the intensification of built form. The vision report for the new Official Plan utilizes much of the rhetoric of Smart Growth to substantiate arguments for the intensification of existing urban areas in Toronto in order to address regional sprawl problems. it is in the concepts and language of urban intensification before implementation that we are able to observe and understand the rationale and intent of intensification. 2000). was published in 2000 as the vision for a new Official Plan for Toronto. Intensification can be considered a combination of two subprocesses. The revitalization of urban areas in order to decrease regional expansion has been particularly aimed at the downtown core of cities through the intensification of existing urban spaces and uses. 2000. In the late 1990s. 2000. connecting the environmental problems associated with sprawl with the fiscal dilemma of expanded urban development. Rogers & Power. reduce the cost of public infrastructure and revitalize existing urban areas. Smart Growth has entered into the everyday language of professional planners and other urban practitioners. At the time of this research. 1999). Smart Growth concepts were embraced in Canadian urban policy communities. Bunce Rogers & Gumuchdijan. as well as an intensification of population activity.

This discussion highlights two important aspects of the theoretical popularity of Smart Growth concepts and the increasing prevalence of these concepts within the public growth management debate in southern Ontario. Mercer. It is more recently in the late 1990s. a sense of urgency to intensify existing urban areas has developed. both culturally and economically. As Relph (2002) asserts. within this policy support for Smart Growth planning there has been little discussion about the implications of urban intensification. 1986.1 provincial and urban policy makers have embraced Smart Growth planning along with support for urban intensification. Although in the Greater Toronto Area region (‘GTA’). At the same time. there has been very little debate about the language and meaning of Smart Growth intensification. it is still largely defined within a framework that favors urban intensification over the negative impacts of regional sprawl. Lewinberg & Greenberg report and installed intensification as a central planning strategy in Toronto’s former Official Plan released in 1993. 2001). Lewinberg & Greenberg Ltd. and the economy of the GTA. municipal planners relied upon the Berridge. Indeed. Bourne (2001) notes that along with increasing reliance on Smart Growth language in planning practices. The plan also encompasses the emphasis spearheaded by municipal politicians to mold Toronto into a city worthy of global recognition. where urban growth has been repeatedly emphasized as a major concern for the natural environment. 1991). by Torontobased urban planning and design consultants Berridge. Since Toronto’s 179 Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 . 1999. In southern Ontario. While publicly accepted as a process that must occur. there is a strong emphasis on the intensification of existing urban uses and spaces as being the antidote to urban sprawl. This influence derives from an increased interest in Smart Growth planning within professional planning discourse in Canada (Bourne. The report supports intensification and increased population density in the existing city as the central thrust of re-urbanization. that urban intensification has been linked to environmental issues related to regional growth as presented in Toronto’s new Official Plan. particularly the downtown core of Toronto.‘Smart Growth’ Intensification in Toronto Toronto. Intensification policies in Toronto have now become influenced by Smart Growth principles in which the protection of the natural environment from sprawled development is used as a public rationale for urban intensification policies and practices. the focus on intensifying existing urban spaces. Although intensification is viewed as a solution to sprawl. At the turn of the 21st century. Fillion et al. however.. This policy focus on intensification or ‘re-intensification’ has been consistently put forward by planning practitioners despite research that suggests that Toronto has continually maintained one of the highest urban density levels in North America (Goldberg & Mercer. and relates future urban development patterns to the needs of a denser urban population (Berridge. has been prevalent in Toronto’s planning discourse over the last decade. 2002). human ‘quality of life’. Lewinberg & Greenberg Ltd. there has been a paucity of debate about what intensification really means for urban growth management and future urban development. the new Official Plan for Toronto is the vision for Toronto’s development over the next thirty years. The emphasis on intensification in Toronto can be found most clearly in the 1991 planning report commissioned by the City of Toronto entitled Guidelines for the Reurbanisation of Metropolitan Toronto.

2002b. Thus. The City of Toronto’s recent attempts to mold itself into a global ‘competitive city’ have been documented by Keil and Kipfer (2002a. Protecting the Regional Environment from Sprawl: a public rationale for Smart Growth intensification The City of Toronto’s future implementation of intensified land use and a denser population relies upon the development of a public discourse of support for the concept of urban intensification. As a result. It is the contention of this paper that the vision of intensification in the Official Plan is the primary strategy used to justify and support a market-driven economic and physical revitalization plan of Toronto’s central city. The ability of economic growth strategies to encompass environmental aims can allow policy actors at different governmental scales to believe that environmental/ecological concerns are being effectively addressed without having to challenge structural dilemmas of capitalist development.S. Ecological modernization has been defined by Gouldson and Murphy (1997) as a ‘means by which capitalism can accommodate the environmental challenge’ (in Young. It can be argued that it is the concern of Toronto municipal planners and policy makers to effectively continue the development of municipal economic growth strategies yet also show that the municipality does have concern for environmental issues. the new Official Plan vision report allies itself with language that espouses the benefits of economic competitiveness. policy actors can ignore the association between increasing economic growth and the deterioration of the natural environment (Desfor & Keil. urban planning in Toronto has increasingly become an avenue through which capitalist urbanization is enhanced and where municipal planners act as conduits for private investment practices (Keil & Kipfer. They note that. The association between environmental ‘protection’ and economic growth that is readily apparent in Smart Growth policy can be considered a cornerstone of ecological modernization theory. Such support is important for planners in facilitating amicable and effective implementation and limiting public opposition 180 Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 . is used as a method of garnering public support for increased intensive development in existing urbanized areas. While a thorough discussion of different perspectives of ecological modernization theory and practice is beyond the scope of this paper. ecological modernization theory provides an avenue for interpreting the City of Toronto’s Official Plan vision. 75). Addressing regional sprawl. The language of urban intensification as a solution to regional sprawl is explicitly tied to strategies related to enhancing Toronto’s position as an economically ‘successful’ city.Toronto’s municipal government has focused on maintaining the city’s hold as the financial capital of Canada as well as pursuing economic growth tactics such as the now defunct 2008 Olympic Bid and private–public partnerships for the major redevelopment of the waterfront. professional labour to the city. Bunce amalgamation in 1998. 2000. by extension. the environmental problems of regional sprawl serve as a public rationale for the primary municipal goal of increasing Toronto’s economic and land-use development through private-sector investment and the attraction of skilled. 2003). however. In keeping with this.). p. 2002a). yet at the same time uses Smart Growth principles to address regional sprawl.

Here. based upon a supporting framework of environmental protection and quality of life issues.6 million between 1996 and 2031 in the GTA. and competitiveness.2 that intensification. language espousing the ‘livable city’ is invoked to describe a supposed connection between an intensified population and denser spatial use and a heightened ability to reside and work in central Toronto. particularly in the form of increased population density. 2002. based on a layered public rationale of environmental protection.‘Smart Growth’ Intensification in Toronto to intensification processes. the language of the plan refers to two main challenges to the city’s future that underline the emphasis on intensification. Municipal planners have predicted a population increase of 2. there is a noticeable focus on the regional context as a framework for introducing intensification. livability. This assumption in favor of urban intensification. The introduction of the plan describes the regional problem of urban growth as a concern for Toronto. The City of Toronto is expected to absorb 20% of this increase in population in the form of approximately 537. The emphasis on intensification as a solution to sprawled urbanization is most apparent in the introduction to the vision report of the Official Plan. forwarded by local politicians. p. through the development of a sprawl versus intensification argument. The Toronto report contends that the city must be livable and culturally exciting in order to attract capital investment and the skilled employment that enhances it (City of Toronto. serves as the basis for the overarching thrust of economic growth in the new Official Plan vision report. As well. The utilization of growth management as a policy framework for the plan. Through the presentation of Toronto in a regional context. such emphasis on livable urban spaces is used to support the central concern of the Official Plan vision report. Lastly. in light of the expected urbanization needed to carry a substantial increase in population. the available choice is the intensification of existing urban spaces. Firstly. will enhance a sense of vibrancy and livability in the central city. even though the municipality itself is only forecasting the absorption of 20% of the projected population increase. Regional environmental protection from sprawl and enhanced ‘quality of life’ as a result of environmental protection are rationales for such a pro-intensification/ anti-sprawl argument. Secondly. architects and planners. The nod towards the GTA goes beyond simply situating the city within its region and illustrating the relationships between the regional cities and Toronto. and journalists.000 new jobs (City of Toronto. The vision plan states that 181 Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 . the creation of public support for intensification comes through an insistence. While Toronto’s new Official Plan does not serve as a comprehensive regional plan and is only meant as a vision for the political boundaries of the municipality of Toronto. The first challenge concerns Toronto’s economic future. The development of a public discourse that encourages support for intensification is created in three ways in the Official Plan vision report. the presentation of regional sprawl as a problem for the City of Toronto could be a less complex approach for municipal planners to explain why intensification is a guiding strategy for the plan. which is the need to enhance the city’s capacity to attract and maintain skilled employment and private investment. 7). can be seen to provide a rationale for intensification within municipal boundaries.000 new residents and a projected 544. The language of this argument suggests that in order to halt sprawl. 2000).

2000. an emphasis on environmental protection alongside economic development allows intensification to be supported by local environmental organizations. p. rather than a direct challenge to the City of Toronto itself. 2000. 3). Interestingly. p. One of the most important aspects of this argument is that it has appeared to galvanize traditional ‘reformist’ political voices3 in Toronto to support the municipal plan to intensify residential and commercial spaces. The City of Toronto’s frontline role in directly addressing regional sprawl is limited. The development of a ‘sprawl versus intensification’ argument within the vision document and also by Toronto’s media and planning communities has created a public sense that supporting intensification is the only logical answer to the negative environmental impacts of sprawl. 2002). but also creating unparalleled pressure on our environment’ (City of Toronto. promotional literature of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists shows support for Smart Growth planning and stresses the primary need to maintain urban growth within existing urban boundaries through compact urban development strategies (Federation of Ontario Naturalists. Intensification is presented as the solution to both the economic and environmental dilemmas presented as primary challenges to the future of growth in Toronto. Hence. is the quality of the regional environment. One reason for this could be that sprawled development. The Official Plan vision document reports that ‘the population of the GTA continues to grow in unprecedented numbers. The reduction of urban growth management into an ‘either/or’ choice is a strong component in the development of public support for intensification. the public rationale for intensification. For instance. The second dilemma. 2000. has been publicly encouraged by action-oriented environmental organizations such as the Ontario chapter of the Sierra Club and the Federation of Ontario Naturalists. 182 Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 . Instead of presenting the more implicit central economic development focus of the new Official Plan. particularly in the form of denser residential neighborhoods. 17). more accessible public transit. 2002).S. stated as a concurrent challenge along with economic development. Bunce ‘globalization and new communications technology mean that jobs and investment can flow into our City [Toronto] with lightning speed—or flow out it just as quickly’ (City of Toronto. since figures of population projections show that future residency will continue to occur in regional municipalities such as Vaughan and York (Statistics Canada. the aim to protect the region from the environmental damages of sprawled development is placed alongside the need of Toronto’s municipal government to encourage economic development within Toronto. and pedestrian-centered streets. 3). Such emphasis on accommodating population growth within Toronto’s boundaries is a consistent theme within the vision plan. environmental protection is given a regional focus whereas the challenge of economic development appears to lack a regional context. Here. is really a challenge to Toronto’s regional municipalities. p. support for Smart Growth intensification. adding to the importance diversity and excitement of the area. The Official Plan vision report states that the city must ‘accommodate as much population and job growth as possible within already built-up areas of Toronto and to include a higher density form of development’ (in the form of nodal development areas and corridors) (City of Toronto.

In this article. Such an intersection between ‘preserving’ the regional environment and stimulating economic success in Toronto is evident in a recent newspaper article in the national newspaper the Globe and Mail. It will allow municipal planners to portray a sensitive concern for environmental protection so as to support higher density residential and commercial developments on main streets and near existing 183 Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 . Such an assertion poses an interesting situation for local environmental advocates and activists as. Along with this. In the context of such increased public environmental concern. 2001). and the public protest against residential development on the Oak Ridges Moraine.‘Smart Growth’ Intensification in Toronto The development of a ‘sprawl or intensification’ argument also closes a space for a public critique of urban intensification among Toronto residents. supporting increased economic development alongside environmental revitalization projects. However. the strategy of focusing on the environmental problems of sprawl has the potential to play an important role in the long-term political success of the new Official Plan. This argument is consistent with Crombie’s political campaign of ecological modernization. connects the notion of caring about the natural environment with support for more compact and economically successful cities (Crombie. a former mayor of Toronto and current President of the Canadian Urban Institute. It has been argued that the main dissent towards the Official Plan is expected to come from middle-class ratepayers opposing the prospect of higher-density intensification near or in Toronto’s neighborhoods. What appears to be implicit in this argument is the assumption that that if residents do not endorse intensification. environmental concerns are placed at a crossroads with the language of economic development. throughout this assertion runs support for creating compact urban spaces in order to reduce the environmental problems of sprawl. then they can be considered insensitive to regional environmental concerns. Such an increase in public concern about the natural environment has been sparked by events such as the ‘tainted water’ crisis in the rural town of Walkerton. This strategy is of particular importance within the context of a recent increase in public concern about the state of the natural environment in southern Ontario (Sandberg & Wekerle. The development of a ‘sprawl versus intensification’ argument within Toronto’s plan report will provide a strategic rationale for municipal planners to provide to the public in planning meetings on intensification practices. 2001). an economic revitalization agenda for Toronto is presented through processes of residential and commercial intensification. 1998). In this current support for intensification. David Crombie. the focus on the environmental necessity of intensification processes has the potential to stir empathetic sentiment about the environment among prospective opponents of Toronto’s Official Plan. 2002).5 The need of the provincial Conservative government to address an increased public interest in environmental protection is best illuminated in their recently released Smart Growth Plan which addresses growth and development issues (Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. which was evident throughout the 1990s in Toronto (Keil & Graham.4 Thus. in keeping with ecological modernization strategies. there is the potential for local environmental advocates to be posited on to a similar political platform as municipal politicians and planners who support the role of intensification as an economic development strategy.

such environmental aspects of intensification may serve to entice grassroots environmental activists to support intensification processes at the potential expense of social justice concerns relating to the market-driven development thrust of the new Official Plan vision. While the language used suggests that a more compact city decreases regional sprawl. These districts are considered to be successful examples of progressive urban planning by municipal planners. 2000). through a more compact mode of living based on increased densities. ‘Toronto Competes’: the search for livability and economic competitiveness through Smart Growth intensification In the fostering of public support for intensification. also has appeal for environmental activists and organizations within Toronto itself. the emphasis on the creation of ‘livable’ city spaces is apparent. particularly around such issues as alternative transportation methods and air quality (Fowler & Hartmann. presented with an environmental face. the spatial areas targeted for large-scale intensification correlate directly with the areas targeted for economic growth and ‘reinvestment’ (City of Toronto. it is evident that the environmental language of intensification is a more effective and softer approach to selling the idea of intensification to Toronto residents. Accordingly. The municipal planning emphasis on increased pedestrian-friendly streets and closer proximity to public transit. Bunce residential neighborhoods. the vision report places emphasis upon an association between a populated. Labeled as an ‘Area for Major Growth and Investment’. particularly in the discussion of the King/Spadina and King/Parliament districts of the downtown core. 2002). For instance. physically and economically revitalized downtown and the city’s ability to attract investment and a professionally skilled labour force.6 Many locally based environmental organizations and activists in Toronto have struggled to improve environmental conditions and increase the environmental awareness of municipal politicians and policies. these areas have recently been re-zoned to allow for mixed residential. commercial.S. Such mixed land-use spaces have mostly occurred in industrial warehouses and mercantile buildings that have been 184 Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 . and light industry spaces. the other focus of the planning vision suggests that intensification is a strategy for stimulating economic development processes within the city.7 As former industrial and manufacturing areas of the downtown. and increased height limits and densities. In the chapter ‘The Campaign for a Dynamic Downtown’. Such a movement by municipal planners and politicians toward more compact urban development. the downtown core is also the focus of one of five ‘campaigns’ in the vision report and is the only spatial area to have its own strategic campaign. Here. has the potential to be viewed as a progressive municipal policy emphasis in light of local environmental struggles and increased public concern over the current state of the natural environment. What is most striking about this connection is that the largest spatial area slated for intensification and economic growth is Toronto’s central downtown. In the vision report there is consistent evidence to suggest that Toronto’s planning vision associates increased intensification with a city that has appeal to both global and local economic investment.

In this sense. Downtown is home to many activities that need to be clustered and centrally located to thrive. The associˆ ation between an intensified. 2001). which in turn increases space for real estate investment and development as well as a better climate for general investment in the city. Such proposed livability is illustrated in language that suggests that a livable urban area is one in which a person has pedestrian access and close proximity to services. It is suggested in the vision report that the two mixed-use zoning districts will be a prototype for the redevelopment of the downtown area (City of Toronto. 1997). In the vision report there is notable concern that if Toronto’s municipal government fails to attract investment and professionally skilled employment to the city the result will be a subsequent decline in Toronto’s appeal as a major economic entrepot in North America. 2002. convenient. The vision of the development of flexible living/work spaces is meant to enhance the livability and vibrancy of the downtown. Downtown is both the administrative and financial capital of the province [Ontario]. as Holton argues. it is assumed that businesses and direct investment are attracted to cities. in which. with residents working and living in the same place. 2000). The emphasis on livability is in keeping with the general idea of Smart Growth. In keeping with theories about the ‘creative city’ (Florida. that are culturally and socially lively as well as livable. and Bay Street is the financial heart of the 185 Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 . 2000). there will be a focus on the establishment of flexible living/work spaces in all areas of downtown Toronto. Importantly. It’s the place where our history was born and where much of our future will play out. intensification is used as a means of producing physically denser and more populated urban centers. The most aesthetically striking and ubiquitous form of development in these two areas has been the construction of apartment or loft-style condominiums primarily marketed for purchase by young urban professionals (Warson. there is a strong correlation between a livable city and an economically successful city (Holton. The concept of a pedestrian-oriented. densest.‘Smart Growth’ Intensification in Toronto converted by private development firms. It is asserted in the vision report that a newly intensified downtown core is the key to maintaining Toronto’s economic competitiveness with respect to other global urban centers. home. and other residents (City of Toronto. and most diverse area in the region. is used in the vision report to suggest the economic possibilities of a ‘revitalized’ downtown core. The focus on the redevelopment of downtown into more vibrant and livable urban spaces is associated with an emphasis on both enhancing private investment interest and maintaining Toronto’s ability to compete with other cities for such investment. Through the use of this form of development for future downtown redevelopment. 2000). fostered through processes of intensification. livable downtown core and increased economic investment is emphasized through the statement: Toronto’s Downtown is unique. Landry. places of employment. and exciting downtown with an infrastructure of professional services and retail stores. particularly city centers. It is the oldest.

High-density intensification is viewed here as not only an avenue for fostering more compact. and thus worthy of investment and recognition. is the medium through which such a strategy is implemented. cannot be solely defined in terms of direct economic investment in urban space(s). 2000. At the municipal level. and livable. allowing for the closer exchange of ideas. The proposed system is argued to provide a ‘more flexible approach to zoning by allowing for a broader range of uses. This is done with the central aim of increasing capital accumulation by enhancing private investment in development and industry with a concurrent emphasis on economic competition with other major urban centers (Keil & Kipfer. In the vision report. exciting urban spaces. This information is associated with the assertion that ‘Toronto’s image and reputation as a city relies a great deal on perceptions of the Downtown’ (City of Toronto. in terms of both the densification of space and intensification of uses and population. 134). The intensification of the downtown core. It is in such language of the vision plan that the economic focus of the Official Plan vision becomes most evident. 49). the goal of the entrepreneurial city is to make the downtown core seem friendly. p. p. 2002b). can be seen as part of a larger trend towards deregulating development approval. 2000).8 186 Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 . but also a process that directly enhances economic activity as a result of the close proximity of corporate offices. The vision report’s definition of reinvestment appears to be a bifurcated emphasis on attracting economic investment and fostering public–private partnership revitalization through careful land-use changes that make a more amicable environment for economic investment. p. this will entail a change to the development permit system with one application process replacing a two-tiered minor variance and zoning amendment planning approval process (City of Toronto. decisions. and supplies between financial firms and related services. (City of Toronto. intended for large-scale use in the areas targeted for major redevelopment such as the downtown core and brownfield districts on Toronto’s waterfront. as it is discussed in the vision report. As noted by Saskia Sassen (1994) in relation to global city formation. vibrant. 2001. Toronto’s high-density and intensified spatial development in the central business district can be linked to its success as Canada’s financial capital. 133) There is also a noted connection between livability and economic success in the statement that Toronto’s downtown is the fastest-growing residential area in Toronto due to intensification in the form of infill development.S. incentives or alternative requirements’ (City of Toronto. The concept of ‘reinvestment’. 2000). Bunce nation. Such an intention is clearly noticeable in much of the language in the vision report. Few American cities combine these ‘capital’ functions. Sassen has argued that the high-density urban form has proven more accessible and convenient for finance and service sectors. The economic development focus of the vision plan connects with Keil and Kipfer’s (2002a) assertions that Toronto is being molded into an ‘entrepreneurial city’ by local government. Here. 2000. the Official Plan vision surpasses its role as a city planning policy document to also serve as economic development policy. which asserts that municipal planning should be focused on decreasing restrictions on intensification practices (City of Toronto. Such deregulation of the approval process.

originality and creativity in all aspects of living.‘Smart Growth’ Intensification in Toronto Interestingly. These limits and by-laws are to be reformulated following the release of the final version of the Official Plan (City of Toronto. Here. there is a more specific emphasis on the connection between the type of new industries and businesses expected in the district and the demographic of residents that will be attracted to the area. 2000. there is an assumption that because such workers are formally educated and technologically skilled. 2001). would allow for pedestrian access to home and work. or ‘design microclimates’ as they are referred to in the waterfront secondary plan (City of Toronto. It is further used to illustrate the relationship between new media and technological industries and residential developments in the Port Lands district. such as new media and biotechnology. The idea of compact development is utilized in both the vision report and the waterfront secondary plan to convey a sense of the scale of intensification in physical design and land use (City of Toronto. which will be located in the Port Lands district. based upon a new urbanist prototype. 2001). the focus on physical revitalization as a means of enhancing private investment. Making Waves: principles for building Toronto’s waterfront. The Official Plan preliminary report and the new Central Waterfront Part II Plan suggest that intensification of both building stock and population will be a major thrust of residential and commercial developments in the Port Lands.000 residents and 25. as well as in the Official Plan vision. 29). changed through an amendment to the Province of Ontario’s Planning Act. working and having fun’ (City of Toronto. states that ‘the Port Lands will become Toronto’s springboard to the future. 2001. 44). the municipal secondary plan for the regeneration of the waterfront. 2003). Such a ‘one-stop’ planning approval process has the potential to make planning approvals easier to submit and obtain for developers who seek increased densities on real estate projects or who propose new infill residential and commercial projects. It is apparent that within the waterfront secondary plan. In addition to language that emphasizes the potential livability of the area.000 new employment places as part of the major redevelopment of the brownfield Port Lands district (City of Toronto. p. The vision report places importance upon creating well-designed residential developments such as lofts and ‘walk-up’ town homes. There is emphasis placed upon the necessity of providing high-quality residential choices for workers in new economy industries. 2001. working in conjunction with the new Official Plan vision. particularly in real estate development. places a target of 100. there is concern for creating new developments that both entice and please what are expected to be professionally educated and skilled new economy workers. they will be more discerning about their residential and employment environments and thus will desire aesthetically pleasing urban spaces and housing.9 Such compact developments. Toronto’s proposed simplified planning approval process. 2001). a place for wealth creation. is evident in the City of Toronto’s plans for the development of an intensified residential community in the Port Lands district (Bunce & Young. The provision of an easier conduit for obtaining development permits has the potential to make intensification projects more attractive as investment opportunities. will occur alongside the development of new density limits and zoning by-laws for ‘major growth and reinvestment areas’. 187 Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 . At a larger scale. p. The central waterfront plan.

in particular. has been targeted in the vision report for major intensification as well as economic and physical revitalization. the vision report can be considered to be a strategy of ecological modernization. however. livable and compact city. The attraction of this urbanized middle class to the downtown of Toronto is considered to be the benchmark of the future success of intensification (City of Toronto. From analysis of the Official Plan vision report. It is evident from analyses of the Official Plan vision report.S. Through such a focus on economic investment and spatial intensification it is clear that the central strategy of Toronto’s new Official Plan is not regional environmental protection but instead the economic growth and development of the central city. there is an overarching focus in the vision report on intensification as a means of creating urban districts that are populated. Through the assertion that the most effective solution to urban sprawl is intensified development. it is evident that intensification is considered to be an integral strategy for fulfilling the employment needs and lifestyle desires of a new demographic of urban resident. and economically successful. This paper has attempted to show that the language of intensification in Toronto’s new Official Plan vision report relies on the environmental aspects of urban intensification to support an overarching strategy to attract private investment practices and skilled labour to the downtown core. Urban intensification. livable. which can be understood as a bifurcated redevelopment process of intensified built form and increased population activity. the vision report conveys the opinion that there is an urgent need for intensification within the urban political boundaries of Toronto. It is in the emphasis on the need to foster intensified urban form in the downtown core that an association between intensification and attracting private investment and skilled. Toronto at the Crossroads. Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 Conclusion Urban intensification has been chosen by municipal planners in Toronto as the vision for land-use development over the next thirty years. This has been done through a conceptual development of Smart Growth urban intensification as the public rationale for solving regional sprawl. to residents who are sympathetic to environmental concerns and who might otherwise be opposed to a straight-ahead plan for economic revitalization. and the central waterfront plan that the central thrust is the economic revitalization of the downtown core in order to enhance Toronto’s economic competitiveness. Bunce as well as close proximity to leisure trails along the waterfront and the downtown business area. Toronto’s downtown core. Through the use of language that creates the vision of a pedestrian-friendly. Thus. which includes the Port Lands redevelopment district on the waterfront. 2000). The environmental benefits of urban intensification are used as a softer approach to selling the idea of intensification to existing residents of Toronto. The emergence of Smart Growth inspired 188 . At the same time. professional labour to the city can be most clearly observed. has been used to support the larger focus on economic development within the new Official Plan vision report. and its secondary document. municipal planners and politicians in Toronto have attempted to convey the notion that intensification in Toronto will be an effective environmental solution to regional sprawled development.

This assumption has been predicated on the interest of private developers who have invested in and constructed condominiums. and Jack Diamond (1992. which caused the intervention of the provincial government and a government land-swap arrangement devised to halt further residential development on the Moraine (this arrangement was subsequently changed by the Conservative government and now. 1997). have been strong in their public support for an intensified and ‘livable’ city. Victorian-style row house developments with walk-up access in the front of the home 189 . reformists have been influential in asserting the need for neighborhood preservation and community-based planning. under the recently elected Liberal government. while mostly common in suburban areas of Toronto. Ontario in 2000. [2] Toronto planners and architects such as Berridge. or. social democratic politics in Toronto have been led by ‘reformist’ politicians and activists. and the emergence of commercial and high-tech businesses in these former industrial areas. through the use of urban planning language that suggests environmental benefits. particularly in the downtown core. writing for the Toronto section of the national Globe and Mail. and inspired by the ideas of Toronto-based Jane Jacobs. which resulted in several fatalities. The City of Toronto was amalgamated into one urban government structure by the Ontario provincial government on 1 January 1998 (see Keil. for comments on the original draft of this paper. reformist politics have been remained as the main alternative voice to the pro-business focus of local conservative politicians. p. Acknowledgement The author would like to thank Dr Roger Keil. A non-municipal review has not yet been conducted on the actual ‘success’ of the ‘Two Kings’ and their level of contribution to economic development in the downtown core. Notes Downloaded by [York University Libraries] at 19:41 14 February 2013 [1] The Greater Toronto Area has no regional government but is popularly known to consist of the municipalities that immediately surround the political borders of the City of Toronto. residential development on the Moraine will continue). The government’s policies of fiscal downsizing and deregulation were publicly suggested to be the chief cause of the water crisis. their impact on gentrification and increasing real estate values. [4] As noted by Jennifer Lewington. [7] The King/Spadina and King/Parliament mixed zoning districts have been considered planning success stories by City of Toronto planners and politicians. Largely a middle-class political movement based in downtown Toronto. 2000). Reformist politics in Toronto was at its peak during the time of John Sewell’s mayoral office. [5] The contaminated water crisis in the rural town of Walkerton. While Sewell was eventually defeated by a conservative mayor. caused public embarrassment for the former Progressive Conservative government of Ontario. authors of Guidelines for the Reurbanisation of Metropolitan Toronto (1991). [9] New urbanist designs. urban affairs reporter for the Globe and Mail (2002). [6] See Blackwell and colleagues (2003) for further discussion of social and spatial justice concerns and the new Toronto Official Plan. York University. and also to the peer reviewers for their helpful suggestions. 19). Urban affairs columnist John Barber. Many residents of the regional municipalities to the north of Toronto led a public struggle to stop residential development on the ecologically sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine in 2001. conversely.‘Smart Growth’ Intensification in Toronto urban intensification can be considered a strategy to foster Toronto’s growth as a major global economic center. [3] Since the 1960s. [8] Simplified Planning Zones were popularized by Margaret Thatcher’s government during the 1980s. and providing planning accessibility and expediency for private developers. particularly in London (see Allmendinger. The deregulation of the planning system and development approval process assisted with Thatcher’s urban strategy of strengthening the role of the private sector in planning and development. Faculty of Environmental Studies. Greenberg and Lewinberg Ltd (now Urban Strategies Ltd). has been equally insistent on a correlation between urban intensification and more lively and vibrant urban spaces as a prescription for Toronto. are increasingly prevalent in downtown Toronto.

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