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Assessing walkable urbanism in Toronto, Part One.

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Oct. 23rd, 2010 | 02:07 pm
mood: okayokay
music: The National - Pay For Me | Powered by Last.fm

With my ever-bubbly planning practice professor as a muse.

Rather than providing a photo dump of Toronto and then moving on, I wanted to give a bit more background as to why I was there and what I did. I know that at least a few of you are interested in urban planning, so I've put a longer description and a selection of photos behind the cut. And for the rest of you, maybe the photos are still kind of cool?

A note about the photos, by the way: I'm currently without a working camera (my little Canon point-and-shoot is on life support), so these were all taken with my little LG phone.

City of right angles

I enrolled in a 1.5 credit course on walkable urban places this fall, and the entire class took place in Toronto over our Fall Break. Our professor, an adjunct who is a real estate developer and spends most of his time in DC, is convinced that when the RE market recovers, the demand for places that are navigable without a car and are mixed-used will lead the way, as opposed to the low-density, single use suburban environment that most of the U.S. built in the last few decades. He took us to Toronto to assess examples of walkable urban places, not only because there are a lot of them there, but because Canada's banks are doing much better than America's and thus new construction is happening all over the place.

This is the first of probably three entries on this topic, so I'll address more about the class in future entries. For now, though, you might notice that most of my photos were taken while looking either up or down. In my winter class on fundamentals of planning practice, one of my professors* emphasized that a good way to get a sense of a new neighborhood's pluses and minuses is to look up and look down. I didn't find this especially useful in my term project for that class, when my client town was entirely made up of enormous houses and one-story strip retail, but in Toronto it served me well. So now you know why my photos all look like they do.

*stroszek2000 will remember her as the one that yelled at me for using Facebook during lecture. :]

This is how we approached most of the places, 30 of us led by a tour guide. It's admittedly not the best way to get a good sense of a neighborhood, but I explored on my own when I could, and the tour guides definitely knew these places up and down.

Best neighborhood to look up: Greektown. Ample light due to the low-rise streetscape, which property owners here deliberately keep this way despite development pressures.

Cornice details on the Greektown RBC.

Catholic Church that was under construction from 1914 to 1926. Greektown wasn't filled with Greek folks for most of its history.

Best neighborhood to look down: Bloor-Yorkville. Great attention to street furniture and detail (mainly because they can afford it), including this tree planter with decorative gravel shellaced into place.

Old fire station, with new Four Seasons tower going up next door. 4S is based in Toronto, so apparently they are more favored to build enormous things like this for "keeping jobs in the city." I'm skeptical, as you can probably guess, hence I resumed looking down.

Hyper-policing of space on Bloor St. happens, but not on early Sunday morning.

Gorgeous park in Yorkville, directly adjacent to lots of shopping and restaurants.

The rock interrupts a very flat space in a flat city.

And finally, not from either of those neighborhoods: pedestrian street on the Ryerson University campus. Piecing together disparate news reports, it appears that this street was open to car traffic until a building at the end of the block collapsed in April, and is now closed while major reconstruction happens. I wonder if it will be reopened, given that it has obviously been claimed for other uses in the meantime.

In the next installment I plan to talk a bit more about the new development that is happening all over the city, and the major influence that business owners have over the process. Plus I'll include photos of the sooper ugly suburban areas we visited too. :]

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Comments {2}


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from: badger
date: Oct. 23rd, 2010 08:38 pm (UTC)

Great photos: thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments on the neighborhoods.

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from: silverthief2
date: Oct. 25th, 2010 01:50 am (UTC)

Sure thing, and two more entries are on the way.

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