Urban Growth Centres

The Growth Plan identifies 25 Urban Growth Centres across the region and sets density targets for each one: these historic downtowns and emerging suburban centres are to achieve a density of between 150 and 400 people and jobs per hectare by 2031, depending on their growth potential, development opportunities, and surrounding context. Two-thirds of the Urban Growth Centres are located in the GTHA (Inner Ring). Of the eight Urban Growth Centres in the Outer Ring, four are in Waterloo and Niagara Regions. Figure 3.8 indicates the location of the Urban Growth Centres in the GGH.

Urban Growth Centres are to be “planned as focal areas for investment in institutional and region-wide public services, as well as [other] uses…to accommodate and support major transit infrastructure, to…attract provincially, nationally or internationally significant employment uses…[and] to accommodate a significant share of population and employment growth.”[1]

Figure 3.8: Location of Urban Growth Centres

Table 3.8 lists the Urban Growth Centres, their density in 2006, the minimum target density specified by the Growth Plan, and the minimum target density target set by each municipality. The growth required to meet the target for each Urban Growth Centre was determined by calculating the difference between the actual 2006 density and the 2031 targeted density based on the geographic area of each Urban Growth Centre.

Some Urban Growth Centres have already met or exceeded the minimum target set by the Growth Plan, while others must substantially increase density and attract considerable new development to achieve the target. There is also wide variation in the geographic area covered by each Urban Growth Centre, which influences the amount of growth required to meet the density target. For example, Downtown Toronto is the largest Urban Growth Centre at 2,120 ha and Newmarket is the smallest at 47 ha, which is 45 times smaller than the Downtown Toronto area. Combined, the five urban growth centres in Toronto require 345,000 new people and jobs to meet their minimum density targets, representing 50% of the total growth in the 25 Urban Growth Centres across the GGH to 2031.

Five of the 25 Urban Growth Centres must increase their density by at least 400%, and 15 must increase the density by at least 100% to meet the minimum target. The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre is required to increase the number of people and jobs in its Urban Growth Centre by 900% (18,720) to achieve the minimum density target (200 people and jobs per hectare), the greatest increase among all 25 Urban Growth Centres. By comparison, Downtown Kitchener needs to increase the number of people and jobs by only 48% (5,980) between now and 2031 to achieve the same target.

Table 3.8: Urban Growth Centre minimum density targets

Urban Growth Centre Name

Area (ha)

2006 Density (people + jobs/ha)

2031 Growth Plan Density Target

(p+j/ha)

2031 Municipal Density Target

(p+j/ha)

2006 Population and Jobs

(Census)

2031 Population and Jobs

(Forecast)

Increase in Population and Jobs (2006-2031) Required to Meet the Minimum Density Target1

Increase in Population and Jobs (2006-2031) Required to Meet the Minimum Density Target (%)1

Inner Ring

Toronto: Downtown

2,120

280

400

400

593,600

848,000

254,400

43%

Toronto: Yonge-Eglinton Centre

61

483

400

483

29,463

24,400

0

0%

Toronto: North York Centre

191

391

400

400

74,681

76,400

1,719

2%

Toronto: Scarborough Centre

174

143

400

400

24,882

69,600

44,718

180%

Toronto: Etobicoke Centre

165

131

400

400

21,615

66,000

44,385

205%

Downtown Hamilton

141

202

200

250

28,482

28,200

6,768

24%

Mississauga City Centre

598

131

200

200

78,338

119,600

41,262

53%

Downtown Brampton

224

68

200

200

15,232

44,800

29,568

194%

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre

104

20

200

200

2,080

20,800

18,720

900%

Richmond Hill/Langstaff Gateway

101

30

200

200

3,030

20,200

17,170

567%

Newmarket Centre

47

86

200

200

4,042

9,400

5,358

133%

Markham Centre

384

26

200

200

9,984

76,800

66,816

669%

Downtown Burlington

117

120

200

200

14,040

23,400

9,360

67%

Midtown Oakville

111

25

200

200

2,775

22,200

19,425

700%

Downtown Milton

138

34

200

200

4,692

27,600

22,908

488%

Downtown Pickering

160

56

200

200

8,960

32,000

23,040

257%

Downtown Oshawa

106

100

200

200

10,600

21,200

10,600

100%

Outer Ring

Downtown Kitchener

92

135

200

200

12,420

18,400

5,980

48%

Uptown Waterloo

88

99

200

200

8,712

17,600

8,888

102%

Downtown Cambridge

48

71

150

150

3,408

7,200

3,792

111%

Downtown Peterborough

100

116

150

150

11,600

15,000

3,400

29%

Downtown St. Catharines

110

109

150

150

11,990

16,500

4,510

38%

Downtown Guelph

105

92

150

150

9,660

15,750

6,090

63%

Downtown Brantford

138

61

150

150

8,418

20,700

12,282

146%

Downtown Barrie

200

50

150

150

10,000

30,000

20,000

200%

Source:  Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure, How is the Growth Plan Working so Far? Revitalizing Downtowns – Urban Growth Centre Progress, February 14, 2013, https://www.placestogrow.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25..., retrieved October 1, 2013.
1 The increase in population and jobs (2006-2031) required for each Urban Growth Centre to achieve its minimum density target was calculated by the Neptis Foundation.

 

Do these numbers matter? Certainly municipalities should, if possible, direct growth to areas in which it can contribute to transit use, support other public services, and attract major employers. However, the Urban Growth Centres, while they can contribute to strengthening downtowns, are but one of a number of areas to which intensification should be directed (along with major transit station areas and intensification corridors) and to some extent can be considered part of the general intensification target. Also, municipalities are required only to plan to achieve the targets by 2031, rather than to report on results each year, as with the overall intensification target, and there is no minimum ratio of people and jobs.

It is not clear how municipalities are expected to meet the minimum Urban Growth Centre density targets, particularly the smaller, slower-growing centres in the Outer Ring, where there are relatively few development applications and limited growth pressures. Nor is it entirely clear how these targets fit with other requirements of the Plan such as intensification or designated greenfield area targets. Nothing in the Growth Plan suggests that growth in other parts of a municipality should be limited or halted if the Urban Growth Centre minimum density targets are not being achieved.

 
[1] Growth Plan, Section 2.2.4.4.