Smart growth is usually thought of as something that occurs at the regional level. But it is really the cumulative result of the literally hundreds of thousands of new housing units, millions of square feet of commercial buildings and kilometres of infrastructure that will be built in the Zone over the coming years. In order to achieve smart growth at the regional level, we must first achieve it at the project level, through "smart development". Smart development is typically denser, more mixed, attractive, transit-supportive, and pedestrian-friendly.
In the Central Ontario Zone, smart development is not particularly a built form issue. We see many examples across the Central Ontario Zone of projects and buildings that might be considered smart development - except that they are not located in strategic smart growth locations, and/or they are surrounded by extensive surface parking.
Smart development is currently economically viable in many parts of the Zone. In the more suburban and exurban locations, the economic viability of smart development can be supported by actions to both promote supply and stimulate demand in strategic locations.
A number of specific obstacles to smart development have been identified, through a workshop with Central Zone developers and builders, as well as other inputs. The development industry indicated a willingness and desire to both implement smart development projects and to innovate, but expressed a frustration with the many current obstacles that prevent them from doing so.
A number of key actions were identified as necessary if smart development (and therefore smart growth) are to be achieved in the Zone, including:
- Identifying a limited number of strategic smart growth locations across the Zone to act as a focus for smart development and investment
- Planning, investing in and building an attractive and effective transit system
- Clearly linking investment in transit and other public investments much more clearly to planning responses and development at strategic smart growth locations
- Dealing with the parking issue at strategic smart growth locations
- Removing obstacles to smart growth at the local level, such as planning and zoning restrictions or engineering standards that preclude smarter solutions
- Rationalising the development charge and other financial instruments to support smart development
- Being much more rigorous about directing ongoing federal, provincial and municipal investment in public infrastructure and facilities to the strategic smart growth locations, and
- Getting the proactive political leadership we need at all levels of government.
Upper East Side, Toronto, Architects Alliance