One of the most rewarding aspects of this career is the simple act of helping people find “home”. I don’t ever want to think of what I do as the banal trade of commodity – as though I am negotiating pork futures or esoteric investment vehicles. Rather, in my finest hours, I know that I help people find the comfortable, well lit space in which to go about the joys (and pains) of daily life. The places where celebratory memories will be made, where neighbours will become friends, where local shops will become familiar purveyors. Home, and family, and neighbourhood and place.
As someone who has always been fascinated by the concept or urban living, and the growth of cities in meaningful and progressive ways, I’m in love with the idea of vibrant neighbourhoods. Toronto is a remarkable place to have such affection, as there are dozens of engaging and dynamic communities where we want to find our home. These neighbourhoods are the great wealth of our city, the very thing that we have to nurture and celebrate. They also belong to the city as a whole, as places to visit and shop, or places to aspire to find home.
For Toronto to continue it’s remarkable growth, and to truly embrace the desire to be an active and alive urban centre, we need to carefully and deliberately promote our neighbourhoods. Bring to them exciting new housing opportunities that capture the needs of everyone – from low income families, to single people making their first home purchase, to couples imagining their dream modern residence. We need to intensify the population that visit the stores, that share the sidewalks, that fill the galleries and boutiques and spread the blankets in our parks. We need to welcome them, as neighbours and fellow city dwellers, who long to put down roots in places that may already be home to us, and soon will be home to many others. Simply put, to drive less and walk more, to buy local, to engage… to become our neighbours.
Midrise intensification – delicately and sensitively undertaken – is one mechanism to achieve this essential growth. By introducing 4 to 8 storey buildings along the avenues that make this city great – too many to list here – we are enticing urban dwellers to join us in cherishing neighbourhoods. We are creating opportunities for home owners to share in the lazy Saturday stroll, to savour the coffee shop that bucks the trend, to enjoy the gallery down the street or just maybe one day exhibit on its walls. As neighbours, we are sharing with others the very things that make our neighbourhoods feel special.
It’s not only Midrise development that will help us to evolve, but it’s part of the puzzle. We also need to continue to develop new urban “at grade” housing with front yards and back yards, while we rehabilitate existing structures worthy of repair. We clearly need low rise development on our quiet residential streets, and high rise buildings on the corridors that have been designated. High rise has it’s place – but regrettably these are often developments that are devoid of existing neighbourhoods, and struggle to create a sense of place where none existed previously. Midrise is the perfect response to this challenge.
While the city feels like it’s bursting at the seams, our neighbourhoods are cherished spaces that need to grow and be nurtured by many more residence. It’s by the very act of introducing new, desperately-needed housing in existing neighbourhoods that we will create the conditions that celebrate the areas we cherish. Places where the transit already exists, where the schools remain and the libraries are open, where the storefronts can welcome new shoppers. Sharing isn’t for everyone, and I understand some resistance to change. But I believe we should be resolutely proud of our city, and promote our continued growth by supporting appropriate means to welcome more people to neighbourhoods that make Toronto a most remarkable place to live.