paul@pauljohnston.com 416.897.5480
Salesperson, right at home realty inc. 416.391.3232

Will You Keep on Building Higher, ‘Till There’s No More Room Up There…

Nov 08, 2012 by Paul

If you are of a certain age, I challenge you to keep that song out of your brain for the next hour. Not so easy, is it?

As a teenager and into my early 20s, I worked fairly consistently as a dj. While my true love was early house music – and I sought any opportunity to fill my crates with obscure 12″ tracks, picking up gigs at such illustrious venues as the Lizard Lounge or Rockit – what ultimately paid the bills were good old high school dances and weddings. I was not a wedding singer, but the next worse thing – the wedding dj. There was, without an ounce of doubt, nothing less satisfying that hauling gear into the decaying (even then) Sutton Place hotel to play at yet another bad wedding. I always seemed to get the second weddings – bride or groom had been divorced once, so the second time around they were watching the budget and drinking a little harder. Lame, in ways I struggle to describe.

So, I would get to indulge a little of my house vibe (thank you Steve Silk Hurley or Adeva) and then amuse myself with a mega-mix of Depeche Mode and New Order, only to then have to follow it up with Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony” or some equally moronic wedding-pleasing favorite. But the point of this rant: I’d almost always play Cat Stevens. Not because I had some particular fondness for the hippie on high, but because the man knew how to write a song.

And what could be more salient, today, than “Where do the Children Play” – and the lyric that forms the title of this post.

Of course the point is “they” CAN’T run out of room up there – there’s infinite space in our skies to keep pushing high rises higher and higher up. There’s endless opportunity to create more towers, with more height and more mass, in more places either appropriate or not. Taken literally (and maybe with a bit of leeway), these builders can keep popping up towers, and can keep pushing the boundaries because there is so much room up there.

But where do the children play?

I found myself really reflecting on this idea recently – oddly enough because I drove by the old Sutton Place and thought back. And it warmed my heart a bit, because I know that Toronto still has places where we can play, and dream, and laugh. Thanks to the growing density of population downtown, there are ever increasing opportunities to engage in the simple act of play – so long as we continue to protect and nurture the very neighbourhoods that make the city such a wonderful playground.

So let “them” build up – there’s more than enough room up there. And let the rest of us, who strive to nurture neighbourhood, and strive to increase the beauty of the place we live, push for elegant low rise housing and exciting mid-rise buildings. Places where we can come to live and play together, in vibrant neighbourhoods that aren’t overshadowed by a relentless push upwards. What we’ve started is the essential dialogue about progress and balance, about beauty in the new, about opportunities to invest in our own cities and our own futures.

And no, I won’t dj your wedding. Unless you want to listen to classic house.