City planning is a complex and multi faceted undertaking that requires much collaboration between public and private stakeholders – it is an opportunity for policy makers to shape a space that fosters community, health, and equality. To this end, crafting cityscapes is a task that requires dialogue, careful planning, and dedicated consideration of local priorities.
This past Wednesday, councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam unveiled a privately funded Yonge Street master plan created by urban planner Ken Greenberg and the architecture firm KPMB – her proposal will be voted on by city council in the fall. Yet this initiative hints at a larger trend in city development: as the article suggests, other Toronto neighbourhoods have also been getting creative with their planning, reaching out to both provincial and federal levels of government, as well as private stakeholders.
Although allowing local Business Improvement Areas to foot the bill for city reform might lead to timelier developments, it also poses several risks: BIAs are not accountable to the public to the same degree as city council, and might not look beyond the needs of the business community. Moreover, if city development is driven by business dollars, then those areas of Toronto that do not have a high density of businesses might very well be left behind, which would exacerbate disparities in living conditions throughout the city. The correlations between housing conditions and health, as well as the effects of neighbourhoods on health and well-being, are an important aspect to consider when debating who funds and who designs the development of our city. Resources such as the City of Toronto’s new Well-Being index, or many of the health equity resources provided by the Wellesley Institute that address the many links between city planning, housing, and health, can be useful tools for policy makers and stakeholders as they work together to address Toronto’s future development.
Blog post by Laura Mandelbaum. Laura is a Research Associate at the Wellesley Institute.