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Toronto a suburb? It's begun



Apr 08, 2009 04:30 AM

Vanessa Lu

city hall bureau chief


Toronto is at risk of becoming a bedroom community for the booming 905 regions, warns a new report by the Toronto Board of Trade.


Cities that were once outer suburbs are now growing employment areas as more businesses have pulled up stakes in the downtown core for cheaper real estate.


Meanwhile, the city itself faces increasing disparity between the wealthy, who buy downtown condos where factories once stood, and the poor who inhabit the increasingly deprived inner suburbs.


So Toronto remains an attractive place to live, but struggles to keep up with its neighbours on key economic indicators such as employment, productivity and income growth.


"It's a tale of two cities," president and CEO Carol Wilding said at yesterday's release. "We see the reverse, or mirror images, from the city proper versus the 905."


Wilding agreed with a release for the report that said Toronto has become a "magnet for living, while the surrounding municipalities form the more powerful economic engine."


"If you stand back, the data shows that at this point," said Wilding. "Given the employment growth that isn't there in the city centre – yet it is a hugely attractive place – suggests the doughnut effect. ... People flock to and live in the city ... but are actually travelling outwards in the region for employment opportunities."


The split between the two regions is reflected in a prosperity scorecard that compares the Toronto region with 20 others around the world on 25 important indicators.


While the Toronto region scored very well overall – tying for fourth place with Boston, New York and London, but behind Calgary, Dallas and Hong Kong – the findings show a growing gap between the city itself and surrounding communities. (The study is based on the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area, a tract that includes most of the GTA except Burlington and Oshawa.)


If the 416 and 905 area codes were ranked separately, the suburban regions would have taken second place on the world list – after Calgary – and Toronto would have fallen into the bottom half.


But Wilding credited Toronto city hall for taking steps to counteract the trend and boost economic growth, including a policy of gradually shifting more of the property tax burden from commercial and industrial property onto homeowners.


"I think from a policy perspective, we've put in place many of the changes the data would have suggested we do ... two years ago. We didn't wait," Mayor David Miller said yesterday, reacting to the report. However, he said, "Toronto starts from a very good place" as Canada's financial capital and the third biggest centre of information communications technology in North America.


"Council adopted a strategy two years ago because we didn't believe we could take success for granted," he added. "And I think the underlying data says we took the right step and we're on the right path."


He noted both the tax rate cuts and the creation of two new agencies, Build Toronto and Invest Toronto, to lure business and investment to the city.


Given that traffic is now jammed both ways on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway in the morning rush hour, it hardly comes as a surprise that employment growth has been strong outside Toronto proper. But the data shows the gap is "far larger than people would have expected it to be," Wilding said.


Employment in the suburban regions grew by an average of 2.8 per cent a year between 2002 and 2007, compared with 1.1 per cent in the city of Toronto. In fact, most of the employment growth over the past two decades has occurred outside Toronto.


"That's a significant divide. Until we start to narrow that, then we aren't serving the interests of the region as a whole," Wilding said.


Average real GDP growth during the same period was just 1.2 per cent in Toronto – compared with 4.2 per cent in neighbouring cities.


After-tax income growth over the same period was 3.5 per cent in Toronto, compared with 5.9 per cent outside.


Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone said the report's data is already a couple of years old and doesn't reflect recent actions the city has taken to stem the flow of jobs.


The report cites a 10.2 per cent growth in non-residential building permits in the surrounding regions, versus only 8.9 per cent in the city. But Pantalone pointed out that today, 4 million square feet of office buildings are under construction in Toronto, compared with only 1.5 million square feet in the 905.


"That's a historical reversal. It shows those policies are working," he said. "We have established new trend lines to correct that. And it seems to be working."


As Miller pointed out, the report isn't all bad news for the city.


It notes that Toronto is "a study in contrasts, struggling to keep pace on the economic fundamentals but scoring well on all the attributes of an attractive city."


Using research from the Conference Board of Canada, the report points out the city is doing well on indicators such as commuter travel choices, a young labour force, university education and percentage of jobs in the cultural industry. New infrastructure investments by the province, notably in transit, will also help make Toronto more competitive. Some 44 per cent of Toronto residents walk, bike or take transit to work, while only 13 per cent of residents outside Toronto do.


One of Toronto's biggest advantages is its diversity, with immigrants making up close to half of the city's residents. That puts it at Number 1 among the 21 global cities, above Los Angeles at 41 per cent and New York at 36 per cent.


But Board of Trade chair Paul Massara warned that the talent that exists among newcomers must not be squandered – and their integration has to be ensured.


"It's absolutely essential that we get this productive part of the economy working and enhance that," Massara said, noting governments have been working to improve settlement services.


With files from Paul Moloney

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I see nothing wrong with the growth of suburbs, as long as its smart growth of medium or greater density.


People usually divide settlements into 3 categories: urban, suburban and rural.

I (and many others) see 4 categories, if you can call them that, since there are large overlaps and "gray areas": Highly urban, medium urban, light urban/suburban and rural.


Suburban/light urban



Medium urban



Highly urban




So bottom line, as long as our "suburbs" grow according to the 2nd and 3rd categories, i'm fine with that. Even category 2 is dense enough to sustain economically viable public transportation. Naturally i'd love for our city core to show the most growth, but i'm okay with the expansion of "suburbs" as long as it's healthy and dense category 2 or greater. I just don't want to see endless sprawl of the first category à-la Atlanta, GA (from which the picture originates).

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I spent the last 4 days in Toronto and one of my goal was to see as much as possible about the suburbs to see how spreaded it was and the impact on the city. When i got there i saw the article in the Toronto Star and thought it was really a coincidence. There was a lot of talk about on radio as well.


So, while there is a lot of high rise condos being built in the center cote of the city, the suburbs is also sprawling like i have rarely seen before. I think it is the neighborhoods in beetwen that will suffer the most. The neighborhoods that are on the fringe on the city but not quite in the suburbs. Plenty of stores have closed down and other 70's type of malls are falling apart (slight exageration) while mega modern malls are being built even further in the burbs.


You are right, Atlanta is one of the worst examples i have seen. I stayed there 2 weeks in january of this year and i couldn't believe it. Toronto isn't that bad but it seems as if it is working towards that despite some effort by authorities to built densifies as much in the center core. Brampton, per example, is somewhat far and keeps growing and growing.


But there is something else that we keep forgetting when we think of the sprawling of Toronto. The city doesnt have a south shore or neighborhoods on the south side. There isn't anythin except the lake on the south of the center, therefor the expansion can only go north, east and west as oppose to other cities that can sprawl all over. Chicago as the same problem, no eastern part.

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Pour ceux qui s'inquiètent de l'étalement de Toronto... il faut remarquer qu'ils font des pas dans la bonne direction depuis plusieurs années


voici une vue vers la banlieue ouest, prise depuis la CN Tower par Jasonzed de SSC

le centre-ville de Mississauga est au milieu de l'image




une vue vers la banlieue nord-est, prise depuis la CN Tower par cookiespi de flickr

le centre-ville de Scarborough (leur "centre-ville d'Anjou") est à droite des antennes de BMO


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Mississauga aura bientot son tour de 50 etages (deja en construction). Ou est le notre?


Encore une fois vous commencer à comparer Montréal et Toronto !! Vous êtes incorrigibles !! :chillpill:

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Vous semblez juger une ville que par la hauteur de ses grattes-ciel. On dirait que pour vous une tour de 50, 60 ou plus en étages est symbole de beauté, de réussite et de succès alors que la hauteur des édfices, pour moi, n'a rien à voir avec le fait qu'une ville peut etre intéressante ou non.


Bien sur, des édifices en hauteur peuvent donner un effect spectaculaire sur le skyline et lui donner une silhouette agréable à regarder, surtout de loin, mais là s'arrete les bienfaits de ce genre de tour......pour moi.


Les villes les plus intéressantes du monde n'ont presque pas de tour ou de gratte-ciel et surtout pas dans son centre. Je pense à Amsterdam, Paris, Bordeaux, Rome, Vienne, Barcelone, Lisbonne, St-Petersbourg, Lyon, Bruxelles, Jérusalem, Anvers, Prague et meme Berlin, pour n'en nommer que quelques unes.


Certaines villes ont décidé, comme Paris et Bruxelles, de construirent leur tours à l'extérieur de leur centre et ce qui est tout à leur honneur. La tour Montparnasse à Paris est la seule tour relativement vraiment haute, intra-muros, mais elle est très très controversé.


Comparer Mississaugua à Montréal pour ses tours ne démontre pas un amour pour les villes mais plutot un intéret marqué pour les tours en hauteur, ce qui est différent. Le Skyline de Toronto lui, malgré le fait qu'il soit beaucoup plus haut, beaucoup plus spectaculaire, qu'il y a beaucoup plus de tours et qu'il s'étend beaucoup plus que celui de Montréal ne fait pas de Toronto une ville plus intéressante et ni plus belle que Montréal, loin de là.


La plupart des centres ''satellites'' autour de Toronto comme Missisaugua, Scarborough, North York, Brampton sont peut-etre en hauteur mais n'offrent rien de vraiment intéressant. C'est plutot un désastre point de vue urbanistique.


Cela me fait aussi penser à d'autres villes américaines construites en hauteur mais dont le centre n'a presque aucune vie surtout après 19 heures. Atlanta, Houston, Détroit etc.... Et le comble des édifices en hauteurs est Philadelphie. J'aimais bien le skyline de cette ville avec ses deux tours ''Liberty'' qui rappelait l'Empire state bulding et le Chrysler building de New York. Le design des deux édifices de Philadelphie est très agréable mais voilà qu'ils ont ajouté une tour qui dépasse les deux autres et qui défait le skyline, surtout de certains angles. À mon avis le skyline est maintenant beaucoup moins beau malgré un édifice qui est le plus haut de la ville. Assez paradoxale.


Le phénomène de désertion à Toronto n'est pas une bonne nouvelle pour cette ville. Le centre semble encore bien dense et mais les quartiers autours se vident peu à peu, ce qui est très dommage. J'espère que Montréal ne connaitra pas ce genre de phénomène.

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