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Unlocking High-rise Potential: Consultations

The following article by Edward LaRusic was recently published in the Toronto edition of Novae Res Urbis:

The city is proposing a new zoning designation to transform the concrete towers of Toronto’s inner suburbs, typically poorly served by transportation, retail and other amenities, into complete communities.

If approved, the new zoning designation of “residential apartment commercial (RAC)” would loosen restrictive rules on high-rise apartment neighbourhoods that date to the 1950s and, it is hoped, attract small businesses and services to the densely populated communities cut off from their surroundings. Continue Reading This Post

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on April 4, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments »

New opportunities through zoning reform: Your feedback needed

Photo: Jesse Colin Jackson

The City of Toronto wants to bring more vitality and convenience to its Apartment Neighbourhoods. In March and April, a number of public consultations will be held to incorporate the ideas of community members.

A new zoning type, “Residential Apartment Commercial” (RAC), has been created to provide more amenities and more usable public space in selected neighbourhoods.

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on March 21, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments »

New Tower Study: Affordability Tenuous

Photo by Jesse Colin Jackson

Update: A new edition of this report is available as of March 12, 2014.

It has long been understood that while Toronto’s tower neighbourhoods are areas of social need (see reports “Vertical Poverty,” and “Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe”), they also provide a vital source of affordable housing in the region. Just how tenuous that affordability can be, however, is the subject of a recent U of T Cities Centre report by Emily Paradis.

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on March 12, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments »

The Star’s Big Idea Series: The Region’s Future is in its High-Rise Suburbs

Image: Toronto Star

Throughout the first part of 2014, the Toronto Star is running a series called “Big Ideas“,  asking Torontonians to think big about the future of the region. What type of Toronto do we want to create in the years to come?

For our contribution to this series, we discuss Tower Renewal as the key to realizing the region’s potential. The piece can be found at Here at thestar.com, or below:


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Posted by Graeme Stewart on February 6, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments »

Mapping Tower Renewal: Areas of Opportunity / Priority

Map identifying areas of high potential / priority for Tower Neighbourhood Renewal. Click on image for additional mapping.

As part of the ongoing to work to re-examining zoning in Apartment Neighbourhoods, a series of maps have been developed to identify trends, patterns and areas of high impact in phasing the implementation of the new RAC apartment zone.

The RAC zone is a new set of policies to provide tools and opportunities as part of the larger initiative of Tower Neighbourhood Renewal.

Building from mapping conducted for the report Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horsehoe, maps complied here show the distribution of towers throughout the City; where towers congregate into large clusters forming tower neighbourhoods; and where these large tower neighbourhoods experience high incidence of social need.

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Posted by Graeme Stewart on January 31, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments »

Charrette: Apartment Neighbourhoods and Healthy Corner Stores

On Saturday January 18, The East Scarborough Storefront hosted a public design charrette with partners United Way Toronto, Toronto Public Health (TPH), Sustainable TO, Architext, and ERA. Saturday’s discussion focused on TPH’s new program “Healthy Corner Stores,” a project that proposes to give suburban communities better access to fresh produce, and other healthy food options, through convenience stores.

Healthy Corner Stores is part of the growing Tower Renewal initiative, which aims to bring new amenities, healthy choices, and life on the street to Toronto’s tower neighbourhoods. Continue Reading This Post

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on January 29, 2014 | Permalink | No Comments »

Fresh Food on Wheels – Bringing Fresh Food Trucks to Apartment Neighbourhoods

Photographs by Toronto Public Health

One of the key challenges facing the region’s Apartment Neighourhoods is providing convenient access to healthy fresh food to the thousands of residents that call these neighbourhoods home. Over the past few years, ERA, CUR+R and project partners United Way Toronto and Toronto Public Health have advocated for, and are in the process of implementing new zoning by-laws to allow the sale of food, goods and services in these neighbourhoods, which is today often prohibited. Continue Reading This Post

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on November 8, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

Turning Heads at St. Jamestown

St. Jamestown Phoenix mural changing the vertical landscape in east downtown

Congratulations to the STEPS art initiative, residents of 200 Wellesley St, the City of Toronto Public Realm team, and TCHC for completion of possibly the world’s tallest mural in St. Jamestown. To learn more about the STEPS/Emerging ARTivist Program at St. Jamestown click here.

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Posted by admin on October 30, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

United Way Toronto + Tower Neighbourhoods – Update, Oct. 2013

Over the past several month, United Way Toronto has been hard at work with community partners and local residents across the City engaging in a series of initiatives in many of Toronto Apartment Neighbourhoods.  Key aspects of this ongoing work has been  summarized in an October 2013 memo, outlining recent practical achievements, and looking to the near future for goals for engaging in Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the coming year or so.

For the full memo, please download.

United Way Toronto Tower Neighbourhood Demonstration Sites

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on October 16, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

HIGHRISE + New York Times: A Short History of the Highrise

Congratulations to Kat Cizek and the NFB team for the launch of their latest installment of HIGHRISE, produced in partnership with the New York Times:  A Short History of the highrise.

ERA worked with Kat, the NFB team, and local residents of North Etobicoke to develop HIGHRISE’s award winning previous installment, One Millionth Tower.
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Posted by Josh Thorpe on October 15, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

Chief Planner’s Rountable: Toronto’s Modern Suburbs

Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat, Councillor Peter Milczyn, and panel participants. Photo by Garry Weiler, City of Toronto

On Sept. 30, 2013, ERA’s Graeme Stewart participated in a City of Toronto Chief Planner’s Roundtable, hosted by Jennifer Keesmaat. The Roundtable, entitled “The Shape of Toronto’s Suburbs,” is the first of three sessions devoted to critical thinking about the history, evolution, and future of the GTA’s suburbs. Participants included John van Nostrand, Leo deSorcy, Pamela Blais, Laurie Payne, and Leona Savoie.

The panel raised a number of issues, including employment, distance, transit, private vs. public investment, small-scale and large scale intervention, and zoning reforms that are about to change the way things are done in some communities.

Though the situation is far from simple, the sense coming out of this Roundtable is very positive: Toronto has an enormous resource in its suburbs (and in the apartment neighbourhoods that make up so much of their fabric). New design and policy approaches can help remove the false dichotomy of ‘suburban’ vs. ‘urban’, and help us imagine a healthy, vibrant metropolis for the entire region.

To watch the entire Roundtable, please see Rogers online.

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on September 30, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

Tower Renewal Office Report: Successes and Next Steps

The City of Toronto’s Tower Renewal Office (TRO) recently published two new reports describing the project’s accomplishments in the last two years, as well as future goals that were adopted by the City of Toronto’s Community Development and Recreation Committee in Sept. 2013.

The two reports show TRO’s impressive outreach to over 300 buildings in the City, with plans for engagement, assessment, and action in many more in the years to come.

Taking advantage of new zoning to be initiated in 2014, and paired with efforts by partners such as United Way Toronto, Toronto Public Health, the Greater Toronto Apartment Association, and local community partners, apartment neighbourhoods across the city are poised for positive change.

The reports can be downloaded here:
Tower Renewal Accomplishments 2011-2013
Next Ten Years of Tower Renewal: Achieving city-wide improvement

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on September 19, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

Transformative potential of Tower Renewal: Globe & Mail

Alex Bozikovic, Toronto-based writer on architecture and design, recently provided an update on Tower Renewal efforts in the GTA. The article describes the uniquely Canadian and Torontonian inventory of high-rise post-war tower apartment neighbourhoods, and recent efforts by local architects, not-for-profits, and city departments to rethink these neighbourhoods. With aging buildings in need of maintenance and energy efficiency upgrades, and zoning laws that see neighbourhoods underserved and undernourished, Toronto is ready for some practical changes.

Bozikovic is optimistic: By his estimation, the Tower Renewal project can truly transform Toronto for the better.

For the full article please see “Toronto hopes to revitalize its many postwar highrises” in the Globe & Mail.

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on September 18, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

The Slabs vs. the Points: Toronto’s Two Tower Booms

A new article in Satellite Magazine on Toronto Towers by ERA’s Graeme Stewart, Josh Thorpe, and Michael McClelland.

The article compares Toronto’s two high-rise housing booms, which have generated housing in volume and distribution unlike anywhere else in North America: first, the suburban tower boom in Toronto’s post-war period, and next the contentious condo boom of recent years.

The two Booms: Housing Starts in the Greater Toronto Areas, 1950 to 2012 (CMHC)

In both cases urban form and infrastructure have changed radically in a short period for an immediate purpose. The challenge occurs in ten or twenty years’ time as the city’s needs change: Do these built forms have the resiliency and flexibility to be adapt?

Read the full article at satellitemagazine.ca.

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on September 5, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

New Book: Large Housing Estates: Ideas, Rise, Fall and Recovery; the Bijlmermeer and Beyond

Dr. Frank Wassenberg, Netherlands researcher, professor, and Tower Renewal collaborator  (see Symposium 2011), has recently published a book called Large Housing Estates: Ideas, Rise, Fall and Recovery — the Bijlmermeer and Beyond.

The book documents origins, histories, and recent events in the revitalization of housing estates, and provides a pan-European and international perspective on the opportunities and challenges of Tower Renewal. The book’s main focus is Amsterdam’s remarkable Bijlmermeer neighbourhood, whose long-term renewal efforts represent global leadership in positive social, environmental, and urban transformation.

Having worked in the past with Dr. Wassenberg, a key expert on the Bijlmermeerproject, the Toronto Tower Renewal team has gained valuable insight in determining local opportunities and strategies for Tower Renewal. (See former posts Learning from Europe and EU Best Practice). Similarly, Dr. Wassenberg’s research with the team here in Toronto has led to his including of Toronto as a key case study in his research.


Large Housing Estates is published by TUDelft, and is available online for download.

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Posted by Graeme Stewart on September 5, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

CIP award to Tower Renewal

We are pleased to announce that the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) has awarded the Planning Excellence Merit Award for New and Emerging Planning Initiatives to a collection of strategic studies that form part of the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiative. Continue Reading This Post

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Posted by Graeme Stewart on May 28, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

RAC Tower Zoning approved for 2014

In an important step forward, Toronto City Council voted Wednesday April 3, 2013, to approve the new Harmonized Zoning bylaw, including the new Residential Apartment-Commercial (RAC) Zone. Starting in 2014, the RAC Zone will be rolled out in key Toronto neighbourhoods. These include:

  • Thorncliff Park,
  • North Jane St.,
  • Rexdale,
  • Oriole Community (The Peanut),
  • Taylor-Massey Neighbourhood,
  • East Scarborough, and
  • Pape and Cosburn

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on April 4, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

Saunders: A nation of suburban apartment dwellers

Apartment Cluster, Mississauga Ontario

Doug Saunders, columnist for the Globe and Mail and author of the remarkable book Arrival City, among other notable works, recently wrote a good piece on Tower Renewal, challenging Canada to rethink itself as a “nation of suburban apartment dwellers”. One in five within the Toronto region lives in a high-rise building outside of the urban downtown centre, which makes us a world leader in this residential form.

The article cites German architect Thomas Sieverts, who warns these peripheral apartments areas, high in population and low in services, have become “cities without cities”. In conversation with ERA’s Graeme Stewart, the article discusses Tower Renewal, and points to opportunities for how to think of our suburb apartments as places of opportunity for newcomers and the city as a whole.

To read Saunders’ full article, please go to the Globe & Mail.

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on April 3, 2013 | Permalink | 1 Comment »

Canada Screen Award to NFB’s “HIGHRISE”

Last week the NFB’s Highrise: One Millionth Tower won a Canada Screen Award for “Original Program Produced for Digital Media, Non-Fiction.” ERA and the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) had the pleasure of working with the NFB on this remarkable series, directed by Kat Cizek, which examines the current conditions and future potential of post-war high-rise living around the world.

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on March 5, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

Graeme Stewart interviewed: Toronto Zoning

As part of the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal project, the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) continues to work with United Way Toronto, the City of Toronto, and key stakeholders to establish a new approach to zoning that will enable Toronto’s hundreds of Apartment Neighbourhoods to emerge as more complete, better-served communities. Recently, Canadian Apartment Magazine interviewed ERA’s Graeme Stewart, as well as Aird & Berlis LLP partner Tom Halinski, on exciting changes coming to Toronto’s zoning laws.

Play the video above for Graeme’s segment, or visit Canadian Apartment Magazine to see both videos.

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on March 1, 2013 | Permalink | No Comments »

New Apartment Tower RAC Zoning in Ontario Planning Journal

The newly proposed ‘Apartment Residential Commercial Zoning‘, developed by the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, City of Toronto, United Way and other partners features as the cover story in the January / February 2013 issue of the Ontario Planning Journal.

Article authors, Elise Hug (Tower Renewal Office, City of Toronto), Jason Thorne (CUG+R, planningAlliance), and ERA’s Graeme Stewart explore the opportunities of the proposed zoning framework, next steps for implementation, and further research and policy initiatives moving forward.

The issue of the journal can be downloaded here.

A background to the development of the RAC zoning can be found here.

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Posted by Graeme Stewart on December 23, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments »

Tower Renewal on The Urbanist

Monocle Radio recently interviewed ERA’s Graeme Stewart on The Urbanist, a weekly program on the people and ideas that shape urban life. In this week’s edition, Andrew Tuck speaks with Graeme about Toronto’s modernist legacy and the Tower Renewal program.

You can listen to this interview online at Monocle.com #61.

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on December 14, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments »

Tower Renewal Panel at Innis College

On December 11, 2012, Toronto’s Tower Renewal Office hosted a panel that brought together leading Toronto participants in the Tower Renewal program, including ERA’s Graeme Stewart, with Keynote speaker Dr. Rebecca Leshinsky. A professor of law, Dr. Leshinsky has conducted research on the sustainable retrofit of apartment buildings in Melbourne and the State of Victoria in Australia.

Dr. Leshinsky noted that Toronto and Melbourne share opportunities related to Tower Renewal. Her research relates to the legal and governance mechanisms that present barriers for uptake of retrofits, yet provide avenues for reform. Victoria’s regulations (which are similar to Toronto’s condominium regulations) makes decision-making on building-wide issues a challenge. Dr. Leshinsky recommends better information tools for understanding and communicating retrofit opportunities and legislative reform to empower owners and community members to instigate change. Continue Reading This Post

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on December 12, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments »

United Way Toronto: Imagine a City

This autumn, United Way’s Imagine a City blog is hosting a series of guest writers to discuss a number of important programs related to Toronto’s future as a livable city.

ERA’s Graeme Stewart and United Way Toronto CEO Susan McIsaac blogged about their collaborative work on Tower Neighbourhood Renewal; working to build healthier, happier tower neighbourhoods through research; advocacy; policy change and direct investment that can bring new life to these communities.

To read the full blog post, please see the United Way’s Imagine a City.

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Posted by admin on October 30, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments »

Toronto Zoning Reform to Empower Apartment Neighbourhoods

As part of ongoing work on Tower Neighbourhood Renewal, the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) has been working with partners United Way Toronto and the City of Toronto to establish a new approach to zoning that will enable Toronto’s hundreds of Apartment Neighbourhoods to emerge as more complete and better-served communities.

This work has recently taken a significant step forward, as Toronto’s Planning and Growth Management Committee has endorsed a new zoning category: the “Apartment Residential Commercial” Zone (RAC), developed by the City of Toronto’s Zoning Division in partnership with CUG+R and United Way Toronto this past summer. Continue Reading This Post

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Posted by Josh Thorpe on October 15, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments »

Visualizations: Toward Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods

As part of the recent reports developed for United Way Toronto and Toronto Public Health, a series of diagrams were developed illustrating the use of various strategies for more healthy and better served communities at the small, intermediate and larger scales.

These reports, Toward Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods, and A New Approach to Zoning in Apartment Neighbourhoods, discuss thirty-one strategies for healthy and vibrant communities, and the policy and zoning framework for their realization.

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Posted by Graeme Stewart on September 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments Off

New Report from CUG+R and United Way Toronto: Strong Neighbourhoods and Complete Communities: A New Approach to Zoning for Apartment Neighbourhoods

As a follow up to the findings of Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty, the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) and United Way Toronto are pleased to release a new report entitled Strong Neighbourhoods and Complete Communities: A New Approach to Zoning for Apartment Neighbourhoods.

Download the full report.

The aim of this report is to identify existing policy barriers and consider policy alternatives to enable Toronto’s hundreds of apartment neighbourhoods to reach their potential as healthy, vibrant, and more complete communities.

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Posted by Graeme Stewart on September 24, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments »

New Report from CUG+R and Toronto Public Health: Toward Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods

The Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) and Toronto Public Health are pleased to release Toward Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods: A Healthy Toronto by Design Report.

Download the full report.

As part of the ongoing work related to Tower Neighbourhood Renewal, this report was commissioned by Toronto Public Health in 2011 to examine design tools for improved community health outcomes in Toronto’s hundreds of apartment neighbourhoods.

As has been demonstrated in numerous previous studies, growing poverty is linked to poor health outcomes in Toronto’s inner suburbs, particularly its apartment neighbourhoods. This new study illustrates how public health objectives can be achieved through strategies specific to the unique urban geography and demographics of apartment neighbourhoods.

To assess the opportunities of apartment neighbourhoods, this report utilizes the following themes, developed from the Toronto Public Health report Healthy Toronto by Design (2011), and applies them to the apartment neighbourhood context:

Using these health themes, thirty-one strategies and design opportunities have been developed. Many of these strategies are relatively straightforward, others more complicated. In the hands of a range of stakeholders, from residents and property owners to City staff, they provide strategic direction for the investment and action required to build better served, healthier, and more complete communities moving forward.

The report also assesses the relationship of each strategy to current policies in the Toronto Official Plan and Zoning By-Laws. This assessment clearly shows which strategies can be achieved in the short term and which policy barriers need to be addressed in the long term to achieve a full range of health benefits.

Map: Post-War Apartment Towers + Areas of High Incidence of Diabetes Across Toronto. More maps from the report can be found here.

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Posted by Graeme Stewart on September 24, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments »

Youth build decking for Scarborough shade structure

Beginning in early July, six youth from the Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park community were hired for a five-week period by the East Scarborough Storefront to continue work on a series of community-oriented landscape improvements. These features were designed as part of the Community Design Initiative (C.D.I.) program, to which these youth have previously volunteered hundreds of hours.

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Posted by Ajeev Bhatia on August 16, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments »

Construction and river valley tour, East Scarborough

Photos: Holly Pagnacco

Progress on the East Scarborough Storefront’s (ESS) soon-to-be grapevine pergola is running on time. We have just completed some 50 trellis modules which will form the roof structure for the grapevines to grow on. The youth spent weeks building these modules and have become confident measuring and cutting wood, along with many other skills.

As part of this ongoing learning process, our youth landscapers recently presented on the transformations the community could expect at ESS, including the pergola and deck, which the team has been working on since early July. Participants were surprised and inspired to see the impressive projects community youth are working on.

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Posted by Ajeev Bhatia on August 8, 2012 | Permalink | No Comments »

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