Low-Rise to High-Density in 15 Years – Inversion and the Rise of the Toronto Exurb

Richard Witt
Executive Principal
Quadrangle Architects, Toronto

Toronto is a city that came into its own with the advent of the automobile. A rail and port-centric industrial center, its evolution into metropolis has always been tied to individual transport into and out of the city. As a result, the suburbs of Toronto flourished as typical bedroom communities, with a sea of cookie-cutter houses, each suburb barely distinguishable from another.

But then, geography and provincial planning policy created a bottleneck; a lake to the south and an arcing greenbelt to the north, east and west meant land opportunities were less available. As the Greater Toronto area’s population grew (at a rate of 100,000+ per year), housing prices rose and development sites became scarce. Direction of future density to a small number of growth centers has further contributed to a search for new solutions.

The answer has been in the encircling suburbs. Beginning with the removal of height limits for buildings in Mississauga city center and continuing across the region, the highest density development outside the downtown core is in the former sleepy suburb of Vaughan, which is building a new 400-acre (162-hectare) metropolitan center at the end of one subway line. The exurbs are now ripe with potential, and developers are recognizing that there is an appetite for high-density multi-family living, even on the periphery of the metropolis. This presentation examines the lessons learned from a region that has seen massive growth and the ways in which the future of development is being shaped as a different kind of city, a network of rapidly rising skylines and high-rise, high-density interconnected centers.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation