LATEST NEWS  Green Building

December 3, 2012

Toronto’s infrastructure future needs leadership

Increased outside the box thinking and stronger political leadership are needed to properly build Toronto’s infrastructure for the future, says the former chief planner of Ontario’s capital.

“Nothing is free and this is what kills me, politicians of every party, all levels are not prepared, in my view, to talk about how to pay for this and that’s the problem,” said Paul Bedford, who served as chief planner for Toronto for eight years and is a former Metrolinx director.

Speaking at Reed Construction Data’s CEO Power Breakfast, during Construct Canada, Bedford said as the population of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) continues to grow; the region needs to become more sustainable and intensive while still responding to market demands and future growth.

In terms of transit planning, he said there needs to be a realistic assessment of where people already work and pointed to the Airport Corporate Centre near the Pearson International Airport.

“(There’s a) huge concentration of employment, but there’s no place on that map in terms of the service by future transit. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I think we have to get our act together in a more integrated fashion.”

Paul Bedford tells the CEO Breakfast at Construct Canada that strong political action is required to move the Greater Toronto Area into the future.

Bedford urged all delegates at the breakfast to visit, the CivicAction campaign that asks GTA residents what they would do with the extra 32 minutes a day Metrolinx’s Big Move vision could provide. The second part of the campaign will ask participants what they are willing to pay to achieve that idea.

Bedford pointed to the Don Lands, the Port Lands and the waterfront as areas of huge regeneration opportunities for Toronto.

“You could fit almost half of the downtown core into the Port Lands. People don’t understand how big it is. The amount of development that will happen on the waterfront and the Port Lands is astounding for decades to come,” he said.

It is important to pay attention to the priority neighbourhoods of Toronto and create a positive environment to attract private sector investment, said Bedford.

“If nothing changes we’re going to have more of this ‘Three Toronto’ scenario, the rich, the poor and the shrinking middle class and it spells big trouble down the road.”

Ben Myers, editor and executive vice-president of Urbanation, a quarterly GTA condominium market survey, said that despite the hearsay, the GTA is not building too many condominiums.

He said there are 341 active projects in the market, another 33 projects that are sold out and not registered, which is about 100 projects more than about five years ago. There are about 95,000 units in those 374 projects and they are about 80 per cent sold.

“The long-term average for solds in the market is about 75 per cent, so we’re definitely running higher than is average in the market. When you see the absolute number of units unsold is about 17,000, it’s near a record high, but take into consideration that the market is so much larger than it ever has been. On a percentage basis, we’re still in a fairly healthy market,” he explained.

The Toronto census metropolitan area had about 14,000 new condominium sales in 2012, which is on-pace with 2010, but down from the record setting 2011.

“Any comparisons that you see out there in the media are always to 2011, which was by far the record number of sales in the Toronto condo market, so that always needed to be taken into consideration,” he said.

2011 had about 28,000 new condominium sales, which was about 25 per cent higher than the previous record high in 2007.

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