TCLF: Leading with Landscape Conference Presentation – Jennifer Keesmaat & Paul Bedford



Compelling and visionary designers and others examine Toronto’s international leadership in landscape architecture-based development. Provocative, headline-making speakers at this May 2015 conference in Toronto highlighted exceptional design and sustainability in world-class waterfront projects, the city’s extensive ravine system and it legacy of parks. TECHNICAL NOTE: Due to an issue at the conference the audio from 00:45 to 07:12 is degraded. To learn more about the conference: http://tclf.org/sites/default/files/microsites/toronto2015/index.html

The city’s current Chief Planner and her predecessor will discuss three interrelated themes concerning the city’s unprecedented growth and development: What is it about Toronto that all this activity is happening at this time? What role does landscape have in leading change? What are the tools for change and community engagement?

Toronto is undergoing unprecedented transformation. The city is a unique mix of form, history and raw urbanism with North America’s most extensive streetcar network, an overlay of the world’s largest
ravine system and a 29-mile lakefront. While many of its older neighborhoods may look like America they feel more like Europe. Demographically, more than half the population is foreign born; the
population has increased by 500,000 in the past fifteen years to 2.8 million, and is expected to hit 3-3.5 million by 2031. There has been explosive growth in the city with 160 projects comprising 22,000 units approved and 10,000 units completed in 2014 in addition to 700,00 square metres of non-residential space. A total of 205 new development projects have been proposed in 2015.

Its evolution from a provincial capital to an emerging global city requires new ways to think, act and plan. The potential for urban landscape to be the engine of city building has been embraced by the Waterfront Toronto Development Corporation-a joint city, provincial and federal model created to invest $1.5 billion of seed money into public realm. Over the past 15 years it has created a variety of signature public spaces that treat the waterfront as the front porch to the city and have generated massive payback of $10 billion of direct and indirect private sector investment.

Change involves perceptions and expectations, along with actions – how do Torontonians balance a higher-level vision with one that also addresses local needs? To what extent are we seeing
“revitalization” – which is a city building exercise – vs. “redevelopment” – which is just a real estate exercise – a philosophy of design excellence versus just very good? Is Toronto perceived – internally and externally – as a provincial city or an emerging global city? What is the public’s role? How does the
public get involved? What are the advocacy tools?

Lastly, is the investment in growth being met by a complementary investment in infrastructure and transit? Are there innovative financing models to address infrastructure and transit? Is the City
Planning “Growing Conversations Initiative” to promote an ongoing dialogue effective? When it comes to issues of “fixing Toronto” do the answers always involve the public realm? How do we measure
success?

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