Planners, Parking Lots, and Condos

Inspired by the BlogTO post “That time when Toronto was a city of parking lots” I wanted to look into parking in Toronto. I started by looking at creating my own gallery juxtaposing the images from BlogTO’s post to screen shots I took with AirPano.

When I looked at these photos, the parking lots of the 60s and 70s on the left and the same areas in 2011 on the right, I was shocked. What could create such a transformation? As I dug a little deeper I found these six images told the story of two very different planning policies.

I discovered those parking lots, pictured on the left, were part of a deliberate City policy to focus parking on the edges of downtown. The 1959 Department of Planning report, A Changing City, explains:

The plan for downtown will aim to keep auto traffic within the core at a minimum. If parking facilities are located around the edges of downtown, most daily traffic need use only the main roads around the centre. These parking areas or garages will be but a short walk from anyone’s downtown destination

In short, tearing down buildings and replacing them with parking lots were explicitly encouraged at the edges of downtown!

The redevelopment of these neighbourhoods since the 1990s is also a direct outcome of a City policy to revitalize the neighbourhoods on the edge of downtown. The Kings Regeneration, as the policy was called, focused on revitalizing and drawing investment back into those neighbourhoods devastated in the 1950s and 1960s.

The main components of the policy was to remove traditional land use restrictions and to encourage reinvestment and new housing opportunities. Quickly new businesses moved in. Media, technology, architecture, fashion and entertainment clubs, leading to the birth of the Entertainment District. Not long afterward, these two neighbourhoods became the epicentre of the development boom in the 2000s.  In ten years, the population of the downtown neighbourhood that contained the Kings increased by 133% to over 40,000 residents.

I wanted to post those six images because I felt they could tell many stories. When I look at them I saw a story about how two policies were able to transform two pockets of Toronto. What stories do those images tell you?

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One thought on “Planners, Parking Lots, and Condos

  1. Pingback: What I’m Reading: History and the City | 66 Feet

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