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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 7:26 PM
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The Canadian Urban Renaissance

So I've been thinking lately about all of the changes Calgary is currently going through, thinking it to be somewhat of a major renaissance period for the city. Then today I realized that this renaissance is ongoing in many major cities throughout the country, from Edmonton to Kitchener, a bunch of our cities seem to have major urban revitalizations underway from new LRT and Subway lines, new public spaces, new public institutions, and even district developments that will greatly enhance the public realm. I thought it would be a cool idea for a thread to be able to discuss the breadth of this urban revival and massive intensification going on throughout our great country. I can't really pinpoint where this era started but I'll just pick an arbitrary date of 2005 and believe it will remain ongoing until at least 2025 by the looks of the proposals coming in across the nation.


Here's a bit of a list of what I have noticed going on, by the city:

Vancouver: Canada Line Skytrain, Evergreen Line Skytrain, Future Broadway Subway, Skytrain Station Revitalization, new Vancouver Art Gallery proposal, new public amenities due to development levies, Robson Square redevelopment, Revitalization of Science World and area, Olympic Village/SE False Creek developments, future NE False Creek Developments, TransCanada Highway Improvements, Port Mann Bridge, Waterfront Transit Hub proposal, and much more

Calgary: West Blue Line C-Train, Green Line C-Train proposal, 4-car C-train Station Expansion Project, Numerous C-Train Line Extensions, Ongoing RiverWalk Project, Numerous BRT Projects, Kensington Pedestrian Improvements, 17th Avenue Pedestrian Improvements, Award-winning 7th Avenue Pedestrian Improvements and C-train Station Redevelopments, Central Memorial Park Revitalization, St. Patrick's Island Park Redevelopment, Peace Bridge, Stampede Park Revitalization/Youth Campus, New Central Library, National Music Centre of Canada, East Village Development Projects, Olympic Plaza Redevelopment proposal, Art Gallery of Calgary proposal, Main Streets urbanization initiative, West Eau Claire Park redevelopment, Chinatown Revitalization Initiative, International Facilities Project (YYC), New Calgary Arena and Stadium Proposals, and much more

Edmonton: Metro Line LRT, Valley Line LRT, ICE District, Rogers Place Arena, Royal Alberta Museum, Art Gallery of Alberta, Churchill Square revitalization, The Quarters Development Projects, International Airport Expansion (YEG), Blatchfield Airport Redevelopment Plan, Freezeway Proposal, Walterdale Bridge, and much more

Saskatoon: River Landing Project, Saskatoon River Walk, Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan, BRT Proposal, Persephone Theatre, International Airport Expansion (YXE), 21 Street East Pedestrian Improvements, North Downtown Master Plan, and much more

Regina: Riders Stadium, Victoria Park Revitalization, 12 Avenue Revitalization, and much more

Winnipeg: Investors Group Field, True North Square, MTS Centre, Winnipeg Convention Centre Expansion, South BRT Phases 1 and 2, and much more

Kitchener: ION LRT, Laurier University Downtown Campus, University of Waterloo Downtown Campus, King Street Pedestrian Improvements, and much more

London: London LRT Proposal, Forks of the Thames redevelopment, and much more

Hamilton: B-Line LRT Proposal, Gore Park Redevelopment, Street Improvements throughout the core, and much more

Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum Expansion, Art Gallery of Ontario Expansion, Spadina Line Subway Expansion, Eglington Crosstown Line, Downtown Relief Line Proposal, Finch LRT Proposal, Scarboro RT Subway Conversion, Yonge Street Improvement proposal, BMO Field Expansion, UP Express, Waterfront Toronto, Sugar Beach, Donlands Redevelopment, Portlands Redevelopment, West Don Lands and East Bayfront Precinct, and much more

Ottawa: Confederation Line LRT, Lebreton Flats Redevelopment proposal, Byward Market transformation, Little Italy Development Projects, New Central Library proposal, Ottawa Convention Centre Expansion, and much more

Montreal: Subway expansion to Laval, New Champlain Bridge, Quartier des Spectacles, Griffintown Development Projects, Turcot Interchange Reconstruction, LRT and Subway expansion proposals, and much more

Quebec City: Videotron Centre Arena, Expansion of Jean Lesage International Airport, and much more

Halifax: Nova Centre, Kings Wharf, and much more.



Obviously I've missed a large number of developments in each city, and have missed quite a few cities as well, so feel free to bring them up, discuss them, and discuss whether or not Canada truly is in the midst of an urban renaissance
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  #2  
Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 7:36 PM
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Moncton: Downtown Events Centre, Junction Urban Village, Downing Street redevelopment, FiveFive Queen Street







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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 8:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Chadillaccc View Post

Montreal: Subway expansion to Laval, New Champlain Bridge, Quartier des Spectacles, Griffintown Development Projects, Turcot Interchange Reconstruction, LRT and Subway expansion proposals, and much more
Just a minor correction. The subway expansion is towards Anjou (the east end of town)

Blue line extension (in pale blue)

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 10.52.05 PM by Rommheim, on Flickr
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 8:16 PM
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Interesting idea for a thread.

I wonder if we are truly seeing an urban renaissance, or is it simply a perfect storm of factors:

- the long-term trend migration to urban areas from rural areas continues unabated across the country

- immigration continues at near-record levels, and immigrants tend to settle in urban areas

- we are rapidly reaching the saturation point in terms of traffic congestion, road capacity and sprawl (and financial means to address/support them) in our large and medium-sized cities (even places like Halifax have surprisingly intense traffic jams now), which is pushing public officials to favour denser development patterns
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 8:17 PM
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Just a minor correction. The subway expansion is towards Anjou (the east end of town)
Yeah, and the subway already goes to Laval.
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 8:18 PM
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Yeah, and the subway already goes to Laval.
The subway in Laval will eventually continue its expansion, and close off the "loop". However, I think it's pointless considering the metro already takes you minutes away from Laval's clock tower, which is the definitive nexus and tourist hotspot of the city.
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 8:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acajack View Post
Interesting idea for a thread.

I wonder if we are truly seeing an urban renaissance, or is it simply a perfect storm of factors:

- the long-term trend migration to urban areas from rural areas continues unabated across the country

- immigration continues at near-record levels, and immigrants tend to settle in urban areas

- we are rapidly reaching the saturation point in terms of traffic congestion, road capacity and sprawl (and financial means to address/support them) in our large and medium-sized cities (even places like Halifax have surprisingly intense traffic jams now), which is pushing public officials to favour denser development patterns
I don't know... all of those factors were generally present in the 90s yet next to nothing was happening in most cities besides the construction of suburban residential subdivisions and power centres.

I remember in the early 2000s wondering if we'd ever see boom times like what went on in Canadian cities from that period of the mid 60s to the mid 80s. I'd say that we are in the midst of a similar boom right now. The amount of development on both private and public projects right now, particularly in Canada's three or four biggest cities, is staggering.
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 8:28 PM
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I don't know... all of those factors were generally present in the 90s yet next to nothing was happening in most cities besides the construction of suburban residential subdivisions and power centres.

.
True to a point, but it could be that these phenomena have now reached a critical point and cruising speed, and that the unstoppable cumulative effects are simply rippling into the inner cities in a big way given their magnitude.
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 8:33 PM
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Originally Posted by MonctonRad View Post
Moncton: Downtown Events Centre, Junction Urban Village, Downing Street redevelopment, FiveFive Queen Street

I didn't know Moncton was going to get a streetcar! That's so cool!
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 8:41 PM
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I didn't know Moncton was going to get a streetcar! That's so cool!
There's actually an old ROW there behind Assumption Place dating back to the time when there was a railway spur servicing the industrial riverfront.

Yes, the city is mulling the idea of a short street car line connecting Downing Street through to the new events centre area. This remains more of a concept at present however than anything else. I don't know if it will ever get built, but I agree, it would be quite neat.
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 9:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Acajack View Post
True to a point, but it could be that these phenomena have now reached a critical point and cruising speed, and that the unstoppable cumulative effects are simply rippling into the inner cities in a big way given their magnitude.
The boom in Toronto is magnitudes bigger than any previous boom but, I don't find it particularly different from those. It's still driven by real estate speculation and any public enhancement is a product of that. A correction will ensue and people will lose faith in the condo market. We'll probably, once again, see suburbia take off until all is forgotten and the whole thing starts all over again.
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 9:07 PM
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The boom in Toronto is magnitudes bigger than any previous boom but, I don't find it particularly different from those. It's still driven by real estate speculation and any public enhancement is a product of that. A correction will ensue and people will lose faith in the condo market. We'll probably, once again, see suburbia take off until all is forgotten and the whole thing starts all over again.
Can you clarify whether you are kidding or not? I think so, but I'm really not sure. A fall in the condo market, when it comes, will only encourage greater urbanization as prices become more accessible and the gap between condo and SFH prices increases.
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 10:04 PM
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No I'm not kidding. What's not to understand? Consumers have lost confidence in the condo market before. It eventually did rebound as prices became more competitive to SFH. It doesn't happen concurrently. That makes no sense.
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 10:33 PM
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No I'm not kidding. What's not to understand? Consumers have lost confidence in the condo market before. It eventually did rebound as prices became more competitive to SFH. It doesn't happen concurrently. That makes no sense.
And when prices tank, buyers will take up what's on offer, sooner or later. Their alternative in any city of size is never again going to be SFHs, especially as prices of the limited supply of SFHs is going to drop much less than condos.
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 10:36 PM
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City of North Van has had a seabus transit connection to downtown since the 70s but the "downtown" waterfront has been an undeveloped disaster until the last 10 years. Now it's getting nice

WWII:



10+ years ago:



Now:





The Pier, North Vancouver by chrisjohann, on Flickr

Coming soon



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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 11:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Acajack View Post
Interesting idea for a thread.

I wonder if we are truly seeing an urban renaissance, or is it simply a perfect storm of factors:

- the long-term trend migration to urban areas from rural areas continues unabated across the country

- immigration continues at near-record levels, and immigrants tend to settle in urban areas

- we are rapidly reaching the saturation point in terms of traffic congestion, road capacity and sprawl (and financial means to address/support them) in our large and medium-sized cities (even places like Halifax have surprisingly intense traffic jams now), which is pushing public officials to favour denser development patterns
At this point the smart money would be betting on when this revival comes to an end. Too many urbanists tend to forget what drove people to the burbs in the first place: overcrowding, crime, desire for green space. Factor in the advent of autonomous fully electric cars in the near future, and I'd be scoping out sites for the next generation of subdivisions.

You can already see signs of the urban decay in Vancouver: overpriced, shrinking units; overcrowding into existing units (ie a family of 4 in a one bedroom); lack of park space; increasing street disorder.
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Old Posted Apr 21, 2016, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Acajack View Post
Yeah, and the subway already goes to Laval.
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Just a minor correction. The subway expansion is towards Anjou (the east end of town)
Oh I didn't know about that one, I was just talking about the extension to Laval that happened in the past decade.
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2016, 12:28 AM
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And when prices tank, buyers will take up what's on offer, sooner or later. Their alternative in any city of size is never again going to be SFHs, especially as prices of the limited supply of SFHs is going to drop much less than condos.
And that's what I said. It will take time and confidence that the market has bottomed out. Nobody wants to buy after a drop of 10% and see it drop 20 more.

You can buy a new 2 storey, 3 bedroom house in Newmarket for the price of a 500 square foot one bedroom condo in downtown Toronto. The only difference between this urban renaissance and previous ones is the length and scale. Some of what has transpired will carry over but, there is nothing that tells me this is more than a trend that will pass. One legacy that definitely won't carry over well are these crappy, small floor plans sold to investors who really don't care.
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2016, 1:00 AM
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In terms of timing I think it's the exceptionally low interest rates that've been the real driver for the worldwide condo tower construction boom -- with the number of units coming online disconnected from actual demand for housing in many places -- of the last few years.

Even in Montreal the new towers tend to get bought by Chinese investors in a surprising proportion. The sheer number of empty units must be at an all-time historical high in Canada. I suspect it's the case worldwide too.
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Old Posted Apr 22, 2016, 5:55 AM
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I would imagine that as well. Here in Calgary and Edmonton we have steered mostly clear of the investor purchasing for the time being at least so that has been somewhat of a plus for our market, keeping prices relatively low. Even in the downturn, condo sales are doing very well. In Calgary we have a good 8 - 10 towers that have started or will start soon since the oil crunch.
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