Urban Design

Mid-Rise Symposium (2005) - Urbanizing the Avenues

The City of Toronto Official Plan identifies Toronto's main commercial streets, or Avenues, as appropriate locations where reurbanization can occur to create new housing and jobs.

The Symposium

In order to explore opportunities for encouraging more mid-rise buildings along the Avenues, the City Planning Division - in association with the Canadian Urban Institute - organized a on the subject of Mid-Rise Development for Toronto - Urbanizing the Avenues. The symposium took place on Tuesday, November 29, 2005.

The symposium was well attended. The CUI's morning session attracted upwards of 300 participants representing a wide cross-section of Toronto's community, including developers; academics; planners; architects; economists; engineers, professional organizations and community stakeholders and students. The afternoon workshop sessions were also well attended, as was the TSA's evening event.

A selection of symposium presentations, workshop summaries, proformas and background information have been posted on this site for your information and consideration. 

The symposium demonstrated the commmunity's interest in this topic and the need to provide encouragement, certainty and incentives to the development community and educational materials for both professionals and communities living along or adjacent to the Avenues.

Symposium Detailsphoto of a mid rise at yonge and alexandra

Robert Freedman, Director, Urban Design, Planning Division, City of Toronto, set the context for the symposium in his overview paper entitled & "A City of Great Avenues", published for the Toronto Society of Architects newsletter.

Click here for presentations and workshop summaries from the symposium.

Background Information:

Summary of Findings:

image of a mid rise buildingA wide range of ideas and suggestions were put forward by presenters and the audience throughout the Symposium, and a Summary of Key Suggestions from the discussions at the event is now available. This list will form the starting point for an Action Plan aimed at promoting the development of more mid-rise buildings in Toronto.

The Mid-rise Symposium was an important step towards the implementation of Toronto Official Plan goals and objectives. The mid-rise building form is a suitable form of residential intensification along the edges of some of Toronto's stable neighbourhoods.

In general terms, the solutions for encouraging mid-rise buildings in Toronto fall under three broad headings:

  1. reviewing the approvals process;
  2. educating the public and development industry; and
  3. promoting the findings/ outreach.

Immediate Actions:

Immediate action will be taken on some of the findings at no cost to the City, as follows:

  1. An award category for the 2007 Architecture and Urban Design Awards (AUDA) will be created for a "Building in Context: Mid-Rise" to raise awareness and promote pride in successful mid-rise buildings which exist to date.
  2. City Staff created a Mid-rise Symposium web page which will continue to act as a 'clearing house' of information, contacts and feedback for both staff, the development industry and the community at large.
  3. As background to the symposium, staff prepared a booklet of Case Studies and Precedents for mid-rise buildings in Toronto. This will be elaborated upon, with an aim to publication at a later date.
  4. City Planning Policy Staff have undertaken a study entitled "Retailing on the Avenues", which will be conducted over the next year. It is intended to address basic questions around planning for retail along the Avenues. The results of this study will inform some of the longer term issues facing the retail portion of mid-rise buildings.
  5. The Streetscape Design Manual has been developed with considerable input from other City Departments, most notably Transportation Services and Urban Forestry. When complete, the draft Manual will be made available for public discussion and review. It is anticipated that this process will take place in 2006. This will assist developers in providing certainty and predictability with respect to the streetscape portions of mid-rise developments.
  6. The 2005 Avenue Studies are underway; and Council has approved the 2006 studies. As part of the 2006 studies, the work program may be adjusted to incorporate some of the findings from this symposium.

City of Toronto staff has begun to assess the information and recommendations received further to the symposium, with a goal of preparing a "plan of action" to encourage mid-rise development along portions of our Avenues.


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