Posts Tagged ‘Centres and Corridors’

Seeing into the future with York Region’s Official Plan

Monday, June 21st, 2010


What’s the best way to see what the future will look like for York Region? A crystal ball? Cards? Tea-leaves?

In all seriousness, when it comes to reading the future for our community, I suggest you look at York Region’s Official Plan. This document, which is a critical planning tool, has a number of functions: it’s a public document used to describe and promote our vision for the future, but it is also a legal document used to support and defend key decisions related to public infrastructure, development and growth.

Based on a 25 year planning timeframe but updated every five years, York Region’s Official Plan sets out several key themes which will guide planning decisions, and will help make growth work for us.

One of the main themes throughout the plan is the desire to concentrate growth and development in key areas through the region. This will be done through the further development of a series of centres and corridors, meaning new downtowns in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. The idea is that by building more intensively in these areas, there will be less pressure for growth in the existing communities.

These new multi-use centres will be connected by transportation “corridors” that will make it easier for people to get around the region. And obviously, the best way to travel will be on the vivaNext rapidways, which will run along the corridors and connect the centres.

As they develop, the centres will become focal points for exciting new destinations, offering more choices in entertainment, dining, shopping, and other kinds of attractions. They will also provide higher density housing in condominiums and apartments, for people who like the idea of living at the centre of the action. These new downtowns will be designed with people in mind: they will include attractive, public open spaces where people feel welcomed, and be designed in ways that encourage walking, cycling and transit use.

The Official Plan recognizes that while many people may like the idea of heading to one of the newly urbanized centres to dine out, to shop, or to go to work, they may also want to have a home in a quiet residential neighbourhood. So the Official Plan directs that those kinds of communities will be protected from the kind of intensification that will be used in the centres, so people can continue to enjoy the lifestyles they already have.

And because people in York Region value the greenspaces that make up such an important part of this area, a full 69% of the Region’s landmass will be protected as either Greenbelt or Oak Ridges Moraine.

The Official Plan goes into a lot of detail on these main themes, as well as a range of others, and is well worth reading to give you a sense of how your Region is going to manage growth into the future, and how it is going to evolve.

I like to think that with this well-thought-out plan, people in York Region will truly be able to have it all: our familiar communities will be protected, but we’ll get the benefits of city-building; and we’ll have a great rapid transit system to move us easily between all sorts of exciting new destinations. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this future vision, and what it will mean for you and your family!

Making room for everyone

Monday, April 19th, 2010


There might have been a time when, as it grew, a community could just continue to expand its boundaries farther out into the surrounding countryside, adding new neighbourhoods as more people moved in. But in our increasingly crowded part of the province, we’re long past the time when municipalities can just spread out endlessly – our boundaries are pretty much fixed. So finding room for new people has to happen within our existing space.

With provincial legislation setting out formal growth targets for all Ontario communities, York Region has had to do some careful planning to map out where all those new people are going to live. And we’re not talking small increases – our planners have projected that by 2031, York Region will need to find room for an additional 577,000 residents and 234,000 households. And those new people need places to work, so planners also need to factor in room for an additional 180 million square feet of employment floor space, to accommodate the 318,000 new jobs that will be needed.

York Region is pretty big, so maybe those people can all spread out? No, it’s not that easy. In the first place, although some people prefer to live in more rural settings, the majority of people in York Region want to live close to amenities – near schools, near stores, near entertainment – near all the great things that make city life interesting and convenient. And those things tend to be clustered at the heart of our existing larger communities, like Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.

Secondly, although York Region is quite large geographically, a lot of our lands are actually very fragile environments, and are protected against significant development. In fact, nearly 70% of our total land is protected under either the Green Belt Act, or the Oak Ridges Moraine Act.

To make this a win-win for everyone, the Region has adopted a planning strategy that directs almost half of the expected new growth to existing built-up areas, with the other half going to new development areas. This approach will result in more opportunities for people to live, work and play in the neighbourhoods that they already know and love, while reducing some of the growth pressure on the surrounding countryside.

The Region’s Centres and Corridors – which include the cores of Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan – will play an important role in this growth strategy. Most of the growth that will occur within the Region’s existing urban area will take place in the Centres and Corridors. With this concentration of growth, people will find it easier to get around using existing and planned rapid transit services, and to enjoy the exciting mix of living, employment, shopping and entertainment options that are already there, and that will continue to evolve.

Those of us working on vivaNext are excited about this plan, because it will put transit at the centre of the action as York Region grows into the future. I’d love to hear what you think of this vision, and what it will mean for how you live your life in York Region?