Family shelters below upscale condos, student housing above a rec centre and affordable housing built on top of community spaces offering social services.
These are a few local examples of mixed-use development, a kind of urban planning not often found in Toronto that blends residential, commercial and other uses. Amid pandemic-related economic pressures and skyrocketing real estate prices, there is an even greater need for such development, says Matti Siemiatycki, director of the Infrastructure Institute in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities.
“There’s something like 50 of these buildings in Toronto, but each one of them has a long and often painful story behind it, where essentially the partners got to the end of what they could do on their own,” says Siemiatycki, who is also a professor in the department of geography and planning in the Faculty of Arts & Science.
With the help of a donor, the School of Cities recently rolled out a three-pronged, city-building plan emphasizing mixed-use development. The plan includes a social purpose real estate accelerator to spur development that benefits the community, Siemiatycki says.
“We want to morph this into the norm rather than the exception and bring partners together intentionally, to turn it into a model of creative mixed-uses designed for a social purpose, because that’s what enables growth to drive community benefit.”Matti Siemiatycki
The infrastructure institute is partnering with the city’s real estate agency on public property development projects, such as fire and paramedic stations with affordable housing built above them, Siemiatycki adds.
A public exhibit of artists’ concepts and architectural models opened this week in Regent Park, in the city’s downtown, as part of the institute’s plan to spark interest in the exciting possibilities for Toronto and other urban centres, he says.