Town Planning Review

Toronto’s ‘Vancouverism’: developer adaptation, planning responses and the challenge of design quality

Town Planning Review (2017), 88, (2), 173–200.

Abstract

This paper examines ‘Vancouverism’ and its recent reproduction at CityPlace on Toronto’s Railway Lands. The developers, Concord Pacific, were centrally involved in producing ‘Vancouverism’ in the 1990s and 2000s. This study examines the design quality of CityPlace and explores the differences between the planning cultures in Vancouver and Toronto. In evaluating the design outcomes, it highlights a mismatch between the public sector’s expectations, the developer’s ambitions and the initial design quality. The paper demonstrates that, despite an increasingly sophisticated system of control, the city of Toronto’s ability to shape outcomes remains limited and, overall, the quality of development falls short of that achieved in Vancouver.

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HUME, C. (2012), ‘Is that condo tower a future slum?’, The Toronto Star, 20 March 2012, GT4. Is that condo tower a future slum? The Toronto Star GT4 Google Scholar

HURLEY, B. (2012), ‘Stanley Kwok and the two false creeks: part two – mirrors, mirages and Vancouverism in the Middle East’, Spacing Vancouver, May 2014, http://spacing.ca/vancouver/2012/05/14/stanley-kwok-and-the-two-false-creeks-part-two-mirrors-mirages-and-vancouverism-in-the-middle-east/ (accessed 31 March 2015). Google Scholar

IBI GROUP (1988), CityPlace: Supporting Documentation for Precinct Planning, Toronto, IBI Group. Google Scholar

KHIRFAN, L. and JAFFER, Z. (2014). ‘Vancouver: the sustainable city: Journal of Urban Affairs, 30, 375–88. Vancouver: the sustainable city Journal of Urban Affairs 30 375 88 Google Scholar

KHIRFAN, L., MOMANI, B. and JAFFER, Z. (2013). ‘Whose authority? exporting Canadian planning expertise to Jordan and Abu Dhabi’, Geoforum, 50, 1–9. Whose authority? exporting Canadian planning expertise to Jordan and Abu Dhabi Geoforum 50 1 9 Google Scholar

LEHRER, U., KEIL, R. and KIPFER, S. (2010), ‘Reurbanization in Toronto: condominium boom and social housing revitalization’, disP, 180, 81–90. Reurbanization in Toronto: condominium boom and social housing revitalization disP 180 81 90 Google Scholar

MCCANN, E. (2013), ‘Policy boosterism, policy mobilities, and the extrospective city’, Urban Geography, 34, 5–29. Policy boosterism, policy mobilities, and the extrospective city Urban Geography 34 5 29 Google Scholar

MCCANN, E. (2011), ‘Urban policy mobilities and global circuits of knowledge: towards a research agenda’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 101, 107–30. Urban policy mobilities and global circuits of knowledge: towards a research agenda Annals of the Association of American Geographers 101 107 30 Google Scholar

MACDONALD, E. (2005), ‘Street-facing dwelling units and livability: the impacts of emerging building types in Vancouver’s new high-density residential neighborhoods’, Journal of Urban Design, 10, 13–38. Street-facing dwelling units and livability: the impacts of emerging building types in Vancouver’s new high-density residential neighborhoods Journal of Urban Design 10 13 38 Google Scholar

MCNENLY, P. (1987), ‘Rail lands project names CityPlace’, The Toronto Star, 27 April 1987, A2. Rail lands project names CityPlace The Toronto Star, A2 Google Scholar

METROPOLITAN TORONTO (1970), Progress Report on Metro Centre Proposal, Toronto, Metropolitan Toronto Planning Board. Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

POLYANI, M. (1991), ‘Railway lands project cancelled; 2 buildings were part of CN plan’, The Globe and Mail, 18 January 1991, no page number. Railway lands project cancelled; 2 buildings were part of CN plan The Globe and Mail, Google Scholar

PRICE, G. (2005), ‘“Vancouverism”’, Price Tags, 64, https://pricetags.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/price-tags-64.pdf (accessed 3 October 2016). Google Scholar

PUNTER, J. (2002), ‘Urban design as public policy: evaluating the design dimension of Vancouver’s planning system’, International Planning Studies, 7, 265–282. Urban design as public policy: evaluating the design dimension of Vancouver’s planning system International Planning Studies, 7 265 282 Google Scholar

PUNTER, J. (2003a), ‘From design advice to peer review: the role of the urban design panel in Vancouver’, Journal of Urban Design, 8, 113–35. From design advice to peer review: the role of the urban design panel in Vancouver Journal of Urban Design 8 113 35 Google Scholar

PUNTER, J. (2003b), The Vancouver Achievement: Planning and Urban Design, Vancouver, UBC Press. The Vancouver Achievement: Planning and Urban Design Google Scholar

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ROCHON, L. (2004), ‘Failing to make the grade: Toronto’s CityPlace development is a poor cousin to its Vancouver counterpart’, The Globe and Mail, 28 July 2004, R3. Failing to make the grade: Toronto’s CityPlace development is a poor cousin to its Vancouver counterpart The Globe and Mail R3 Google Scholar

SANDERCOCK, l. (2006), ‘An anatomy of civic ambition in Vancouver: toward humane density’, in W. S. Saunders (ed.), Urban Planning Today, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 48–62. An anatomy of civic ambition in Vancouver: toward humane density Urban Planning Today 48 62 Google Scholar

SEWELL, J. (1972), Up Against City Hall, Toronto, James Lorimer and Company. Up Against City Hall Google Scholar

SEWELL, J. (1993), The Shape of the City: Toronto Struggles with Modern Planning, Toronto, University of Toronto Press. The Shape of the City: Toronto Struggles with Modern Planning Google Scholar

SMITH, M. (1986), ‘OMB approves controversial railway lands development’, The Toronto Star, 5 December 1986, A6. OMB approves controversial railway lands development The Toronto Star A6 Google Scholar

SOULES, M. (2010), ‘The “liveable” suburbanized city: post-politics and a Vancouver near you’, Harvard Design Magazine, 32, 142–48. The “liveable” suburbanized city: post-politics and a Vancouver near you Harvard Design Magazine, 32 142 48 Google Scholar

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THRENDYLE, S. (2014), ‘“Vancouverism” gets its day in the sun’, The Vancouver Sun, 7 April 2014, http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Vancouverism+gets/9710027/story.html (accessed 28 July 2015). Google Scholar

YORK, G. (1985a), ‘10 Alderman want reduction; railway lands plan faces council block’, The Globe and Mail, 3 August 1985, n.p. 10 Alderman want reduction; railway lands plan faces council block The Globe and Mail Google Scholar

YORK, G. (1985b), ‘Council approves dome, rail lands project’, The Globe and Mail, 17 August 1985, no page number. Council approves dome, rail lands project The Globe and Mail Google Scholar

ZEHR, L. (1996), ‘12 firms vie to revamp Toronto railway lands. Crown Corporation seeks proposals to turn derelict property into entertainment complex’, The Globe and Mail, 13 September 1996, B3. 12 firms vie to revamp Toronto railway lands. Crown Corporation seeks proposals to turn derelict property into entertainment complex The Globe and Mail B3 Google Scholar

BARBER, J. (1997), ‘Toronto stacking homes on the railway lands’, The Globe and Mail, 24 September 1997, A12. Toronto stacking homes on the railway lands The Globe and Mail A12 Google Scholar

BENTLEY MAYS, J. (2013), ‘At CityPlace, east and west divide’, The Globe and Mail, 13 September 2013, G2. At CityPlace, east and west divide The Globe and Mail G2 Google Scholar

BERELOWITZ, L. (2010), Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination. Vancouver: Douglas & MacIntyre. Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination Google Scholar

BLORE, S. and SUTHERLAND, J. (1999), ‘Building Smileyville’, Vancouver Magazine, 32, 48–58. Building Smileyville Vancouver Magazine 32 48 58 Google Scholar

BODDY, T. (2004), ‘New urbanism: “the Vancouver model”’, Places, 16, 14–21. New urbanism: “the Vancouver model” Places 16 14 21 Google Scholar

CANADA LANDS COMPANY (2015), Home, Canada Lands Company Limited, Toronto, ON, http://www.clcl.ca/home (accessed 6 July 2015). Google Scholar

CANADIAN CENTRE FOR ARCHITECTURE (2010), ‘Vancouverism: architecture builds the city’, Montreal, QC, http://www.cca.qc.ca/en/cca-recommends/860-vancouverism-architecture-builds-the-city (accessed 28 July 2015). Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1962), The Core of the Central Waterfront: A Proposal by the City of Toronto Planning Board, Toronto, City of Toronto Planning Board. Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1976), Central Area Plan, Toronto, City of Toronto Planning Board. Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1978), The Railway Lands: Goals and Objectives, Toronto, City of Toronto Planning Board. Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1983), Railway Lands Part II, Development Concept, Toronto, City of Toronto Planning and Development Department. Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1986), Official Plan Part II, Railway Lands, Toronto, City of Toronto Planning and Development Department. Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1991), The Railway Lands Review Proposals: Executive Summary, Toronto, City of Toronto Planning and Development Department. Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1994a), Railway Lands West Official Plan Part II, Toronto, City of Toronto Planning and Development Department. Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1994b), Railway Lands Central Official Plan Part II, Toronto, City of Toronto Planning and Development Department. Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1998a), Railway Lands Central and West – Update on Urban Design Task Force, etc., City of Toronto Urban Planning and Development Services, Toronto, ON, http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/1998/agendas/committees/to/to980401/it099.htm (accessed 24 April 2015). Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1998b), Urban Design Task Force Railway Lands Central and West (Downtown), City of Toronto Urban Planning and Development Services, Toronto, ON, http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/1998/agendas/committees/to/to980527/it023.htm (accessed 24 April 2015). Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (1999), Railway Lands West and Central Urban Design Guidelines, Toronto, City of Toronto Urban Planning and Development Services. Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO (2004), Railway Lands West and Central Urban Design Guidelines. Toronto: City of Toronto Urban Planning and Development Services. Google Scholar

CITY OF TORONTO and IBI GROUP (2004), Toronto Urban Design Guidelines: Public Realm Master Plan, Architectural Guidelines and Implementation Plan Railway Lands West, Toronto, City of Toronto. Google Scholar

CITY OF VANCOUVER (2002), Beach Neighbourhood CD-1 Guidelines (500 and 600 Pacific Street). Vancouver: City of Vancouver Community Services. Google Scholar

CUTHBERT, A. (2003), ‘Introduction’, in A. Cuthbert (ed.), Designing Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 1–20. Introduction Designing Cities: Critical Readings in Urban Design 1 20 Google Scholar

DITMARS, H. (2008), ‘The architecture of Vancouverism’, The Guardian, 27 June 2008, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/artblog/2008/jun/27/thearchitectureofvancouveri (accessed 28 July 2015). Google Scholar

FIRLEY, E. and GRON, K. (2013) The Urban Masterplanning Handbook, Chichester, John Wiley. The Urban Masterplanning Handbook Google Scholar

GOSPODINI, A. (2002), ‘European cities in competition and the new “uses” of urban design’, Journal of Urban Design, 7, 106–21. European cities in competition and the new “uses” of urban design Journal of Urban Design 7 106 21 Google Scholar

GRANT, J. (2009), ‘Experiential planning: a practitioner’s account of Vancouver’s success’, Journal of the American Planning Association, 75, 358–70. Experiential planning: a practitioner’s account of Vancouver’s success Journal of the American Planning Association, 75 358 70 Google Scholar

HARVEY, D. (1989), ‘From managerialism to entrepreneurialism: the transformation in urban governance in late capitalism’, Geografiska Annaler, Series B, Human Geography, 71, 3–17. From managerialism to entrepreneurialism: the transformation in urban governance in late capitalism Geografiska Annaler, Series B, Human Geography, 71 3 17 Google Scholar

HOLDEN, A. and SPEARS, T. (1986), ‘Dome stadium approval called a “milestone”’, The Toronto Star, 12 September 1986, ME3. Dome stadium approval called a “milestone” The Toronto Star ME3 Google Scholar

HUME, C. (2002), ‘Sleek Matrix towers rise above “ordinary” base’, The Toronto Star, 31 August 2002, 08. Sleek Matrix towers rise above “ordinary” base The Toronto Star 08 Google Scholar

HUME, C. (2008), ‘Final verdict on CityPlace will take years’, The Toronto Star, 1 November 2008, CO10. Final verdict on CityPlace will take years The Toronto Star CO10 Google Scholar

HUME, C. (2012), ‘Is that condo tower a future slum?’, The Toronto Star, 20 March 2012, GT4. Is that condo tower a future slum? The Toronto Star GT4 Google Scholar

HURLEY, B. (2012), ‘Stanley Kwok and the two false creeks: part two – mirrors, mirages and Vancouverism in the Middle East’, Spacing Vancouver, May 2014, http://spacing.ca/vancouver/2012/05/14/stanley-kwok-and-the-two-false-creeks-part-two-mirrors-mirages-and-vancouverism-in-the-middle-east/ (accessed 31 March 2015). Google Scholar

IBI GROUP (1988), CityPlace: Supporting Documentation for Precinct Planning, Toronto, IBI Group. Google Scholar

KHIRFAN, L. and JAFFER, Z. (2014). ‘Vancouver: the sustainable city: Journal of Urban Affairs, 30, 375–88. Vancouver: the sustainable city Journal of Urban Affairs 30 375 88 Google Scholar

KHIRFAN, L., MOMANI, B. and JAFFER, Z. (2013). ‘Whose authority? exporting Canadian planning expertise to Jordan and Abu Dhabi’, Geoforum, 50, 1–9. Whose authority? exporting Canadian planning expertise to Jordan and Abu Dhabi Geoforum 50 1 9 Google Scholar

LEHRER, U., KEIL, R. and KIPFER, S. (2010), ‘Reurbanization in Toronto: condominium boom and social housing revitalization’, disP, 180, 81–90. Reurbanization in Toronto: condominium boom and social housing revitalization disP 180 81 90 Google Scholar

MCCANN, E. (2013), ‘Policy boosterism, policy mobilities, and the extrospective city’, Urban Geography, 34, 5–29. Policy boosterism, policy mobilities, and the extrospective city Urban Geography 34 5 29 Google Scholar

MCCANN, E. (2011), ‘Urban policy mobilities and global circuits of knowledge: towards a research agenda’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 101, 107–30. Urban policy mobilities and global circuits of knowledge: towards a research agenda Annals of the Association of American Geographers 101 107 30 Google Scholar

MACDONALD, E. (2005), ‘Street-facing dwelling units and livability: the impacts of emerging building types in Vancouver’s new high-density residential neighborhoods’, Journal of Urban Design, 10, 13–38. Street-facing dwelling units and livability: the impacts of emerging building types in Vancouver’s new high-density residential neighborhoods Journal of Urban Design 10 13 38 Google Scholar

MCNENLY, P. (1987), ‘Rail lands project names CityPlace’, The Toronto Star, 27 April 1987, A2. Rail lands project names CityPlace The Toronto Star, A2 Google Scholar

METROPOLITAN TORONTO (1970), Progress Report on Metro Centre Proposal, Toronto, Metropolitan Toronto Planning Board. Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

POLYANI, M. (1991), ‘Railway lands project cancelled; 2 buildings were part of CN plan’, The Globe and Mail, 18 January 1991, no page number. Railway lands project cancelled; 2 buildings were part of CN plan The Globe and Mail, Google Scholar

PRICE, G. (2005), ‘“Vancouverism”’, Price Tags, 64, https://pricetags.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/price-tags-64.pdf (accessed 3 October 2016). Google Scholar

PUNTER, J. (2002), ‘Urban design as public policy: evaluating the design dimension of Vancouver’s planning system’, International Planning Studies, 7, 265–282. Urban design as public policy: evaluating the design dimension of Vancouver’s planning system International Planning Studies, 7 265 282 Google Scholar

PUNTER, J. (2003a), ‘From design advice to peer review: the role of the urban design panel in Vancouver’, Journal of Urban Design, 8, 113–35. From design advice to peer review: the role of the urban design panel in Vancouver Journal of Urban Design 8 113 35 Google Scholar

PUNTER, J. (2003b), The Vancouver Achievement: Planning and Urban Design, Vancouver, UBC Press. The Vancouver Achievement: Planning and Urban Design Google Scholar

REID, S. (1990), ‘Foes gear for battle over rail lands; high-stakes developers, city split on tract near SkyDome’, The Toronto Star, 4 September 1990, A6. Foes gear for battle over rail lands; high-stakes developers, city split on tract near SkyDome The Toronto Star, A6 Google Scholar

ROCHON, L. (2004), ‘Failing to make the grade: Toronto’s CityPlace development is a poor cousin to its Vancouver counterpart’, The Globe and Mail, 28 July 2004, R3. Failing to make the grade: Toronto’s CityPlace development is a poor cousin to its Vancouver counterpart The Globe and Mail R3 Google Scholar

SANDERCOCK, l. (2006), ‘An anatomy of civic ambition in Vancouver: toward humane density’, in W. S. Saunders (ed.), Urban Planning Today, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 48–62. An anatomy of civic ambition in Vancouver: toward humane density Urban Planning Today 48 62 Google Scholar

SEWELL, J. (1972), Up Against City Hall, Toronto, James Lorimer and Company. Up Against City Hall Google Scholar

SEWELL, J. (1993), The Shape of the City: Toronto Struggles with Modern Planning, Toronto, University of Toronto Press. The Shape of the City: Toronto Struggles with Modern Planning Google Scholar

SMITH, M. (1986), ‘OMB approves controversial railway lands development’, The Toronto Star, 5 December 1986, A6. OMB approves controversial railway lands development The Toronto Star A6 Google Scholar

SOULES, M. (2010), ‘The “liveable” suburbanized city: post-politics and a Vancouver near you’, Harvard Design Magazine, 32, 142–48. The “liveable” suburbanized city: post-politics and a Vancouver near you Harvard Design Magazine, 32 142 48 Google Scholar

STEED, J. (1997). ‘The core question: the Vancouver wiz kid behind the railway lands development says he understands Toronto. Local critics aren’t so sure’, The Toronto Star, 22 November 1997, C1. The core question: the Vancouver wiz kid behind the railway lands development says he understands Toronto. Local critics aren’t so sure The Toronto Star C1 Google Scholar

THRENDYLE, S. (2014), ‘“Vancouverism” gets its day in the sun’, The Vancouver Sun, 7 April 2014, http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Vancouverism+gets/9710027/story.html (accessed 28 July 2015). Google Scholar

YORK, G. (1985a), ‘10 Alderman want reduction; railway lands plan faces council block’, The Globe and Mail, 3 August 1985, n.p. 10 Alderman want reduction; railway lands plan faces council block The Globe and Mail Google Scholar

YORK, G. (1985b), ‘Council approves dome, rail lands project’, The Globe and Mail, 17 August 1985, no page number. Council approves dome, rail lands project The Globe and Mail Google Scholar

ZEHR, L. (1996), ‘12 firms vie to revamp Toronto railway lands. Crown Corporation seeks proposals to turn derelict property into entertainment complex’, The Globe and Mail, 13 September 1996, B3. 12 firms vie to revamp Toronto railway lands. Crown Corporation seeks proposals to turn derelict property into entertainment complex The Globe and Mail B3 Google Scholar

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