The end of the 2017 calendar year is bittersweet as takes me into the home stretch of my two-year term as Chair of ULI Toronto, and while such a milestone warrants a look back on highlights, my eye is focused on the future.
My term overlapped some of the most significant shifts in the public policy landscape that our industry has ever witnessed. In addition to the anticipated 10-year reviews of the provincial growth plan and Metrolinx’s regional transportation plan, the province has moved to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board. The first two boldly set forth an intention to achieve more urban intensification, especially along transit infrastructure, while the third has the potential to weaken the ability of municipalities and the province to achieve this.
While the full implications of the development and planning approvals are still uncertain, it almost certainly points to an increased need to foster consensus-building capacity amongst elected officials, the land development industry, and communities across the region. Achieving this represents as great a challenge to our industry as could be imagined, and underscores the importance of our ‘Electric Cities’ initiative designed to broaden the discussion about progressive city building to a wider, community audience.
Last April we hosted our second major symposium, which deepened our investigation into the areas of placemaking, mobility and technology. Established in 2015, these themes have proven to be durable programming lenses but much more work needs to be applied – both to their points of intersection and the balancing of these urban forces – in order to achieve the best outcomes for our region going forward.
Finally, I believe another major thrust for ULI Toronto in the future needs to be the promotion of our city region to the international community. Toronto is clearly having ‘a moment’ as we solidify our position as a global city – but it is a largely unrecognized story beyond our national boundaries. Organizations like ULI Toronto, The Toronto Region Board of Trade, and Toronto Global, along with international firms, need to align efforts to promote our region and strengthen the opportunities associated with the elevation of our region’s brand.
Rising to the challenge of massive public policy changes, the threats and opportunities of transformative urban forces, and harnessing the impact of a more global reach are just a few of the ongoing areas of interest for myself and ULI Toronto as we head into the new year. I am excited about the role that ULI Toronto is taking to shape the direction of such forces toward improving the quality of life for everyone in our region.