ULI Toronto presents Electric Cities, a podcast about land development and planning across the Toronto region. Hosted by Jeremy Warson, the podcast features conversations with the industry’s most prominent leaders. With Seasons 1-5 now complete and Season 6 underway, there are plenty of interesting topics to choose from, such as trends in the condo, retail and office markets; stories of Toronto’s success as a rapidly emerging global city and discussions on housing affordability, municipal governance and transit oriented development, to name just a few.
Season 6 will focus on some of key themes identified in the Retrofitting Our Urban Region report released by the Toronto Region Board of Trade in partnership with ULI Toronto. The report reflects a collaboration of 175 city building professionals that were brought together to think through the social and economic challenges presented by COVID-19 and it includes nearly 80 recommendations for government and business leaders to consider. The Season 6 episodes will dig deeper into topics touched on in the report such as main street retail, arts and culture, and homelessness through conversations with leading urbanists and influential city builders.
Jeremy has a background in urban planning and has worked in real estate development, market research and planning for 20 years, in both the public and private sectors. He’s currently Director of Development Planning at Infrastructure Ontario. Jeremy has always been interested in the complex issues that shape our urban environment. He’s genuinely curious about other people’s professions and opinions, and takes after his late father, Albert, a journalist and PR consultant who often wrote about architecture, planning and real estate development.
Episode 2: Arts and Culture in Toronto and the Impacts of COVID-19
With the necessity to avoid crowds and indoor gatherings of any kind due to the COVID-19 pandemic, arts and culture in Toronto has been hit particularly hard. Yet despite the challenges, this sector has found ways to quickly adapt and deliver programs that are innovative and inspiring, and in some cases even broadened its appeal to larger audiences. On January 7, 2021, Jeremy chatted with Celia Smith, the newly appointed CEO for Luminato Festival Toronto, to talk about the impacts of the pandemic on Toronto’s arts and culture scene and her optimistic outlook for the industry’s future.
Episode 1: Main Street Retail in the Face of COVID-19 Lockdowns
The Province’s lockdown to non-essential retail services in Toronto and Peel Region has hit main street retailers particularly hard. Some have found creative ways to survive, while others have had to close for good.
Neighbourhood BIAs have responded with campaigns urging shoppers to buy local, highlighting the important value of local retail to the success of our neighbourhoods and overall city region.
On December 11th, 2020, Jeremy spoke with Mary Rowe, President and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute, to talk about these issues and the recommendations from their recent report on bringing back main streets.
Episode 6: Public Transit and the Challenges for TTC During COVID-19
During these pandemic times the TTC is dealing with a dramatic drop in ridership, particularly along its once busy subway routes. This has imposed enormous fiscal strain and forced the TTC to quickly re-adjust to our new reality. On October 30th, 2020, Jeremy spoke with Stuart Green, the TTC’s chief spokesperson, to learn more about the pandemic’s impact on the TTC and what they are doing to respond.
Episode 5: COVID-19 and the Acute Need for Affordable Housing
Toronto’s chief medical officer of health recently urged Torontonians to focus on staying home following a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases across the region. But what about the under-privileged who struggle to find proper housing or are residing in cramped, unhealthy living conditions? For this October 5th UN World Habitat Day, Jeremy speaks with Ene Underwood, CEO of Habitat for Humanity GTA, to learn how it is now more important than ever for governments, private sector and not-for-profit agencies to collaborate and create opportunities for financially-challenged families, better access to home ownership and the prospect for a healthier quality of life.
Episode 4: Toronto City Cycling and the Upside to COVID-19
The pandemic may have beaten our city down, but it has had the opposite effect on cycling. In recent months cyclists have surged onto Toronto bike routes and many urbanists are applauding the addition of new cycling infrastructure hastily being added across the city. Could this mark the beginning of an emboldened era for Toronto city cycling? On July 31st, 2020, Jeremy interviewed Barbara Gray, the City of Toronto’s General Manager of Transportation to find out and learn more about Toronto’s plans for its cycling infrastructure and the impacts experienced as a result of the pandemic.
Episode 3: COVID-19 Impacts on the Office Market
Three and a half months into the pandemic, most Toronto office buildings are virtually empty as tenants, landlords and developers try to adapt to these changing times and plan for the new workplace environment. Jeremy interviews Lisa Fulford-Roy and Jon Ramscar, two senior executives with CBRE Canada, to talk about the significant impacts of the pandemic on the Toronto office market.
Episode 2: COVID-19 Impacts on the Retail Market
Before the pandemic hit, considerable shifts in the retail market were already taking place with the rapid rise of e-commerce and declining foot traffic to traditional brick and mortar retail. With the pandemic now upon us, those impacts have been accelerated as both large and small retail destinations struggle to survive and adapt to the new world of physical distancing. On May 29th, 2020, Jeremy interviewed Jamie Tate, founder and president of Tate Economic Research, to talk about the pandemic’s impacts on the retail market and the ways in which the industry is responding.
Episode 1: COVID-19 Impacts on the Condo Market
Over the past 30 years, Toronto’s condo market flourished with an almost unstoppable pace of growth. But ever since the pandemic forced a global shutdown in mid-March 2020, condo sales have plummeted, forcing developers to quickly adjust their business model and operations. On May 15th, 2020, Jeremy interviewed Mimi Ng, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Menkes Developments, to talk about the pandemic’s impacts on the condo market and what the industry is doing to respond.
Episode 7: Resilience and Sustainable Design with B+H Architects’ Lisa Bate
Lisa Bate, a global sustainability lead and principal with Toronto’s B+H Architects, joins Jeremy to discuss B+H’s ability to adapt under the global impact of COVID-19. They also discuss the correlation between global health, resilience and the environment; Lisa’s perspectives on working abroad; notable sustainable building design projects; and some final thoughts on inspiring women in architecture.
Episode 6: FORREC. Toronto’s Global Leader in Entertainment Destination Design
Many of the world’s top theme parks and entertainment destinations like Canada’s Wonderland, Universal Studios, Legoland, Nickelodeon Universe, Everland Theme Park and Dollywood were designed by Toronto-based FORREC, one of the world’s premier design firms of entertainment destinations. Jeremy sits down with Cale Heit, FORREC’s President and CEO to learn more about the company and how it has evolved over the past 3 decades to take on new opportunities and challenges in an ever-evolving industry.
Episode 5: Brookfield Asset Management. One of the World’s Largest Investors in Real Estate
Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management is a multi-billion dollar juggernaut, with global investments in real estate, infrastructure, renewable energy and private equity. Despite a portfolio of mega-sized investments across the globe, Brookfield is showing increasing interest in the Greater Toronto real estate market, including a new partnership with InterRent REIT and CLV Group to develop a huge multi-family, mixed-use development on the GO Transit Rail lands in Burlington, Ontario. Jeremy sits down with Ashley Lawrence, Managing Director and Head of the company’s Canadian real estate division to talk about Brookfield’s real estate activity both abroad and closer to home.
Episode 4: Mansoor Kazerouni on IBI Group’s Global Architectural Practice
Headquartered in Toronto, IBI Group is one of the world’s largest architectural firms with 60 offices around the world. Their projects reach far and wide in Toronto, across Canada, and throughout the world. In this episode, Jeremy sits down with Mansoor Kazerouni, the company’s Global Director of Buildings, to talk about IBI’s Toronto roots and its success on the international stage.
Episode 3: Global Real Estate Investments with Michael Turner, President, Oxford Properties Group
As the real estate investment arm of OMERS, one of Canada’s largest pension plans, Oxford Properties Group is one of the world’s premier real estate investment, development and management companies. They manage over $60 billion worth of real estate assets, with a global portfolio spanning over 100 million square feet in Canada, Europe and the United States, including the recent opening of Hudson Yards in New York, the largest private real estate development in the United States.
In this episode, Jeremy interviews Michael Turner about the company, its Toronto roots, and the phenomenal scale of projects it currently manages abroad and closer to home.
Episode 2: The Global Significance of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport with CEO Howard Eng
As the most international airport in North America with services to 163 international destinations, Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is the largest airport in Canada, handling just under 50 million passengers and 300 tons of cargo per year. It is arguably the most vital transportation hub in the country while significantly contributing to Toronto’s local and regional economy. With a rapid population growth projected for the Toronto region over the next number of decades, Pearson has developed an ambitious, long-term expansion plan, including a massive new multi-modal transit hub that would connect numerous local and regional transit lines right at the airport’s doorstep.
Jeremy sat down with the airport’s CEO, Howard Eng in late 2019 to talk about Pearson’s importance in making Toronto a global city.
Episode 1: Welcome to Toronto – A Global City on the Rise
This episode is a ‘welcome mat’ for visitors coming to Toronto, eager to learn what makes this city tick and why it continues to be one of the fastest growing urban regions in North America. Visitors to Toronto include the thousands of ULI members that will be descending on our city from other parts of North America, Europe and Asia to attend the ULI Spring Meeting later this year, from May 12-14, 2020.
Jeremy sits down with Joe Berridge – one of the most respected Registered Professional Planners among Toronto’s planning and development community. A partner with Urban Strategies, Joe has over 40 years’ experience providing advice to an extensive range of government and private sector clients, in Toronto, across Canada and in an impressive number of cities around the world.
Coming Soon: Season 4: Toronto on the Global Stage
Season 4 of Electric Cities is coming back in 2020 with stories of Toronto’s success as a rapidly emerging global city. Tune in every other Tuesday starting in January as host Jeremy Warson sits down with some of the land use industry’s most prominent leaders whose organizations got their start in Toronto and have successfully grown on the international stage. Register for the ULI Spring Meeting at www.spring.uli.org
Episode 7: Municipal Governance in Toronto – Complexities and Opportunities
After the recently elected Ontario PC party slashed the number of City of Toronto councilors from 47 to 25 in the 2018 municipal election, a lot of questions were raised about the current state of municipal governance in Ontario and the municipality’s ability for self-determination. In this episode Jeremy sits down with Prof. Zachary Taylor to explore the complexities and challenges of municipal governance in Ontario, how it compares with that of the United States, and some alternative ideas being raised to give cities, particularly the City of Toronto, the opportunity for greater autonomy.
Professor Zachary Taylor is an assistant professor of political science and director of the Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance at the University of Western Ontario. He is also author of a new book entitled: “Shaping the Metropolis – Institutions and Urbanization in the United States and Canada”.
Episode 6: Hon. David Onley on Accessibility
In 2005, the Province of Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, (AODA), with the primary goal of making the Province fully accessible by 2025. With that end date only 6 years away, disability advocates are raising concern the Province has done relatively little to meet that deadline. Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor, Hon. David Onley, is a wheelchair user and very much attuned to the challenges persons with disabilities encounter. In January 2019, he tabled a report with sharp criticism of the Province’s commitment to meet the goals of the AODA. Hon. Onley talks about his experiences as a person with disabilities and why he believes the AODA is a ‘toothless act’.
Episode 5: Planning our Cities for an Aging Population
Canada’s aging population hit a major milestone in 2017, where for the first time in Canada’s history, the number of seniors exceeded the number of school-aged children. And it is projected that by 2041, seniors will comprise roughly one quarter of the country’s population. Jeremy sits down with Gil Penalosa, founder and Chair of 8 80 Cities, and President of Gil Penalosa & Associates, to talk about this significant demographic shift and the challenges of designing our cities and communities for an aging population.
Episode 4: Heritage Preservation and Adaptive Re-Use
Heritage building preservation has evolved to become an important component in Toronto’s real estate development industry, and many architects are re-imagining how treasured old buildings can be incorporated with the new. Jeremy sits down with Dermot Sweeny, President of Sweeny &Co Architects, and one of the leading architects on many of Toronto’s adaptive-reuse projects.
Episode 3: Transit-Oriented Development
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is increasingly embraced by city and transit planners as a concept for integrating a mix of land uses, increased densities and public space, all within easy walking distance to public transit nodes. Jeremy sits down with Leslie Woo, Chief Planning and Development Officer at Metrolinx, to talk about the merits of TOD, its challenges, and the steps Metrolinx is taking to bring TOD opportunities to life.
Episode 2: Hamilton: A City on the Rise
As one of the key nodes in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area, Hamilton is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Old run-down buildings are being re-animated and new ones are filling the sky thanks to a slew of new investments in the downtown core. The city’s population is on the rise, local and regional transit connections are improving, and there’s real swagger in the city’s emerging arts and culture scene. All told, Hamilton is no longer Toronto’s neglected neighbour to the west. Instead, it’s fast becoming the place to be. Jeremy sits down with Jason Thorne, General Manager of Hamilton’s Planning and Economic Development Department to learn more about Hamilton’s rising appeal, and how the City is managing its growth and long term plans for its future.
Episode 1: The Condo Market Revisited
For this first episode of Season 3, Jeremy sits down again with Mimi Ng, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Menkes Developments, to talk about the Toronto condo market and the latest trends and market changes that have occurred since their last podcast discussion in early 2018.
Episode 8: Subway and LRT Construction Projects
In the last episode of Season 2 Jeremy ‘digs deep’ to learn about some incredible challenges involved in building a major transit project like the Spadina subway extension to Vaughan, and the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. His guest is Joanna Kervin, 3rd Party Technical Director with Crosslinx Solutions and former Director for the Spadina subway extension.
Episode 7: Toronto’s Waterfront Secretariat
Since 2002, Waterfront Toronto has lead the ongoing revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront. But what do we know of Toronto’s lesser-known Waterfront Secretariat, which was set up to lead and direct the City’s participation in the revitalization? In October 2018, Jeremy sat down with David Stonehouse, Director of the Waterfront Secretariat, to find out more and to get the latest on some of the important development activities in the area.
Episode 6: Toronto’s Housing Affordability Crisis
The housing affordability crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing Toronto. And as it continues to magnify, there’s a greater and more urgent need for action and relief. Cherise Burda, Executive Director at Ryerson’s City Building Institute, summarizes the issues and why it’s become a crisis, and shares her thoughts on how the problem can be solved. Recorded on September 26, 2018.
Episode 5: The Suburbs — Not all bad
Toronto’s suburbs have grown significantly over the years and continue to face big challenges associated with its sprawling growth. But for urban planning consultant and university lecturer Sean Hertel, the suburbs work much better than we think. Jeremy sat down with Sean Hertel in June 2018 to find out why.
Episode 4: Richard Florida on Toronto and the New Urban Crisis
After his keynote presentation at the ULI Toronto Symposium on November 7th, 2018, Professor Richard Florida sits down with Jeremy to share his views on Toronto and how it compares on the global stage. He offers high praise for the city’s livability and its strong appeal for broad economic development, but also raises concerns about the city’s increasing economic divide, its growing unaffordability, and lack of effective leadership.
Episode 3: Technology and Real Estate
Jeremy sits down with George Carras, founder and CEO of R-Labs Canada, to talk about technology and the rising influence its’s having on the growth of our city region. They discuss Toronto’s unique appeal for tech investments, the rapid emergence of ‘PropTech’, and the opportunities and challenges of working with big urban data.
Episode 2: Urban Design
Jeremy sits down with Dialog’s Antonio Gomez-Palacio to talk about urban design, the critical role it plays in city planning, and the impact it has on the wellbeing of our communities and the environment we all share.
Episode 1: Toronto Urbanism
In the first episode of season 2, Jeremy sits down with Urban Strategies’ Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker to discuss the complexities of Toronto urbanism, including the key reasons for its prosperity, and some examples of how the city is on the leading edge of growth and innovation.
Episode 10: The Retail Market
The retail market has undergone significant changes in recent years. Jeremy speaks with Jamie Tate of Tate Economic Research to learn more about those changes, the impact it’s having on land development, and how retailers and developers are re-positioning themselves for success.
Episode 9: Architecture in Toronto – Trends and Challenges
Jeremy speaks with Richard Witt, Executive Principal at Quadrangle, to learn more about the design of buildings that continue to reshape Toronto’s skyline and the challenges architects often face to satisfy the interests of their clients, the city, and the general public.
Episode 8: Urban Planning in Toronto
Jeremy speaks with Emma West, Partner at Bousfields Inc. and Vice-Chair with the Urban Land Institute in Toronto, to learn more about urban planning, the profession, and the vital role planners play in shaping our communities and city region. Emma also discusses important planning legislation that has undergone significant changes in recent years, including the newly enacted Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) as a replacement to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Episode 7: Public Space and Community Engagement
With successful projects like The Bentway, community engagement in public space is gaining momentum, bringing fresh new energy, funding and ideas into the early stages of planning and design, as well as into the later stages of implementation and programming. Dave Harvey, founder and executive director at Park People, talks about this growing trend and the work his charitable organization is doing to bring creative ideas to animate public spaces.
Episode 6: The Office Market
Toronto is experiencing a surge of new office development activity, particularly in the downtown core. From soaring towers to smaller-scaled buildings and mixed use projects, new developments are springing up in various forms in response to a growing need for more office space. To find out what’s driving this demand and to learn more about the latest trends in office developments, Jeremy speaks with Werner Dietl, Executive Vice President of CBRE’s Toronto Downtown Office.
Episode 5: Blue Jays’ Rogers Centre: Time for a Stadium Upgrade
When it opened in 1989, Rogers Centre (formerly the Skydome), was hailed as the ‘8th Wonder of the World’. But now, almost 30 years later, it is the oldest stadium in major league baseball that hasn’t been renovated. Andrew Miller, the Blue Jays’ Executive Vice President of Business Operations, speaks with Jeremy about the latest trends in stadium design, what the Blue Jays would like to see happen with Rogers Centre, and how it could better connect with the surrounding area.
Episode 4: Pearson Airport: Big Plans Ahead
With the recent release of its new 20-year master plan, Pearson International Airport has big plans for its long-term expansion. Jeremy speaks with Eileen Waechter, Pearson Airport’s Director of Corporate Relations and Strategic Partnerships to learn how the airport grew from a small terminal surrounded by farmland, to its where it is today. Eileen talks about the need to respond to future demand, including an exciting vision for a massive new multi-modal transit hub that will better serve the airport and will greatly improve public transit accessibility for passengers, commuters, and the entire urban region.
Episode 3: Landscape Architecture in Toronto: A New Era for Bold Design and Ideas
Jeremy speaks with Alissa North, Associate Professor at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto to learn more about landscape architecture and how it’s evolved to where it is today. Alissa shares her thoughts on its opportunities for the future, including exciting new projects such as The Bentway and Rail Deck Park, and the impact landscape architecture continues to have on city life and urban design.
Episode 2: Toronto Global
Having recently submitted its bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, Toronto Global is a newly minted agency tasked with attracting international investment to the Toronto region. Jeremy speaks with its CEO, Toby Lennox, to learn more about the agency and the reasons why Toronto and the surrounding region has become such a desirable place to invest in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
Episode 1: The Condo Market
For this inaugural episode, Jeremy speaks with Mimi Ng, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Menkes Developments, to find out more about the phenomenal growth of the condo market. We look back on the wild market of 2017, look ahead to 2018, and discuss emerging trends and how developers are responding to changes in buyers’ needs.