Downtown Toronto Growth Plan
The Heart of Toronto
The City of Toronto has only one downtown, and it’s a thriving economic and cultural hub. Downtown Toronto is known for its diversity and recognizable skyline, and it’s a place known throughout the world. The growth of this region is critical for the health and prosperity of this urban growth centre. It is one of the oldest, most dense and most complex parts of the region. It is filled with a wide variety of building forms and activities. Downtown Toronto is the place the City’s history was born and where much of the future will be shaped. It is a cultural heritage that can be seen through many significant buildings, districts, landmarks, landscapes and archaeological sites.
The Downtown Toronto Growth Plan offers unique opportunities for employment and residential growth, transit expansion, and upgrades to the public realm and community facilities. The Growth Plan for Downtown Toronto aims to reshape the City's landscape and prepare for the incoming population expected in the future. This plan focuses on the future of housing, the economy and climate change for the next 30 years and beyond.
Downtown Toronto is expected to grow by 700,000 people and more than 450,000 jobs by 2051. This would bring the total population to 3.6 million and nearly 2 million jobs in the city. This urban growth centre (UGC) is 2,210 hectares and has a growth density target of 400 people and jobs per hectare by 2031. This means the population and jobs forecast is projected to reach 848,000 by that same year. The increase in population and jobs between 2006 to 2031 required to meet the minimum density target is 254,400, a 43% increase.
Downtown Toronto’s Official Plan outlines all the ways that they plan to achieve these targets. The Growth Plan includes housing, employment areas and transit, all while maintaining a diverse and vibrant community for its current residents. Population growth is needed to support economic growth and social development within the City and contribute to a better future for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). A healthier Toronto will grow from a successful strategy to attract more residents and more jobs to the City. While it’s important for parts of the City to change, the Plan also aims to protect neighbourhoods, green spaces and heritage sites.
The Vision of Downtown Toronto Growth Plan
Downtown Toronto is known for being one of the largest employment zones in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Thousands of visitors spend time in the region every day, including students, tourists, and shoppers. The economic strength of this region not only comes from the largest concentration of office towers but also from the multitude of other activities located here, which include:
- Government offices;
- Arts and cultural venues;
- Entertainment activities and sporting events;
- Festivals and special events in public spaces, streets and along the waterfront;
- Destination and specialty retail;
- Restaurants and food markets;
- Nightclubs, bars and live music venues;
- Film and TV production;
- Major tourist attractions and convention facilities;
- Print and broadcast media;
- Post-secondary educational institutions; and
- Health sciences and related treatment and research facilities.
While the Downtown Toronto Growth Plan is anticipating growth and planning to accommodate this growth, it will not be spread uniformly across Downtown. In fact, many communities Downtown will not experience much physical change at all. Instead, many parts of Downtown will see development in the form of mixed-use condominiums, both high and mid-rise.
This will provide accessible housing to new residents and contribute to a thriving employment centre. Mixed-use is a key ingredient to the successful functioning of Downtown that creates “accessibility through proximity”. Every home built within the Downtown area offsets the need for inbound commuting each day.
There are designated areas for job growth in this region, including the Financial District, the Health Sciences District, and institutional complexes such as government offices and post-secondary institutions. Additionally, many creative industries and the cultural sector will be centred around King-Spadina and King-Parliament. The Financial District is the country’s premier centre of commerce. This is where commercial activity is most intense, with a concentration of large architecturally significant landmark buildings.
Jobs are concentrated in large office buildings tightly clustered within walking distance of Union Station and several subway stations, many of which are connected through the climate-controlled PATH network. Downtown Toronto will also emphasize its public realm, including streets, sidewalks, pedestrian connections, parks, open spaces, natural areas and more. The key to successfully shaping Downtown's future is improving connections within the public realm and creating places that foster public life and develop a sense of community.
Living in Downtown Toronto
Downtown Toronto Growth Plan is expecting a surge of population growth in the next few years, and this is because this region is seen as an attractive place to live. The influx of population will come from immigration, first-time home buyers and renters coming to the city to live and work. Given that Downtown Toronto spans approximately 5,500 acres and the population is one of the largest compared to other regions across the GTHA, this urban growth centre needs to carefully build homes that will accommodate growth and maintain the uniqueness of the City.
New housing makes an important contribution to the economic health of the City. There is a great degree of social and economic diversity among the Downtown population, accompanied by various housing types and affordability. Downtown is an inclusive place for vulnerable people and as growth continues, there is a need to increase supportive services and affordable housing. Mixed-use communities will be key to contributing to the development of the City, which includes residential condominiums both high and mid-rise that can house many people at once and areas within the complex that can be used for commercial open space.
Additionally, many of these communities will provide affordable housing to provide homes for everyone, despite their social and economic status.
Downtown Toronto is known for its rich history, but it is also a place that is continuously being rebuilt to accommodate a growing economy and a changing society. Given that this is one place in Toronto where “change is constant”, the region must ensure that the built heritage is respected, nurtured and celebrated. The City will preserve its architectural and cultural heritage by designating buildings and districts with historical significance and by working with owners to restore and maintain historic buildings.
Toronto’s Employment Areas are essential cornerstones of the thriving economy. The employment in the downtown core is to be used exclusively for business and economic activities. Almost one-third of Toronto’s jobs and 40% of export-oriented jobs are located within the region's Employment Areas. Important industries such as manufacturing, warehousing and goods distribution are located almost entirely in these Employment Areas and provide a broad range of jobs that help the City through difficult economic cycles. Given relative land values, residential lands are rarely converted to employment uses, and there is little opportunity to create new employment lands.
The City’s goal is to conserve Employment Areas, expand existing businesses and welcome new businesses that will employ future generations. Maintaining Employment Areas exclusively for business and economic activities provides a stable and productive environment for existing businesses that attract new firms. Preserving Employment Areas contributes to a balance between employment and residential growth so that Torontonians have a greater opportunity to live and work in the City rather than commuting. As Employment Areas are spread across the City, work destinations and commuting are also spread out, resulting in less road congestion. This provides workers who live near to Employment Areas with the opportunity for shorter commutes to work by either transit, cycling or walking.
New businesses and office buildings need to be created in certain employment zones across the City within walking distance of transit to expand these areas. These designated parts of the City are meant to attract businesses, facilitate the development of vacant lands for employment purposes, and make better use of a limited supply of lands.
Accessibility and Mobility
Downtown Toronto Growth Plan has the largest centre of economic activity in the nation. With this economic success comes the need for accessibility.
Downtown Toronto’s high level of mobility results from the large concentration of jobs and housing. Many people who live and work in this region need to easily access their home, place of employment, and amenities. Because of the high employment rate and the expected population increase, the government is planning large investments in order to expand transit, including the subway and regional rail systems.
These transit systems are needed to enhance the existing transit network and support projected growth. Not only is transit easily reached within the City, but it also brings residents outside of the City. The Union-Pearson (UP) Express connects Downtown with Pearson International Airport. These transit links maintain Toronto’s competitiveness by improving national, trans-border and international connectivity.
The significant increase in Downtown activity and development over the past several decades has not been accompanied by any significant increase in road capacity.
Instead, the growth in trips has been successfully handled by improvements to transit services and an increase in Downtown housing that has put more people within walking and cycling distance of their place of work and other activities.
There are also policies to reduce the number of cars on the road, including parking requirements such as providing maximum parking limits for new office developments. These policies promote sustainable travel choices, reduce the dependence on cars and encourage mixed-use development in Downtown Toronto.
Additionally, streets, sidewalks and the connecting system of public spaces need to be enhanced and maintained so that residents and visitors can enjoy them. The quality of the design, construction and maintenance of the public realm is vital to the image of Downtown and to creating an attractive district in which to promote recreational activity.
The appeal of Downtown to pedestrians is an essential part of making the area more attractive and competitive. The PATH system of climate-controlled walkways offers an alternative for moving between the major office towers, City Hall and the Eaton Centre. It plays an important role in moving commuters from Union Station and other rapid transit stations to their workplace and is an attractive feature in the marketing of Downtown office space and in promoting tourism and the convention business.
The region's newly approved transit systems include the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which travels on Eglinton Avenue and connects to major subway stations and GO stops. The Eglinton West LRT extension will provide continuous rapid transit along Eglinton Avenue between Scarborough and Mississauga. The SmartTrack will expand transit access for Toronto residents travelling within the City and the Ontario Line that will run from Exhibition Place to the Ontario Science Centre. The provincial and municipal governments are currently reviewing many other transit lines. These new transit lines will create a seamless travel experience for residents that will be interconnected to the current transit infrastructure.