On December 11, 2012, Toronto’s Tower Renewal Office hosted a panel that brought together leading Toronto participants in the Tower Renewal program, including ERA’s Graeme Stewart, with Keynote speaker Dr. Rebecca Leshinsky. A professor of law, Dr. Leshinsky has conducted research on the sustainable retrofit of apartment buildings in Melbourne and the State of Victoria in Australia.
Dr. Leshinsky noted that Toronto and Melbourne share opportunities related to Tower Renewal. Her research relates to the legal and governance mechanisms that present barriers for uptake of retrofits, yet provide avenues for reform. Victoria’s regulations (which are similar to Toronto’s condominium regulations) makes decision-making on building-wide issues a challenge. Dr. Leshinsky recommends better information tools for understanding and communicating retrofit opportunities and legislative reform to empower owners and community members to instigate change.
Our own Graeme Stewart updated the audience on recent studies we’ve worked on with United Way Toronto and Toronto Public Health (available for download at CUG+R). He also discussed related changes to the zoning of Apartment Neighbourhoods. Currently in development with the City of Toronto, these zoning reforms are aimed at enabling more complete and healthy neighbourhoods by removing prohibitions on mixed-use activities and small scale infill to encourage local economic and community development.
The discussion went many places, but three memorable points were made: First, let’s try to think beyond the myth of the urban / suburban divide (Ken Greenberg wrote well about this recently in Spacing Magazine online). Second, let’s remember that profitable business doesn’t preclude good, equitable city-building (in fact the two work together). And third, as we reflect on the stock of older apartment towers and the lessons they teach us, let’s look forward as well, and ask, What kind of buildings are we building today, and how will they affect the city we’ll become tomorrow?
Panel participants included:
Pedro Barata, Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs, United Way Toronto
Ken Greenberg, Greenberg Consultants
Elise Hug, Project Manager, Tower Renewal Office, City Of Toronto
Eleanor McAteer, Project Director, Tower Renewal Office, City Of Toronto
Bryan Purcell, Manager, Incubation & Social Innovation, Toronto Atmospheric Fund
Graeme Stewart, Associate, ERA Architects