Building “up” not “out” is the answer to better communities according to one urban planning expert.
“Everything from sustainability and lowering our carbon footprint to facilitating walking, biking and transit, to supporting affordability, to improving and supporting public health. Just about anyway you can do the city-making math, building up versus out in a high-quality way is better for us,” said Brent Toderian, an Advanced Urbanism Consultant who used to be Vancouver’s Chief Planner.
Toderian was brought in by Dexel Developments of Halifax to give a public lecture on the best ways to plan urban density.
“I advise, usually cities, on how to do density in a more high quality way, with amenities that support that density, great design that makes that density work, design that emphasizes walking biking and public transit, not just the car,” said Toderian.
Flyers were being handed out by anti-density supporters in advance of the lecture titled “Density Done Badly.”
“Halifax for many years, we sort of hollowed out the core and we went into urban sprawl. We all know that doesn’t work, that costs huge amounts of money and is very inefficient,” said Larry Haiven, a Professor at Saint Mary’s Sobey School of Business.
He says solving urban sprawl issues by densifying the urban core creates a “feed frenzy” for developers.
“The narrative of the developers is to achieve density by only building up and we’re saying you can achieve density in many other ways. Such as medium-rise buildings, refurbishing of old neighborhoods, there are many ways to get density,” said Haiven.
Toderian says too much of the ‘density’ creating conversation gets lost on the obsession with building heights.
“With the Centre Plan going on I think the quality of the conversation about how we build up versus out is a critical conversation. Too often cities get entirely too focused on how many floors a building has instead of the quality of the design of a building of any scale,” said Toderian.
He goes on to say that density only works if people open their minds to the opportunity high quality designs can provide.
“Sophisticated city-making can walk and chew gum at the same time, it can do many things. If we embrace the complexity of the situation. But if the debate is black and white, tall is bad, short is good, then it won’t get us to the kind of quality conversations that lead to quality designs,” said Toderian.
It’s a conversation that some people like Haiven, feel will destroy the integrity of what makes Halifax a unique and lovable city.
“I love the ambiance, I like the parks, I like the common and the Citadel. And I like those wonderful neighborhoods with trees that I can walk through and I feel that real people live there. Not the tall buildings that the developers want to build,” said Haiven.