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Richmond Hill : Development News

6 Richmond Hill Articles | Page:

How can the suburbs woo younger residents?

Can developers spark a love affair between Generation Y and the suburbs?

Certainly, the stereotype is that Generation Y dreams about social networking, not cars, craving connectedness that sprawling commuter communities have difficulty delivering. But high home prices in metropolises like Toronto, combined with better planning and transportation in smaller cities, may encourage Gen Y to re-evaluate the merits of living in 905.

A September 28 panel hosted by the Urban Land Institute Toronto examined how planners and developers in 905 can do a better job of building and shaping residential, commercial and recreational spaces that will attract those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.

“They’re not necessarily going through anything different than previous generations, but their response to it may be different because the economic circumstances they're in,” said moderator Lou Iafrate in an interview with Yonge Street before the event. He’s executive vice president of research, valuation and advisory for Altus Group, which provides solutions for the commercial real estate industry. “The affordability issue wasn’t the same when Baby Boomers went through this part of their lives.”

Much of what panelists considered important to Generation Y may sound good to homeowners and renters of any generation: urban villages where people can live within walking distance—or easy transit distance—of where they work and play. While some complain that 905 cities aren’t especially pedestrian friendly, not all of it can be blamed on poor planning and design. Many of the cities are young and not particularly built up. Increasing density can fill in some of the gaps.

“Certainly 905 has a lot of work to do in streetscaping,” said panelist Lisa Lafave in a pre-panel interview. As senior portfolio manager at HOOPP (Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan), she helps manage a portfolio of more than $10 billion annually, including investments in real estate development. “It takes time to densify an area. It’s not going to happen overnight. In Mississauga, there are some areas where there are no sidewalks or bus shelters.”

Lafave says she won’t invest in a project that’s not transit-oriented. “I’ll move with the transit, but I won’t speculate on something that’s not transit-linked. By that definition, cities are denying themselves more investment in the city if they don’t invest in the infrastructure first,” she said.

The cities along the top of the GTA can also be smarter about connecting to each other, so work and recreational patterns aren’t all under the influence of Toronto. “If you can link Vaughan, Brampton, Markham, Richmond Hill, then people living in the 905 don’t necessarily have to come into the 416 for entertainment. The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre or the Markham City Centre are good examples of where they’re trying to create that urban village feel, that urbanized centre, in a traditionally suburban market. But it’s going to take time,” said Iafrate.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Lou Iafrate and Lisa Lafave

 

Chief Planner talks suburban mobility

At Monday’s meeting of the Chief Planner’s Roundtable, consultant Jane Farrow announced to the 200 attendees that 60 per cent of the people living in eight so-called tower neighbourhoods in the inner suburbs do not have drivers' licenses.
This is big news.

These suburbs, built at a time when cars seemed the natural tools for urban expansion, are no longer inhabited by car people. They are, in fact, decreasingly suburbs at all, but rather less dense cities of their own, and as Vaughan and Markham, among others, seek to redress the change in various ways, the Chief Planner’s Roundtable is looking into how people do, can and should move around.

"A tremendous number of them walk," Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat says, "even when walking conditions aren’t that good."

So one of the ways Keesmaat would like to address that is by studying how and where people are getting around now, and adapting the now outmoded infrastructure to accommodate them.

Some aspects of this could be relatively easy, like making sure paths are shoveled, taking down fences that obstruct natural routes, and keeping them well lit after dark. But there are more profound ways to address the issue as well.

"It's about how we can re-adapt very suburban, car-oriented environments," Keesmaat says, "by getting a much finer street network, and adding development parcels, recognizing the importance of land-use planning and infrastructure changes in order to increase the options."

In other words, as these suburbs expand, they expand with these more reasonable, responsive forms of transportation and mobility in mind.

By the end of the roundtable, which was open to the public but attended mostly by those in related professions, they came up with a list of seven things that, Keesmaat says, need to happen now, including improving the walking infrastructure where people walk already, ensuring walking and cycling infrastructure links up with transit, improving data collection so future decisions can be made on solid ground, improving signage, loosening land-use controls to allow for more organic change as it is warranted, develop to allow people to live closer to where they work, and encourage individual "champions" to get behind significant infrastructure investments in these suburbans and push them through.

Video records of this and previous roundtables are available on the chief planner’s website.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jennifer Keesmaat

Richmond Hill home builder recognized for sustainability

Heathwood Homes is being recognized by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation as a builder of healthy housing, just the sixth GTA home builder to be honoured in the province-wide program's 15 years.

The Healthy Housing Recognition is based on a single house that CHMC inspectors determine, after being contacted by the applicant builder, lives up to its five principles of residential health: occupant health, energy efficiency, resource efficiency, environmental responsibility, and affordability.

“People think about energy,” says CMHC senior research consultant Jamie Shipley about the sort of common misconceptions CHMC’s program is meant to remedy, “but not really about indoor qualities, like using low-emission materials like no or low-VOC paint, or installing balanced ventilation.”

The Heathwood home in question has solar panels on the roof, fibreglass shingles, xeriscaping, permeable pavement, bamboo and stone floors, rain barrels and carpets made from recycled plastic bottles.

CMHC celebrated the addition to the short GTA list with Heathwood president Hugh Heron at the Heathwood New Home Information Centre at 11488 Yonge Street in Richmond Hill yesterday.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jamie Shipley

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


Green Toronto Awards nominations now open

Nominations opened this week for the 2012 Green Toronto Awards, though the most interesting category from the 2011 edition has been dropped.

Last year, the awards expanded to include a green homes category, aimed at individuals who had done something remarkable to or with their own homes.

"It wasn't our strongest category," says Jessica Chow, co-ordinator for the city-sponsored awards. "We don’t know why. We noticed a lot of them were, 'Oh, I recycle in my home.' It wasn't really what we were after."

So this year, it's been folded into the more general green design category, where individual homes will now compete with eco clothing, green roofs and other design innovations.

Nominations can be submitted here until midnight on Feb. 6. Winners will be announced in March.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jessica Chow

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.

Heathwood Homes finishes its Green House, complete with $20,000 efficiency monitoring system

A house with the ability to monitor its own efficiency was completed this week, starting its year-long trial to determine the cost benefits of extreme eco-friendliness.

Heathwood Homes has set up a sort of green cage match between its Green House and another house it built to Energy Star standards nearby. Both houses will be monitored, the Green House as a model home and the Energy Star house with a family living in it (the buyers move in this July).

According to Bob Finnigan, Heathwood's chief operating officer, the Green House will use mostly LED lights, a greywater system that recycles shower water to flush the toilets, and something called Laundry Pure, which allows residents to wash clothing using only cold water, and without detergent.

"It uses ultraviolet light," Finnigan says, "and oxygen peroxide and other gases created inside this machine. Activated oxygen, essentially."

The monitoring is being done by Ryerson University, which will report the numbers back to Heathwood so they can calculate exactly how cost efficient energy efficiency on this level is.

The Green House will itself go on the market in late 2012, at which point the buyers will be given the option of keeping some of the more expensive components, like the $4,000 greywater recycling option, and the $20,000 monitoring system.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Bob Finnigan

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


Homebuilder begins construction on two homes in Richmond Hill to study environmental efficiency

One longtime Toronto homebuilder is embarking on a novel project to both exhibit and determine the efficacy of Energy Star and the new Energy Star Plus enviro guidelines.

Sheppard and 404-based Heathwood Homes is building two homes in neighbouring Heathwood communities in Richmond Hill, one to each set of standards. The Energy Star Plus home will be used as a model home until 2012, at which point it will be sold, and the efficiency of both homes, when occupied, will be monitored by Heathwood to determine what works and how well.

"Sometimes we don't know exactly what's happening in a home," says Heathwood president Hugh Heron, "because it's a living environment. This will give us an opportunity to feel like we're on solid footing when we go forward."

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Hugh Heron

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a cool new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.

6 Richmond Hill Articles | Page:
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