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Construct Canada learns how to build urban nodes

Yonge and Sheppard is good, King Street West is bad, and Peanut Plaza is worse.

That's the conclusion reached by a panel of experts who spoke recently at Construct Canada, the annual convention and trade show for builders, designers and others in the construction trades.

The talk was on urban nodes, and the talk focused on what can go right, what can go wrong and what the most valuable qualities are in the planning, construction and maintenance of urban nodes, those little slices of urbanity that together make up the modern agglomerated city.

The panel consisted of Clifford Korman and David Butterworth, both of Kirkor Architects, and Ward 33's Councillor Shelley Carroll. It was moderated by yours truly in my capacity as Yonge Street Media's development editor.

Integration of live and work space was of paramount importance to Korman, whose firm is behind several of the city's biggest new live-work developments, including the Hullmark Centre and the World on Yonge. He also stressed the importance of easy and reliable access to transportation. Carroll offered this as a major reason the King West strip does not work as well as it should, with its oversubscribed streetcars making rush-hour commutes difficult. Butterworth added that the quality of architecture along King West was disappointing, noting that good looking and architecturally well functioning neighbourhoods tends to be happier and more vibrant ones.

The area around Peanut Plaza, a 1960s slab development in the heart of Carroll's ward, was declared a right-off by Korman and Carroll due to the separation of towers from the local amenities by the Don Mills Road thoroughfare, though Butterworth praised the simplicity and durability of the slab construction. Carroll agreed that she has found it much less expensive to renovate and retrofit the towers.

Everyone agreed that the developing node at Yonge and Sheppard is a model for the future, with its access to two subway lines, major thoroughfares and a highway. And Kirkor's own Hullmark Centre, currently under development there, incorporates a large park in the form of a green roof, condos and office space in the same complex, as well as a large grocery store. Carroll noted that when she drives through the neighbourhood these days, she notices masses of pedestrians that weren’t there five years ago, a sure sign of a successful node.

Writer: Bert Archer
Sources: Shelley Carroll, Clifford Korman, David Butterworth

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.

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