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Humbertown redevelopment goes under the microscope at Swedish conference

Humbertown aerial view.

How do you accommodate large-scale sustainable growth right next to low-rise neighbourhoods?

In a presentation last month at the Performative Places conference in Lund, Sweden, Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker, a partner at Toronto's Urban Strategies, used the company's Humbertown project as an example of how smart urban design can reduce environmental impact through increased density, greener buildings and shared community spaces.

The project at Royal York and Dundas West, which last year won the Excellence in Planning Award for Urban/Community design from the Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI), would replace a 1950s shopping plaza with a mixed-use village within Humber Valley Village, doubling the commercial space and adding 1,000 residents in a variety of building types, with 12 storeys as the highest building.

Despite the increased density and more intensive uses, there would be five times the number of trees on the site, including green roofs, and a goal of LEED Gold sustainable buildings. Interestingly, the site plan, broken down into five blocks, echoes the existing shopping centre's footprint, a nod to the historic significance of one of the GTA's earliest modern shopping plazas. But the parking, now a dominant feature of the site, will move underground to make way for public spaces that recognize the Kingsway as a main square, knitting the development back into the broader community.

“Humbertown is taking a site which is highly underutilized today, but still plays an important role as the focus of its community from a single-use development pattern to a mixed use development, which is by its nature more efficient, introducing opportunities for different forms of living into the Humber Valley community,” Rottenberg-Walker told Yonge Street Media after the conference. “Children who have grown up there can conceivably buy their first apartment there. There's a retirement housing component, so at the other end of the spectrum, once you've finished with your large house, there's a possibility of moving into a condominium or something that has assisted living.”

Initial community opposition has largely evaporated after extensive consultation. “You're asking for people to buy into something they can't see or feel,” she says. “The reason it happens is that people care passionately about where they live.”

The project is currently awaiting site plan approval. After about a year of infrastructure work is done, construction could start within the year.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker
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