Tuesday, June 26, 2018

City planning

Have you ever noticed that the most livable neighborhoods in any city are those that were developed before the invention of the "urban planning" profession?

Take my old 'hood in Guelph, "The Ward."

By the time my clan got there in the '50s it was pretty much all immigrants. A smattering of Germans and Greeks and Ukrainians, but for the most part, Italian.

The quality of life was incomparable. Everybody walked everywhere. Everybody had a garden. Everybody who wanted to work had a job. In a lot of cases, if you lived in The Ward you could walk to your job at Fiberglass or Omark or Malleable Iron, or Woods or Harding Carpets.

You'd find 30 by 80 foot lots with a 900 square foot bungalow planted in the middle that still had room for dozens of tomato and pepper plants and grape vines galore. The gardens would take up the front yard, the side yard, and the back yard.

Anybody with enough get up and go to get up and go to work could afford one of those plots on a factory wage. There was absolutely zero "urban planning" involved in the evolution of that neighborhood.

Contrast that to the lifestyle that the children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren of those immigrants enjoy in Toronto today, a city that never tires of broadcasting the savvy of its urban planners, who have made downtown Toronto a wonderful example of a "livable city."

They've moved on to Toronto for better opportunities. Education, jobs, and so on. Once they've got the education and the job they stay for the "action."

After all, downtown TO is where the action is!


All the cool shit happens in Toronto!

You probably won't be able to afford 900 feet anymore; that's a million bucks easy in a downtown highrise. So settle for half that.

And of course, that magnificent garden your Noni had on that 30 by 80 foot lot in Guelph is out of the question. If you have the extravagant good fortune to own a balcony, you'll settle for maybe two each of peppers and tomato plants. Forget the grapes.

But you're where the action is!

You are but a mere walk or a very short transit ride from the ACC or Rogers Centre, where you can go to see the corporate Leafs or Jays play ball!

You've got dozens of chain restaurants to choose from; you know the ones... everything comes from head office flash frozen and your chef heats it up. At $150 for two, with wine and tip!

And you're just a jaunt from half a dozen corporate music and arts venues where you can, for a pretty penny, view the latest avante-garde artsy spectacle that the corporate media has been raving about!

What's not to love about life in downtown Toronto?

Well, for one thing, anybody who remembers the rhythms of an authentic neighborhood, like The Ward, for example, is going to find it sterile in the extreme. Corporate condo towers, corporate dining, corporate sports and entertainment...

For this you want to mortgage your life?

I think not.

But... it's too late to go home to The Ward.

The urban planners have done f@cked it good. There's condo towers galore in downtown Guelph now, and they've been seeping into The Ward for at least twenty years. The corporate developers have been marketing them to folks who commute to Toronto. After all, that half million dollar condo in Guelph would cost you a million and a half or more at the other end of that GO Train ride.

But if you follow the market real close, you might still get that 900 foot bungalow on a 30 by 80 lot. True, it might run you half a million... but it would be two or three or four millions in downtown Toronto.

Obviously, no factory hands are moving to The Ward today.

But our "urban planners" are doing a great job, aren't they?

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