Florida Lauds Toronto's 'Town Gown' Success Story

Richard Florida tours the University of Toronto and finds that its seamless "organic" integration with downtown Toronto makes it a unique "town-gown" success story.

"'One of the world's top universities, [the University of Toronto] occupies 68 hectares in the heart of downtown Toronto - a healthy accumulation of neo-Gothic heritage buildings, a neo-hideous library and some more recent and lovelier additions (the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research stands out), all densely packed into a quilting of parks and sporting fields and interlaced by walking paths that teem with backpack-toting students."

"And yet, despite its size and its status as an elite university, it is neither overbearing nor elitist, instead blending into the city in a way that is described by virtually anyone who has ever thought about it as 'seamlessly.'"

"'You have an urban university a couple of kilometres from the main financial city core, accessible on foot, by subway, by mass transit, in a real neighbourhood with functioning shops and residences where people live, work, learn and play,' Richard Florida says as he crosses University Avenue at College Street."

"'If you asked me to name the most unique thing about Toronto's spatial structure, its geography, its regional urban character, it's this. It's the fact that it has a world-class university that is a seamless part of its geography. There are very few cities and universities in the world that can say that.'"

"He has studied and worked at a number of American ones and none matches what he has found in his adopted city...He even ponders whether the university, by being so accessible and located in the heart of the city, didn't contribute to Toronto's easygoing attitudes about multiculturalism."

"Universities attract talent and advance technology, Dr. Florida says, but there is a third T that is often overlooked: tolerance."

"'I wonder,' he says, standing in front of the main gates leading into King's College Road, 'if having the University of Toronto here in the centre of the city, creating a kind of meritocratic, open-minded, pluralistic mentality, didn't have something to do with Toronto's emergence as one of the most tolerant, open-minded, accepting and inclusive cities in the world.'"

Full Story: No ivory tower on this campus


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