“This was a great dream of 20th-century architecture: towers that would house people high above the streets, swimming in light and air, surrounded by acres of green lawns,” writes Alex Bozikovic. “The tower in the park, as this type of building was known, has evolved into the tower in the parking lot: They are aging, isolated, lacking services and community.”
Toronto’s inventory of apartment towers is the second-largest in North America, and a critical segment of the city’s rental market. While these units were originally planned for a world where there was a car in every spot, apartment towers are now home to many new Canadians and lower-income families to whom a landscape of undefined open space and parking is of little use. New zoning, adopted this spring, will allow for the previously prohibited incorporation of small shops, home-based businesses and community services into a number of tower neighborhoods.
Additionally, to help finance green upgrades to these notoriously inefficient structures, the City has made special loans available to building owners. “The carbon footprints of the buildings will be reduced; property owners will pay back the loans over time, via extra charges on their property taxes, and profit over the long term; and tenants will live better,” says Bozikovic. “Everyone wins.”