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Opinion: Build Housing, Not Expressways

As it rebuilds the Gardiner Expressway, Toronto could use the opportunity to create more real estate for affordable housing.
February 19, 2021, 5am PST | Diana Ionescu | @aworkoffiction
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George Socka

As it finalizes its 2021 budget, the city of Toronto will award the contracts to finish the Gardiner Expressway reconstruction project, with options to rebuild an elevated expressway or get more creative with the use of land in Toronto's dense downtown. In a piece for the Globe and Mail, Alex Bozikovic argues that combining the eastern end of the expressway with Lake Shore Boulevard "would open up more than five acres of land for a new neighbourhood, which could generate $500-million in land sales and development charges," generating "enough to build hundreds of units of affordable housing."

Despite the benefits promised by the "boulevard" plan, which would merge the expressway with Lake Shore Boulevard for a short segment and cost significantly less, the city council opted for a "hybrid" option that opens up far less land for new development. "That extra acreage is now worth roughly $450-million, according to Jeremiah Shamess, a vice-president at Colliers Canada who specializes in development land." The speculative proposal used for this analysis "imagines 6.5 million square feet of buildings in this area, with 8,000 homes housing 15,000 people and a mix of other uses."

With 200,000 more people expected to move into downtown Toronto in the next two decades, Bozikovic argues that Gardiner East, with its density and proximity to transit, is "a fine place to plan a postpandemic urban neighbourhood."

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Published on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 in Globe and Mail
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