Greening Towers in a Park

BY MARY DAVIS
May 13, 2009

Toronto, Ontario, is, by any measure, one of North America’s greenest and most sustainable cities. It is also, by some accounts, the continent’s densest metropolis – but this is due in large part to the hundreds upon hundreds of “slab” highrises that sprouted across its outer neighborhoods in the postwar era. While Toronto’s “commie blocs,” as they’ve been derisively dubbed, provide the sort of residential density necessary to support transit and walkability, they are limited in their effectiveness by acres of surrounding lawn. Enter the Mayor’s Tower Renewal Program, which would first retrofit the buildings to make them more energy-efficient during long Canadian winters, then, over the long term, would encourage urban food gardens and mixed-use development on their grounds. Refitting, rather than demolition and new construction, could save the city as much as $55 billion. In the name of efficiency, the plan calls to house all decision-making parties for the redevelopment of apartment communities under one roof, effectively combining transit and energy planning with the designing of land use codes.

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