Category Archives: urban lifestyle

Pharrell Williams is collaborating with developers on a new Toronto condo project

<img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-197263″ src=”https://d3exkutavo4sli.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/untitled_condo_pharrell.jpg” alt=”” width=”1200″ height=”1034″ />

Photo: Anthony Cohen

Grammy Award-winning artist, songwriter and producer Pharrell Williams is collaborating with developers on a new midtown Toronto condominium project.

Westdale Properties and Reserve Properties launched the marketing for their two-tower residential development, called untitled, today during a press event in Yonge-Dundas Square. Williams, who introduced the project via video on the screens across the public square, partnered with the developers on the design and creative elements of the condominium tower.

“This partnership has evolved from a desire to do something really unique for Toronto in architecture and design as a whole,” said Sheldon Fenton, president and CEO of Reserve Properties, at the launch. “We believe that by bringing in a cultural icon with vision and ideation, from outside the realm of real estate, it would allow us to break the mold in terms of what has been traditionally done.”

<img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-197266″ src=”https://d3exkutavo4sli.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/untitled_condos_pharrell.jpg” alt=”” width=”1200″ height=”1333″ />

Photo: Norm Li

Untitled is said to focus on key themes surrounding, “essentialism, connections to the elements and the universality of space,” according to a project press release. Williams desired to create an ethos of universality within the project, whereby “physical space is only a backdrop.” Drawing from these ideals, the project team landed on the name, untitled.

“We wanted to make sure that it continued to give you the message of this amazing vibration of being home, and once you get in it, you make it you,” said Williams via a recorded video, who could not be present for the launch in person. “It’s universally beautiful, but there’s enough space for you to get into it and make it yourself.”

 

Working with the project team, which also consists of Toronto-based architects IBI Group and local interior design firm U31, Williams played a role in crafting the vision and material aspects of untitled. His involvement ranged from consultation on the architectural and interior design, to choosing the furnishings in specific spaces. Williams is best known for his appearances as a judge on The Voice and his 2013 chart-topping single, “Happy.” Untitled marks his debut into multi-residential development.

“The opportunity to apply my ideas and viewpoint to the new medium of physical structures has been amazing,” wrote Williams in the release. “Everyone at the table had a collective willingness to be open, to be pushed, to be prodded and poked, to get to that uncomfortable place of question mark, and to find out what was on the other side. The result is untitled and I’m very grateful and appreciative to have been a part of the process.”

Source: Livabl.com –

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

What if an Irma-like hurricane hit New York?

It sounds like a Hollywood disaster movie.

A Category 5 hurricane churning in the mid-Atlantic suddenly veers northwest — and heads straight for New York City.

The good news is that, for now, experts agree a Cat 5-sized deluge appears to be a meteorological impossibility in the U.S. Northeast, given today’s sea temperatures and weather patterns.

The bad news: A storm doesn’t need to pack the wallop of a Harvey or an Irma to knock out the region. Superstorm Sandy, whose wind speed was a relatively tame 80 miles per hour when it reached New Jersey, did $70 billion of damage in October 2012. Irma made landfall in Puerto Rico at 185 mph.

But if there’s anything we know about climate change, it’s that the boundaries of what’s possible keep shifting. As yet another hurricane, Jose, grinds up the Eastern Seaboard, the black-swan scenarios offer alarming perspective. Imagine what the Great Hurricane of New York might look like:

Winds of 100 mph and 12 inches of rain at high tide push a 16-foot storm surge through the funnel-like entrance of New York Harbor. It wouldn’t take Irma’s killer gusts or Houston’s torrential 50 inches of rain to create a wall of water swamping 500 miles of New York City coastline. The Hudson and East rivers would cascade into Manhattan, overwhelming subways, sewers and roads. Corrosive seawater would fill the aging Lincoln and Holland tunnels to New Jersey, as well as the vulnerable railway tubes beneath the Hudson.

Crazy? Climate change means meteorologists and emergency managers must now consider scenarios they never confronted before. That’s especially true given the rising sea. The water level around New York is 1.1 feet higher today than in 1900 and could increase as much as 2 feet more by 2050.

Global Warming
“With global warming and sea-level rise, what we’re seeing is the effects of these storms amplified,” Ernest Moniz, energy secretary for President Barack Obama, told Bloomberg TV.

The potential risks, however remote for now, are enormous for the New York metro area. Sandy, which hit New Jersey as a “post-tropical” storm, flooded almost 90,000 buildings, with 443,000 New Yorkers living in inundated areas. In one part of Staten Island, floodwaters reached 14 feet. Bridges reopened quickly, but close to 2 million people lost power, and cell service for more than 1 million people was reduced or lost. Rebuilding is still going on five years later.

One of the legacies of Sandy was a change in the number of evacuation zones, which the city doubled to six. Roughly 3 million New Yorkers now live in one of those zones.

Megan Pribram, assistant commissioner for planning and preparedness at the city’s Office of Emergency Management, said for a storm on the scale of Harvey, the city would evacuate some low-lying coastal areas.

Unprecedented Rain
Harvey-sized rains would be unprecedented in the U.S. Northeast, according to Allan Frei, chairman of the geography department at Hunter College in Manhattan. The most serious flooding in the region was Hurricane Irene in 2011, when 15 or so inches of rain left parts of Vermont underwater.

A Category 3 hurricane — with winds up to 129 mph — hit the New York area in 1938, when “The Long Island Express” caused 18-foot surges. Another Cat 3, Hurricane Hazel, produced wind gusts of 113 mph in Battery Park in 1954, according to Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management.

Still, Frei said climate change increases the odds that severe rainstorms like the one in Houston could strike New York City. And if New York ever got that much rain, “it would be absolutely devastating.”

“If a storm causes a big storm surge at the same time as it’s raining, and if it hits during high tide, that would be — I can’t even imagine,” Frei said. The sewer system would probably be blocked with debris, diminishing its capacity to drain the city, he said.

New York City is updating preparedness plans to incorporate the lessons of Harvey, said Daniel Zarrilli, senior director of climate policy and chief resilience officer for Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Part of that includes the tens of billions of dollars spent since Sandy.

Billions Spent
Hospitals and public-housing complexes have been refitted to offer more flood protection at a U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency expense of more than $10 billion. Utility Consolidated Edison Inc. has spent $1 billion for upgrades to its underground steam, electric and gas infrastructure. A $340 million boardwalk in the Rockaways has been redesigned as a sea wall protecting beaches and homes. The city has planted trees and other vegetation in flood-prone neighborhoods to soak up runoff and ease the burden on the city’s sewer system.

The NY-NJ Metropolitan Storm Surge Working Group is pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve a $30 billion system of retractable sea barriers at the mouth of New York Harbor and in the Throgs Neck narrows north of the East River. Similar engineering projects now protect cities including New Orleans; Rotterdam, Holland, and St. Petersburg, Russia.

The system could protect about 800 miles of coast from Elizabeth, New Jersey, to the Bronx, and as much as $1 trillion in assets, said Robert Yaro, former executive director of the Regional Plan Association, a policy-research group.

“We in New York are far behind, and among the cities on Earth we have the most to lose,” Yaro said.

Source: Bloomberg 20 Sep 2017
Tagged , ,

Road tolls: Will they actually reduce congestion?

HOT lanes that allow single-occupant vehicles to pay a toll to use carpool lanes are a popular alternative to HOV lanes. (J.P. MOCZULSKI for The Globe and Mail)

Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are among the most congested cities on the continent – ranking second, sixth and ninth, respectively, according to TomTom data.

The average person living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) spends about 65 minutes commuting each day, and all that gridlock costs the region up to $11 billion per year, according to a C.D. Howe Institute study.

Road tolls a ‘fair’ way to fund transit according to Toronto mayor (CP Video)

The most common cure thrown around is road tolls, but a new study suggests they may not be the answer.

The report, Congestion Costs, Road Capacity and Implications for Policy-Makers, issued Friday by the Conference Board of Canada and commissioned by the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario (CAA SCO), warns that governments should examine other options before moving forward with more road tolls.

However, economists at the C.D. Howe Institute argue road tolls are the best solution to reducing congestion and the additional revenue is a bonus that can be used to improve transit and other infrastructure.

The Conference Board of Canada report states there is a difference between policies designed to raise revenue and those designed to change driving behaviour.

“We have to be very clear about what we’re trying to achieve,” says Teresa Di Felice, director of government and community relations, CAA SCO. “If we want to achieve reductions, there are various tools, land use planning, ride sharing transit. When you move the conversation to road pricing there has to be a clear objective … If you want to change behaviour, that is a different pricing strategy.”

She says if tolls push too many people out of their cars, government won’t achieve its revenue goals.

The report examines other tools that policymakers can use to reduce congestion – highway ramp metering, variable speed limits, access controls such as time-of-day restrictions, ride-sharing support, biking facilities and public transit investment.

A previous Conference Board of Canada report showed Ontario drivers pay between 70 to 90 per cent of the cost to maintain roads through registration fees, gas taxes, parking tickets and other revenue tools. In the GTA, it’s more than 100 per cent.

“Motorists are frustrated, they are paying a fair chunk of the maintenance costs,” says Di Felice. With these reports, CAA wanted to see if drivers are getting the benefit of what they are paying and if motorists are going to pay more, what does that look like?

Tolls are the best solution, extra revenue is a bonus

“Even if on average, road users cover 100 per cent of spending money on roads, road pricing is still really important,” says Benjamin Dachis, associate director of research at the C.D. Howe Institute. “It is still the best solution for dealing with congestion.”

An example from London, England, supports this. A congestion charge there in 2003 cut traffic by about 15 per cent.

A 2007 study from C.D. Howe says, “Neither fuel taxes nor parking fees are effective in dealing with traffic congestion. Appropriately designed road-pricing schemes are the best instrument. Road pricing’s usefulness in charging for road damage, insurance, and so on, are a bonus.”

Dachis says his research shows that, on average, drivers pay less than 70 per cent of roadway expenses. There is a lot of confusion because there is good data on how much governments collect, but the money largely goes into general revenue, so there isn’t good data on how it is being spent.

Regardless, he says that tolls are effective to reduce congestion and to put a value on roads.

“When you have roads that aren’t tolled, there is something called the fundamental law of congestion, you build new roads and they fill up pretty quickly,” he says.

But the way to toll roads isn’t like what Ontario drivers currently see.

In September, 1,000 Ontario drivers received permits to use the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on the Queen Elizabeth Way west of Toronto. It was part of a pilot project that allows those drivers to have a faster commute at a cost of $180 for three months. The project will last two-to-four years and the government will be adding HOT lanes to Highway 427 in 2021. Highway 407, just north of Toronto, is also a toll road.

“It (HOT lanes) is probably the most rudimentary form of road pricing I’ve ever seen,” says Dachis. “The bottom line is what the (Ontario) government has put in place right now is barely only training wheels.”

Dachis cites metered high-occupancy toll lanes in Seattle, Miami, Minnesota, Georgia and southern California as examples of what works, is not mentioned in the Conference Board of Canada report. The price to enter HOT lanes as a solo occupant is constantly changing based on how much time it saves the driver. Billing is controlled through either a smartphone app or a windshield pass. A sign indicates how much time it will take to get to designated interchanges, guaranteeing the travel time through the pricing scheme.

“We’re trying to guess the dollar value people put on roads,” says Dachis. “Road pricing makes it very clear what people will pay for roads.”

Dachis worries that because current HOT lanes are so basic, they will fail and people will reject any further conversation.

One major criticism of HOT lanes is that they are for the rich – hence the moniker, Lexus lanes. But Dachis says variable pricing will do away with that because there won’t be a monthly subscription. Rather everyone, regardless of income, can make a decision right then and there if using the lane will benefit them financially or socially. One of the biggest users of these lanes will be buses.

Cost is a factor, but a study by the University of Minnesota found that when Minneapolis converted some of its HOV lanes to dynamic HOT, the economic benefits were more than double the operating and capital costs.

Toll highways

“Tolling the whole freeway is totally doable. It would even be the best option, from an economists perspective,” says Dachis. “But that’s a hard sell when there are few examples of working toll roads in Canada.”

He adds that tolling the entire highway would allocate the scarce road space most effectively and should lower taxes for everyone.

Dachis and Di Felice agree that road tolls aren’t the only method governments should consider to reduce congestion. They also agree there has to be better data collected on how money is being spent on roads at all levels of government.

Tagged , , ,

UN: Higher-density cities key to better urban life

""

 

The United Nations has advice for city planners around the world: Move people closer together.

Designing more compact, higher-density cities is key to improving the well-being of the world’s burgeoning urban population, said Under-Secretary General Joan Cloas, the executive director of UN Habitat and a former mayor of Barcelona.

He said too many cities are characterized by urban sprawl that make it harder for people to get around and get access to basic services, especially in vast slums where the poor live far away from their jobs, medical services and food stores. Growing suburbs, meanwhile, discourage the use of public transportation, biking and walking, which in turns contributes to pollution through reliance on cars. And mega-cities are encroaching on farm land and environmentally sensitive areas.

Clos said the world’s average urban population density is “extremely low” at an estimated 2,000-3,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. For comparison, he said Manhattan has a population density of 56,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. In the world’s highest-density city, Hong Kong, he said the figure is 96,000.

More than 50 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a number that is expected to reach 65 per cent within 40 years, Clos said.

“It’s a huge transformation in the life experience of a lot of humans. And this requires, political attention, economic attention, social attention,” he said at a news conference ahead of World Habitat Day on Oct. 7.

Clos acknowledged the difficulties involved in trying to build high-density city centres and offered no easy solutions. In New York and Hong Kong, high-density comes with some of the world’s highest living costs. But Clos said those are extreme examples. In Europe, he said, the average urban population density is more like 15,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. He said offering affordable housing involves difficult political decisions – perhaps replacing subsidize gasoline with more subsidized housing.

Clos said high-density need not be the same as overcrowding.

“What cannot be sustained is spontaneous urbanization. When we have spontaneous urbanization instead of well-designed, high-density cities, we have overcrowding,” he said. “And that is what is happening in the favelas, the slums and other places.

Thomas Elmqvist, a Stockholm University professor, said there is opportunity for planning well-designed cities. Sixty-per cent of the world’s land projected to become urban by 2030 has yet to be built, according to a new study titled Cities and Biodiversity Outlook, which involved more than 200 scientists.

Elmqvist, the scientific editor of the study, said 25 per cent of the world’s protected areas are now within 17 kilometres (11 miles) of urban areas. He said in 10 years, it will be 15 kilometres (9 miles).

Clos is the director of UN-Habitat. He spoke Friday ahead of World Habitat Day on Oct. 7.

Source: Alexandra Olson  © 2013 The Associated Press

Tagged , , , ,

Is Hamilton the Canadian Brooklyn?

After years of downturn, Brooklyn made a huge turnaround. Is Hamilton following its lead?

Two cities go under the microscope Monday to find an answer to a burning question of identity: is Hamilton actually Canada’s answer to Brooklyn?

It’s all part of an Ambitious City event hosted by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce that explores the cultural identity and economic heartbeat between the two.

Considering resurgent Brooklyn has been on an upswing for years and is often considered one of the coolest places in America, Hamilton and its chamber would be positively giddy at that comparison bearing fruit.

But can you really compare Hamilton to a bustling metropolis of 2.6 million people?

Let’s try it out.

Industry downfall and finding an identity

Once part of the industrial heart of the U.S., manufacturing in Brooklyn dropped by about half from the 50s to the 90s.

Things were gloomy for quite a while, until neighbourhoods like Williamsburg and Bushwick sprang back to life starting in the late 90s – mostly fuelled by artistic types fleeing high rents in Manhattan.

Sound familiar?

There is a caveat here, though. Brooklyn’s revival started much earlier than Hamilton’s, so they are way further along in the process. If Hamilton is really lucky, the city could be where Brooklyn is now in about a decade.

Do they have LRT?

Public transit in Brooklyn destroys Hamilton. Full stop.

Sure, LRT is coming, and that will radically change how people get around in Hamilton. For some, it’s a beacon of modern transit that will haul Hamilton into the future (or at least to the present).

But the New York subway system is one of the best in the world. Daily ridership numbers are in the millions – meanwhile in Hamilton, we’re still waiting for HSR to get on Twitter. (But at least we got Presto on buses before Toronto did!) Edge: Brooklyn.

Is Manhattan Brooklyn’s Toronto?

Hamilton’s Toronto complex is so deeply ingrained that “Argos suck!” could be a Balsam Avenue baby’s first words.

There’s a definite rift between Brooklyn and Manhattan, too – and a deluge of people have moved out of there because they can’t afford rent.

Take this “luxury” Manhattan two-bedroom, listed at a startling $5,895:

Brooklyn apartment

Two beds, two baths, and almost $6,000 in Manhattan. (Streeteasy.com)

You aren’t living in Manhattan these days without a heavy cash flow. There’s some definite disdain in Brooklyn for its high-priced neighbour. Edge: Tie, different scales but clear parallel.

Rents

So if Brooklyn is a haven for young people and artists fleeing the rest of New York City, are the rents comparable to Hamilton?

Yes and no. A two-bedroom in trendy Williamsburg can run you over $4,000, which is a rarity on local equivalents like James Street North or Locke Street. Keep in mind that New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world, behind only places like London and Monaco.

In some more far-flung neighborhoods and artist enclaves, you can share a two-bedroom for maybe $1,400. That makes it a steal by New York standards and an analogue to Hamilton compared to Toronto’s higher rents. Edge: Hamilton

But can I get a decent cup of coffee?

You can tell a lot about a place by its coffee – and as the birthplace of Tim Hortons, Hamilton has a special claim to the fuel that keeps Canada going at hockey rinks on weekends at 6 a.m. There is also a burgeoning coffee culture in many areas for those who like their brew a little more upscale.

In Hamilton, a cup off coffee will run you around $2 to $3 on average. In Brooklyn, you can get a coffee cart cup for a buck, or go to Blue Bottle Roasters and shell out $10 for a cup. Edge: Brooklyn, but only because of the carts.

Do they have any famous musicians?

Musicians: Brooklyn has Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G. and Peter Criss. Hamilton has Teenage Head, Daniel Lanois, Arkells and Tom Wilson. Tough call – but nobody likes Peter Criss, so edge: Hamilton.

Their bridge vs. our bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges on earth. A guy drove a dump truck into the Skyway one time. Edge: Brooklyn.

Are there any famous Brooklyn comedians?

Brooklyn has Jerry Seinfield, Hamilton has Martin Short. That’s gold Jerry, gold! Edge: Brooklyn.

Their teams, our teams

The Ticats are deeply entrenched in Hamilton’s soul, and the now-OHL Bulldogs are keeping hockey alive in the city. Brooklyn has two major franchises: the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and the NHL’s New York Islanders but both are fairly new to the city. It’s been a long time since the Brooklyn Dodgers. Edge: Hamilton (because we’re worried Angelo Mosca will come after us otherwise).

What about parks?

Hamilton’s most famous park is probably Gage Park (it’s more “park-ish” than Gore Park, which is still arguably the heart of the city). Brooklyn has the iconic prospect park, which was built by the same designers as Central Park. Edge: Brooklyn.

Their view, our view.

We love our escarpment, our waterfalls. The views from Sam Lawrence Park or the Dundas Peak are sweet. Their view however, is sunset of the Manhattan skyline. Edge Brooklyn.

Brooklyn skyline

This is the view from the Brooklyn Promenade. (Rick Hughes/CBC)

Source:  Adam Carter, CBC News Posted: Nov 14, 2015

Tagged , , , ,

How city planning impacts real estate prices

City planning is an often misunderstood topic entrenched in the everyday decisions that real estate professionals make. This is because city planning can take years, if not decades and centuries, to complete. Each city planning decision has a profound impact on how cities are shaped and, as a result, how real estate values are influenced.

With the exception of the rudimentary Simcoe Plan created in 1793, the concept of city planning didn’t really gain traction until the 1940s. This is one reason that Toronto was such an unorganized mess in the 1900s. There was no plan for growth, no frameworks for transportation, and no guides on how cities should be designed and constructed. Even the streetcar network, which was built between 1870 and 1930, was a result of Toronto becoming a more industrialized manufacturing city and not down to planning policy. 

So, the city took shape due to private landowners who created streets and avenues leading up to their buildings (how selfish of them). Of course, if something is left to the private sector, they will create a solution in the most economic and efficient way possible. This is why Toronto is based on a grid network with little greenspace.

After World War II, Toronto’s postwar growth strategy focused on the future of cars and highways, which created the suburbs all around Toronto. The automobile, as well as planned infrastructure, allowed cities to grow horizontally (urban sprawl) rather than vertically. In economic terms, the supply of land was able to keep up with the demand for housing. Thus, home prices stayed in line with average household income.

Fast forward to today as more and more people are moving back into the downtown core. Single-family home prices are the highest they’ve ever been in Toronto and average household income has not kept up with the pace. This makes sense from an economic perspective because the supply of land is now limited and has not been able to keep up with the demand for single-family housing. 

There are three reasons for this and they all relate to planning policies that were created after 2006.

  • Greenbelt Plan: This plan protects environmentally sensitive areas and prohibits these areas from being urbanized. Essentially, there is a giant ring around the metropolitan area that can’t be developed.
  • Growth Plan: This plan identifies where growth and intensification can occur. There are 25 urban centres that focus on high levels of intensification. Some key elements of the growth plan include building compact, vibrant and complete communities, as well as optimizing the use of existing and new infrastructure to support growth in a compact and efficient form.
  • The Big Move (part of the Growth Plan): This plan focuses on transportation and higher order transit. Key here is that growth will no longer focus on the automobile. Thus, growth will be concentrated.

Like an embargo that can impact prices of goods, urban planning influences the value of real estate. The Greenbelt Plan limits the supply of land while the Growth Plan and the Big Move dictate how and where development can occur, which limits supply even further. This puts upward pressure on real estate values because demand far outweighs what is available on the market.

Source: Canadian Real Estate Wealth, Julius Tang   23 Sep 2015

Tagged , , ,

Canadian real estate magnate to help house refugees

A Canadian real estate magnate is working to provide temporary housing for Syrian refugees.
Property developers Ian Gillespie, founder of Westbank Developments, is renovating and furnishing a 12-unit property in Vancouver to provide temporary accommodations to refugees awaiting permanent homes in British Columbia, according to a CBC News report.

“For me, it started with what I’m best able to do,” Gillespie told CBC News. “Some can volunteer time, donate money. …We’re in the property business, so it seemed an obvious place to start.

Gillespie said that his company did an audit and found that the building – which was awaiting demolition to make way for a major redevelopment by the company – was sitting empty. He called the Immigrant Services Society and offered a minimum commitment of four months’ use, according to CBC News.

“I don’t even think he finished his sentence before I said yes,” the Immigrant Services Society’s Chris Friesen told CBC News.

Gilliespie, meanwhile, told CBC that he was disappointed by some of the negative reactions to the refugees.

“Some of the dialogue you’re hearing isn’t particularly Canadian. I think a lot of people need to show some leadership and turn the conversation into a positive,” he said. “We had a well-earned reputation for being good citizens. I think we lost some of that and have lost the concept of (all of us) being immigrants. We are one of the most multicultural cities in the world.”

Gillespie told CBC that Canada has a responsibility to help where it can.

And to those who might be fearful, grow up,” he said.

Source: Canadian Real Estate News – Ryan Smith November 23, 2015

Tagged , ,