Are we ready for a revolution? Creating a new future for our Downtowns
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary Rowe [00:00:52] Hi, everyone, I’m Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute, really pleased to have you join us here for a city talk on whether we’re ready for a revolution, what’s the future for downtowns look like? And we’ve got some fabulous folks here to help us get the conversation started. This is still continuing to be a very sobering and challenging moment for people in Canada, particularly people working on urban issues and the future of communities in Canada, it’s Indigenous history month. But as we know, Indigenous challenges are all around us all the time. And this week and last highlighted in visceral, disturbing ways which are going to continue to elevate the systemic barriers that cities have often perpetuated and reinforced to keep us from having truly inclusive and just cities. And so, it’s continues to be a struggle, I think, for lots of folks about trying to come to terms with the tragedy of history, but also just our continued complicity with things that reinforce these patterns. And I should just say off the top too, that I’m in Syracuse, New York, broadcasting from there, which is the traditional territory of the Onondaga Nation, which are the fire keepers of the Haudenosaunee, the Indigenous peoples on whose ancestral lands I happen to reside. My sister lives here. And I’ve come here to be with her for a few weeks while she has some surgery. And I was just sharing with my colleagues that Syracuse is an old industrial city and in the upper New York state had all sorts of challenges before Covid, largely economic around how its economy would recover from being organized in one particular kind of way to becoming more diverse. And even here, where restrictions have been lifted, some of the Covid restrictions have been lifted. All you have to do is walk down those main streets to still realize that we have challenges in cores across North America, not just in Canada, and they are challenged by all sorts of difficulty, but also opportunity. And I know that my colleagues here will join me in talking about what are the sort of seeds of regeneration that we can see in downtowns and how might they recover and incubate new kinds of things. The other thing I just want to acknowledge to London, Ontario, is my hometown and London is deep in grief this week. And that is triggering all sorts of other anxiety and concern for the Muslim population. But other faiths that feel conspicuous and feel unwelcomed and fearful of their legitimate tenancy as urban dwellers in Canadian cities. So, I’m just going to acknowledge that and recognize that we are struggling on multiple fronts here, not just one kind of pandemic, but several others at the same time. So, it’s in that context that we’re going to talk about downtown. And I just want to say, I mean, I’m of a generation. I said to my colleagues, I’m the two of the third generation. I remember when that song came out, my father loved Petula Clark. And I remember the sentiment of that song that when you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown. There was something about downtown and the proximity to people and a sense of experience that something would happen downtown that might not happen anywhere else. And during COVID, we have seen remarkable challenge to downtowns. All of a sudden, office workers weren’t there. Transit wasn’t taking us downtown anymore. There were maybe was no reason to go downtown. Sporting events, culture, all sorts of experiences that you generally would associate with happening in the core weren’t happening. And in fact, what’s happened is we’ve seen a kind of new kind of fissure developing. Without the kinds of diverse mix of people and uses, and in fact more and more downtowns are not seen as safe because there aren’t as many people and there isn’t as much activity. And again, this is something that was starting to happen before Covid. And that’s why some cities around the world have 24/7 night mayors. I think they’re called not nightmares and can’t sleep, meaning evening, the mayor who is who helps make the evening life vibrant in a city. And that was part of what I think the night mayor mandate was about, was enlivening our downtowns on a 24/7 basis. And two anecdotes before we start, one is just that Mayor Daley, the first Mayor Daley, was criticized in years, Mayor Daley of Chicago, about why did he spend so much money on downtowns. And his reply to the critics was that an apple rots from the core. And so, he made a decision that that’s where his investment focus would be. So, I always want to try to remind people that we’re starting at CUI had started with bring back Main Street being a focus on neighbourhood economies and local environments because lots of people were working from home and they became more and more aware of what they needed on their main streets. They’re going to transform. And we then added a couple of months ago, at the beginning of the year, we added on a session to talk about a program, to talk about downtowns, because we think these are the two sides of the same coin. There are main streets in downtown, but also downtown have a unique historic function in different sizes of cities, actually. And so that’s our focus for today. Just remind everybody that we have an active chat here. We encourage you to check in. Tell us where you’re signing it from. I see a number of you already have. We encourage chat on the chat, so please feel free to raise questions. And often you guys answer your own questions on the chat, which is great. Or you can direct questions to the folks on the panels here and I will relay them over. We record the session then we publish the chat, and we publish the transcript. So just remember, what you put up is visible to everybody and benefits everybody. So, let’s just start if we can. You can see that we’ve got a group here that are from across the country and I’m interested to hear their different perspectives. Martine, I’m going to start with you, if I may. Welcome to City Talk and really appreciative of your particular insight on what you think the challenges and opportunities are to downtowns.
Martine August [00:06:54] Hi, thanks so much. It’s really nice to be here and really lovely to see so many people on the participant list, some familiar faces or I guess names. I’m coming to you from Toronto. And today I just want to discuss two things that I think are relevant to downtowns, also relevant more broadly than downtowns. But what’s super relevant to this downtown kind of revitalization conversation. The first of these is financialization. So, in Canada, real estate is increasingly being acquired as a product for financial investors. This is a trend being called financialization in which we’re seeing financial firms like real estate investment trusts (REITs) or asset managers, institutional investors, private equity firms buying up large portfolios of real estate. And what they do with this real estate is they treat it like a financial asset, prioritizing profits for shareholders and executives above their goals. The thing is that cities and homes and workplaces and urban spaces in our cores are not financial assets. And we need to consider other goals when we are envisioning urban cores that we want to have, including goals like affordability, inclusivity, quality workplaces, environmental sustainability. There are so many socially minded goals I think that a lot of us consider. And so, these aren’t the type of things that are prioritized by these firms. In my work, I study housing focusing on the financialization, particularly of multifamily apartment housing and seniors housing. And when it comes to housing, we don’t need financial landlords and other large corporate firms involved at all. Our post-COVID cities and cores should include more affordable homes, socialized ownership of multifamily housing. And then when we look at downtown, cores here we see a lot of office and retail spaces as well, and we need to make sure that when we’re thinking about how do we deal with these spaces, a lot of which have suffered during the pandemic, that we don’t end up using public funds to subsidize and enrich financial investors, through bailouts or subsidies and other types of programs that are just going to end up assisting financial vehicles that own a lot of this real estate. So, these firms prioritize profits, giving them public funds and expecting them to prioritize the public realm or affordability or whatever other socially minded goals we might have. That’s naive. If we want to use public money to pursue these types of goals, it should be spent one hundred percent directly on the spaces that we want and trying to nurture a non-profit and co-op and decommodified spaces and sites for building communities. So that’s one of the things I want to talk about. And then the other is that we’ve seen the impacts of doing things the same way. I think a lot of us today are going to talk about how do we shift away from the status quo. Over the past few decades, the status quo, neoliberal urbanism and neoliberal governance has brought us vast inequality in cities and countries. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and there’s nowhere these this more clearly in our cities than with the rise of encampments. So, of course, homelessness is not new. But we’ve seen in cities across the country during covid the establishment of tent cities, encampments for the homeless in sites that are far more visible than in the past. In Toronto, where I live, many parks have encampments with tents, sometimes 30 to 40 tents, also small shelters. And as cities reopen, we’re going to see the streets are going to be taken over with patios, people from all walks of life, hopefully enjoying urban spaces, and we need to ensure that encampment residents are not pushed aside. In Toronto, what’s happening is that residents of these encampments have been issued eviction notices, they’re living in constant risk of displacement. It’s also common for the city to destroy their belongings, which is very destabilizing. And people are also dying. There were over six thousand overdose deaths in Canada in 2020. So, we need to take all of this really seriously and assist and support people who are living in encampments rather than stigmatizing, criminalizing and displacing or evicting them. So, of course, nobody should be living in a tent in a city park. But evictions are not the answer to help these people. Instead, we need to protect our neighbours in encampments until they can be guaranteed proper housing and not just temporary shelters, but permanent affordable housing, with supports, if necessary. And I think as we work towards is, we also need to be creating a city that’s kinder to all people, including the homeless. So, we need things like benches for people to sit down on rather than benches being removed, water fountains with water, public washrooms for everybody to use. So, I think all levels of government need to be on board with these types of changes. Affordable housing in particular, it needs funding and support from the city, the province and federal governments. And we need to build new affordable housing, acquire existing properties that are affordable, expropriate properties they’re being held vacant or that have been abandoned by speculators and repurpose our city structures and spaces for the social good. So those are my comments and I’m really excited to hear the ideas that others have.
Mary Rowe [00:12:03] Thanks, Martine, and thanks, Susan, for telling me to get that fan out of the shot there. I’m in a different situation now, so I had the backdrops for always different. We were actually saying during the beginning of the soundcheck that there’s something different about this, that we all have access to each other’s personal spaces. And I don’t know what’s going to happen when I just I’m always going to think of Ken Greenberg sitting in that room, you know. And so anyway. But somebody asked Susan asked me to adjust my camera. So, I hope that’s okay that you aren’t being distracted by the fan any longer. Martine, a couple of things. One one that your comments make me think of. One is who owns the city, right? Who owns our downtown? And I think that back to the harkening back, because I’m a child of the 60s, that song was really that the downtown is ours. You know, that’s the question, is it? And how does it how do we make it a downtown for everyone? Years ago, CUI did a series of reports around downtowns being for everyone. And I think maybe we have a moment now to reclaim, as you suggest, and try to wrestle away some of these amenities to be that be more inclusive and back in common use right. To kind of the commons. I guess that’s the question. And the other thing is this notion that you just suggested around financialization that affects housing and it affects all sorts of common spaces and where the question is going to be, I think as we see money flooding into recovery from covid, is there a way for us to ensure that that money is invested in things that are common amenities and not private amenities? Yeah, it’s a big challenge. Okay, Michel, I want to come to you next, if I may, and as I know you’ve got thoughts about the opportunities that are available to us in downtowns, why don’t you give us your perspective as a designer. And then I’ll go Alkarim and then Ken at the end. So, go ahead, Michel.
Michel Lauzon [00:13:48] Okay, thanks for having me. Thank you, Mary. And hello to everyone. I think what we’ve seen in the last years, we’ve seen, and I can speak to what we’ve seen in Montreal our specific experience of the urban environment during covid. And I think we’ve been relatively proactive in the urban realm, which is a good thing. And I think that should be commended. I think the society and stakeholders have come together and the city has manifested some leadership in trying to help retailers, trying to help commercial streets to really liven the downtown core. So, I think that’s been a good thing. I think lessons learnt is that we’ve been mostly adaptive for social distancing, for pandemic, for regulations and stuff like that, which is a short-term perspective. And we had to do it and we did what we could. Some things were a success, and some things were less of a success. But we’ve learnt from it. And I think that we’ve been we’ve done many projects that have been that have been fun or have been playful. I think that it may be maybe it embodies the Montreal Latin, you know, joie de vivre and coming together. So, we’ve seen lots of these temporary parks or temporary spots and places for people to come together, but with social distancing and to congregate. So, I think that’s been the two main trends. You know, we’ve been adaptive, and we’ve been fun and playful. I think the fun and playful side was for, you know, to reassure people, to say that it’s safe to combat fear, to remind us that maybe it looks like a children’s playground. So, we’ve seen lots of colours, lots of swings, lots of things. But I think they haven’t been projecting too far in the future. So, I think, you know, we’ve been adapting the short term. And I think we have to ask ourselves why? What do we want to do? I think we lack for now and Montreal maybe elsewhere, we lack a compelling narrative on our downtown. Why the Simon Sinek question? Why, why, why? What makes downtowns relevant? What makes them essential to our future? And I think we need to ourselves and we also need to communicate about the why. Urban living is the dominant form of human habitation community now in the world. So, we know its above 50 percent and we know that in the future, urban living is going to become more prevalent. So, we are now and going forward a more urban species than before. So, and the trend is augmenting. Even with covid, we’re still remaining urban. I think that as an ecological footprint of a nine to ten billion people, I think we absolutely need for our survival to be living in urban, dense environments. I think that urban dense environments have other qualities. I think that living together, I think in a downtown makes us more tolerant. I think it helps being more inclusive, living together, adapting. I think the past year we’ve been isolated. Maybe we’ve lost a bit of that gregarious of being together and relating and coming together. I think that it hasn’t helped us to come together. So, I think that downtown has a role to play of us living together. So, if we come back to Martine’s point of the developers, I think that we really need we need to reconnect with a civic a bit of a civic responsibility for our developers. I think they have it. But I think that I think that I don’t see it as a zero-sum game. I don’t see that contributing to the greater good in a project. I don’t necessarily believe that it costs more or that you’ll make less profits or there aren’t many disadvantages. We’ve done many projects where if you reflect on your project outside the dotted line. And you think about the externalities of your project on its immediate environment, on a neighbourhood of users, and if you have empathy and you introduce that in your way of designing the city or designing urban ensembles or even single buildings, I think that you can bring to the table elements that will create greater value for everyone. And that, in the end, is a good thing for the developer because, you know, his project will gain more acceptability. His project will have in the long term, greater value. And I think it’s just being more efficient. You need to be creative to be able to create those lever effects where you create positive externalities for the community. It could be as simple as, you know, blowing wall with the famous tennis court lying there and people play tennis or basketball. That’s very simple, but it could be more engaging than that, you know, giving some space to do a park pedestrianizing certain areas. I think that we can’t just count on our public institutions and the city to achieve the city that we want to see this compelling, this inclusiveness, this city of the future. I think that private the private sector has a real role to play. I think if I look at the Quebec or the Montreal experience, maybe this is an angle that where we struggle, where we struggle more, is how to how to leverage the private sectors, even willingness to achieve what I’ve just talked about. There is a willingness, but there’s a discomfort on how to work together to get to the results. So, there’s because of all kinds of reasons, there’s that challenge
Mary Rowe [00:20:00] There’s a couple of things that are maybe a little counterintuitive that you make me think of. One is, you know, interventions don’t have to be big. They can be quite modest. Right. As you say, a swing set, something that enlivens the street. I mean, I know I know all of us have these anecdotes about, you know, chalk kids putting chalk on the ground and all of a sudden, they create a sense of place by doing it. But if you think of cities as incubators of spontaneity and of self-organization, I suspect this isn’t a popular comment I’m going to make. But I’m interested about encampments actually being a reflection of spontaneous organization. And Martine, I hear you and your concern about how the authorities just clamp down on encampments and before you know it, it’s something to be fearful of as opposed to, you know, in other cultures, in other parts of the world, informal housing and informal transportation actually become part of the solution. And then ultimately you find ways to create the support systems around them so that they’re safe. And I know that in the homeless community, as I suggested, this is a controversial notion. And it’s and it’s also in the municipal community. Encampments are seen as you suggest that there’s something that people have to disband as opposed to us learning from them and saying, what is it about an encampment that draws people versus a hostel or something else? You know what I mean? Like, I think that I’m not trying to idealize any of it, but I’m just suggesting what Michel was suggesting around us, understanding spontaneity and understanding that solutions could be granular. And so, I appreciate that, you know, years ago we’re going to come back to encampments, Martine. Don’t think we’re losing because we want, we’ll come back to it. But Michel, do you remember in Montreal? I was living in New York at the time and I came up to see it. Somebody did an art installation of Swing’s. Do you remember this? It was quite a spectacle. And there were you remember, and you used to anybody else go to Montreal during the spare time? And you were on the swing set. And as you propelled yourself, it created a sound and then somebody got on the swing next to you and it created another sound. It was a wonderful, wonderful project that came out of Montreal. And I think they brought to New York and it had a very modest footprint, but it created that sort of reflection of something spontaneous. And let’s talk about the challenge that you’re proposing to developers and let’s Alkarim. You can just represent the sector all alone Alkarim, talk to us about this because you are a developer and you are out in Calgary, so take it away, man. Tell us, how do we get your sector to get with the program, as Michelle was suggesting?
Alkarim Devani [00:22:33] I was going to ask if you could just skip me as the evil developer with their own merits. You know what? It’s really, I’m grateful to be here and be a part of these conversations, because it’s not often that developers get to engage on forums with architects and planners. And personally, to me, it is very important. I’ve learnt a tremendous amount over my career in the last 15 years working within established neighbourhoods and redevelopment areas. And I’ve started to take a really keen interest into kind of the mixed market, affordable housing, how we start to build more equitable communities, Calgary just tried to pass what was the guidebook for great communities, which was really about making our inner cities more accessible and providing more housing choices. And ultimately, we had hundreds of people come out and feel like the R1 residential, single family home district was threatened. And so, this thing didn’t get passed in the merit that it was initially intended for, and they spent years engaging on it. But there was this overwhelming fear of what are you bringing to my neighbourhood and who are you bringing to my neighbourhood and who is preserving the rights of the single family R1 kind of Mount Royal Heritage home. Who’s doing that for us? And so, it’s the one thing I think I’ve learnt is polarities are very, very ineffective in having these discussions and whether it’s urban, suburban, whether it’s the financialization of developers versus the intent of the public. And I think Michel said it really well, is we need to bring these people together in order to kind of see the best outcomes come to light. Covid has been very difficult. And I’m not going to I don’t want to kind of allude to the fact that it’s been interesting here, in Calgary. I understand many lives have been lost. It’s been very, very challenging. But for Calgary, it’s actually been this amazing opportunity because not only was our downtown core hollowed out from the oil and gas sector essentially retracting and saying, okay, wow, we’ve lost our entire property financial tax base, like we have a huge tax issue now. And so covid came on top of that and said, you have a 30 percent vacancy now you have a 60 percent vacancy. And now we’re challenging the idea of whether or not people ever return to the core as they once were. And so, our downtown, I feel like, was built as a as really a central business district. It wasn’t really built for people walkability of urban scape. And so, I think what Covid has done for us here is it said we need to fix this, and we need to fix it in a very meaningful way. And so that recently announced four hundred and fifty million dollars of investment going into our downtown and being very, thoughtful about what where does that go? greenscape, urban arts, affordability, because to Martine’s point eighty plus percent of downtown Calgary is owned by the pension funds and it’s owned by the REITs. And what they’ve kind of said is we’re happy to sit back and keep our buildings empty and pay this low tax base because we don’t know if anyone’s ever coming back. And so, they kind of have their backs up against the shoulder saying we’re not willing to come to the table with any kind of capital dollars. And I’m speaking as a generalist here because there are some firms like Aspen who have done an incredible job at trying to innovate and bring back these tech communities as working really hard on what is our Stephen Avenue, our main street of our downtown look like. And we have a Yan Gael who’s working on some of the planning merits there. But ultimately, like for me, the frustration that I have is kind of what Martine shared is there’s this idea that the development institution is egregious, and they don’t want to find a win win. And I think that’s the issue is, you know, I think there is a win win. And oftentimes these non for profits or affordable groups don’t have the resources that they need in order to deliver what they’re looking for. And so, you think about the federal government saying, hey, we have billions of dollars that we want to flow into affordable housing, and then you go to these affordable housing groups and they’re like, we’re not developers. Like we don’t know how to resource this accordingly. And so, the reality is, is I think there is a way to merge these things together. And I think there is an opportunity to bring mixed market, to bring kind of the redevelopment of these towers that are sitting empty for us and revitalization of them. But I think it’s going to take a combined effort. I agree with Martine in the arena discussion in Calgary has been polarizing because it’s like, are we going to give a hockey team two hundred and fifty million dollars to build a new arena? What is the community benefit? What is the benefit as a public person to have that arena? And I grew up in and in a part of Calgary where I didn’t go to the downtown until, I was 16, like my parents didn’t take me. It wasn’t culturally a part of my life. I didn’t go to a Flames game until I was like 18. And so, when you think about those public dollars going into those investments, I also have those same concerns. But I think we need to be very careful about creating generalizations around the industry and what we’re hoping for, because I do believe we all want the same outcome, and we have to believe people are good people generally is how I feel. And so, it’s really about being in the middle, which I think where we’ll find true innovation. And so, I’m excited about Calgary’s downtown and I do believe these things will come back. And I’m excited that people are starting to think about downtowns as spaces for people, how we live and interact at the ground level rather than how we work on the fiftieth level. And so, I’m truly excited about the opportunities here and what covid it’s kind of brought to fruition.
Mary Rowe [00:28:21] That’s interesting, the idea that you’d actually reground downtown. I mean, prior to Covid, when we were in Calgary is everybody not everybody, but lots of people in city talk know that we do something called CUI local. And we were in Calgary at the end of last year. In fact, we have a report coming out next week on some of our CUI local programs where we go into a city and we’re there for a week, in fact that’s how we first met Alkarim and we meet with all sorts of stakeholders to hear what the priorities are in that city. Next week we’re in Windsor and the reports on Calgary in Edmonton are coming out in conjunction with our arrival in Windsor. But prior to covid, you had four hundred empty office floors in Calgary. The mayor made it really clear to me and he said, we’ve got to try to reimagine this piece. And when Martine mentioned the idea of nationalization and said that this has become safe havens for what I call headless capital. So, money that doesn’t even know where it is, you know, the stewards of those funds don’t they’ve never even been in downtown Calgary, but they might have an ownership there. And in New York City where I used to live, we talked about all these top floors being basically a safety deposit boxes in the sky. And they had absolutely no connection at all to community. They had no awareness of community. It was really detached capital. So, Ken I’m going to come to you next. But I think Alkarim has raised some interesting things. And to sort of counter some of what you said, Martine, about what how do we actually move forward and is there a way to collectively move forward? Okay, Ken, over to you as a designer and working in a bunch of different places. What’s your perspective on whether we can get a revolution or not? And what’s happening downtowns.
Ken Greenberg [00:29:54] Thanks Mary, revolution is a strong word, but certainly a powerful evolution. And I just want to start with something that you and I have talked about, which is Covid as a particle accelerator, revealing things. And so first of all, what do we mean when we say downtown? And if I take Toronto, I think there are two different worlds. One is the financial district, which is a hundred acres of a monoculture of big office towers, which drop down to an occupancy rate of four percent and is dead as a doornail. The other version of downtown is Yonge Street, where there was live music, the great department stores, shopping, people watching, you know, all of those attributes of urban life that we all love. And I think what covid has revealed is that the CBD planning term of art, the central business district, is obsolete. It’s a dead duck. On the other hand, the lively downtown where people get together and do all those playful things that Michel was talking about and have fun and enjoy each other’s company is making a comeback and will come back even more forcefully. So, in Toronto, we finally got around to saying we’re going to take out two lanes of traffic on Young Street through the downtown. We’re going to widen the sidewalks. We’re going to make it safe for pedestrians, for cyclists, all the good lessons learnt. And I think the central business district, the financial district, more painfully in a way that’s more difficult, is going to go through perhaps a revolution. And the revolution that I’m predicting is that those office towers are going to be hacked. A lot of them will turn into mixed use, including residential, including cultural, institutional uses, because they will otherwise sit empty and eventually the REITs are going to get tired of sitting on empty real estate. The city’s chief planner is already talking about new uses for some of those towers. I know some of the owners are talking about new uses for some of those towers. They make great apartments. They have high ceilings. Some of those really sterile granite plazas are going to sprout playgrounds. We’ve seen that happen in lower Manhattan with the conversion of office buildings with now lower Manhattan becoming a neighbourhood. So that’s at that end. At the other end of that paradigm, we had bedroom dormitories throughout the region where people commuted 500,000 of them, in fact, to that central business district, five days a week, nine to five coming on commuter rail or highways. And that really harkens back to another era. I think of all those movies we saw from the 40s with all the men in hats, and they were all men getting off the commuter trains in places like Grand Central Station and the women as homemakers. So, there was a real gender thing going on in terms of social equity with that version of the city. I think that’s being challenged. And I think what we’re going to see is at the other end and where the bedroom dormitories were in the suburbs, we’re going to also see a mix with a lot more employment that used to be all located in the one financial district spreading out through all the region, giving us lively new neighbourhoods, new districts where people can live and work closer to home, where the combination of working online and working in person is going to happen much more successfully. So altogether, I see some very salutary changes coming out of this exposure to Covid.
Mary Rowe [00:34:13] Thanks Ken, ever be optimistic. I Just want to encourage people who are on the chat to change your settings to panelists and attendees. Otherwise, your comments just come to the five of us, which is nice. We’re happy to see them, but I think everyone should see what you’re saying. So, switch your settings, please. In terms of that particular description that you just gave Ken, you know people often talk about how to be the most urbanized country in the world, but in fact, it’s the most suburbanized country because most people actually live in the suburbs. And the question, I guess, part of we had a bit of a push back when we started restoring the core, because, Michel, as you just suggested, the big question is why? You know, why do we need downtowns? And there are people, as we all know, who flooded into the discourse when the pandemic started and said, that’s it. End the city, done, we don’t need to go downtown anymore. And you’re just suggesting, Ken, that we could see a redistribution perhaps. I mean, planners have been saying for years we need more employment in other districts than you guys started to put plans together. It didn’t actually happen in that way. It’s still congregated. So, what do we think? Do we think that the congregation of capital is just going to continue to push us into those central areas? Martine, what do you how are you optimistic about what? Might happen, or do you feel there have to vary. If so, what are the specific interventions that you’d be proposing to make sure that the downtowns become more of what you think they should become? Martine, I’m going to start with you.
Martine August [00:35:44] One of the things that we did see in the post-war period was this shift of capital from the central cities to the suburbs, right. And then starting around the 70s, you start to see capital shift back. This is a classic pattern of gentrification. And so, you often have this disconnect between the amount that you can be making from a certain place, the potential amount and the amount that you are making. And so, whenever you see devaluation, that’s just the other side of the coin for re-evaluation later in time. So, this is like the classic pattern of uneven urban development that urban geographers have described. So, I think that when you see devaluation in urban centers of certain types of real estate, you’re really priming that area for redevelopment but opportunistic capital industry vultures swooping in in a way.
Mary Rowe [00:36:36] Yeah, I mean, Bruce Katz, who’s America’s great economist, trying to advocate for the revival of urban centers, he says he calls it parasitic capital. So, what do you see then as the interventions to prevent that? Because the other anecdotes we would have and I wonder if Calgary is on the verge of this, is that if things get devalued, it may in fact mean that it’s been more possible for conversion. Is it more possible that artists and not for profits in the lower Manhattan antidote that Ken relayed, when the city of New York after 9/11 decided to make lower Manhattan a mixed neighbourhood to lots of criticism? It was actually artists and non-profits that first went into that space. So, do you think, Martin, it’s possible that we could see that it wouldn’t necessarily be just swooped in by parasitic capital, but it could be actually intentional capital with intentional uses?
Martine August [00:37:29] Sure. I think what you would need I mean, the title of this is Revolution. So, we’re thinking of maybe very transformative radical changes in the way that we think about how our cities are operated. If you have buildings that are being left empty by lazy landlords and capitalists who are going to wait back until they can make money while those should be acquired by the city and the city can run them. I mean, I think it’s interesting to hear Alkarim describing how 80 percent of downtown Calgary is owned by these financial firms who are sitting back and abandoning the city in its time of need. I don’t see why we would count on these types of firms to be great partners in the revitalization of a city.
Mary Rowe [00:38:06] You’re not you’re not too sad about that. You’re saying let them go.
Martine August [00:38:11] I’ll also say that we don’t have to speculate on what their goals are. They put their objectives in their documents. Right. And those objectives are always clear cut. It’s to raise the net asset value of the REIT, if we’re looking at publicly traded REITs and to give regular dividends to the shareholders. And those are the priorities. Those are the objectives. And they come above everything else. So, to believe that you’re going to have a great partner who is going to give up some of that profit. That’s not going to happen. We’ve seen how these types of firms have acted during covid. They pay out dividends to their shareholders while they’re denying PPE to workers in long term care homes. So, to me, I think that there could be a too charitable of an attitude towards these financial firms. And Covid has really opened our eyes on this in the way that these firms are extracting value from our communities and they’re in the real estate in our communities from what they can take from it, not what they can contribute. And we want partners and firms that will contribute to creating a better social space going forward.
Mary Rowe [00:39:11] So one of the things that I’ve wondered about with Main Street’s remembering these two sides of the coin, is whether we will ultimately need to go to community land trust, ownership of Main Street retail, back to the regrounding. That the only way that we’re going to be able to actually prevent the main street, the parasitic version of that would be that only high-end coffee shops and chain restaurants and drugstores can locate on those places. Right. So, the question is, how do you keep the mom and pop? How do you keep the granular? And there would be a particular intervention, Al when you hear Martine raised this question that you can’t really trust capital, basically. What’s your counter to that? Because, I mean, the old story, some of us do know decent REIT heads. I mean, they’re not that many of them potentially. But how do you counter Martine’s distrust for the structure that she feels just ultimately will be a negative one?
Alkarim Devani [00:40:09] Well, I don’t know if they’re I necessarily would counter that mentality. What I would say, though, is like there is a profound level of access to information technology and accountability that we as people, we as leaders and we as public can start to hold these financial institutions to that they’ve never, ever experienced before in the past. Companies don’t want to be on the front page of the newspaper as a company who has abandoned the city, who has left their building sitting and is not willing to partake in what redevelopment or what is good for people. And so, I think there is this new movement of ESG, and I do think these firms are starting to be concerned about the reputational risk and how they contribute to cities. And I think we will start to see who will rise to the top and who may not. But I think, again, like I said, the polarity of it is, I think, really harmful. Like, I don’t think it’s about pointing fingers. I think it’s about holding them accountable and bringing them to the table to find out what resolution is and what the future could potentially look like. I’m not a pension fund. I’m not a REIT head. And I have conversations with those folks all the time because obviously, like debt capital is one of the ways in order for us to actually see, you know, the main street get built. But, Mary, you just brought up like maybe some of those spaces are held for mom and pops, or maybe there’s affordable rent rates that are held or maybe there’s affordable lease rates that are held. Those are the type of innovative thoughts that I think we need to bring to the table and mechanisms that we can put in place to kind of see change take place. The fear that I have about like leave them the way they are or let’s buy them back. I don’t think the city has the capital oftentimes to buy that back. But the thing that I get nervous about is like they’re sitting on these things is one hundred-to-five-hundred-year lenses, like they’re not in a hurry to fix this problem. And so how do we now encourage them to fix this problem? And I’m not saying write them checks, but it’s like bringing them to the table as a key stakeholder to say this is what we’re doing. We need you to be at the table because it’s going to be pivotal for us to get to the outcome that we’re hoping to achieve.
Mary Rowe [00:42:28] There’s a couple of things that you mentioned there. One is this notion of transparency. So, can we insist on new rules of transparency so that we can at least hold accountable the kind of predatory behaviour that you’re describing that we know exists and that notion of speculation and sitting on stuff? You know, I lived in New York City for a number of years, and we had it all over New York City. We’re a bit where a retail space would just sit empty for four years so that the owner was speculating and it’s just crazy, it kills the street. So that would be one thing. The second thing would be what I think you’re suggesting is are their mechanisms? Are there regulations? Are there bylaw steps? Come on in the chat folks, give us some suggestions about what are the tangible acts that could take place that would catalyze this kind of diversification of tenancy like one I will throw out is, and I know this is being considered and I think it’s true in the UK, that governments can’t when they want to dispose of a property, there are steps that they have to go through to satisfy that there isn’t another public use either within the department they are in or the level of government they’re in, or then they have to go to another level government and they have to do all these things have to happen before it actually goes into the private markets? Are there other measures we could be taking, like in Quebec you guys have thought about this a lot? Are there other measures we could be taking to ensure a diverse owner mix in downtown on Main Streets? What do you think about this?
Michel Lauzon [00:43:56] Well, I would say that’s a very good point. And I think without being too granular, I think we need to focus also on solutions. And how do we make this happen in the short term? I think that you mentioned what I would verbalize as enlightened procurement or disposal of not disposal, but the sale of sites like a city can intervene. That’s a place that the city can intervene. And we’re a finalist on an international competition for the C40. I don’t know if you know this, but it’s called C40 Reinventing Cities. And it’s the association of cities across most of Europe, but some in Asia, some in North Africa and some of US, some in Canada. And the idea is to have a city to adhere to an enlightened sales process for a site, for a city owned site. So, they say we won’t sell necessarily to the highest bidder. So, we’ll sell based on these criteria. How does it contribute to the community? That’s one thing, how is it and it’s very ambitious because then it’s net zero, how can the building or the ensemble become net zero? So that’s another thing which is very important. And then the price is, of course, important, but it’s based on if it is a good architectural and urban integration project. So, these three criteria, kind of way out that the question of how much you’re offering for the site, so I think this is a very practical and tangible way that cities could do is revise their procurement process for projects. And that’s what I think also that, you know, that the Covid crisis has shown that our downtowns aren’t that resilient. And the reason why they’re not resilient, in my opinion, is that they’re over specialized. So, I think that the days of specialized zoning saying this is an office tower and this is industrial, and they’re separate, and they’re siloed, I think specialized zoning is a bit outdated. So, I think that we need to move more towards a more flexible zoning framework that allows for more than mixed use, mixed hybrid uses together in the same building. It’s complicated to make it work and to authorize this, but I think we need to move towards there. We need to move towards more micro zoning. To avoid the whole district, that’s the use in this whole district, we need to be open to micro zoning. I think also moving from we like to think that buildings should be designed as platforms or as systems rather than shapes and uses because uses they change; they are not very resilient. Once you know there’s no more office, then what do you do with your building? So, I think a more purpose driven zoning could make sense rather than use driven zoning. I know this is a change of paradigm.
Mary Rowe [00:46:55] No, no, that’s okay. Spoken like a true architect and so, Ken, you can step back in because we’ve already had somebody on the panel say, why don’t we have a planner on the panel? Someone in the chat is asking. So, this is the yin yang of who guides these decisions? Planners, designers, zoning, no zoning. Do you want to just step into this for a minute? Ken and comment based on your experience trying to push zoning for many years? Thoughts.
Ken Greenberg [00:47:23] So I’m going to pick up on Michel’s last comment about hybridity…
Mary Rowe [00:47:29] Can you define hybridity for people that don’t have a…
Ken Greenberg [00:47:33] Buildings that serve multiple purposes, neighbourhoods that serve multiple purposes, but in particular buildings, which is something new. And to answer to your last question, I think good ideas can come from all sides of the table. From the for-profit sector, from the not-for-profit sector, from government, and we shouldn’t have the idea that any one group has a monopoly on good ideas. So, I’m going to give you an example. I’m currently working on a project in Cambridge near the MIT campus, where one of these evil developers, Alkarim, has specialized in life science labs, is building into the base of that building a community based performing arts center. This is a combination that is unique in the world, it has never happened. It’s being done with the full participation of a whole range of community groups in and around Cambridge. And it’s part of a whole interesting move away from the specialization. This was not imposed by the city. It was really the community and the developer got together and are making this happen, which is really interesting. I think cities have an incredible capacity to learn. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes we make mistakes. But I’m going to point to a bullet I think we’re dodging in Toronto right now. We have an area called East Harbour, which is a 38 acre site on the on the eastern shoulder of downtown, where we were poised to recreate the financial district of King and Bay, with a monoculture of office buildings for 50,000 new well-paid new economy employees and not one single person living, oddly enough, the province of Ontario, which I have many problems with under the current administration and the developer in this case are pushing for mixed use and are having to persuade the city, which was hanging on to its obsolete obsession with single use zoning. So again, my point that things can come from different sides of the table. But I think this idea and Martine, I’m going to go to your point about social equity of making equity in all its forms, part of everything we do. So, part of that is who is downtown for Mary Rowe one of your original questions? Well, it’s got to be for people of all ages, of all incomes, for families with kids who are increasingly seeing people raising their families, living in vertical neighbourhoods. What does that mean? It means day-care. It means schools. It means playgrounds. It means community and recreation centers. It means finding innovative ways of getting that fine grained retail. Now, here’s an idea that’s really interesting in city place, which I’m looking at out my window on one of the main streets, there is a row of tiny live-work units where people live above the stores and they have their own micro businesses which could never afford to pay full retail rents. And they provide professional services, everything from barber shops to little cafes to filling out your taxes, to making your clothes. Really interesting, innovative physical design idea that’s enabling that to happen. My final point and I want to pick up on one of Michel’s points is about playfulness. And we at the Bentway, which is one of our great projects, downtown that I’m working on, are just introducing our opening from covid is all about kids play not just in the Bentway, but all through the neighbourhoods. And you’ll be pleased to know that one of our opening acts is a remarkable thing called walk walk dance, which people will visit. So, I think that element of spontaneity, of playfulness, of magical, one-of-a-kind things in downtowns as one of the kind of places is something, we shouldn’t lose sight of.
Mary Rowe [00:52:13] That’s wonderful. And thank you for those thank you for people who’ve been putting into the chat these references to catch up with us. Thanks. Here’s the dilemma, though Ken, think about it. If you were coming off an office building in a Montreal, you’re coming out of an office building in Calgary or in Toronto, it would prior to Covid. It would be predominately white people you’d be seeing. And I’m really struck, again, I’m in an American city. I spent 15 years working in American cities. It’s a very different picture in American cities, much more diverse, much more visible presence of BIPOC. And I’m curious about this, whether or not we’re going to see this fundamentally change because we are the most diverse country, and yet we don’t see it in the downtown CBD. So, we lack diversity of every kind. Really. We don’t have diversity of use. We don’t have a diversity of user. And are we going to see some kind of radical shift? And that may take particular interventions to support black business, to support Indigenous led business, to support immigrant business. And anybody want to weigh in on this, in terms of are we going to be able to find the downtown to become a more complete neighbourhood on every scale.
Ken Greenberg [00:53:22] So Mary, if I can just go back to my point by what do you mean when you see downtown, if you go to Canoe Landing Park, which is right downtown in the heart of city place and sit in…
Mary Rowe [00:53:34] In Toronto, just remember, we’re national here.
Ken Greenberg [00:53:37] The population looks like are over 50 percent visible minorities, over 50 percent of people born in another country. And you look at all the people playing pickup soccer, the kids in the playground, people doing all manner of things. It is as diverse as it possibly can be.
Mary Rowe [00:53:57] So are you saying basically don’t worry about the CBD?
Ken Greenberg [00:54:03] I am not saying don’t worry. I’m saying that hundred acres, which is the last refuge of that idea of the specialized monoculture, has to undergo radical surgery. The moment you get away from that hundred acres on all sides, it starts to be more lively, more innovative, more mixed and more diverse. And the hundred acres is a throwback to another era.
Mary Rowe [00:54:31] Every city is going to have one hundred acre throw back and we’ll just put all the statues of Egerton Ryerson in those places. Okay, the closing comments for everybody. Can I just have each of you throw out something in terms of, you know, if a revolution is possible, give us something tangible that you think we should be focusing our advocacy on that needs to change to make that revolution possible. First to you, Martine.
Martine August [00:54:55] Yeah, I’ll just say that I think we could enter a grand era where we try something truly innovative, which is to have much, much more publicly funded housing. This is something we have not tried. We tried it a bit in the post-war period and we got lots and lots of public housing built. And that’s some of the only remaining affordable housing that we have in a lot of these downtown cities that just speaking to the previous discussion are gentrified. Right in the city of Toronto we’ve got the suburbanization of racialized poverty as people who are lower income, racialized and immigrant households being pushed further and further away from the core.
Mary Rowe [00:55:32] So you would double down on housing in the downtown?
Martine August [00:55:35] Yeah, a meaningful investment, because we’ve had like years and years of public private partnerships and public development of things. I’m not seeing inequality going down. I’m seeing it getting worse. So, I think we should innovate with a broad new public purpose and a lot more resourcing towards that.
Mary Rowe [00:55:50] And really make downtowns for people and provide housing, public housing so that you’d have a mix. Okay, I’m hoping on the chat people will throw in what do they think the one thing is. Thanks, Martine. Al, what would your one thing be?
Alkarim Devani [00:56:04] I don’t know if I have one thing, but just on Martine’s point, Calgary Housing Corporation just put out a release saying one hundred percent of their units are unlivable in Calgary. So, they have fifteen thousand units in the City of Calgary. And they did a survey, and one hundred percent of their units came back as generally unlivable. And so, the public sector housing management is something I get really nervous about because I feel like those people have a right to a certain standard of housing. And I really believe there’s a private sector key there. The green line was mentioned here, and I didn’t talk about transit, but I think accessibility to our cores is really important. And I think making those places, destinations that draw in those cultures, those different people, the arts, and I think our downtowns have to be about people at the ground level and we have to bring them there for a different reason than we ever used to. And I think that’s what will change everything. And to Ken’s point, like we need people living in our cores inside of those hundred acres and same with our Calgary downtowns, we need to start seeing those buildings being revitalized. And I think both private and public will need to play an important key role to achieve it.
Mary Rowe [00:57:10] So ground up urbanism back to that and the notion of public and private, I think probably to interpret what Martine is calling for, she’s saying public housing that’s properly invested in actually has adequate resources to operate, which has always been the dilemma in Canada. We, the governments get involved in the creation of the darn things and then they step out. So that can’t happen. It’s got to be sustained public investment both in transit and in housing. Michel, last thing from you. What would the one thing be that you’d focus on or advocate for?
Michel Lauzon [00:57:38] Okay, hard to target only one. Let me say major insight in the last year. I mean, I saw this this morning. We’re publishing a report to help the commercial streets of Montreal and it’s just about to be published. One of the great insights that we saw is that 60 percent of users of retail streets or mixed-use streets have a disability. Sixty percent. Either cognitive or physical or a language barrier, which makes our environment very exclusive when we think about it. So, I think one of the challenges and call to action I would give to designers and architects and planners and developers is to be more inclusive. That are environments, yes to disability’s, you know, we’ve for wheelchair access we’ve done a great deal of work and I think it’s much better than it was. And we’ve made a lot of progress. But I think that we need to be inclusive to diversity also in Quebec, we see it in language. We need to you know; it needs to be more intuitive, more economic, more inclusive, better integrated. So, I think this is a call to action
Mary Rowe [00:58:48] I’m going to stop you there and go to Ken, and you’re going to keep your profession busy. Let’s hope they’re listening to you, Michel. Last word to you Ken, really 10 seconds. What do you get?
Ken Greenberg [00:58:57] You know, the one word will come from our mentor, Jane Jacobs, which is diversity. Diversity in every sense that Michel was talking about, diversity of people, of incomes, of ages, of uses, the importance of public space, which we haven’t talked about enough. Covid has just shown that people are desperate to be able to be together in public space. We have in most of our downtowns not enough. And so really that has emerged as a major need. But I think if you apply that lens to everything we’re doing, so I’m going to make a pitch for a chord not a single note that you really have to look at all of those things together. They’re mutually reinforcing.
Mary Rowe [00:59:44] Got it. Thank you, guys. Listen a great session. Next week we’re in Windsor, as I said, CUI local. So, we’ll be broadcasting from Windsor. There’s lots of sessions that we hope you’ll come into listen to. We’ll also be releasing those local reports from Edmonton and Calgary. And we have a CityTalk next week, a slightly different time because we’re coming out of Calgary and Edmonton with the mayors from both. So, thanks, folks, for coming on and thanks for such interesting comments in the chat. We really appreciate it. And we’re looking forward to continuing this conversation because it’s only the beginning of the revolution to reimagine a different kind of downtown and different kinds of cores. So, thanks, everybody, for joining us. And we’ll see you next week for CityTalk, everyone. Thanks, everybody.
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From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://canurb.org/citytalk
00:32:28 Canadian Urban Institute: Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments. Attendees: where are you tuning in from today?
00:33:59 Jordan Erasmus: Toronto
00:34:09 Erin Waite: Calgary
00:34:15 Emily McGirr: Ottawa
00:34:49 Michelle Havens: Brantford, Ontario
00:35:28 Jessica Wilczak: London, Ontario, the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak and Attawandaron peoples
00:37:17 Diego Almaraz: Hi from what is known today as Waterloo, ON – land that was granted to the Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations of the Grand River, and are within the territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples.
00:37:26 Frank Murphy: Good morning from Nanaimo.
00:38:10 Lisa Landrum: Treaty One Territory, original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and homeland of the Métis Nation (Winnipeg)
00:38:10 Canadian Urban Institute: Connect with our panel: Martine August, Assistant Professor of Planning, University of Waterloo @Martine_August Alkarim Devani, Co-founder, RNDSQR & Co-founder & CSO, CHROMA @DevaniAlkarim https://www.linkedin.com/in/alkarim-devani-45964a24/ Ken Greenberg, Principal, Greenberg Consultants Inc. @KGreenbergTO https://www.linkedin.com/in/ken-greenberg-a8066b/ Michel Lauzon, President and CEO, Laab Collective @MLauzon_LAAB https://www.linkedin.com/in/michellauzon/
00:41:32 Angela Kiu: Greetings from Calgary!!
00:54:10 Lisa Landrum: Musical Swings: https://www.dailytouslesjours.com/en/work/musical-swings
00:55:30 Lisa Cavicchia: Article about the Calgary guidebook: https://www.sprawlalberta.com/calgary-guidebook-for-great-communities
00:55:57 Lisa Landrum: I swung by once – would be great for Winnipeg
00:57:42 Dunja Lukic: Similar swing idea at the Nobel Lights festival in Stockholm this past winter: https://nobelweeklights.se/installation/sense-light-swing/?lang=en
01:03:09 Angela Kiu: @ken greenberg – totally agree about CBD being obsolete today … 🙂
01:05:13 Angela Kiu: For anywhere to be vibrant 24/7 – we must have residents, mix of uses … amenities to enjoy, hang out. More readily from work to living out our lives, lots of nature and arts!! For all ages!
01:05:25 Angela Kiu: Move readily …
01:05:45 Susan Fletcher: One of the last really social things I did in 2020 was volunteering for the Alszheimer Society Walk for Memories through a couple of kilometers of Toronto’s deserted underground city on a Saturday in February. All those stores, that relied on the people in the offices.
01:06:55 C Kagan: What happened to cities being for people to live, work and play?
01:07:07 Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
01:08:13 ruth mora: But also COVID was a game changer. The ‘needs’ chaged, ergo the spatial needs….and our version of city have to change to adapt.
01:08:16 Laurel Davies Snyder: Great concept @MaryRowe “Reground Downtown” – works on many levels and includes need to address climate crisis by reintegrating natural world into our urban areas.
01:09:23 C Kagan: We really need that regrounding
01:10:05 C Kagan: How can more citizens get involved in taking back our cities?
01:11:20 Susan Fletcher: Main streets only chain stores, etc. AND cannabis stores!!
01:13:52 Laurel Davies Snyder: The “Win This Space” initiative used by many BIAs is an example of this type of thing (on a very small scale)
01:14:17 Angela Kiu: Suggestions – optimize on the Green Line development to initiate redevelopment/revitalization downtown.
01:14:25 ruth mora: Transparency and visibility of actions (speed), so change happens
01:14:35 Martine August: rent control
01:14:37 Laurel Davies Snyder: https://www.ruralontarioinstitute.ca/uploads/userfiles/files/4_0%20Win%20This%20Space.pdf
01:15:01 Angela Kiu: See Chicago’s ETOD Plan … which saw a great Community Trust Agency set up – check it out!!
01:15:07 C Kagan: Some of the issue is the tension between short term and long term
planning. It would be so helpful if there was a city planner on the panel.
01:15:24 ruth mora: One of the great outcomes of COVIDwas for examples, bike lanes….40km added in a very short time… positive change fast…
01:16:27 Astra Burka: Greetings from Astra Burka Toronto -Great we are having the conversation…..How can we make all the talk turn into opportunities and action? We should be thinking of Amsterdam Donut Economy as a solution and thinking in circular rather than linear economy to star the ball rolling.
01:17:16 Angela Kiu: Look at YYC’s Green Line website -for procurements, etc … https://www.calgary.ca/transportation/green-line.html
01:19:08 Michael Roschlau: The upcoming vacancy of a central and highly valuable parcel of land in Toronto – two entire city blocks north-west of Bay & Dundas that has occupied the intercity bus terminal – presents a great opportunity to test some of these concepts.
01:20:23 Angela Kiu: Hybridity = adaptable, flexibility, sustainable built form – for evolving uses through the years, decades, centuries … see many of great examples in Europe!!
01:20:28 ruth mora: Collaboration is key
01:22:13 Angela Kiu: Mixed-uses district in YYC is a great inclusive use zone.
01:24:08 Lisa Landrum: https://www.dailytouslesjours.com/en/work/walk-walk-dance
01:27:38 Jessica Wilczak: Yes to public housing! Another issue that Covid has really amplified.
01:28:55 Angela Kiu: @martine august – hear! hear! hear! YES to all devt to include same number of affordable DUs to be incorporated in the new development – and yes @ alkarim devani – totally let all devt led by PEOPLE as key focus!!
01:29:00 Martine August: the innovation will be proper resourcing, rather than withdrawal and retrenchment
01:29:35 Erin Waite: Hear! Hear! on op costs – capital alone is a problem. Maintenance, social supports needed to have healthy, vibrant, accessible communities.
01:29:44 Frank Murphy: Another terrific discussion. Thanks everyone.
01:31:01 Laurel Davies Snyder: Opportunity to reground and recreate cities as places of nature, public space, beauty, art, creativity.
01:31:08 Angela Kiu: @ michel lauzon – yes, absolutely right – have genuinely equitable and inclusive devt!! For all needs, all ages. They say if we design for children in mind, we will get it right for everyone else!! Old, young, with challenges, ethnic diversities!!
01:31:56 Laurel Davies Snyder: Thank you. Another great session.
01:32:01 Angela Kiu: Thanks everyone – must fun session! Have a lovely day!
01:32:05 Lisa Landrum: Great. Thanks!
01:32:06 Micaela Butron: Thank you!