After a decade of unprecedented growth and development that has transformed Downtown into one of Canada’s most desirable places to live and work, an updated planning framework was required to ensure that growth and the timely provision of infrastructure is addressed so that Downtown remains liveable and economically competitive.
The in-force Downtown Plan is a 25-year vision that sets the direction for the city centre as the cultural, civic, retail and economic heart of Toronto and as a great place to live. A series of goals – grouped around the themes of complete communities, connectivity, prosperity, resiliency and responsibility – establish outcomes the Downtown Plan intends to achieve as growth continues.
Policy directions in the Downtown Plan include:
- A requirement that growth be directed to certain areas of Downtown
- A requirement to review development to ensure the adequacy of infrastructure to achieve complete communities
- A requirement for the submission of a Complete Community Assessment to ensure all developments contribute to the creation of liveable and complete communities
- Expansion of the Financial District and establishment of a Health Sciences District where non-residential space must be replaced in any redevelopment and opportunities to increase non-residential uses will be protected
- Replacement of office and non-residential space in any redevelopment in the Bloor-Bay Office Corridor
- Promotion of non-residential uses supporting creative industries and the culture sector within the King-Spadina and King-Parliament areas
- Refinement of the current single Mixed Use Areas designation into 4 Mixed Use Areas designations to provide guidance on the appropriate scale of development based on existing and planned context
- Prioritization of mixed-use, transit-supportive development within walking distance of rapid transit stations
- Promotion of high-quality retail along Downtown’s main streets
- Direction for new buildings to be shaped, scaled and designed to maintain and enhance liveability and be contextually appropriate
- Sunlight protection for 44 Downtown parks and open spaces
- Direction to use a new framework to improve the quality, quantity and connectivity of parks and the public realm in Downtown
- Prioritization of walking, cycling and transit use on Downtown’s streets
- Linking the plan to community service facilities needs that will be required as growth proceeds
- Requirements for 2- and 3-bedroom units in most developments
- Support for the arts, live music and filming
- Encouragement of low-carbon and resilient infrastructure and buildings
- Partnerships with Indigenous communities as part of implementation of public space and community service facilities improvements.
The Downtown Plan and three of the five accompanying infrastructure strategies – community services and facilities, parks and public realm, and mobility – were adopted by City Council on May 22-24, 2018 (with amendments), and the final Plan was approved by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on June 5, 2019.
The recommended Downtown Plan represents the first comprehensive update since the mid 1970s. The 1976 Central Area Plan introduced mixed-use policies that encouraged residential growth Downtown and helped Toronto avoid the inner city deterioration experienced in many other urban centres across the continent. Since then, updates to the planning framework have shaped Toronto’s Downtown into one of the most successful in North America.
Toronto’s high quality of life and economic opportunities have made it one of the fastest growing cities in North America, and nowhere is this more evident than in the rising Downtown skyline and on Downtown’s busy sidewalks. Downtown accounts for only 3% of Toronto’s land area, yet it makes up 40% of the non-residential gross floor area and 38% of the residential units proposed in the entire city. It is Canada’s largest employment cluster with over 500,000 jobs, relying on Union Station and the subway system to provide access to a regional workforce. Close to 240,000 people live Downtown, with more than 7,500 residents added annually over the past 5 years. By 2041, the population is projected to nearly double to a potential population of 475,000. In this same time frame, Downtown, together with the two ‘shoulder’ areas of South of Eastern and Liberty Village, has the potential to reach between 850,000 and 915,000 jobs.
By initiating the TOcore study in 2014, Council recognized that growth was outpacing the City’s ability to secure the necessary supporting infrastructure. In late 2016, the TOcore Proposals Report was adopted by Council. That report outlined the detailed policy directions for all aspects of the Downtown Plan. The proposed Downtown Plan, released in August 2017, served as the basis for extensive public and stakeholder consultation in late 2017 and early 2018.
The Study area is bounded by Lake Ontario to the south, Bathurst Street to the west, the mid-town rail corridor and Rosedale Valley Road to the north and the Don River to the east.