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The City Building Vision of York Region

York Region is currently home to 1.2 million residents and 560,000 jobs. Over the next 25 years York Region will continue to grow, and it is anticipated that York Region will be home to 1.79 million residents and 900,000 jobs by 2041. Our four Regional Centres in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan, are new downtown areas and are identified as the primary place for urban growth in the Region. These Centres are hubs of economic and cultural activity that offer a high quality of life for residents and employees.

Much of the Region’s homes, workplaces, shops and transit services will be concentrated in these Centres, and the Regional Corridors that connect them, moving development away from valuable farmland and environmentally sensitive lands.

What is the Region's Centres and Corridors Program?

York Region’s Centres and Corridors Program is about city-building. It is an integrated approach that combines the planning of urban pedestrian friendly/walkable communities with the construction of new rapid transit lines and stations that connect York Region and the Greater Toronto Area. The Centres and Corridors program and urban structure is defined by the York Region Official Plan. Key goals are providing travel options, conserving resources and creating lively sustainable communities within walking distance of transit and other services. It is also about choice by providing different housing options, places to work and ways to get there.

The Regional Centres and Corridors will continue to evolve into highly active urban areas served by rapid transit. Innovation in planning, city building and design will make these great places to live, work and play.

York Region City Building Vision
  • Building up, not out
  • Mixing land uses together (i.e. office, retail, and residential), instead of separating them
  • Providing travel alternatives to the automobile
  • Creating inviting public spaces
  • Building sustainable cities

York Region's Primary Centres & Corridors

Vaughan Metro Centre
Richmond Hill Centre
Markham Centre
Newmarket Centre
What is a Regional Centre?

The four Regional Centres are vibrant, high and medium density, pedestrian-friendly communities that have a mix of retail, residential and business development. They are the Region’s downtown’s and will be serviced by efficient, convenient rapid transit.

Uses within the Centres will include:

  • Office buildings
  • Taller residential buildings
  • Important public spaces
  • Restaurants
  • Retail shops
  • Cultural, institutional, and human services buildings

Centres will be attractive places for York Region residents to live and work in the same community, while also enjoying nearby commercial, retail and cultural facilities all within walking distance.

What is a Regional Corridor?

York Region has four Regional Corridors (Yonge Street, Highway 7, Davis Drive, and Green Lane East) that connect the Regional Centres. Regional Corridors are planned to be diverse places that support a range and mix of activities that enrich the character and meet the needs of the communities they serve. The Regional Corridors are pedestrian-friendly places that are supported by rapid transit services that provide connections to the Regional Centres, as well as, other centres throughout the GTA.

Regional Corridor
City Building Map Feature

The History of Centres & Corridors in York Region

Engineering Alley
History

The idea behind a series of connected Centres and Corridors in York Region is not new. For over 200 years Yonge Street has been a main transportation corridor in the Region and connected the first generation villages of Thornhill, Oak Ridges, Richmond Hill and Aurora.

1994 - 2001

The first Official Plan for York Region, which was adopted in 1994, recognized the network of Centres and Corridors in planning policy. The Official Plan is a long range planning policy document which guides and shapes growth and manages development over a 20 year timeframe. The 1994 Official Plan included the four Regional Centres in Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham and Newmarket, with the two Regional Corridors of Highway 7 and Yonge Street.

2002 - Present

The Region’s 2002 Centres and Corridors Strategy called “Making it Happen” and the 2005 launch of viva bus rapid transit started to make the network of Centres and Corridors a reality. The ongoing delivery of new rapid transit facilities in York Region by vivaNext through Metrolinx will help ensure that the Region’s Centres and Corridors are connected by fast, frequent and reliable transit services now and into the future. In 2004, York Region amended the Official Plan to strengthen the policies for growth in the Regional Centres and Corridors. Davis Drive and Green Lane East were identified as Regional Corridors in the most recent Regional Official Plan, adopted in 2010.

York Region City Building News


CentreCourt Developments Now Taking Registrations for the East Tower at Transit City in Vaughan

Transit City in VaughanFollowing the tremendous sales success of its first two phases, Transit City by CentreCourt Developments, is now preparing to launch the third tower in the sought-after community. The East Tower will join the North and South Towers as the first residential blocks of the 100-acre mixed-use SmartCentres Place complex.

Full Article: www.buzzbuzzhome.com

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Starting To Look Like It’s a Thing

VMC York RegionHalf-way into 2017, two 55-storey condos onsite have sold out in 10 days, a third is on its way, and other condos are selling, under construction, or occupying nearby. Now, a second office building is going under construction, and it’s coming with the kind of community facilities that you want—if you want to build a real, living community, that is.

Full Article: www.urbantoronto.ca

3 York Region Municipalities in Canada’s Top 25 Places to Live in 2016

NewmarketOur annual Best Places to Live in Canada is really an exercise in finding the best of the best. Here at MoneySense, we have strong feelings about what makes a city a great place to live. Above all else it should be prosperous, but affordable. It should also be safe and easy to get around, with plenty of amenities.

Full Article: www.moneysense.ca

York Region City Building Best Practices

Infrastructure represents the veins of any community. Infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, bike lanes and transit facilities keep people moving, and together with an equally important series of pipes and wires are critical features to support and facilitate the efficient and full development of Centres and Corridors.

Challenges:

Overlapping jurisdictions among providers and the extent of time required to plan, finance and implement major public works often make it challenging to coordinate infrastructure efforts and investments.

Approaches:

To improve coordination, municipalities and their project partners can prepare integrated plans to guide infrastructure investments and growth management decisions. Intergovernmental and interdepartmental working groups have also been proven to be effective at facilitating dialogues on infrastructure investments coordination.  Some jurisdictions have boldly front-ended public investments, such as bus rapid transit services and high-speed fiber optic broadband network.  Other municipalities introduced development incentives to entice developers to build the infrastructure up front.

More information on this topic and others can be found in our Best Practices for Planning Centres and Corridors.

A vibrant and active street is a strong indicator of a successful and thriving community.  Streets help move people and goods and also provide opportunities for commerce and daily social interactions.  A well designed street and supporting network of streets help to create a pedestrian friendly and transit supportive community.  Below are some of the current challenges facing streets and some approaches that can or have been used to address these challenges.

Challenges:

Traditional street design has been focused more on moving vehicles and less on other modes of transportation such as walking, cycling and transit.  These streets can be unwelcoming to pedestrians and cyclists and often lack a “sense of place”.  Attempts by municipalities to develop fine-grained street networks have been opposed by land owners who would prefer to maximize the amount of developable land by incorporating a street network that maximizes block sizes.  These large block sizes tend to make communities less walkable.

Approaches:

City-builders should consider complete street standards and guidelines that are sensitive to the context in which the streets exist.  Establishing a fine grid pattern of streets and blocks within secondary plans provides for stronger connectivity and walkability.  Emphasis should be placed on Transportation Demand Management (TDM) initiatives and programs to shift single-occupant vehicle trips to other methods of transportation, such as walking, cycling and transit.

More information on this topic and others can be found in our Best Practices for Planning Centres and Corridors.

Parking cannot be ignored. The personal automobile has had a significant effect on the way that we move around this Region.  As we move towards complete communities within a series of urban centres, connected by fast, frequent and reliable transit services,ensuring the right amount of parking has become more important than ever.

Challenges:

Surface parking, at the ratios currently required by many jurisdictions, requires significant amounts of land and resources which can displace more desirable uses and bring down the quality of environment. Surface parking can be replaced with structured parking facilities to make more efficient use of land; however, this can be costly to develop.

Also, an oversupply of parking at the outset of development may result in an oversupply in parking overtime.  As opportunities for redevelopment present themselves, it is important for municipalities to prevent an oversupply of parking at the outset, and help shift travel behaviour towards other modes of transportation besides the automobile.

Approaches:

Reducing parking requirements over time, in concert with the delivery of transit services, can strike an appropriate balance of parking within the community. Municipalities should adopt reduced parking standards that support and encourage transit-oriented development.  Some municipalities have established an agency to manage a supply of paid parking, particularly in areas similar to the Region’s Centres and Corridors.  Arrangements to provide for parking spaces above or below municipally owned land, such as parks or roadways, are often used in urban municipalities to support higher density residential and employment uses.

More information on this topic and others can be found in our Best Practices for Planning Centres and Corridors.

Aside from home and work, people also need places to gather, relax, and play. Providing a variety of easily accessible public open spaces create healthy, attractive and sustainable communities that enhances the quality of life for all.

Challenges

The availability of publicly owned land within urban areas for new parks and public spaces is limited. In addition, the cost of acquiring such land can also be extremely costly. The costs to developers to provide land to the municipality for park purposes is not insignificant and can discourage development or redevelopment.

Approaches

In order to enhance the quality of life of the residents, workers and visitors within the Centres and Corridors municipalities may choose to modify existing parkland dedication requirements to relate to unique neighbourhood populations rather than land area or dwelling units. This not only addresses the number of people in the community, but also their needs for a variety, proximity and vision of their open spaces.

More information on this topic and others can be found in our Best Practices for Planning Centres and Corridors.

A sustainable community is a healthy and vibrant community. Sustainable communities balance human activities with environmental protection and management practices. Building compact complete communities is a step towards greater environmental sustainability,

Challenges:

Managing stormwater and waste collection can be challenging in highly urban areas.  Traditional stormwater management ponds consume a lot of land and are costly to manage and maintain.  It is also often hard to find space for garbage storage and collection within high density mixed use developments.

Approaches:

Low impact development techniques (i.e. vegetated roofs, permeable paving, and grass swales) can help mitigate stormwater runoff and maximize on-site infiltration on urban sites.  Three stream waste (garbage, recycling and organic) systems in high-rise buildings and community-scale vacuum waste technologies can improve waste diversion and promote collection efficiencies in compact settings. Municipalities can also promote water conservation in buildings and reduce extraneous flows in the wastewater system through higher standards and incentives.

More information on this topic and others can be found in our Best Practices for Planning Centres and Corridors.

Libraries, recreation centres and other community service facilities are the places where our daily lives intersect with each other.  Ensuring easy access to these facilities helps promote active and healthy lifestyles and provide opportunities for residents to be socially-connected.

Challenges:

In built-up areas, it is hard to find space for these facilities. Their typical larger format built-form and parking requirements tend to make community facilities a difficult fit in a compact urban setting. Another challenge for municipalities is identifying lands to accommodate future community facilities, as the Centres and Corridors intensify and residents’ needs change overtime.

Approaches:

Innovative design solutions that vertically integrate community facilities into mixed-use buildings can maximize space efficiencies.  Alternative development models such as pairing school and community amenities on the same site allow for a more efficient use of lands and reduce building footprints.  In cases where there is limited access to publicly owned land, municipalities should identify possible sites for planned community facilities as a component of future privately led development.

More information on this topic and others can be found in our Best Practices for Planning Centres and Corridors.

Employment is essential to creating a complete mixed-use urban community. Locating office jobs and commercial employment in suburban business parks can hamper the growth of Centres and Corridors. Urban Centres need all types of activities in order to thrive, with employment activities contributing to the vibrancy and success of these areas.

Challenges:

Commercial developers recognize that their potential tenants likely require a large supply of parking to accommodate commuters. Traditionally, throughout the Greater Toronto Area employment areas have been located outside of Centres and Corridors, where transit service is less frequent and efficient, simply because it is cheaper to develop those lands and provide the levels of parking demanded by those employees forced to commute by automobile. In addition, assembling the amount of land required to support the development of large office buildings, particularly in Centres and Corridors where lands tend to be more fragmented, can be challenging, costly and risky to develop.

Approaches:

One approach to encourage office employment includes attracting public institutions such as municipal offices, colleges and universities, which can help generate additional development and redevelopment projects on lands in proximity to those institutions.  Further investment in public transit will improve access and create options for commuters to travel to and from work. Providing for mixed use within the Centres and Corridors can help create opportunities to live, work and play within these urban areas.

More information on this topic and others can be found in our Best Practices for Planning Centres and Corridors.

Housing is a necessity for all.  The Region has a very limited supply of rental housing units, with essentially no new private sector rental units built in the last decade.  Having a range and mix of affordable housing choices across York Region, and in particular the Region’s Centres and Corridors, can help sustain a diverse population and workforce necessary to achieve complete communities.

Challenges:

The absence of long-term government investments in new affordable units and the lack of development incentives provided to the private sector are significant challenges affecting the implementation of complete communities.

Approaches:

To stimulate private investments in affordable housing, particularly in key growth areas such as Centres and Corridors, municipalities can leverage a range of financial and policy tools.  These may include grants, fee waivers, and density bonusing incentives. Ongoing partnerships with non-profit organizations and by engaging the private sector municipalities can find creative ways to deliver new affordable housing products.

More information on this topic and others can be found in our Best Practices for Planning Centres and Corridors.

It is important to plan and build communities that are celebrated and unique for its residents and work force. Place-making strives to create spaces that are attractive, meaningful and sustainable to ensure its users are proud of their community and will return to them. Within the Centres and Corridors, the standard for design excellence needs to be high, as these areas will be the most visible and heavily used places in our community.

Challenges

The potential to overuse planning tools that provide detailed policies and regulations for new development and designs could hinder the architectural variety sought by cities. Many municipalities currently lack the in house resources to appropriately evaluate complex designs typically found within highly urban areas. Additionally, many developers perceive an increased cost associated with providing a higher standard of urban design.

Approaches

Some jurisdictions have moved to developing zoning standards based on the form of development and their relationship with the streets and open spaces as opposed to regulating land uses. It is important that development follow and surpass urban design guidelines prepared by municipalities to enhance the design and relationship between the public and private realms. The creation of incentives to encourage design excellence through award programs, water and wastewater allocation credits, development charge credits, and other incentives help to raise awareness about the value of good urban design.  Including public art can provide immediate and intimate relationships and experiences and portray unique qualities of the community.

More information on this topic and others can be found in our Best Practices for Planning Centres and Corridors.

Locations

The Regional Municipality of York
Economic Strategy Office
17250 Yonge Street
Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
L3Y 6Z1

York Link
15 Allstate Parkway – Suite 600
Markham Ontario, Canada
L3R 5B4

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