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10 reasons to visit Toronto right now

Next weekend a good friend of mine from architecture school will be visiting Toronto from Philadelphia. And I’m really excited to show him the city. (Next month it’s my turn to go to Philadelphia.)

He’s a fellow city geek. He hasn’t been to Toronto in a number of years. And I haven’t seen him since our trip to Detroit 2 years ago.

For those of us living and working in Toronto, there’s a lot to celebrate. Sure the Gardiner Expressway East decision didn’t go as I – as well as many other urbanists, including our Chief City Planner – had hoped. But there’s no shortage of other things to brag about.

So here are 10 reasons to visit Toronto right now:

1. We’ve created an entirely new business district south of Union Station called South Core. Now the region’s primary mobility hub is in the middle of the country’s most important business district, as opposed to on the edge of it. It’s a better use of infrastructure.

2. We now have a dedicated train (the Union Pearson Express) that takes you from the country’s busiest airport directly to downtown in 25 minutes. You’ll find local retailers at the stations and a brand created by the brain behind Monocle Magazine. You can even use a smart card to ride it and our local transit system.

3. We didn’t shut down Uber. Instead our mayor wants to create new policy that will allow these services to coexist with conventional taxi services. We don’t yet know how this will turn out, but I believe it’s a step in the right direction. It’s Toronto taking a leadership approach to innovation as opposed to trying to stomp it out.

4. We are about to host the largest sporting event in Canadian history. The 17th Pan American Games will have double the number of athletes competing as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

5. We created an entire neighborhood from scratch in order to house all of these athletes (Canary District). And I think it’s destined to become one of Toronto’s great neighborhoods. I’m saving my first visit for next weekend, so expect a follow-up post on this.

6. We are dramatically rethinking this city’s public realm. From the plaza out front of Union Station to the new Queens Quay Boulevard along the waterfront, we are prioritizing people and creating more complete streets. It has given Toronto an entirely new urban feel.

7. We are slowly starting to embrace our forgotten laneways and alleys through the help of organizations like The Laneway Project. And this is going to eventually lead to a further rethink of our pubic spaces and urban fabric.

8. We continue to be one of the fastest growing cities in the world (certainly in the developed world). As a result, we are building some really exciting buildings by some of the top architects in the world. This includes everyone from Norman Foster to Frank Gehry.

9. According to a recent report coming out of the Martin Prosperity Institute, Canada is one of the most creative and globally competitive countries in the world, as well as the most open to “ethnic and religious minorities and gay and lesbian people.”

10. The ATC community is in the process of identifying a new, quintessentially Toronto food dish. But since we have every type of imaginable cuisine here, we’re struggling to pick just one. When you visit, you can help us identify the best and most Toronto dish.

So there’s a lot to be excited about. I for one can’t wait for us to host the Pan Am Games, starting tomorrow. It’s a chance to show off this great city. 

So if you’re also in town next weekend and want to geek out about cities, drop me a line.

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