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Interview with urbanist Richard Florida

UrbanToronto.ca recently published an extended interview / discussion with urbanist Richard Florida about cities and, in particular, the future of Toronto. What it’s doing wrong. What it’s doing right. And what it should be doing to properly position itself for the future.

What became clear to me after reading the interview is that Toronto is really at an inflection point. We are transitioning into a much bigger global city and we have yet to fully embrace the city that we are quickly becoming:

“…the city was—and is—still too dominated by a NIMBYist, faux-progressive left that refuses to engage with having to build a dense, transit-oriented, and inclusive city.”

The interview is packed with information and it’s definitely worth a read this morning. There’s a lot I agree with, including his views on transit and his positions on the Island Airport and the Gardiner East – which is a topic that is near and dear to me.

In case you don’t have time to read the full interview, below are 3 excerpts.

First, on the Gardiner East:

“There’s also a learning curve to Mayors, and I think they tend to get a better understanding of urbanism over the course of their tenures,” Florida adds, hoping that Tory, self-described as an “ideologue on very few issues,” will make pro-urban decisions as his time in office continues. “For one thing, I really hope that he reverses his decision on the Gardiner,” Florida continues, highlighting Tory’s controversial support for renovating—as opposed to demolishing—the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway as an example of especially poor urban policy.

Second, on the need for a true urban agenda at all levels of government:

Offering prescriptions for the future, Florida calls for a “virtual moratorium on road-building,” arguing that the perpetuation of an automobile culture hinders a city’s creative capacity, with little exchange of ideas and culture occurring when people are sitting in their cars, and not engaging with life on the street. “The city also needs a more committed Federal partner,” Florida adds, calling for a ’ministry of cities’ to help provide a vision for growth and fund urban infrastructure projects. 

And third, on the value of Toronto’s openness:

“A huge reason for the city’s continued success—as we trudge along despite our lack of urban vision and reactionary tendencies—is the fact that we continued to be so open to newcomers, allowing a great deal of global creative energy to be harnessed. It means we can fuck up a lot, but as long as we continue to remain open, we’ll have an important edge.”

There’s a lot of great discussion fodder here. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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