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In support of rubber chicken

This morning I attended ULI Toronto’s annual “Meet the Chief Planners” event. (Some of my random tweets from the morning can be found here.) Now in its 7th year, it is a great event where all of the chief city planners from around the Greater Golden Horseshoe area come together with professionals from the land use community to network and discuss the future of our cities.

Normally it happens in the evening over dinner and drinks, which is how I attended last year right before our first lockdown (we were at the elbow bump and foot tap stage of the pandemic). But this year it was of course online.

First, I would like to say thank you to Multiplex Construction Canada (our partner on Junction House) for the invite. And secondly, I would like to say kudos to Richard Joy and the rest of ULI Toronto for coordinating such a great event with over 400 virtual attendees.

However, the main point that I would like to make today is that I don’t know how anyone can attend a virtual conference and believe that this is some sort of “new norm.” I don’t know about all of you, but I am ready to go back to rubber chicken dinners and too many glasses of affordably priced wine — pronto.

I say this not to criticize any of the groups that are working hard today to organize virtual events. I am a big fan of ULI and the work that they do. I would encourage all of you involved in the built environment to join immediately if you’re not already members.

Instead, I say this as yet another piece of evidence for why I won’t stop writing and talking about the resilience of our cities. Video calls are such an awful substitute for sitting around a table with people and breaking bread. It’s not even close.

And so as I sat at my home office desk this morning, listening to the conference and eating McDonald’s hotcakes (because, hey, Uber Eats and because, hey, it’s Friday), I couldn’t help but be reminded of how bullish I am on cities and city life. This, I thought to myself, is why cities are such a centralizing force.

Ultimately, it is also why groups like the Urban Land Institute are so important. It is because our cities matter a great deal and because they’re not going anywhere. If you aren’t sick of me talking about the resilience of cities, you can also find me in this recent RENX article called, “Toronto residential tower boom shows no signs of slowing.”

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