James Brown and Kim Storey, who are partners at Brown + Storey Architects Inc., recently put forward this intensification proposal for Toronto’s non-Avenue-designated arterial roads. (The term Avenue is an important designation in Toronto planning.) They call these streets Un-Avenues and here’s what they are getting at with this definition:
The “Un-Avenues” are the city’s north-south arteries, where the standard residential street was widened in the mid-20th century to allow for more lanes for more cars and vehicular intensification. They are not generally lined with retail, but rather with the original houses that have been devalued because of their location on the arterial roads.
These roads often serve as busy bus routes that connect directly to subways. The widening of the roads has meant there are no trees, narrow sidewalks, and negligible front. Four lanes of rush hour traffic are provided, with rare provisions for bike lanes.
The Un-Avenues run silently through the single-family residential zones of Toronto. As countless articles have pointed out, the “yellow belt,” where the single-family house reigns, occupies a substantial swath of Toronto real estate on any zoning map.
It is hard not to drive or move through Toronto’s “Un-Avenues” without thinking that they belong in a different era. They speak to a Toronto that was much smaller and that was not yet a global city. There’s little urbanity. And no grandeur. They feel a bit like forgotten streets in a city that has otherwise decided to grow up.
Here’s what Brown + Storey are proposing as a solution (images via Spacing):
I haven’t spent enough time going through the proposal to comment on whether or not I think this is exactly what should be done. There is also the minor issue of single-family homeowners accepting towers, or anything really, next to their backyards. But I do feel strongly that something needs to be done — for reasons of affordability, livability, urban beauty, and a bunch of other reasons.
I am not convinced that the scale and intensity of development being contemplated will be perceived by the City, let alone the general public, as being contextually appropriate. That being said, I see merit in the concept in principle, and believe it dovetails nicely with that of transition zones, which also looks at intensifying the city’s “Major Streets”, as they are defined.