Monday, May 27
Saturday, May 25
Saturday, May 25
I recently spent a week in China as the guest of the Tianjin Education Commission. I was invited due to my role as co-chair of the Human Services Planning Board of York Region and due to my academic background in education. The main purpose of the trip was to explore opportunities for high school student exchange programs. The principal of Sir William Mulock Secondary School and the Superintendent responsible for exchange programs were on the trip representing York Region District School Board.
This was an amazing opportunity for York Region and I was honored to have been asked. We spent four days in Tianjin and two days in Beijing and I can honestly say it significantly affected my view of the world and the future of education, transit, and trade.
The scale of everything in China seems to be in multiples of ten in relation to what we experience here. Toronto is about 2.5 million people; Beijing is about 25 million people. Toronto has about 100 cranes involved in high rise construction; Tianjin has about 1000. Toronto has two subway lines; Beijing has about 20. In the entire week I was there I could not stop marveling at the pace of construction. There were groups of 20 and 30 twenty story buildings everywhere. On one occasion we visited an “Education Park”. This park had just completed phase one of its development in just over 12 months. Phase one consisted of seven separate collages and over 1 million square meters of built space. Phase three will be complete before 2015 (it has not begun) and will consist of two state of the art Universities. The bookshelves of the recently completed library scanned themselves every 60 seconds and relayed data to the main terminal as to which books had been removed from the shelves and which books had been replaced. There was much to marvel at.
There were also challenges. The air quality in both Beijing and Tianjin was very poor. It is hard to imagine the health issues that must be related to air quality so poor that we rarely clearly saw the sun (or even the tops of some buildings). The air quality when we were there was not nearly as bad as it would become only one week after our departure. The air quality is not bad all year round and certainly in some areas (the education park) it is much better. Traffic congestion is also a serious challenge – like nothing I have ever seen. But the transit in both cities was second to none. The two cities are 135 km apart and the smooth, modern train conveyed us in exactly 29 minutes.
The trip was certainly fascinating, even mind boggling, but it was also productive. We had many excellent meetings with education commission staff. In fact when we arrived at the Tianjin Education Commission we were greeted at the door by many people and a 20 foot banner reading “warm welcome to delegates from Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.” The York Region School Board staff was able to discuss specific potential programs and to tour more than 6 different high schools. I was able to participate in all meetings and provide a glimpse into the quality of life in York Region and in Newmarket. I couldn’t help but think during many of these meetings that today’s exchange students are tomorrow’s business leaders. Having future ambassadors visiting each other is economic development incubation for the future.
This opportunity was possibly going to be offered to Toronto. I was glad I was able to include the York Region School Board and I am glad that some of our students may have an experience similar to the one I had. And one last thing, for the record, we were the guests of the Tianjin Education Commission and this did not cost Tax Payers one penny. It was a very fortunate glimpse into the emerging world power: CHINA.
Newmarket has just been named one of the top 10 places to live in Canada (out of over 200 cities and towns). MoneySense Magazine ranks towns and cities against each other in various catagories such as safety, health care, growth, average income and more. Newmarket for the fourth straight year made the top 25 and this year gained a spot in the top 10.
This is an amazing accomplishment and a great recognition. It reaffirms what we all know – this is an amazing place to live and raise a family. This didn’t happen by accident. For many years the residents, the businesses, and organizations of Newmarket have contributed their time, energy, ideas and resources to making Newmarket “Well Beyond the Ordinary’. Town staff and elected officials over many years have made decisions and spent time contributing to this slowly evolving achievement. Everyone in this great town deserves to feel proud today. Are we perfect – no, is there more we can do to improve – yes, but right now Newmarket take a moment to stop and feel nothing but Pride in a job well done. CONGRATULATIONS NEWMARKET !
Balancing Act: Developing Newmarket's Urban Centre
by Jake Tobin Garrett, Novae Res Urbis (February 6, 2013)
Next Monday, Newmarket Council will vote on whether to approve a zoning by-law amendment and plan of subdivision for Slessor Square, a high-density development that represents the first large-scale project in the town's urban growth centre.
If approved, the multi-building proposal by Dwight Slessor Holdings Inc. would include two towers of 19- and 21-storeys with podiums and two mid-rise buildings designed by The Forrest Group. The 1.86 hectare site is located just north of the Yonge Street and Davis Drive intersection.
The town held a public meeting February 4 for the proposed development but the vote on the by-law was deferred until February 11. The committee of the whole referred the report back to staff to investigate how traffic impact concerns could be better addressed through holding provisions in the zoning by-law.
While Regional Councillor John Taylor was unequivocal in his support of the need for intensification, he also made it clear that developing these centres and corridors is a balancing act between the goals of intensification and the concerns of residents.
These types of developments are needed, he told NRU, but the town also needs community support to accomplish its vision for the urban centres and corridors.
"We need to make sure that the communities feel comfortable with [developments] and know that we're also looking out to address their concerns as we build this out."
"Newmarket is one of the smaller urban growth centres in 'Places to Grow'," Taylor said. "We are a centre that hasn't really had a larger intensification project or multi-storey building in many years."
Slessor Square is "significantly larger" than anything the town has seen in the past, but he expects "it's one of the first in what will surely be many others along these corridors."
This type of development is probably on the larger side of what is needed or can be expected in Newmarket to meet the targets set out in the growth plan, he said. While Newmarket will need to see "many more" intensification projects, he pointed out Slessor Square is "more ambitious in terms of density and height."
Although some residents have expressed concerns over the built form and traffic impacts that may be generated by the development, not all residents are unhappy with the proposal. Taylor mentioned that some residents are glad to see a mix of housing options for youth and seniors in the town.
The proposed zoning by-law to be voted on next week represents a settlement offer between the developer and the town. Dwight Slessor has already appealed its original zoning by-law amendment and plan of subdivision to the OMB.
The settlement zoning by-law endorsed by staff is for two apartment buildings with maximum heights of 21 and 19 storeys, an eight-storey retirement residence and a four-storey podium along George Street, which could be stepped up to a maximum of eight storeys.
Slessor's original September 2011 proposal was for two apartment towers of 26 and 23 storeys on three-storey podiums and two seven-storey retirement residences.
"There is a settlement hearing scheduled for February 19," Dwight Slessor counsel Ira Kagan (Kagan Shastri) told NRU. "That only happens if council votes in favour of the settlement. If they vote against the settlement, then that February 19 date is transformed from a settlement hearing into a prehearing conference for the April hearing, which would be a contested hearing on the original application."
Normally without prejudice settlement offers are not made public, Kagan said, but Dwight Slessor did in this case so councillors could consult with residents on the settlement offer.
Area councillor Tom Hempen told NRU that the biggest community concerns that arose out of the public meeting on Monday were about the potential traffic impacts from a development of this size.
"I know we need development," he said. "I know we need growth. But how are we going to deal with this traffic in the future is the question that I have."
He said there is a "major gridlock problem" in the area where the development is proposed. Residents have also raised concerns about infiltration into roads in neighbouring areas as people attempt to avoid the arterials.
Kagan pointed out that a traffic study done by Cole Engineering for Dwight Slessor showed that improvements done by the town, region and developer over the full build-out period would help with congestion.
The staff report mentions planned bus rapid transit for Yonge Street, with a view to building light-rail transit in the future - though Taylor told NRU that those improvements are many years away, with light-rail "more like 40 years away."
"At full build out this project will work," Kagan said, "but different things will have to be done at different times."
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