[URBAN NOTE] “With urbanity denied in North York, what is Scarborough’s fate?”
In the Toronto Star, Shawn Micallef wonders whether North York and Scarborough will be able to break through and emerge from suburbia into “downtownness”, or if politics will prevent this.
The Scarborough Subway comes with a lot of promise.
Though these political promises include economic benefits and increased mobility, there’s also the implicit and explicit promise of the arrival of downtown-style urbanity to Scarborough City Centre, the cluster of office and residential buildings surrounding the Scarborough Town Centre mall and Civic Centre.
Those who arrive in Toronto via Highway 401 from the east pass it all by, and visitors who know little about our city might be forgiven for thinking it’s actually downtown Toronto: it’s an impressive cluster, especially when driving by, just one of the many dense nodes across this city and region.
However, once the car is parked, this city centre doesn’t feel so downtown; instead, there are large swaths of paved parking lot and open space in between the buildings. Some structures are quite fantastic, like the 1973 Raymond Moriyama-designed Civic Centre and the new branch of the Toronto Public Library.
The promise of the Scarborough Subway, should a plan ever be finalized, is to create a more beautiful and humane public realm here, a “downtown neighbourhood” kind of feel that would connect and transform all these buildings and spaces. Much of our fast-growing city was created this way, and it would not be the first Toronto neighbourhood to go from farmers’ field or village to a dense urban core in just half a century or so.
Downtown North York, or North York City Centre (or maybe we can just call it “Uptown” now), is one of these places. Sometimes called the downtown that Mel Lastman built, just a generation or two ago the strip of Yonge St. between Sheppard and Finch Aves. was a low-rise, mid-century streetscape. It still bears those mid-century traces, and even those of the original villages that were here before, like Willowdale and Newtonbrook, but they are fleeting.