Twenty-five urban growth centres 'linchpin' of Ontario Growth Plan

Twenty-five urban growth centres 'linchpin' of Ontario Growth Plan

Included in the ten highlights of the recent Places to Grow initiative announced by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal is the plan to revitalize twenty-five urban centres in Ontario.

Brad Graham, assistant deputy minister for the Ontario Growth Secretariat, tells Axiom News that this revitalization is the "linchpin" of the Ontario Growth Plan.

The Places to Grow plan was released by the Ontario government on June 16, 2006. It is a 25-year strategy to create "better-planned communities," according to a news release from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure
Renewal. "The focus of the plan is to create complete communities, with a greater mix of businesses, services, housing and parks that will make them more livable."

The plan includes investing in new and more transit options and supporting more physically active lifestyles.

Intensification, or building in previously developed areas and making better use of urban space, is a key component of the plan as well. The plan also outlines a series of tests and criteria to ensure that urban expansions happen only when necessary and where appropriate.

At the centre of the plan is the revitalization of these twenty-five urban centres, to become community focal points where culture happens and economy is generated.

"In the simplest terms, we are looking at creating ?real? downtowns," says Graham. All the characteristics that most people think of when they consider the downtown concept, like higher densities of people, culture and small businesses, will define these revitalized cores.

The Growth Plan includes appropriate development planning standards for municipalities, says Graham. At the same time, it gives local governments the flexibility they need to address local circumstances.

In addition, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) will allow breaks on property tax and education tax, for instance, which will help intensification occur.

Some of the twenty-five centres include Niagara, downtown St. Catherines, Brantford, Cambridge, Barrie, Peterborough, and under what is called the Green Belt, Oshawa, Pickering, downtown Toronto, Hamilton, Burlington, and Richmond Hill

While the Places to Grow initiative is a 25 year strategy, Graham says that decisions are being made currently that are helping to realize the goals. "We're starting to see more intense development of the cores of cities," says Graham. He points to downtown Toronto, which is beginning to see significant increases in multi-tier residential units. As a result, business is increasing for those areas, as well as amenities for people to enjoy, which is leading the way to more cultural viability.

According to a news release about the plan, the Greater Golden Horseshoe is the fastest-growing urban region in Canada and the third fastest- growing in North America. It is the economic engine of Ontario's economy, accounting for 70 per cent of Ontario's and 30 per cent of Canada's Gross Domestic Product. By 2031, the area is expected to grow by 3.7 million people. Currently, almost two-thirds
of Ontario's residents live in this region.

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