Tower Renewal


Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure



Concrete-slab residential apartment towers built during the post-World War II housing boom were once iconic images of modernity across Europe and North America. Today, many of these aging towers sit isolated from their surrounding neighbourhoods, housing an increasingly marginalized population of low income residents and recent immigrants. Most lack access to jobs, rapid transit, community services and other neighbourhood amenities associated with livable communities. Their deteriorating structures are one of the most energy inefficient forms of housing in the country.

In 2010, the firm, in partnership with ERA Architects and the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto, published a ground-breaking study of Apartment Towers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region of southern Ontario. Using extensive GIS-based analysis, aerial photography, and on-site analysis, the study identified 1,925 Apartment Towers in the region. Collectively they house approximately one million people. The study also examined the neighbourhood context of these towers. A social need index was created to assess the relationship between Apartment Towers and areas of social need. Transportation data was analyzed to assess mobility patterns of Apartment Tower residents. Local and international studies and best practices were reviewed to estimate energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with Apartment Towers. The distribution of Apartment Towers was compared with land use characteristics to identify potential for infill and the introduction of mixed uses. The study also examined several international precedents of Tower Neighbourhood Renewal – and discusses areas where a similar program could help to meet a number of public policy objectives in the Greater Golden Horseshoe related to poverty reduction, greenhouse gas reduction, urban intensification, the creation of complete communities, and increasing transit ridership.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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Our team conducts research and creates strategy for government and non-government clients on a wide range of economic development issues. This includes strengthening, broadening and diversifying the economic base of regions, cities and towns and accelerating development through improvements to land use, urban design, planning policy and governance.
Housing is a core focus of our business. We design innovative and adaptable buildings and master plans that respond to the immediate and future housing needs of diverse communities and all levels of income. We have a history of initiating and realizing housing projects that fill critical gaps in the market, and that are sensitive and adaptable to evolving cultures and contexts.
We apply our thorough understanding of the provincial and municipal regulatory context to develop studies and public policy instruments for local, provincial and federal governments and First Nations. These include: zoning by-laws, official plans, municipal development plans, local official plans, secondary plans, neighbourhood plans, and urban design guidelines.
We undertake site analysis studies, from site scale up to secondary plan scales.  We work with developers and public agencies such as Build Toronto and Ontario Infrastructure and Lands Corporation to complete due diligence and Highest and Best Use Studies for their lands. 
We consult with a range of public sector clients on improving institutional capacity and core skills training in planning, development review and approvals, municipal governance, and corporate change management related to planning processes.