Posted with permission of the publisher of NRU Publishing Inc. Original article first appeared in Novae Res Urbis – GTHA Edition, Vol. 20, No. 42, Wednesday, October 25, 2017.
By Dominik Matusik
Pickering staff has laid the groundwork for transforming the city’s most important transit artery into a people-friendly, urban, mixed-use corridor. The Kingston Road intensification study, authorized by council in March, 2016, is the second stage of Pickering’s growth management strategy program initiated in 2009 and follows municipal approval in 2015 of new urban design guidelines and zoning by-laws for the city centre.
The scope of the intensification study for Kingston Road was developed through public consultation sessions on growth and intensification in south Pickering, with participants indicating support for higher density development in the city centre and along major corridors.
Earlier this month, council approved the selection of SvN Architects + Planners as the consultants for the Kingston Road project, in association with AECOM and 360 Collective. In addition to examining the future of the Kingston Road corridor, the study will also look at intensification opportunities in the retail node located east of Brock Road, between Kingston Road and Highway 401.
Ward 1 councillor Maurice Brenner told NRU that the study sets the stage for the city achieving the targets of the provincial growth plan and turning Kingston Road into a people-focused space. “The study is looking at how to maximize the densities along the Kingston Road corridor, in order to – not just achieve [the targets of] Places to Grow, but also to put more life into Kingston Road as a people place,” he says. “The last study was done decades ago, literally. And so we’re now looking at how to bring that into conformity with Places to Grow [and] to really turn Kingston Road into a seamless people place. Think of it as a smaller scale to a Yonge Street. Because in reality that’s what our Kingston Road is.”
Brenner says that Kingston Road is currently well positioned as a major transit corridor, but its currently disjointed built form acts as a deterrent to people choosing to live along the route. “Unfortunately, I would probably call it just a mesh of different types and styles of building and forms that really have no connectivity,” he says.
“So currently there’s nothing really that would want to make people live on a major transit corridor system. If you can intensify on Kingston Road with the built-form, you’re going to be reducing the dependency on vehicle traffic.” Pickering principal policy planner Déan Jacobs told NRU that many of the priorities for the Kingston Road corridor were set through community engagement. “There are a number of things we’ve identified through community engagement,” he says. “Increasing intensification along our main corridors…protecting stable residential neighbourhoods, and at the same time providing more space for Pickering’s diverse communities, and attracting more employment opportunities. We do not want to be another bedroom community. We want to add jobs too.”
Jacobs adds that staff also wants to promote walkability and transit usage along the corridor. Policy and geomatics manager Jeff Brooks told NRU that the built form will likely vary a lot from one end to the other. “The corridor itself is very long,” he says. “It goes from one end to the other in terms of east-west through the municipality, so different elements of that corridor are going to reflect the different urban forms. Nodes around major intersections such as Brock and Whites will be different than mid-block areas at Fairport or Altona or some of the other smaller intersections… Certainly the intensification is not at the level that we’re planning for within the city centre, which is much denser, but it certainly is the next highest level within the city.”
Brooks says that, while no timeline has been finalized, this will be a long-term project, looking towards the 2041 planning horizon and beyond. Jacobs emphasizes the importance of good urban design. “[We need to] push a lot more for emphasis on urban design, and the quality of urban design and architecture too [that will] leave a legacy to future generations. So there will definitely be a greater emphasis on the public realm but also on the quality of the built form.”
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