York Urbanist

Archive for the ‘Urban Places to Delight’ Category

Kleinburg’s Peak Traffic

April 24th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Pedestrianization, Transportation issues, Uncategorized, Urban Design, Urban Places to Delight

Out for a walk in the morning.  We entered the serenity of the Humber Valley, like a typical jaunt for fitness.  Despite rapid pace our vistas included a wild turkey scrambling for cover and a coven of turkey vultures high in the spruce.  Little did we expect the parallels to Peak Traffic of urban Kleinburg that we encountered.

IMG_00003295 IMG_00003296

We emerged into the once quiet centre of Kleinburg.  It is only about a block in length.  This was an immense contrast to the idyllic Humber Valley trail.  Cars backed up on Islington Avenue. And as they did, non-vigilant vehicles scurried like that wild turkey, leaving a short-lived gap as it found an escape route off the main road.  Around the bend on Nashville Road, cars lurked at the intersection, waiting to pounce, like the vultures we saw, into the line that had formed on Islington.

Why this story?  Kleinburg Area Ratepayers Association have regularly on their agendas an incessant discussion of traffic. How can it be cured.  For the most part, the group has interim solutions – left turn restrictions upstream, parking solutions and studies offered by York Region.  With every new development, the talk turns to the traffic it will generate.

But Kleinburg has already reached Peak Traffic.  And, heretically I say, that is good.  Sure there is capacity at 10:30am and 1pm and 11pm, but no more commuter and school-generated traffic can be accommodated.  Although a traffic consultant will try to understand the commuter traffic, Kleinburg’s unique situation is exacerbated by helicopter parents. I love Brent Toderian’s repeated graphic that says: “There is too much for Billy to walk to school. So we drive him.” He goes on to explain that this is Induced Traffic.  When one strips away Induced Traffic, peak traffic in Kleinburg changes, but does not reduce.  If our doting mothers suddenly changed into parents concerned with healthy (walking/cycling children) living, traffic would be reduced at 8:30am and 3pm. At least for the short term. We can analyze it easily.  On a given PD day, the traffic is “lighter”. and the line-ups of cars shown in the picture above are lessened.  But lets say for instance, if every day was a PD day.  The phenomenon that would occur will revert to the cloister of cars once again.  The voids will be filled by those that used to take alternatives.

Unlike my article about resolving Vaughan’s traffic problems in http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/04/18/vaughan-traffic-congestion-a-perception/ , Kleinburg could not create a complete street in its core.  But what it could do is to create an Integrated street.  An integrated street is one in which the modes of transportation, vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, mix without signage explaining the concept.  The concept is that cyclists and pedestrians have the right-of-way. By doing that, vehicles are forced into slowing.  IMG_00000022 INTEGRATED-STREET-CORNERYes, there will be a speed sign at the entries to the village, but because the street and sidewalk fabric are all integrated, there is no restriction to any mode, nor parking.  HERESY, you say.  But it has worked in Europe and specialty villages of the USA.

Create a slower street and the Peak Traffic will be reduced, leaving only those vehicles whose drivers intend to use Kleinburg as a destination. Emergency vehicles are accommodated. Deliveries can occur. Cycling and walking is encouraged. Business will thrive.  It just takes a leap of faith.


July 22nd, 2011
Urban Places to Delight

Where? Main Street and Carlton Drive between Station Lane and Toogood Pond

What? At the north end are activities of arts and culture at the art gallery and arenas.  Then the refreshing Toogood pond and its trails create a green bookend to the mostly commercial Main Street.

Why? Unionville was made into what it is today by Firehall Sports and the boomers to which it appealed. Heavily marketed the sports store brought patrons to Unionville, and which in course attracted many me-too shops. This spark also encouraged reinvestment by shop owners and the municipality.

How is this an Urban Place to Delight? Culture of the Varley Art Gallery is the node that connects the greenness of the pond park with the quaint commercial village atmosphere. Vital and beautiful, the village does not appeal to the commuter driver. There is ample parking, but the tough part is getting your car to the parking.  This is a slight to the driver and a benefit to the pedestrian and tourist who rule Main Street.  Green surrounds the visitor in Unionville with tree backdrops to the stores and Toogood Pond’s variably pastoral and treed surroundings.  Much in the commercial district is overpriced for the work-a-day, but at night the space remains energetic with restaurant goers and evening walkers. The space is ideal for the seasonal events held annually. Flowers in summer and seasonal lighting at other times help make this urban place one most talked about and used as comparisons for other wannabee commercial districts. This Urban Place makes no demands on visitors/users and does not differentiate between the demographic divides.  In this way, the Unionville Village teamed with Toogood Pond and Varley Art Gallery is the favoured Urban Place to Delight in York Region.

This concludes Urban Places to Delight in York Region, watch for the worst places coming up in two weeks. This will be followed by Iconic Buildings of York Region.

Previous Urban Places to Delight

8 Magna Headquarters and Golf Course, Aurora

7 ROC Park, Georgina

6 Disera Street commercial neighbourhood, Vaughan

5 Tom Taylor Trail, Newmarket

4 Holland Marsh, King Township

3 Kortright Centre, Vaughan

2 King Campus, Seneca College


July 21st, 2011
Healthy Communities, Urban Places to Delight

Where? North west of Sideroad 15 and Dufferin Street in King Township

What? This former estate of the fabled Eaton family has become a multi-use facility, primarily a Seneca College campus.

Why? It would be difficult for a visitor to determine if this is a college or a resort.  But, this is a venue for the ages.  Colleges are growing at unprecedented rates, despite rising tuition rates.  Colleges are also recession proof, providing sanctuary for the unemployed to upgrade their skills.  But King Campus is more than that.  The college median age is early twenties, but the summer brings camps for kids and the location has evening and weekend courses that attract all ages.

How is this an Urban Place to Delight? This out of the city experience provides acres for diverse courses such as landscape, motorcycle riding and diving.  Weddings and elegant events fit well in a setting that is idyllic for calming the daily stress of student life, winter and summer. Like Kortright Centre, King Campus is an educational place, only more diverse in its offerings. The location is a community of students and visitors.  The unfortunate parking is the only downfall of the otherwise beautiful campus.  And unfortunately, like most of York north of Major Mackenzie, you require a car.  With $43m announced spending from the Province of Ontario, the hope will be that it will be spent on sustainable systems.

Previous Urban Places to Delight

8 Magna Headquarters and Golf Course, Aurora

7 ROC Park, Georgina

6 Disera Street commercial neighbourhood, Vaughan

5 Tom Taylor Trail, Newmarket

4 Holland Marsh, King Township

3 Kortright Centre, Vaughan

***Tomorrow, the number one Urban Place to Delight provides for all ages an education, recreation and accessibility.


July 20th, 2011
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Urban Places to Delight

Where? South west of Major Mackenzie Drive and Pine Valley Drive, Vaughan

What? Owned by the TRCA, this is an educational environment that attracts all ages.  The website is excellent www.kortright.org.  It expresses the essence of the property in three pictures: children at camp; senior men at environmental training; and a wedding event.  This is a commercial use that helps to fund TRCA and to express its very essence – that of conservation and the environment.

Why? The centre engages the community, no make that communities.  Residents of Vaughan supplement the volunteers that flock to the site to demonstrate old tyme maple syrup harvesting and kite flying to solar power demonstrations.  Trails connect the site to the East Humber River Valley where a story is told if not by one of the volunteers, then by nature itself.

Rehan Latif photostream

How is this an Urban Place to Delight? The visitor demographic crosses the board (135,000 of them).  This is nature for all people regardless of age.  It is handicap accessible and continues to evolve with the times.  It is programmed for everyone who has an interest in nature and the environment.  Walking shoes are a must, even though you could just visit their building to learn.  This inexpensive visit is lost on those who have a penchant for shopping, although there is a little of that.  The only concern is if word gets out about the wonders of Kortright, sustainability, their watchword, will be tasked.

Previous Urban Places to Delight

8 Magna Headquarters and Golf Course, Aurora

7 ROC Park, Georgina

6 Disera Street commercial neighbourhood, Vaughan

5 Tom Taylor Trail, Newmarket

4 Holland Marsh, King Township


July 19th, 2011
Urban Places to Delight

Where? On the flats east and west of Highway 400 north of Highway 9

What? The Holland Marsh is a wetland and agricultural area and it lies entirely within the Holland River, that follows the north edge of the Oak Ridges Moraine near Schomberg to the river mouth at Cook’s Bay, Lake Simcoe. At about 8,000 hectares, historically it has simply been referred to as “the marsh”. 40% of the reclaimed farmland is in King Township (York Region).

Portions of this area have been privately reclaimed for farming, such as the Ravenshoe Road and area, and portions are recreational or undisturbed wetland, such as the adjacent Cook’s Bay area.

Why? The 8000 ha is an engineered plain with canals to properly drain. The area has an evocative history. It was one of the reasons for the Toronto Carrying Place Trail that was the initial route for the Huron Indians. In the 1800’s, the reeds of the marsh were used for a mattress company. In 1930, the canals afforded the land to become farms, and today is the vegetable garden of Ontario. Hurricane Hazel, an event that shaped York Region and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, impacted and destroyed dykes that controlled water flow. At one point, Highway 400 was under 5 feet of water.

How is this an Urban Place to Delight?

Today, travel on Highway 400 or Highway 9 and the waft of onion or other vegetables is strong in the air. The distinctive black soils, we are told will become over cropped, so we should enjoy the broad vistas of black soils while we can. Visit market gardens along Highway 9 and revel in the mix of farm machines paralleling the highways. And travel Hwy 400 in the winter and watch weather change within the 1000m through the valley. This dynamic is one of the few highlights of travelling our central highway.

Previous Urban Places to Delight

8 Magna Headquarters and Golf Course, Aurora

7 ROC Park, Georgina

6 Disera Street commercial neighbourhood, Vaughan

5 Tom Taylor Trail, Newmarket


July 18th, 2011
Pedestrianization, Trails, Urban Design, Urban Places to Delight

Where? Along the Holland River north to south through Newmarket

What? The Trail is a connecting link for the key elements of the town along the river. This trail is one of discovery. For history buffs, it skirts a canal whose locks led to the downfall of a Canadian government. For cultural lovers, it becomes an event place, outdoor theatre and annual fests, connected to the downtown around Fairy Lake. 

Why? Tom Taylor refused to leave office until it was completed from south to north. The former Holland River Trail was named in his honour and it continues to be the spine of the trails system of Newmarket.

How is it an Urban Place to Delight? This pedestrian spine is for pedestrians, what Highway 400 is for drivers – a thoroughfare along which one can venture through the entire town or casually flirt with the waters of the Holland River. This is an urban trail with little to immerse one with nature, but there is enough tree cover to provide a safe and cool environment. The cultural centre of the town is Fairy Lake where Stratford meets craft shows.  And people come to meet. Unlike other cities and towns, you can get to the centre of town by bike or by foot, if you live near the spine. The rest of the Town is not as advantaged, as the east to west corridors have yet to develop without a natural passage to follow. The Tom Taylor Trail is Newmarket’s playground and a valid reason for locating in the Town of Newmarket.

Previous Urban Places to Delight

8 Magna Headquarters and Golf Course, Aurora

7 ROC Park, Georgina

6  Disera Street commercial neighbourhood, Vaughan


July 14th, 2011
Pedestrianization, Uncategorized, Urban Design, Urban Places to Delight
Where? Across Centre Street from the Promenade Mall, Vaughan

Street and pedestrian related building facades

What? Seemingly brand new, this shopping district combines residential with commercial in the old fashioned and workable way.  It puts to shame the shops that occupy The Promenade, but must lend credit to The Promenade for starting the ball rolling at Bathurst and Centre.
Why? Urban designers in the City of Vaughan talked with the developers and their designers.  This was a consensual development agreement that no doubt rattled between the aesthetics desired by staff, the pressure of the developer on Vaughan Council and the technical and philosophical ethics of the consultants. The result is good and made better by its juxtaposition with the Promenade behemoth of the 1980’s view of the commercial world.
How is it an Urban Place to Delight? One may stop short term to frequent the coffee/bagel shops and the traffic is slow through a short street reminiscent of Unionville with its curvature.  In a sunny afternoon, the street closest to Centre is abuzz with activity.  It is evidently ethnic, but friendly to all.  The street benefits from the high density of residential developing in the community.  This street is a pleasant oasis of openness, yet protected from the buildings and streets by planter walls and carefully designed building façades.

A place to meet and greet

This modern day rival to malls appears successful when you look at the number of places that are trying to replicate its architectural vernacular. It seems almost artificial in its clean lines. planters and signage.  The wear of ages will tell whether that cleanliness turns to a ravishing patina or a worn out 2000’s idea.


July 14th, 2011
Parks, Urban Design, Urban Places to Delight



Northeast of Baseline Road and Civic Centre Road, Georgina
What? The ROCwill be the recreational, social and historical centrepiece of the Town of Georgina and a major regional tourist attraction providing opportunities for active and passive recreation, socialization, economic development and celebration that contribute to the health and well-being of residents and to pride in this great community. Conceived with the intent of creating a centralized complex, the ROC incorporates high quality sports facilities, passive recreation and adventure based activities providing four -season, multi-generational opportunities to meet the needs of a growing, diverse and vibrant Georgina” http://www.georginaroc.ca/ As yet unfinished, this park already has plenty of activity to draw recreationists. With the promise of more facilities, this park appeals to all ages and all seasons, and promotes active living (unlike its more commercial counterpart, Canada’s Wonderland). The budgets have been enhanced by the federal infrastructure programs, which has sped up the development of this great idea.
Why? The land is owned by the Town, close to the Town Civic Centre and visible to the councillors that vote on the budget for its development. One is at first greeted by the 33m high earthen mound of the ski and bike hill, prominently visible from a distance as one approaches on Base Line Road.  The Civic Centre Road leads you to the municipal office building, itself steeped in the history of the area. A former nunnery, the offices have capably been incorporated into this former Christian bastion. Between those two prominent features are places for people of all recreational ilks.
How is it an Urban Place to Delight? The site is an eclectic mix that includes a train car / wannabee restaurant; pioneer village, baseball, motocross, downhill cycling and hiking trails.  And winter is not forgotten with skiing and skating.  The spaces will need to be more functionally and aesthetically connected, but time will heal. If you cherish recreation, tune your bikes, bats and skis as this place is going to ROC in the future.

8 Magna Corporate Head Office and Golf Course, Aurora

July 13th, 2011
Urban Design, Urban Places to Delight

Google Earth image

Where? Aurora, southwest of Wellington Street and Leslie Street.

What is it?Situated among the rolling hills of the Oak Ridges Moraine in Aurora Ontario, Magna Golf Club symbolizes a fusion of nature and design.” http://www.magnagolf.com/ Doug Carrick (the course designer) likely has had smaller budgets and golfers have likely played where there are fewer bunkers.  We can see the exclusivity of the golf facility peeking through the dense cover of evergreens that separate mere mortals from the golf aficionados. The golf course is the backdrop for the corporate head office of Magna. The head office is the building one can see from Wellington Street.

Why? The Magna Head Office is an example of the corporate ego shining through its architecture.  Its Austrian cultural influence creates a monarchical grandeur. The long allée of trees on the extensive driveway give a sense of Gone With the Wind and The Sound of Music rolled into one.  But like the golf course, the building destination is distant physically from Wellington Street and from the passers-by. This intimidation of the street leaves Wellington as a ‘cars only’ thoroughfare. The grounds are immaculately maintained, a control of the land, and a metaphor for the business control that has made Magna Aurora’s company.

How is it an Urban Place to Delight? Drivers experience the pleasure of the green edge to Leslie Street, giving the sensation of a rural road moments after leaving the oft-congested four-lane Wellington Street. For as long as the golf course exists, that green wall will continue.  We all know it is there, but how many of us have played the course is another question. Completed in 2008, the course is one to which golfers like to say they had an invitation to golf.

Once on the land of the Magna property, the invited feel a certain protection.  But if the golf course does not belittle the player, then the de rigeur of the confines of the rest of the property puts both those who enter and the public in their respective places. The public delights in the grandeur of Frank Stronach’s dreams, but the largesse may be palpably shared only with the few.