Suburban Condominium Development, Private Interests, And The Role Of Image Production In The Reorientation Of Urban Form In The Gta
For the better part of their modern existence, the municipalities comprising the Greater Toronto Area (“GTA”) have been characterized by low-density, auto-centric development and single-detached homes. For more than the past decade, however, the development of urban form in the GTA has shifted from a focus on horizontal sprawl to vertical growth, predicated by the introduction of protected greenbelt areas and planning policies dramatically restricting the amount of available greenfield land for development and shaping future land consumption. Coinciding with the policy push towards intensification was the emergence of a condominium boom in the City of Toronto that has permeated outwards Toronto’s neighbouring suburban municipalities. The urban forms of Mississauga, Vaughan and Markham have begun to undergo significant change guided by the notion that mid- and high-rise condominium towers are no longer solely a central-city building typology. Mid-rise and high-rise towers have been introduced as a new suburban built form typology integral to support suburban strategies of intensification. These ‘suburban’ municipalities have utilized different approaches with respect to the physical appearance of the built environment to support neoliberal urban development agendas to shift from once classical bedroom communities or towns into intensified, competitive major players in the metropolitan landscape both locally and globally. How have the policies of current land-use planning regimes, the actions of the local development industry and the perceptions of users of suburban space played a role in this shift in the built environment? Further, what do the city-building processes and image production practices employed reflect about the political, economic and social systems controlling development in the Toronto city-region? To answer these questions, this paper explores how changes in suburban form have been influenced by socially constructed imagery and values as communicated by planning policy and placemarketing strategies. It investigates why this imagery is created, how it is used by condominium developers to proliferate suburban built form, and how this imagery is received and consumed by individuals. Focusing on the commodification of housing form, this research explores the motivating factors exploited by the development industry to promote new built form typologies in the suburbs.