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At the core of it all is walkability.

Design principles should not just ensure that walking from place to place is an option, but should assume that it is the preferred choice.

This principle would drive the following features as a natural result:

  • Amenities and destinations located close to homes – and vice versa. Places to live, work, shop, and play, all in general proximity to one another. Buying a loaf of bread, picking up a prescription, or catching a street car, would not require a trip to a parking lot two miles away;

  • Every opportunity would be seized to include green space: shrubs, hedges, trees, hanging plants, lawns, whatever. An outdoor environment that is pleasant and attractive.

  • Streets narrow enough to allow pedestrians to cross without playing a real-life game of Frogger;

  • Buildings located along main streets that are large, but not huge.

  • Major roadways lined with corridors of five-storey (+/-) buildings, wide sidewalks, and large trees. Ruthlessly reject the current standard approach that promotes tall towers at intersections inevitably separated by long stretches of two-storey shops or - in some cases - single family dwellings;

  • Along main streets, elevation within buildings would influence uses: retail at grade; office and/or high-quality residential immediately above; small scale/affordable residential above that. This would introduce diversity of use and residential affordability within the same footprint;

  • Homes mostly in small clusters of multiples. Few – if any – singles. Instead, semi-detached, row houses, or low walk-up apartments – but not towers. Living spaces all to be close to the ground; not dependent on elevators.
  • As much as possible, spaces behind homes would host laneways, parking areas, and utilities. Streetscapes would be open and green.

  • Ample public spaces – in the form of parks or schoolyards – to promote community activity. Not every park area need be large, but no household would be beyond biking distance from an open area large enough to host a soccer game or baseball game in summer or a decent snowball fight in winter. Each park would have shade trees, sitting areas, and play areas for small children.

  • Speed limits of 30 or 35 km/h throughout. (For this speed limit to work it has to be universal throughout the community; variations in speed limits only invite confusion and non-compliance.) Design cues (“traffic friction”) where possible to make this the natural speed.

  • Conveniently located high order transit that connects readily to the city’s major transit lines. The new district must have an LRT line or, at least, high capacity lane-separated streetcar lines on main roadways.

  • By all means, exploit opportunities for technologies to enhance livability. Universal wi-fi, district heating/cooling, subpavement snow melting; underground garbage collection are all possible; every opportunity to pursue these ideas should be explored. But remember that the goal is to build a community; not a database.

  • Make the most of the water’s edge. And make it a public asset, not a private preserve.