The rise of the master-planned community in Canadian cities


By Duncan McAllister for Metro News, August 6, 2015

General George S. Patton once said that a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. We all know that planning is an essential aspect of real estate and urban development. It would seem that we’re living in the era of the master-planned community. We hear the term a lot, but what does it mean exactly?

BusinessDictionary.com describes it as a type of residential plan, the scope of which is very large, and includes a number of amenities such as parks, golf courses, bike paths and jogging trails.

Closer to the city, it’s a large community, built in phases by one or more builders, which encompasses elements of live, work and play. That may include condos, townhomes, office buildings, shopping centres and parks. The building form is now common to most Canadian cities.

On the West Coast, there’s a new master-planned community just outside of Vancouver in the Fremont neighbourhood of Port Coquitlam. The Fremont Riverfront District by developer Mosaic Homes comprises condos, townhomes and commercial units in a true live-work-play community. The modern, pedestrian-oriented neighbourhood has more than 650 row home and apartment residences, with the Fremont Riverclub at its centre.

Another example of a master-planned community that goes beyond the realm of imagination, Zibi straddles the banks of the Ottawa River, located in both the City of Ottawa and the City of Gatineau. This multi-phase project, from Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp., will transform a derelict section of land into a blend of condominium towers and townhomes, commercial space and unique waterfront plazas.

In the town of Markham, just north of Toronto, the Remington Group has also embarked on an ambitious project that will include a mix of retail, residential and commercial properties.

The $3-billion Downtown Markham project will represent the largest planned, mixed-use development in Canada. The site is home to the Signature Condominium Collection, an exclusive condo-hotel designed by Quadrangle Architects with interiors by II BY IV Design.

Sheldon Levitt, principal with Quadrangle Architects, says that back in the ’90s, their client Remington, having acquired the 250-acre property, wanted to build something different than just another bedroom community.

“It was a time when there was a lot of talk about New Urbanism,” he said.

“The thinking was that subdivisions are a 20th-century phenomenon and the world is going to more mixed-use communities with a focus on being both pedestrian and transit-oriented and bringing the car under some form of control.”

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