You won’t likely find “The Grand Bargain” in a planning text, even though it explains in a phrase the de facto understanding that has shaped many of the places where Canadians live.
The bargain looks like this:
This is North York* between the Sheppard and Finch subway stations – a one-block-deep corridor of high-density mixed-use development on either side of Yonge Street.
Go another block further and there is a cliff-face drop in scale, where single-family suburbia begins under a canopy of street trees.
Post-war Toronto and its suburban cities decided to accommodate density (those concrete towers especially) where there was primarily commercial and industrial zoning. With the opening of the Yonge Street subway in 1954, the station areas made ideal locations, especially where there was already a streetcar village.
To deal with community blowback at the sudden change in scale and alienating architecture, especially if the bulldozing of existing residential neighbourhoods might be required, planners and councils struck a compact: we won’t touch a blade of grass in your single-family zones. Your status will be maintained.
Hence the Grand Bargain: high-rise density, low-scale suburbia, little in between. Massive change for one, almost none for the other, and spot rezonings thereafter.
On the other side of the country, something similar was going in Burnaby. In the fifties, the Lower Mainland Regional Planning Board produced a vision – ‘cities in a sea of green‘ – and provided the guidelines to go with it, notably where to consider apartment zoning. David Pereira details the evolution of Burnaby’s commitment to the regional vision and its apartment zones, renamed town centres, in the 1960s.
That bargain when built out looks like this: Read more »