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Building Burlington: Growing up Not Out!

Building Burlington: Growing up Not Out!

Building Burlington: Growing up Not Out!
July 18
16:22 2016

Burlington has a lot to celebrate – Number one mid-sized city and second best overall city in Canada for 2016. We are building on this success as we mature and looking to create an urban suburban municipality that continues to meet the needs of a new generation of young families and meet their needs.

“We are growing ‘up’ and not growing out,” says Mary Lou Tanner, Burlington’s Director of Planning and Building. “It means we are building new neighbourhoods in our City – think of what Vancouver did to create and build the Olympic Village – that’s what we’re doing in our City by leveraging development of our downtown and our GO Stations. At the same time, we have an incredible opportunity to ensure that our existing neighbourhoods, which are such a strong part of the City’s urban and community/social fabric, thrive. Couple that with changing how people move into our City and it is pretty much the most exciting time for an urban planner to be in Burlington.”

With this level of recognition and renewed enthusiasm it’s clear that Burlington is already an exceptional community conveniently located between Hamilton and Toronto with access to QEW/403 and 407 highway interchanges, and three GO Stations located within the City, as well as close proximity to four nearby International Airports.

Unemployment is low, incomes are high, and residents are well educated. Then there’s the Niagara Escarpment, Bruce Trail, Downtown, Waterfront, Royal Botanical Gardens, and Bronte Creek Provincial Park – it’s a huge part of what makes Burlington one of the best places to live and grow.

Within the confines or perhaps because Burlington’s geographical confines, City council has decided that the City if going to grow and that’s a fundamental change.

“In the last 20 years, it’s been growth to the boundary,”says Tanner.” The City Manager, James Ridge and I are excited to bring a strong commitment to implementing Council’s visons with a growth strategy tied to electrifying transit and developing mobility hubs to grow, to bring population and jobs, and to becoming a mature city in the context of a thriving region. This city has great bones and all the infrastructure for a strong urban city is here.”

The City of Burlington is expecting over the next 25 years to approve denser forms of housing and redeveloping aging urban plazas that date from the 1950’s and 1960’s.Taken together, these represent an opportunity for mixed use and intensification while preserving employment lands along the QEW corridor. The ground-work for Burlington’s new planning focus has been laid out already in a stratecig plan after almost a year of collaboration between the community, City Council and city staff which outlines the shift from greenfield development towards encouraging common goals and planned investment focusing on good jobs and economic opportunity, affordable and green forms of transportation while encouraging healthy lifestyles.

“When we talk about intensification we need to build new thinking and memories around what that looks like. When buildings go up, you’re building in three dimensions and we need to start thinking about what that image entails,” says Tanner. “Now we’re looking at building neighbourhoods, including the skyline.”

A large part of this policy and planning shift will focus on Burlington’s GO Stations, identified as Mobility Hubs and strategically located near Burlington’s Urban Growth Centre. Similar strategies can be seen in Waterloo, ON and Burnaby, BC where there is transit-oriented development around transit hubs with pedestrian access, high quality design, and connections to existing localities to build high quality neighbourhoods.

“We examined the Waterloo LRT Route and then looked at the strategy around it and we’ll be doing similar detailed planning in a short timeframe for our GO Stations,” says Tanner. “We’re committed to doing that work to completely re-align our transportation and growth planning. It’s really important for our success that transit, cycling, and walking is integrated into our mobility choices.”

The renewal process is already underway. Within weeks the City’s Planning and Building Division will be releasing three reports on capturing how we are going to grow; fast tracking mobility hubs, and commercial area redevelopment.

“These will be available on the City’s website under Planning and Development. In the fall, we’ll be out in the community talking to people about how and where the city can grow and we will be asking for advice and feedback on our growth agenda including the quality of design, urban- friendly density and the economics of infill and intensification,” says Tanner. “There’s a bright future for a city like Burlington with old and new neighbourhoods, beaches and greenspaces, and an amazing quality of life at hand.”

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    Lloyd Stevens has been writing Canadian business news for over 20 years with articles appearing in Perspective which appears in The Globe & Mail and contributing to and

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