Growing Up In Toronto, How We’re Creating Communities Where Children Can Thrive
March 18, 2021

Look up, way up, and it's easy to see that Toronto is soaring to new heights. But as our skyline continues to rise, it's important to stop and ask ourselves, are the communities we're building helping to lift the next generation? As Toronto grows up, we need to ensure that we're providing safe and engaging places for our children to do the same. That's why Collecdev is taking part in Growing Up, the Urban Design Guidelines from the City of Toronto, designed to create an inclusive, sustainable city for everyone, even our youngest citizens.

A History of Children in the Downtown Core

Children have lived in Toronto’s downtown core since families first settled in the area, but at the turn of the 20th century, the growing urban population began to squeeze out child-friendly infrastructure and kids were left to use their imaginations to turn streets, laneways, stoops, and staircases into impromptu urban playgrounds.

Recognizing that those environments were less than hospitable, the City of Toronto embarked on The Playground Movement, a radical shift in the organization of urban space that identified children as active users, worthy of consideration. Today, the Growing Up study continues that tradition, including children as a key stakeholder in a holistic approach to planning city life and public space.

Diversity Makes Room for Everyone

Diversity is the backbone of a strong community, and, as developers, it’s our responsibility to build homes conducive to that diversity. That means a range of unit types and sizes that not only supports households with children, but households at all different stages of life. It means connectivity to transit, access to community services, and a rich selection of neighbourhood amenities. It means affordability, not only for the initial home purchase, but through unit design that responds to a family’s changing needs, saving the cost of future relocation. Collecdev takes everyone into account, young and old, delivering complete communities that meet the daily needs of all residents.

The Design Guidelines 

Between 1996 and 2016 more than 15,000 families with children made the move into a high-rise building in the city. 13% of Toronto families call a condominium home (well above the national average of 8.4%), and as that trend continues, the City has responded with Growing Up.

The guidelines are rooted in Toronto’s Official Plan, which “seeks to create an attractive and safe city where people of all ages and abilities can enjoy a good quality of life.” The goal is to integrate family-centric design into new multi-unit residential development, in other words, to make sure that every new vertical community offers a welcoming home to people of every age. To do that, the guidelines address the entire community experience, from the surrounding neighbourhood, to the family home, the same things we look at when planning a Collecdev community.

The Condo Suite

We begin in the suite itself by considering the unique needs of a family and what specific features can help address those needs. Suite are designed with efficient layouts; ample storage space; enough room to gather, connect, and share meals; bedrooms conducive to homework time and with windows that allow for natural light; and balconies or terraces that extend the living space and provide a modern version of the traditional backyard.

The Building

We move into the building where functional and flexible amenity space, and a critical mass of larger units, support a vibrant social life across multiple generations. Indoor and outdoor common spaces are designed to promote socialization and casual interaction between neighbours, creating a neighbourhood experience for the modern age.

The Neighbourhood

At the neighbourhood level, we focus on children’s experience of the city, considering things like safe pedestrian, cycling, and transit networks that encourage children’s independence; access to natural gardens that help kids learn about the environment and central parks that help anchor the neighbourhood; public art; high-quality, conveniently-located schools and child care; an active street life with community services and engaging retail; sustainable features; and a touch of whimsy to encourage young imaginations. These are all the elements that have long been included in low-rise neighbourhoods to encourage family living, and are now available in the urban centre, offering a new alternative for today’s modern families.

Over time, as children grow, these guidelines allow them to explore further and further afield, expanding their horizons as they move from their home, to the building, to the local neighbourhood.

How the Guidelines Were Developed 

Similar to how we’re developing our newest projects at 44 Broadway and 300 Bloor Street West, the guidelines for Growing Up were created in collaboration with the community. The City engaged development industry professionals (including architects, planners, landscape architects, and developers like Collecdev), families, residents, and city staff. They used traditional methods, like public meetings, and innovative new information-gathering campaigns like kinder-workshops, walking tours, pop-up events, online surveys, in-home “CondoHack” visits that revealed how families had “hacked” their homes to meet their unique needs, and design jams with high-school students that ensured that the perspective of youth were heard and included. They studied international and local case studies, bringing best practices home from across the globe, similar to the vision for Collecdev’s Scandinavian-inspired communities, TRETTI and Nørdic. And through extensive collaboration, the guidelines emerged, a comprehensive method to building thriving urban communities where children have the opportunity to participate, learn, engage, and grow.

At Collecdev we’ve always known that collaboration leads to better communities and we’re committed to building inclusive spaces that welcome people of all ages and generations. Through responsible development and thoughtful design, guided by the key tenets in Growing Up, we’re helping to ensure that growing up in Toronto means opportunity and inspiration for future generations, starting right now.

Discover Collecdev’s full portfolio of complete, multi-generational communities at collecdev.com. And for more information on the Growing Up consultations and guidelines, check out www.toronto.ca/growingupTO.