Bostonians, see Jesse Colin Jackson speak!


Our friend Jesse Colin Jackson will be speaking at Harvard this April on his photographs of Toronto’s towers. Jackson’s images invite the audience to consider these conflicted sites, and have had an important role in changing the status of apartment towers in Toronto’s collective consciousness. If you’re in the Boston area, we recommend the talk.


The community that could: Ideas from the Storefront

ESS Book

Recently the East Scarborough Storefront published a report documenting a number of aspects of their path to neighbourhood renewal. Since the Storefront’s approach has proven so successful, this report is very valuable for other communities interested in making some positive changes to the neighbourhood.


Powers of Towers: New video starring Graeme Stewart and Sabina Ali


ERA’s Graeme Stewart and Sabina Ali of the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee are featured in a terrific new video by Spacing. The video, which also includes interviews with ERA’s Michael McClelland, is entitled “Powers of Towers,” and profiles the efforts of Graeme and Sabina to transform Toronto’s aging suburban high-rise neighbourhoods into livable communities that work. Graeme and Sabina were jointly awarded the 2014 Jane Jacobs Prize, also presented by Spacing magazine.


Active neighbourhoods invite: A talk and design charrette


ERA’s Graeme Stewart is pleased to be participating in the Active Neighbourhoods Canada project taking place in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, Wed., March 25.

The project uses participatory planning to help communities across Canada create green, active and healthy neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods celebrate the active use of shared public space; they support walking and cycling for everyone through safe and welcoming urban design based on the community’s vision.


RAC Zone in Spacing: Rise of Mixed-Use Tower Neighbourhoods


The fall issue of Spacing Magazine features a short piece by ERA’s Graeme Stewart in a section called “Opinion Makers.” The article reviews Toronto’s history of residential tower development and explains the evolution of the new RAC zone allowing new program and land use in our apartment neighbourhoods. Read the full text below:


Toronto Star: Tower Renewal a “Big Idea”


The Toronto Star’s ongoing “Big Ideas” series shares ideas from Toronto planners, architects, and creative thinkers on how to make the city a better place. Recently The Star’s urban affairs columnist Christopher Hume chatted with ERA’s Graeme Stewart about various issues and initiatives surrounding the Tower Renewal project.

To read this web chat, please go to

Photo: Jesse Colin Jackson


New initiative w/ Evergreen CityWorks & Derek Ballantyne

TP Logo

As announced recently in the Evergreen CityWorks’ Intersection Magazine, the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal is teaming up with Evergreen CityWorks and Derek Ballantyne (CEO, Community Forward Fund) to engage in new initiatives in Tower Renewal. The purpose of this Tower Partnership will be to develop feasible funding and implementation strategies for a series of Tower Renewal sites in the GTA, working with project partners City of Toronto, United Way, Metcalf Foundation, Toronto Atmospheric Fund and more. The ultimate goal is to provide usable new models for revitalization as hundreds of tower communities across the region begin exploring the possibilities of new RAC zoning and other tools.

Below, please see more detail on the new initiative, as published in Intersection, v1n1:


Greening Jane and Finch: Competition finalists


Recently the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) held a competition to create innovative master plans to revitalize Toronto’s San Romanoway Affordable Housing Complex. The “Greening the Grounds” competition asked participants to propose designs that would provide this priority neighbourhood with a new community garden, urban orchard, greenhouse, market space, shelters, seating, paths, recreation areas, and more. The winning entry will be refined and implemented beginning as soon as autumn, 2014.


RAC Zoning Approved for 500 Sites



This June, Toronto City Council approved the proposed Residential Apartment Commercial (RAC) zone. Following a process of nearly two years of research, public consultation, policy development, and advocacy in partnership with United Way, City of Toronto and Toronto Public Health, the RAC zoning will take effect by summer’s end, (barring appeal), in nearly 500 Apartment properties that form dozens of Apartment Neighbourhoods across the city.

The new zoning by-law provides a new and flexible land-use framework for Apartment Neighbourhoods. The goal of this new framework is to enable healthy, complete, and vibrant neighbourhoods better able to respond to local needs and opportunities. The goal is addressed primarily by allowing for a full range of uses within these neighbourhoods: commercial activity, social activity, and community services – amenities that most areas of Toronto take for granted.


PechaKucha: Tower Renewal 101

Recently ERA’s Graeme Stewart presented a crash course in Tower Renewal at a Toronto PechaKucha event focused on urban innovation. The short, 7-minute talk covers half a century of Toronto’s history and, right up to some of the exciting new initiatives taking place in and around Toronto’s Tower Neighbourhoods.


Unlocking High-rise Potential: Consultations

The following article by Edward LaRusic was recently published in the Toronto edition of Novae Res Urbis:

The city is proposing a new zoning designation to transform the concrete towers of Toronto’s inner suburbs, typically poorly served by transportation, retail and other amenities, into complete communities.

If approved, the new zoning designation of “residential apartment commercial (RAC)” would loosen restrictive rules on high-rise apartment neighbourhoods that date to the 1950s and, it is hoped, attract small businesses and services to the densely populated communities cut off from their surroundings.


Jane Jacobs Prize to Graeme Stewart & Sabina Ali

The 2014 Jane Jacobs prize has been awarded to Graeme Stewart of ERA and Sabina Ali of the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee.


According to the creators and stewards of the Jane Jacobs Prize, Ideas that Matter and Spacing Magazine, this honour “celebrates individuals who contribute to the fabric of Toronto life in unique ways that exemplify the ideas of Jane Jacobs. The prize recipients reflect the diverse aspects of city life.” 


New opportunities through zoning reform: Your feedback needed

Photo: Jesse Colin Jackson

The City of Toronto wants to bring more vitality and convenience to its Apartment Neighbourhoods. In March and April, a number of public consultations will be held to incorporate the ideas of community members.

A new zoning type, “Residential Apartment Commercial” (RAC), has been created to provide more amenities and more usable public space in selected neighbourhoods.


New Tower Study: Affordability Tenuous

Photo by Jesse Colin Jackson

Update: A new edition of this report is available as of March 12, 2014.

It has long been understood that while Toronto’s tower neighbourhoods are areas of social need (see reports “Vertical Poverty,” and “Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe”), they also provide a vital source of affordable housing in the region. Just how tenuous that affordability can be, however, is the subject of a recent U of T Cities Centre report by Emily Paradis.


The Star’s Big Idea Series: The Region’s Future is in its High-Rise Suburbs

Image: Toronto Star

Throughout the first part of 2014, the Toronto Star is running a series called “Big Ideas“,  asking Torontonians to think big about the future of the region. What type of Toronto do we want to create in the years to come?

For our contribution to this series, we discuss Tower Renewal as the key to realizing the region’s potential. The piece can be found at Here at, or below:


Mapping Tower Renewal: Areas of Opportunity / Priority

Map identifying areas of high potential / priority for Tower Neighbourhood Renewal. Click on image for additional mapping.

As part of the ongoing to work to re-examining zoning in Apartment Neighbourhoods, a series of maps have been developed to identify trends, patterns and areas of high impact in phasing the implementation of the new RAC apartment zone.

The RAC zone is a new set of policies to provide tools and opportunities as part of the larger initiative of Tower Neighbourhood Renewal.

Building from mapping conducted for the report Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horsehoe, maps complied here show the distribution of towers throughout the City; where towers congregate into large clusters forming tower neighbourhoods; and where these large tower neighbourhoods experience high incidence of social need.