5 issues condos face

Condo developments have both positive and negative impacts on the local neighbourhood and city as a whole.  Promoting projects that will have a net positive impact is part balancing private interest and public good, and part capitalizing on ways private interests can cooperatively reinforce and create opportunities for public good.

Reflecting on my proposed 5 ways condos can rock and 5 ways condos can suck, I’ve identified 5 issues condos face. There is no magic formula or plan. There is no way to guarantee a project will not have negative consequences. However, the way these issues are approached, by both the developer and the community, can promote socially responsible, responsive, and adaptive development.

5 issues condos face

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1

balance interests

Condo developers have a social responsibility, as do all civic participants, in negotiating interests with the broader community. This is not to say we should expect them to be wholly benevolent and altruistic, either. As private companies they have vested interests which may or may not coincide with those of the city, the neighbourhood, and local residents. It therefore typically falls to the city to develop a plan to evaluate and predict the needs of multiple interest groups and individuals, and to develop strategies to keep the coinciding and diverging needs in balance in order to promote healthy and sustainable development.

2

give it time

The impact of development is not an absolute science. Cities are complex and in constant flux. The best predictions based on past trends cannot guarantee future results. It is important to continue to observe the actual impact of development after it happens and to tweak and adjust as needed. Sudden and large scale development can significantly alter a community’s dynamic and balance. Spreading development out both geographically and time-wise promote subtle adjustments rather than drastic changes. It gives communities time to adapt and integrate change. We like to talk about how our successful neighbourhoods “grow organically”, that implies a certain resilience, adaptability, and will to thrive. We should be mindful gardeners but we should also allow new development time to settle in and find its rhythm and place in the neighbourhood.

3

infra-structure

By densifying core neighbourhoods, condos can make a significant positive impact on increasing the efficiency and affordability of public services. Yet public infrastructure and private development always seem to be at a bit of a standoff. Large condo projects create a sudden increase demand on the local infrastructure which often scrambles to catch up. Cities are reluctant to invest in developing and improving infrastructure until there is sufficient usership and people are reluctant to move to neighbourhoods until there are sufficient services. Once again, careful planning and timing are key to ensure these developments positively impact their communities. Developers and cities need to work together to turn the confrontational standoff into a collaborative dance.

4

diversity

Economic and cultural background, family types, building types, building scales, business types, all contribute to the character of any neighbourhood. Identity, however, should not be confused with everything being the same. Diversity helps make communities well-rounded, sustainable, safe, active, interesting, and the list goes on. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it won’t fit in. To the contrary, it often has the potential to add new depth and dimension. It’s hard to know what the exact recipe is that makes a neighbourhood work or not. Attempts by new developments to just recreate and add more of the same so as to not stir the pot, often fall short and overly homogenize. Projects that try to hard to introduce something new, often stick out like a sore thumb and create discord. It’s not easy but it is possible to find a balance where the something different and new compliments more than it conflicts.

5

scale

Figuring out what exactly it means to be “in scale” is always challenging because there are always multiple scales in play. Condo projects should be considerate of the existing scale of its immediate neighbours and overall neighbourhood. This does not necessarily mean matching the existing scale. Development is also about looking forward and must therefor consider future scale(s). As urban populations rise and cities attempt to densify and contain sprawl, development inches upward. A well designed street-level, mindful of human scale and context, can often dissolve the towering or even mid-rise heights of the condos above and integrate itself comfortably into the urban fabric of almost any neighbourhood.

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What are your thoughts on which issues contribute to successful development in our neighbourhoods? How do we measure success?

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