The city moves to York: housing project an example of New Urbanism

York University’s splendid isolation is at an end as a huge housing project digs in, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 14. Tribute Communities’ The Village at York University, which will eventually be home to about 1,000 families, brings the city to York. It also qualifies as the largest single-family housing development now under way in the City of Toronto.

The grounds of York University could eventually include housing for 3,000 families, said Bud Purves, president of York University Development Corporation. “We do have some land in addition to this project, which could be used for housing. We can see highrises as well as the singles, detached and townhouse units Tribute is building,” he says. “What we do and when we do it depends on a number of other factors. We want to see what happens with extending the subway before we make those decisions.”

The secret ingredient and Tribute’s edge in winning out over five other bidders for the York project is New Urbanism, said the Globe. It is based on creating people- not car-centred new communities. Garages are banished to rear lanes. Houses sit on narrow lots and offer wonderful, people-friendly design features such as porches, front balconies, even Victorian gingerbread trim.

The building materials are space-age but the look is retro. “New Urbanism is almost a cliché now, but we felt it captured what we wanted to see happen on our surplus land,” Purves said. “The project could not be a barrier; it had to be a link between the University and the surrounding community. The New Urbanism style offered that.”

“This community is going to be right next to the university for the next 100 years. We didn’t just want housing, we wanted something, which would be an intrinsic part of the University community,” Purves told the newspaper. “Our standards were so demanding that they even extended to the look of rear lanes and corner units.”

Garages on rear lanes, for example, cannot have roof lines all at the same height. As a result, they vary from one-storey to one and a half and even two. Corner units must show the same attention to detail on their exposed side-walls as they do on those facing the main thoroughfare. “Every view of every house has to be attractive in every detail,” Purves said.

Purves sees a distinct benefit to York from having all those non-students and non-faculty neighbours using theatres, health centres and sports facilities. “What it does is create round-the-clock use of the University,” he explained. “I am very bullish about that. Having York at the centre of a community will give us that vibrant feel, that urban feel.”

Five pension financing ‘myths’

Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, and economist Mike Orszag, argued that the debate over financial economics and pension financing is simplistic and provides little insight into how plans should be structured or assets invested, in an essay in the National Post Nov. 14.

“From our perspective as co-editors of the Journal of Pension Economics and Finance (Cambridge University Press), the only scholarly journal devoted entirely to the subject of pensions, we are seriously concerned that financial economics has been misrepresented.” They debunked five myths that seem to pervade public discussion and urged the pension industry and regulators to actually speak with financial economists and thus avoid some of the misconceptions.

On air

  • Bob MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed the plan for transition from Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to Paul Martin and the Liberal Party’s awkward position of dealing with dual leadership, on “680 News” (CFTR-AM), Toronto, Nov. 13.

  • Janice Kim, a history professor with York’s Faculty of Arts, participated Nov. 13 on a panel about Korea: The Unfinished War, a documentary mini-series by Brian and Terence McKenna and aired by TVO Nov. 9-14.