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Thread: Toronto's glass condos face short lifespan, experts say

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Toronto's glass condos face short lifespan, experts say

    Wow this is bad news for Toronto.


    Many of the glass condominium towers filling up the Toronto skyline will fail 15 to 25 years after they’re built, perhaps even earlier, and will need retrofits costing millions of dollars, say some industry experts.

    Buyers drawn to glass-walled condos because of the price and spectacular views may soon find themselves grappling with nightmarish problems, including:
    Read more here http://ca.news.yahoo.com/torontos-gl...114359149.html

    I never understood why cities in Canada ( more so the east coast in Canada and very much so Toronto and the Toronto area is really into highrise apartments and condos ..

    I believe most apartments here built in the 40's and 50's are 5 stories but apartments built in the 60's , 70's and 80's for some reason is highrise apartments here even in the suburbs .The late 90's is norm to have highrise condos and is big trend here now.

    Never understood why .But many of those ghettoo Toronto neighbourhoods like in St. James Town ,Regent Park, Jane and Finch or Weston

    St. James Town
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St_James_Town1.jpg

    Regent Park
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:To...ndise_Roof.jpg

    Those pictures of those highrise apartments look so poor .


    They better make sure this does not turn into like those areas.



    May be this may expplain.


    St. James Town (sometimes spelled St. Jamestown) is a neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It lies in the northeast corner of the downtown area. The neighbourhood covers the area bounded by Sherbourne Street to the west, Bloor Street to the north, Parliament Street to the east, and Wellesley Street East to the south.

    St. James Town is the largest high-rise community in Canada. It consists of 19 high-rise buildings (14 to 32 stories). These massive residential towers were built in the 1960s. Approximately 17,000 people live in the neighbourhood's 19 apartment towers and 4 low rise buildings, making it Canada's most densely populated community,[1] and one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods anywhere in North America.


    St. James Town began to grow in the 19th century when it became a semi-suburban area home to the city's middle class. The area was rezoned in the 1950s as the nineteenth century homes were levelled, and apartment towers — inspired by Le Corbusier's Towers in the Park concept — were erected. Each tower accommodated thousands of residents surrounded by green space, but with few amenities. Each of the buildings is named after a major Canadian city.


    Aerial Photograph of St. James Ward, 1942
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...Aerial1942.jpg


    apartments lacked appeal and the area quickly became much poorer. Four buildings were built by the province as public housing. Today, the towers are mostly home to newly arrived immigrant families.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_James_Town
    Last edited by nec209; 19 Nov 2011 at 2:53 AM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nec209 View post
    I never understood why cities in Canada ( more so the east coast in Canada and very much so Toronto and the Toronto area is really into highrise apartments and condos ..

    I believe most apartments here built in the 40's and 50's are 5 stories but apartments built in the 60's , 70's and 80's for some reason is highrise apartments here even in the suburbs .The late 90's is norm to have highrise condos and is big trend here now.
    No cite, but from what I read, the reason Toronto has so much high-rise housing, even in suburban areas, is because its planners were often educated in the UK, and looked across the Atlantic for inspiration on urban design and housing issues. European cities looked to high-rise apartments to replace housing lost in WWII, and provide quick shelter for a growing number of Baby Boomers. Post-WWII planning in Toronto was a hybrid of European and American planning principles from the era; thus, Western US-style vehicle-oriented subdivisions, shopping malls, and the "towers in a park" in a context that seem so alien to my American eyes. There were even developments that incorporated all those concepts, like Don Mills.

    (15 years ago or so, I took a tour of Don Mills with its designer, Macklin Hancock. It was quite fascinating, and lent a lot of insight into the zeitgeist of Toronto during the post-War era.)

    For some reason, the inner-ring suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio have a lot of mid-rise (~15 story) apartment buildings, though not in Toronto quantities. There's even more in the Washington DC area. These are really the only American cities I've visited (or, in the case of Cleveland, lived in) where suburban "commieblocks" aren't an anomaly.

    http://g.co/maps/wjtcj
    http://g.co/maps/wj8h7
    http://g.co/maps/sthpj
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  3. #3
    Id be a bit skeptical about reports that a entire certain class of housing is going to fall apart before its time. I remember this:

    In 1978 or so, a professor told me that all the 1950's to 1970s tract housing built down in San Jose was going to be nothing but dilapidated slums by the 1990s. Cheaply built, cookie cutter, over priced he said as he dismissed it all. In this housing bust world of 2011, the housing sells for $500,000 for the most part.

    As far as the Toronto buildings are concerned. Some will age poorly and will have to be significantly renovated. Some will turn out to be expertly constructed and will last for 50 years, if not longer. No outsider can predict what will happen unless he or she has closely inspected the units and the construction. Some people are just grouchy.

  4. #4
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    In 1978 or so, a professor told me that all the 1950's to 1970s tract housing built down in San Jose was going to be nothing but dilapidated slums by the 1990s. Cheaply built, cookie cutter, over priced he said as he dismissed it all. In this housing bust world of 2011, the housing sells for $500,000 for the most part.
    Slightly OT: I think every generation thinks the housing built during it is generally shoddy. When Buffalo's homers decry tract mansions and their alleged "25 year lifespans", I point them to the tiny "doll houses" (600-800 square foot Cape Cods, with one prominent builder of such houses actually named "Doll House Inc.") built by the tens of thousands in Buffalo's blue-collar suburbs during the 1950s. When they were first built, many thought they were destined for landfills within a couple of decades. Almost all of the doll houses still stand, much to the dismay of elected officials who are facing a growing stock of now-obsolete but still structurally sound housing.

    Meanwhile, the city neighborhoods once filled with telescoping cottages "lovingly crafted by hand by skilled immigrant carpenters from Bavaria who built the great cathedrals of Europe, with oak/chestnut lumber from old growth forests, real two-by-fours on one foot centers, personally blessed by the bishop of the Buffalo Diocese, (yadda yadda yadda)" are now urban prairies. The cottages in gentrifying neighborhoods are money pits, notorious for their sagging roofs, poor tolerances, lack of right angles, and awkward floorplans, all despite over-construction with hardwood timber. Survivor bias, folks - we don't see the crap from the past because it usually didn't survive to the present. Older doesn't necessarily mean better, and newer doesn't necessary mean shoddy.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    No cite, but from what I read, the reason Toronto has so much high-rise housing, even in suburban areas, is because its planners were often educated in the UK, and looked across the Atlantic for inspiration on urban design and housing issues. European cities looked to high-rise apartments to replace housing lost in WWII, and provide quick shelter for a growing number of Baby Boomers. Post-WWII planning in Toronto was a hybrid of European and American planning principles from the era; thus, Western US-style vehicle-oriented subdivisions, shopping malls, and the "towers in a park" in a context that seem so alien to my American eyes. There were even developments that incorporated all those concepts, like Don Mills.

    (15 years ago or so, I took a tour of Don Mills with its designer, Macklin Hancock. It was quite fascinating, and lent a lot of insight into the zeitgeist of Toronto during the post-War era.)

    For some reason, the inner-ring suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio have a lot of mid-rise (~15 story) apartment buildings, though not in Toronto quantities. There's even more in the Washington DC area. These are really the only American cities I've visited (or, in the case of Cleveland, lived in) where suburban "commieblocks" aren't an anomaly.

    http://g.co/maps/wjtcj
    http://g.co/maps/wj8h7
    http://g.co/maps/sthpj




    Those planners like Le Corbusier's Towers in the Park concept was it also main thing advocating the use of shopping malls and hostile to plazas and commercial strips that you see alot of in US cities.

    If so that may explain why you do not see many plazas and commercial strips here is do to so many shopping malls here..


    Also why was Le Corbusier's and those planners so hostile to those smaller apartment in the US 2 to 4 stories ?

    Id be a bit skeptical about reports that a entire certain class of housing is going to fall apart before its time. I remember this:

    In 1978 or so, a professor told me that all the 1950's to 1970s tract housing built down in San Jose was going to be nothing but dilapidated slums by the 1990s. Cheaply built, cookie cutter, over priced he said as he dismissed it all. In this housing bust world of 2011, the housing sells for $500,000 for the most part.

    Look at Toronto neighbourhoods like in St. James Town ,Regent Park, Jane and Finch or Weston they are ghetto.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Slightly OT: I think every generation thinks the housing built during it is generally shoddy. When Buffalo's homers decry tract mansions and their alleged "25 year lifespans", I point them to the tiny "doll houses" (600-800 square foot Cape Cods, with one prominent builder of such houses actually named "Doll House Inc.") built by the tens of thousands in Buffalo's blue-collar suburbs during the 1950s. When they were first built, many thought they were destined for landfills within a couple of decades. Almost all of the doll houses still stand, much to the dismay of elected officials who are facing a growing stock of now-obsolete but still structurally sound housing.

    Meanwhile, the city neighborhoods once filled with telescoping cottages "lovingly crafted by hand by skilled immigrant carpenters from Bavaria who built the great cathedrals of Europe, with oak/chestnut lumber from old growth forests, real two-by-fours on one foot centers, personally blessed by the bishop of the Buffalo Diocese, (yadda yadda yadda)" are now urban prairies. The cottages in gentrifying neighborhoods are money pits, notorious for their sagging roofs, poor tolerances, lack of right angles, and awkward floorplans, all despite over-construction with hardwood timber. Survivor bias, folks - we don't see the crap from the past because it usually didn't survive to the present. Older doesn't necessarily mean better, and newer doesn't necessary mean shoddy.
    QFT!

    On the matter of the glass-walled condos, the problems predicted for them seem very likely to happen. Most of these window walls are constructed with metal and/or vinyl, so they will have issues with expansion and contraction as well as the failure of the gaskets around the windowalls. I once worked in a high-rise in downtown Albany with large expanses of glass instead of concrete and steel. My office faced west. I baked in the summer, and scraped ice off the inside of the windows in the winter, even though the heating/ac units were right in front of those windows. Glass, even double-paned insulated low-e glass windows, is far less energy efficient than other building materials. This is why passive solar homes have relatively little glass except on their south-facing sides.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Here is street view showing the city of Ottawa and Edmonton thay have the same thing highrise apartments and it looks out place do to no other highrise building with lots and lots of homes built in low density sprawl


    I don't have pictures yet but Hamilton and Kitchener has same thing lots of highrise apartments .. I was looking at that area the other day .


    Ottawa has the same thing
    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...=12,28.82,,0,0


    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...=12,58.82,,0,0


    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...,61.98,,0,2.82



    Edmonton has the same thing
    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...=12,20.02,,0,0

    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...24.09,,0,-8.75


    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...,48.27,,0,-3.1

    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...86.61,,0,-5.15

    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...30.03,,0,-7.48


    Note alot of the highrise apartments are in the suburbs above with low density sprawl.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    There are some high-rise apartments in suburban Chicago, but they're usually not as out-of-place, since they tend to blend in to the landscape better. This is because they are either concentrated in the older, central, downtown areas of these cities (especially along suburban commuter rail lines), or because they are concentrated along major interstates, where they blend in with the suburban office buildings in these areas.

    That being said, I think apartments are coming back due to the sour economy, the mental bruising caused by the housing collapse, and the growing sustainability/"less is more" movement. While I think new apartment construction is almost certain, I wonder if any new suburban high-rises will be proposed. For awhile, there's been a lack of apartment contstruction in the area, and due to the economy, demand for apartments in the Chicago area is at record levels, sending rental rates through the roof. The Naperville-Aurora submarket, in particular, has current occupancy at 97%, which is pretty high. Some apartment construction is expected in the near future and developers are already scouting. However, I think the trend will still be in favor of constructing apartment buildings in complexes of several buildings no higher than 3, 4, or 5 stories, particularly located near major transit or highway corridors. But I just can't picture the Canadian patterns of erecting high-rises anywhere and everywhere in suburbia.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I think that high-rise housing is just not that popular in most of the US, so the market for it is rather limited. The American dream remains a detached single family house on a residential street not a penthouse apartment with a city view.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    I think that high-rise housing is just not that popular in most of the US, so the market for it is rather limited. The American dream remains a detached single family house on a residential street not a penthouse apartment with a city view.
    There are two markets for high-rise apartments in Toronto – rental buildings and condo buildings. Many rental high-rise apartments have traditionally been rented to recent immigrants. Canada’s immigration policies have therefore had an impact on how many apartment buildings are constructed and where they are located. Some apartment neighbourhoods like St. James Town and Flemingdon Park have been categorized as “ghettos” but some people, although these places perform a very important role as affordable gateway neighbourhoods for new immigrants. While many immigrant groups tend to move out of the high-rises into other housing forms, not all do. I suspect the stigma of apartment living in not nearly as strong in Toronto as a result.

    In general all new condo high-rise buildings are marketed as “luxury” buildings and are sold to young urban couples looking to buy their first home. As long as the neighbourhood retains a strong market for this category of buyer the units will keep their cache and value. However once new development in the area stops and the market for trendy young urban couples moves to a new neighbourhood, the buildings tend to start transforming into rental housing for lower income groups, including the elderly, single-parent families and students. This is effectively a trickle-down housing strategy with high-end luxury buildings slowly evolving into affordable housing in certain neighbourhoods

    The issue of poor construction quality of recently built buildings is a big issue. If it proves to be a problem the current trendy neighbourhoods like City Place and Liberty Village could start their slide very quickly as new buyers are scared off and existing owners are faced with huge repair costs. This would result in a severe drop in unit value and would hasten their slide into rental housing neighbourhoods - the same thing that happened to St.James Town in the1970's.
    Last edited by Howl; 22 Nov 2011 at 2:22 PM.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Howl I can see places in Toronto or Vancouver but not in the suburbs of Toronto or Vancouver that are 10 KM ,15 KM or 20 KM away from the down town area.And places like Calgary and Edmonton that has lots of land to build and is more sprawling than Houston and Denver makes no sense.

    And cities like Hamilton , Kitchener and Brantford that is not really seeing that much building going on makes no sense.


    Yes Brantford a population of 90,192 that is very much a sprawl city out in no where that feels like city of population 150,000 or more do to the sprawl makes no sense.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brantford

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Brantf...2,355,,0,-8.18


    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Brantf...42.89,,0,-1.41

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Brantf...64.81,,0,-1.27



    And Thunder Bay population of 122,907 out in no where no other cities ot towns close by ( in Northwestern Ontario ) makes it look very strange.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_Bay





    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...152.55,,0,-4.8



    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...161.81,,0,0.85


    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll...285.02,,0,-2.4

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Whatís happening in Toronto (and to some extent Vancouver) in not typical of all North American cities. Each city has its own economy and its own market for units. It just happens that when the bottom fell out of the housing market in the USA in 2008 Toronto was well positioned as a safe market for real estate development (partially due to the existence of a solid and predictable Provincial planning strategy) so developers flocked to Toronto with their investment money. Hamilton, Kitchener and Brantford are not suburbs of Toronto but rather self-sustaining cities that happen to be at the edge of the GTA commuter shed due to new highways and commuter rail lines built to them. Each of those cities may be sprawling in their own right but their housing market rises and falls largely because of local issues.

    Hamilton is historically a steel-making industrial city and it fell on hard times in the late 70ís early 80ís when large parts of its steel industry closed or moved away. New development in that area has been largely stagnant for the last 20 years with the exception of some periphery development along the south edge and in Dundas and Ancaster (suburbs of Hamilton). You can currently buy a very nice 1920ís-era 2,500 sq.ft house near downtown Hamilton for ľ the price a similar house would cost in Toronto, so the market for downtown living does not support new construction in the core. That may change if they ever get their transit system built and clean up the port lands.

    Kitchener (or more correctly Kitchener-Waterloo) was in a similar position as Hamilton in the late 70ís early 80ís in that they lost all their clothing manufacturing industries but they were able to leverage their geographic location and abundant academic resources to bring in new industries (Toyota, RIM etc.).The City-region suffered the typical 1980ís/90ís suburban sprawl that all growing cities did during that period, but they are now moving to a more urban format and are putting a lot of emphasis on rebuilding their downtown core. I would expect to see new low-to-mid-rise apartment buildings (probably 6 to 15 storeys high) popping up in KW over the next 10 years.

    Brantfordís fate is also very similar to Hamiltonís in that it lost all of its farm implement manufacturers in the late 70ís (one of the things that lead to Hamiltonís steel industry slow-down), and like Hamilton it has never really recovered from that. They have recently managed to secure a new university campus in the downtown core so they may evolve into a university town over the next few decades. While Brantford has been economically depressed and housing prices are generally very low compared to places closer to Toronto, there has been some new development (sprawl) south and west of the Grand River.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    Whatís happening in Toronto (and to some extent Vancouver) in not typical of all North American cities. Each city has its own economy and its own market for units. It just happens that when the bottom fell out of the housing market in the USA in 2008 Toronto was well positioned as a safe market for real estate development (partially due to the existence of a solid and predictable Provincial planning strategy) so developers flocked to Toronto with their investment money. Hamilton, Kitchener and Brantford are not suburbs of Toronto but rather self-sustaining cities that happen to be at the edge of the GTA commuter shed due to new highways and commuter rail lines built to them. Each of those cities may be sprawling in their own right but their housing market rises and falls largely because of local issues.

    Hamilton is historically a steel-making industrial city and it fell on hard times in the late 70ís early 80ís when large parts of its steel industry closed or moved away. New development in that area has been largely stagnant for the last 20 years with the exception of some periphery development along the south edge and in Dundas and Ancaster (suburbs of Hamilton). You can currently buy a very nice 1920ís-era 2,500 sq.ft house near downtown Hamilton for ľ the price a similar house would cost in Toronto, so the market for downtown living does not support new construction in the core. That may change if they ever get their transit system built and clean up the port lands.

    Kitchener (or more correctly Kitchener-Waterloo) was in a similar position as Hamilton in the late 70ís early 80ís in that they lost all their clothing manufacturing industries but they were able to leverage their geographic location and abundant academic resources to bring in new industries (Toyota, RIM etc.).The City-region suffered the typical 1980ís/90ís suburban sprawl that all growing cities did during that period, but they are now moving to a more urban format and are putting a lot of emphasis on rebuilding their downtown core. I would expect to see new low-to-mid-rise apartment buildings (probably 6 to 15 storeys high) popping up in KW over the next 10 years.

    Brantfordís fate is also very similar to Hamiltonís in that it lost all of its farm implement manufacturers in the late 70ís (one of the things that lead to Hamiltonís steel industry slow-down), and like Hamilton it has never really recovered from that. They have recently managed to secure a new university campus in the downtown core so they may evolve into a university town over the next few decades. While Brantford has been economically depressed and housing prices are generally very low compared to places closer to Toronto, there has been some new development (sprawl) south and west of the Grand River.

    I was just pointing out this phenomena is not just in Toronto or Vancouver area but seems to be all cities and almost city towns in Canada .In the economic class the density of city or if is high rise or not is do to land value or supply and demad .

    Try building homes in down town New York or Chicago and you see it is not possible.The land value or supply and demad determines what is built.

    Also note that suburbs or small cities have building ordinance that prohibit high rise building.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Now I understand what youíre saying, however take a look at when those high-rises were built and what the economic circumstances surrounding their construction were. When a city has relatively high property values constructing high-rise building become feasible. When property values are relatively low they are not. The reason some neighbourhoods in Toronto and to some extent KW are seeing more high-rise development is because their property values have been going up, while in other areas they are stagnant or falling.

    Regarding the differences between Canada and the USA with regard to high-rises there may be some influence from the fact that Canada has always had a more centralized top-down planning system while the US tends to have a more bottom-up system. One of the results of this is Canadian cities canít expand outwardly in the same way most US cities can. Therefore while there has been a lot of sprawl allowed in Canada there hasnít been enough to meet the needs of all the new people coming into the country and therefore many of people have to be housed vertically rather than horizontally. The top-down tradition also means people are less likely to complain about things like taller buildings being built in their neighbourhoods.

  15. #15
    One can put together a list of cities in the US where high rise housing is successful: New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles. Maybe you could add San Diego, San Jose and Seattle to the list.

    Any more?

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    As a comparison to Brantford, Ontario here is Peoria, Illinois:
    http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&ll=...39.29,,0,-0.49

    Probably the same vintage and built under similar ecomonic conditions.

    While there might be some social/economic/systemic difference between Canada and the USA that effects the development of high rise buildings I donít think the difference is as dramatic as nec209 thinks it is.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    Now I understand what you’re saying, however take a look at when those high-rises were built and what the economic circumstances surrounding their construction were. When a city has relatively high property values constructing high-rise building become feasible. When property values are relatively low they are not. The reason some neighbourhoods in Toronto and to some extent KW are seeing more high-rise development is because their property values have been going up, while in other areas they are stagnant or falling.

    Regarding the differences between Canada and the USA with regard to high-rises there may be some influence from the fact that Canada has always had a more centralized top-down planning system while the US tends to have a more bottom-up system. One of the results of this is Canadian cities can’t expand outwardly in the same way most US cities can. Therefore while there has been a lot of sprawl allowed in Canada there hasn’t been enough to meet the needs of all the new people coming into the country and therefore many of people have to be housed vertically rather than horizontally. The top-down tradition also means people are less likely to complain about things like taller buildings being built in their neighbourhoods.

    In the US Mentro areas are very big they have counties and in the counties there are many cities .Only Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are Mentro cities.



    Take Ottawa ,Calgary ,Edmonton ,Quebec ,Winnipeg ,Hamilton ,London ,Kitchener ,St. Catharines - Niagara ,Halifax ,Victoria ,Windsor ,Regina ,Saskatoon ,Thunder Bay ,Brantford so on !!! In the US not just 2 or 3 cites but lots and lots if cities making them all very big mentro cities !! In the US the top-down tradition should be more so that they cannot sprawl out.In Canada you do not get mentro cities other than Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal and may be Hamilton .


    It makes no sense the building going on in the 50's ,60's and 70's are very much sprawl more so than the late 80's and they are building highrise apartments that do not blend in with the area.


    Also New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, Chicago the highrise apartments or other highrise office blend in with the area nice do to the area is medium to high density.If they where putting it in the low density area it would not blend in.

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