This discussion series brought together notable urbanists and Ryerson academics for insightful discussions of how the global COVID-19 pandemic may change the way we live. Thanks to all who participated! Find links to recordings below.

Online Sessions

Presented by the Urban Land Institute Toronto in partnership with Ryerson CBI.

Future of Public Space

May 6, 2020 | Noon

In dense urban centres, residents have been flocking to parks for fresh air and exercise during the pandemic, while others have taken to the sidewalks for essential travel. But some park facilities are closing due to overcrowding, while sidewalks have proven too narrow to safely accommodate growing pedestrian volumes with physical distancing requirements. Meanwhile, other cities around the world are giving over road space to people on bikes and on foot, and making bold plans for public space, post-pandemic. COVID-19 has highlighted the value of our public realm, and the urgent need in many cities for more public space. What can we learn from COVID-19 about how to design and distribute public space in our cities?

Speakers: Dr. Anne Harris, Epidemiologist, Ryerson University; Dave Harvey, Executive Director, Park People.

Future of Main Streets

April 29, 2020 | Noon

Main streets are the beating heart of many neighbourhoods, serving local needs while fostering a sense of community. Before COVID-19, main street businesses were already facing a host of challenges, and local governments were exploring solutions. Now compounded by the significant hardships brought by COVID-19, can the small businesses that define our neighbourhood main streets survive? What are the roles of government, developers and communities in supporting the recovery and resilience not just of individual businesses, but entire main streets and neighbourhoods? How can we keep main streets vital?

Speakers: John Archer, 360 Collective; Dr. Tony Hernandez, Ryerson University; Pauline Larsen, Downtown Yonge BIA.

Future of Climate and City Building

April 22, 2020 | Noon

Pre-COVID-19, leading developers and urban planners were responding to the global climate crisis by reducing the energy footprint of buildings and neighbourhoods with net-zero projects, energy efficient buildings, and green, walkable and transit-connected planned communities. Will the urgency of climate-oriented city building take a back seat to our reaction to COVID-19 and preparedness for future pandemics? Are these two meta issues incompatible, or can we plan and build for comprehensive resilience?

Speakers: Roya Khaleeli, Minto Group; Jenny McMinn, Urban Equation; and Dr. Pamela Robinson, Ryerson University

Future of 9 to 5

April 15, 2020 | Noon

In response to COVID-19, employers have rapidly established systems to enable remote work. Could working from home become the new normal, reducing the need to live near jobs and encouraging a move away from the urban core? Will offices located in employment centres, as well as traditional 9-to-5 hours and associated commutes give way to greater workplace flexibility? What will this mean for the future of commercial development and growing employment centres throughout the GTA? What is the future of commuter suburbs, and could we see the rise of exurbs and migration to rural villages?

Speakers: Pedro Barata, Executive Director, Ryerson Future Skills Centre; Marcy Burchfield, VP, Economic Blueprint Institute, Toronto Region Board of Trade

Future of Density

April 8, 2020 | Noon

Recent years have seen the rapid rise of urban density, motivated by policy and consumer preference for vibrant urban living. But given the necessity of physical distancing to curb COVID-19, will this trend towards intensification continue or swing back to outward development? Is there a balance between “tall and sprawl” that fosters livable, healthy neighbourhoods? What is the future of density in Toronto and the Greater Golden Horseshoe?

Speakers: Ken Greenberg, Urban Designer; and Murtaza Haider, Professor, Ryerson University

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