Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely love Toronto, but the city has done too well a job at maintaining a nondescript aesthetic. It’s done so well, in fact, that it’s been able to stand in for New York, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Vienna, and just about every other city on Earth in film and TV. Though the average person could not imagine what Canada’s biggest city looks like, they’ve probably seen it countless times masquerading as some place else.
American Richard Florida continues his new urban affairs beat for the Globe and Mail and in yesterday’s tour of downtown with reporter Peter Scowen, he had so many spot-on points about Toronto that I was absolutely giddy: “One thing I’ve learned from my time in Toronto is everything is controversial…Its development model has changed so fundamentally in the past 20 years from a city that was mainly low-rise, for better or worse was sleepy, that was mainly an Anglo city, to this incredible kaleidoscope of people and building styles. Some of it’s great and some of it’s not so great.”
On why Dundas Square, the city’s gaudy Times Square wannabe, is an important part of the city: “Maybe when a Canadian or American thinks of a city, they think of Victorian houses and parks and so on, but maybe when an immigrant thinks of a city they think of tall buildings, neon signs and so on.”
On “‘everywhere stores”: “It’s something he says he has seen all across the city – an older storefront with the windows papered over and a sign that says, ‘Coming soon: Sunglass Hut.’ ‘That’s the real challenge,’ Florida says. ‘How does Toronto retain the mixture of uses without becoming just another everywhere?’
Being mistaken for “everywhere” has been a boon to Toronto’s film economy over the past decade or so, but has done little for residents or visitors seeking a more interesting cityscape. A flurry of development projects planned for Toronto will likely begin to define a unique look for the city once and for all. Well, so long as the endless debate and controversy over Toronto’s future ever dies down enough for construction to actually begin.