Governments are planning for an steady influx of people into the Greater Golden Horseshoe over the next 25 years. They expect the region's population to jump from 9 million today to 13.5 million in 2041. At last week's City Age forum, representatives of government, architecture and design, the development industry and academia took part in a lively discussion about how governments, industry and the general population can support a population of 4.5 million more people in the area centred around Toronto by 2041. That's one more person for every two people living here today. What the challenges to build appropriate infrastructure for that many people?

Participants were:'s managing editor, Craig White, chaired the discussion.

Craig White, Dan McGillivray, Steve Daniels, Donald Schmitt, Jeff Lehman, image by

Planning for so many more people is a daunting challenge, the panel agreed. "The prospect of another 4.5 million is scary. It's as if municipalities are being asked to build a stadium with the capacity to hold 50,000 spectators – but then have to find a way to fit 100,000 people inside," McGillivray said.

Intensifying areas that are already urbanized is the main way the region can meet this challenge.

"We really have no more developable land", Lehman said. "So the answer is that we have to intensify the urban areas that we already have. And that means intensifying in all sections of cities, not just downtown."

Schmitt echoed the mayor. "We need to focus more growth outside the core. For example, the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, where we've designed office towers, the YMCA and library, is a complete, dense neighbourhood, with homes, employment and community facilities – housing 15,000 people on just 100 acres, pedestrian-oriented, focused on the new subway station".

Vaughan Centre YMCA and Library, image, Diamond Schmitt Architects

Suburbanites won't be happy with this change from low to high density in their neighbourhoods. "This will be a 'culture shock' for them", Daniels said.

Lehman countered that people are ready to accept changes in their communities. "Mayors are on the front line when this culture shift occurs. But one thing I have noticed is that the reaction to development has totally changed from what would have happened ten years ago. The public is more understanding of why development has to take place, so we don't get as fierce a resistance from neighbourhoods as we might have gotten in the past."

Intensification in the suburbs can only take place if we have high-speed transit between the suburbs and downtown.

According to Schmitt, "Successful developments start with transit. Add parks and cultural infrastructure. Make sure cities and developers work together. Compactness and walkability both add to the mix to help make your development successful and desirable."

KPMB Tower Vaughan, by Diamond Schmitt Architects, with surrounding towers

But intensification won't be enough to support this larger population, if we don't invest in infrastructure to support new developments throughout the region, the panel said.

"Unfortunately," Daniels explained, "Politicians—and developers—want ribbon-cuttings for glitzy projects but are always forgetting about what's below ground. While that's not as interesting for many people, without pipes and cables, nothing will get built."

The fact that the Government of Canada is now dedicating funds to urban infrastructure is a major step toward building this more intensely developed region of the future. But some panelists worried about whether federal support was actually an effective measure. "The federal budget is a good start, but I'm not sure the money ever reaches projects that improve what's underground, instead of those that offer photo opportunities for politicians," McGillivray said.

But Lehman confirmed that it did. "For example, the federal government is supporting a storm-water project in Barrie. While that's not sexy infrastructure like a transit line, it is necessary and it is getting done", he explained.

When all this new development is built, will anyone who is not wealthy be able to afford to live here? Daniels, representing the development industry, says that they will. "One thing that's important is to make sure that all developments include affordable housing. We've recently worked on a number of projects that have units set aside for affordable housing. Few residents of these developments could identify which units are market value and which are not", he said. "We, as developers, have a moral obligation to help everyone at all income levels to live in clean, safe and desirable homes. "

Lehmann pointed out that, "The most desirable building in Downtown Barrie right now is right beside a homeless shelter and the downtown transit terminal." Lehman added that places which people would not have considered attractive just a few years ago, have become hot sellers with the culture change. "We have to remember that great communities are great for everybody—not just great for those who live there, but for the entire city that surrounds them, too."

Barrie has just released three downtown parking lots for affordable home redevelopment.

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The CityAge Toronto 2016 event has now wrapped up. A complete event schedule is available in our preview editorial, as well as on the CityAge website, which includes a full itinerary of speakers and discussions. This year, UrbanToronto is CityAge's official media partner, so keep an eye out for our reporting from the conference.