Mississauga waterfront proposal needs a rethink

Though there’s much to admire, the designers have overlooked the most fundamental element of successful cities — the street, writes Christopher Hume

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Mississauga waterfront proposal
Mississauga waterfront proposal

If good intentions are enough, the massive West Village development announced last week will be the next best thing on the Mississauga waterfront. According to its proponents, the 72-acre scheme will be a “vibrant and diverse community where people can live, work and play.” Pedestrian-friendly, mixed use, green and connected, not only will West Village have it all, it will help lead Canada’s sixth-largest city into its fully urbanized future.

But will it?

Though there’s much to admire in the proposal — certainly it’s a whole lot more appealing than the original landscape of Mississauga, which pretty well defined sprawl — it makes the same mistakes that we see so often in this sort of 21st-century post-industrial mega-development. Not only do its designers fear complexity, diversity and messiness, they overlook the most fundamental element of successful cities — the street.

The new planning orthodoxy holds that streets are to be avoided because they carry cars and trucks. That’s true, of course, but what planners forget is that streets can be destinations as well as thoroughfares. Toronto’s most popular districts are centred on streets — King, College, Queen, Roncesvalles. In New York, Fifth Ave., Madison Ave. and 42nd St. are big draws. The same applies in cities from London and Paris to Minneapolis and Montreal. […]