As part of a pilot project, Toronto will soon have design professionals review every development proposal coming to city planners. Modelled after similar bodies in Ottawa, Vancouver, Seattle, Niagara Falls and cities in England, the panel will be charged with ensuring that developers are paying due attention to design standards set by the city and community associations.
"For a developer, sometimes the world ends at the end of the property line," says Robert Freedman of the urban design division, adding that the panel will pay special attention to how developments integrate with existing built forms, both structures and spaces.
"We want to make sure attention is paid to how they meet the rest of the city, and how they contribute to the city."
In the pilot, the panel is expected to review between 14 and 18 projects in neighbourhoods experiencing greater development pressure: Liberty Village, Scarborough Centre and along the southern shores of the Humber.
While Freedman is most encouraged by the possibility of bringing the design community's "tradition of rigour" to city planning, Councillor Pam McConnell also sees a possibility for more community control over development.
"[For the St. Lawrence neighbourhood] we have development applications coming out of our ears." She says the community has design guidelines but has had a hard time enforcing them.
"Something we've heard from other cities is that having a panel does contribute to the level of public interest in design issues," says Freedman. "Certain parts of the city could very well be encouraged to make sure they have good design and planning guidelines."