Let’s start by admitting it doesn’t mean all that much. There are so many rankings of the world’s cities for one thing or another that being named the “best” or the “most” in any of them seems to depend as much on who is on the selection panel as anything else. However, let it be noted that Toronto has once again been named the world’s most livable city, this time by Metropolis magazine. Never mind that Toronto is not even on the top twenty-five list just released by Monocle magazine, or that Toronto is not in the top ten of Mercer’s Quality of Living list. Or that The Economist ranked Toronto fourth.
As far as Metropolis is concerned, Toronto, “the Dubai of North America” according to Forbes, is the most livable city in the world in 2015.
What do they mean by “livable”? Metropolis says it looks at “housing, amenities, connectivity, and, in a word, pleasures a city has to offer the people who live in it.” Cities must be excelling in smart infrastructure, walkability and preservation in order to be considered. A groups of experts was consulted, including architects, writers, marketers, and urban planners.
Metropolis doesn’t make available the selection process or exact criteria used, and it is Toronto Starcolumnist Christopher Hume who wrote the piece extolling Toronto’s virtues in the magazine. He writes with an insider’s knowledge of the city, of course. Only a Torontonian and journalist who covers the city’s architecture scene would be so familiar with the Don Valley Parkway, the Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre, the renewal of Toronto’s aging inner suburbs apartment towers, the Kensington Market and the origins of Sugar Beach. Only an insider would know that the Uncle Tetsu store, which opened in April and sells just one thing, Japanese cheesecake, has lineups half a block long every day. That, he says, shows how far Toronto has come as a food city and city of vibrant immigrant culture.
Hume also gets in a reference to Toronto’s most famous urbanist, Jane Jacobs, who lived here for almost forty years. She would have admired, he says, the work of Waterfront Toronto and the neighbourhoods it is creating. Thanks to Waterfront Toronto, the waterfront is suddenly “sexy,” with its Sugar Beach, Sherbourne Common, Corktown Common, and ultra-high-speed Internet. Entire new neighbourhoods, like East Bayfront, are being created, and existing ones upgraded.
He also refers to the “car-loving, crack-smoking former mayor,” without whose divisive policies the city can now focus again on its “enormous urban potential.”
It would have been more enlightening to see what the outside “experts” actually looked at. It isn’t clear why population is highlighted as a strength, for example. Why is it important to current livability that the population will reach 3 million within the next fifteen years? Is it because such rapid population growth points to the opportunity the city affords and a widespread desire to live here?
A rendering of Aquavista condominiums from Tridel, part of the Waterfront Toronto development of a new neighbourhood called Bayside. Massive investment in infrastructure and densification helped win Toronto the title of world’s most livable city from Metropolis magazine.
Another highlight is job opportunity. The importance of this marker is more obvious. According to theMetropolis piece, double-digit job growth in the downtown core has been the norm for the last decade. The city’s huge investment in infrastructure is also noted: city council’s approval of more than $20 billion in spending is listed as a major strength. The UP Express and the Eglinton Crosstown are but two examples of how the money is being spent.
Preservation is another strength and the magazine names the Ontario Greenbelt as the reason for Toronto’s densification and unprecedented high-rise development. Again, those facts alone don’t explain why the city is more livable than everywhere else.
The world’s second-most livable city, according to Metropolis, is Tokyo, which is declared the world’s safest city, and the city with the greatest number of Michelin-starred restaurants. It is also the most affordable of the world’s mega-cities, defined as cities with more than 10 million residents. Its Shinjuku train station is the busiest on Earth, with about 3.6 million passengers using it per day.
Article by Josephine Nolan from www.condo.ca