Building condos in urban areas requires the use of traffic lanes
We often joke in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) that we have two seasons, winter and construction. Most people can do without winter, but construction is essential to city building. We put up with it because we know that infrastructure like roads, sewers and watermains, must be continually maintained to ensure the viability of our growing cities. The same can be said when it comes to new condo construction.
On occasion large construction projects like condos in the downtown core can take up traffic lanes and create traffic slowdowns. Unfortunately, to keep up with the influx of the 9.7 million people that will call the GTA home by 2041 and to build to Growth Plan policy, our industry will be building highrise buildings in urban areas that may slow down your daily commute.
A recent City of Toronto motion was put forth to consult with the development industry to eliminate the practice of occupying sidewalks and traffic lanes for construction purposes. While this might help ease traffic congestion, it does very little to help keep the cost of new homes down. If the development industry is forced to build off-site staging areas, instead of using the already in place and legal City right-of-way, the extra cost incurred by the industry will ultimately make new homes more expensive.
A construction staging area is a physical location used for the storage of construction related equipment and materials such as vehicles and stockpiles. The City has policies to deal with this issue and the construction industry pays hundreds of thousands of dollars per project to be able to use City property for this legally allowed and long standing purpose.
The provincial Growth Plan calls for more intensification in urban areas where transit is available and where people work. Therefore, the City of Toronto has urban design guidelines that allow for the construction of tall buildings very close to the property line. These are the challenges of building in an urban environment. There is little or no room to do anything on the site and the only way to build safely is to take a lane of public traffic.
The industry is constantly looking for ways to alleviate traffic construction by avoiding closing down lanes and keeping costs down by side-stepping building off-site staging sites that would ultimately increase the cost of a new home or condo.
Developers often reach out to residents for solutions. A developer of a midtown 70,000-square-foot condo was considering an underutilized park adjacent to the highrise as an alternative to using the street. Having to build a separate staging site at a cost of $1,000,000 would have increased the price of a condo by $20,000 or $30,000. Using the street is the best way to keep the development affordable.
Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). Bild.ca