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Urbaneer newsletter update January 3rd, 2012

The Future Of Urban Toronto

Imagine the near future; you land at the airport from your vacation abroad. Within minutes of arrival, you speed through the terminal using your hand print and matching bio-metric identity scan passports to bypass the immigration line-ups.

Your partner picks you up, and zooms on to the highway, choosing one of three lanes: Autobahn, 120/km hr or 90/km hr. Your auto (also equipped with a scanner), registers each zone you pass through, and the lane you've chosen. You are billed based on your speed preference (based on environmental impact and efficiency of fuel usage) and distance traveled.

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No longer revolutionary, these user fees have become common since the merging of the telecommunications industry - which encompasses cable vision, telephone, computers and consumer electronics - into a single worldwide network of information network services, calculated on a per second basis. The cost depends on your location - where instead of past telephone, fax and email on internet communications, your individual lifelong-designate number links you and your personal communications device with your caller - no matter where you are in the global village.

As we have embraced an economy based on information, technology and service, the speed with which we work has accelerated. Efficiency to production has been streamlined as global hi-tech manufacturing corporations have relocated away from financial centres, to the urban fringe, where efficient transportation networks are convenient, and property taxes are lower. Financial, entertainment, and service corporations have also streamlined, preferring to hire on a contract basis, linking home terminal PC's to mainframe networks. Entrepreneurial opportunities surge as a new era of individual and co-operative consultants work online to support the increased flow of information.

User fees, more than ever, have influenced decisions about residential location. Not only do we spend more time commuting, but costs associated with zone charges are prohibitive for a long commute. This impacts our residential differentiation where we experience a cultural role reversal of sorts, as post-war-baby boomer, white collar suburbanites flock to inner city neighbourhoods- many of which were once the nuclei of the ethnic working class (many of whom have now relocated to the suburbs to be closer to production centres).

The creative community, white-collar professionals and information oriented, media/marketing related entrepreneurs embrace this back-to-the-city movement, in part to reduce time and costs of transportation, in part as rejection of modern suburban planning principles and placelessness and, partly because of the growing reality that the city center has become a safer haven than strip malls and shopping centres.

Baby Boomers- an aging affluent mass, prefer having their principal residences in the City- rather than in the country, as the proximity of healthcare facilities and services quickly move to centre stage. With children leaving the nest, and household formation becoming smaller, the need for large suburban homes, with numerous bedrooms becomes redundant. In fact, real estate values in suburban areas slip as demand for larger multi-room, three car garage residences dissipates. As a generation who have once too often renovated over budget - and with time delays, the desire for high-quality, low-maintenance, and move-in space in the city centre fuels urban rejuvenation. City politicians, pressured by demand, loosen zoning restrictions downtown - and embrace and then celebrate live/work zoning enabling the creative, entrepreneurial and financial service consultants to legally operate out of home. When they travel locally, pro-urbanites walk, cycle and use public transportation because it takes less time than driving.

Real Estate values rise with the location, location, location mantra remaining true, but with a new twist. Quality is what purchasers most value, with high-grade, low maintenance condominiums commanding as much as older, high-maintenance, traditionally-styled detached housing on large lots. The increasing rejection of such standardized, conventional architecture with limited light, low ceiling and boxy rooms breeds sun-filled open spaces that remain fluid for diverse, non-conformist lifestyles. Traditional family and community structures with geographic centres dissipate as individuals subscribe to their tribalistic instincts, via their telecommunication pads.

Defined by fidelity to individual ethnicity, language, culture, religion, gender, profession and other identifying characteristics, individuals embrace supportive non-familial communities based on shared beliefs, opinions and values. As global telecommunications expand, linking up millions of host computer networks, politics and deployment of power shifts from representative democracy to individually driven free-market democracy. Collectively, around the globe, individuals regulate governing bodies, nation states and environmental concerns.

With growing collective public pressure on behalf of the environment, influence by media value and consumer buying patterns, the housing industry becomes cognizant of recycling waste - the result of which is integration of housing with natural and urban co-systems, as well as the inclusion of green materials and construction techniques; there is an acute awareness of the impact of healthy housing environments on productivity that results from battling late twentieth century hazards, like the sick-building syndrome, created by the noxious gases of synthetic materials, and sponsoring research on the psychological benefits of good design on the human psyche.

This is the not-too-distant future. And this is only a small portion of our field of expertise. As the city's pre-eminent, pro-urban housing specialists, we help buyers identify the best properties for future value, while accommodating their current housing needs. We operate with a "no-pressure, no-hassle" mantra. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at urbaneer@sympatico.ca or by phoning 416-322-8000.

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