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The Case for Tearing Down the Gardiner East with Alex Bozikovic of The Globe and Mail

Podcast Featured Image 47

Toronto City Council is facing a big decision this week about the future of the crumbling Gardiner East. Toronto Mayor John has come out in favour of the “hybrid” option which essentially means to keep the expressway in it’s current form. Alex Bozikovic, architecture critic for the Globe and Mail, strongly supports the “remove” alternative which we discuss the reasons why in this episode.

Alex Bozikovic Interview Highlights

0:15 What to Expect In This Interview
1:25 Who is Alex Bozikovic and How He Became the Architecture Critic for the Globe and Mail?
2:20 What Excites Alex About Architecture?
4:15 Where is Toronto At Right Now and What Challenges Are We Facing Moving Forward?
5:58 What Makes Toronto Unique?
8:40 What Will Downtown Toronto Look Like in 20 Years?
10:17 What Are Alex’s Favourite New Projects in the City?
14:46 The Future of Yonge Street
16:18 What is the Argument for Keeping the Gardiner?
18:40 Why Should We Remove the Gardiner?
25:15 What is at Stake?
28:59 Could the Entire Gardiner Be Removed from Toronto?
35:19 How to Reach Alex Bozikovic

Alex Bozikovic Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hi and welcome back to the show. On today’s show I’m very excited to be interviewing Alex Bozikovic. Alex is the Architecture Critic for the Globe and Mail, and no doubt you’ve read many of his articles. We talk a lot about the city and the growth of the city and a few different projects and things that are happening in the city, but most of the interview was about the debate right now in the city about the Gardiner Expressway, the East Gardiner Expressway and what do to with it. Alex has come out and written a great article, very much in favor of taking down the Gardiner East and replacing it with the boulevard option. I’ll definitely include a link to that article in the show notes for this episode which you can find at

We talked a lot about the Gardiner and other issues here, I won’t take too much more time. I just want to get right to the interview today with Alex Bozikovic from the Globe and Mail.

Welcome to the True Condos podcast with Andrew la Fleur. The place to get the truth on the Toronto Condo Market and condo investing in Toronto.

Andrew: It’s my pleasure to welcome to the show Alex Bozikovic. Alex is the Architecture Critic for the Globe and Mail. Alex, welcome to the show.

Alex: Good to be here.

Andrew: Alex, great to have you on, looking forward to chatting with you. Why don’t you start by just telling us a little bit about your background, your history. How did you come to be the Architecture Critic for the Globe and Mail?

Alex: Well, I’ve been with Globe for about ten years now, working in a few different jobs, mostly as an editor on a few sections, including the Globe Toronto Section, but all the way along I’ve been working as a writer as well, writing about architecture and then eventually about related subjects including urban design. Over the years that sideline became more and more of a focus for me. It’s a subject that I’ve been passionate about all my life and eventually I got the opportunity here to make that my focus and to take over that beat for the paper.

Andrew: What’s your background? How did you get interested in architecture originally? What was it that? What is it that excites you about architecture and that?

Alex: This is a question for which I never really have a good answer, but I’ve always been deeply interested in buildings and in cities and in the way that they go together. I’ve always had a really strong sense of place. My father was loosely in the real estate business and so I always grew up with an attention to, with a lot of discussion about real estate. As I grew up partly, because, of what was happening in the city with a real growth in the sophistication of the architecture of Toronto and then eventually a bunch of really good public buildings that started to get planned and built, starting in the early mid-90’s through about the mid-2000’s.

I started to focus more and more carefully on architecture and on buildings. I became more and more interested in the culture that produces them and about what, the way we build. Sort of in the individual building or on the street or on the city level, what those things say about our culture. It just winds up being a really fascinating subject or a set of subjects. Everything from technical concerns to the history of building and materials to zoning and economic considerations. Architecture really blends business and art and science in a way that few other professions and few other human pursuits do. It’s all in pursuit of creating places and creating experiences that are good for people. It’s that fusion of sort of that big sort of humanistic vision that always has been fascinating to me.

Andrew: How would you describe Toronto? Where are we at right now? If you’re speaking to somebody who has never been to Toronto, who’s interested in architecture, who’s interested in cities. How would you describe Toronto where we’re at on our history and what challenges we’re facing moving forward?

Alex: Well, I think the first thing to understand which is difficult for a lot of locals who have long roots here to understand is that the city is going through a really profound transformation. Over the last two generations it’s grown dramatically. It’s more or less doubled in population over the last 50 years. The physical form of the city has changed so much, that it really is a new place. Locally we think about the city as, the image of Toronto is sort of the red brick city, but that’s not actually what most of Toronto looks like. What Toronto looks like in the 21st Century is something that is still right now figuring out.

That’s what I feel like is really interesting about the city. That in terms of urban design and planning and architecture we’re just really starting to give voice to what it is to a very particular kind of local vision. I think seeing that evolve has been really interesting. I think what we’re seeing is the growth or sort of what has been a very sophisticated culture of architecture and of urban design. I’m thinking about the city is really starting to bear fruit in a new set of buildings and a new set of neighborhoods that are interesting. That are very thoughtful and that have a particular local character. It’s just all coming together really as we speak.

Andrew: What makes Toronto unique in your opinion versus other North American cities in particular?

Alex: Well, I mean there’s the history. If you look at Toronto and compare it to other cities of its size, Toronto is the only one that has been growing in the way that it has, at the same velocity. Anywhere outside of the US Sunbelt, it’s the only city that’s been growing as dramatically as it has. The roots of that are in the fact that Toronto is a good city to live in. A good city to be in. That doesn’t mean just the sort of institutional strength. The strengths of the school system and of relatively good government and all of that sort of thing. Also, because, the city has a sense of what it wants to be in urban design. What the shape of the city.

Through the 1960’s we didn’t get rid of all of the historic fabric or we didn’t badly damage the historic fabric of the study, which is so valuable now, which everybody loves so much now. We have that legacy of sort of moving cautiously and of respecting the historic built form of the city.

Andrew: What’s an example of that in particular? What you mean by that and compare Toronto to other cities as they move through the 60’s, what do you mean specifically?

Alex: Well, I mean the big thing that we did was to non destroy the walkable downtown. We built urban expressways, which we’ll get back to later I think, but not too many of them. By stopping projects such as the Spadina expressway we were able to preserve the 19th century and early 20th century parts of the city which were and are so important to the culture of the city. At the same time we had a good transit system. That’s fallen apart to a certain degree in the last 30 years, but we had a strong transit system. Those things along with sort of strong public institutions and deliberate policy and planning decisions really kept the social fabric of the city intact. We didn’t have the American version, we didn’t have white flight.

That didn’t really exist here. This city did suburbanize, but it didn’t hollow out the downtown. The downtown never really died. It never really fell apart. It was always a place where people lived and felt passionately about it and developed a real sort of strength and strong community institutions that have helped us make decisions and have helped make the city the place that everybody likes today.

Andrew: What do you think the downtown of 25-30 years from now is going to look like in Toronto? What trajectory long term do you see the city going?

Alex: It’s going to be crowded. I think very, very crowded.

Andrew: Crowded good or crowded bad, or just crowded?

Alex: Crowded in a good way. If you look at the scale of development that’s happening right in and around the downtown, especially in the entertainment district, it’s nuts. It’s interesting that even the city and its planning department don’t really have a handle on what’s happening, but where the growth is going to go or what shape that growth is going to take. The point is there are a lot of people moving into downtown. Not only into the neighborhoods that are prime now, but into the ones that are a little bit marginal around the fringes. I think there’s going to continue to be increasingly wealthy which is not entirely a good thing, but it’s going to happen. Are going to be denser and culturally the city is going to be even more interesting that it is now and in terms of our cultural institutions and at the same time retail and restaurants and all of the things that go with having a rich vibrant city life.

All of those things are only going to improve. I think we have real infrastructure challenges in trying to accommodate the volume of people who are going to be living in and around the central city. There’s no question about that. It’s going to be an interesting and lively and crowded place even more than it is today. I’m looking forward to it.

Andrew: Me too. We want to come back to what you mentioned, the expressway issue obviously with Gardiner, but before we get to that I want to ask you what, in terms of currently existing buildings or projects, what’s your favorite sort of building in the city or favorite series of buildings or projects, be it a condo or be it any kind of building? What sort of stands out as your favorite?

Alex: Well, the condos, it’s a bit of a tricky question, because, there have been, I think most people would share my opinion about this. There have been a lot of okay buildings and a lot of bad buildings and very few really great ones. I think when you look at condo projects, there are really two varieties. There’s sort of the real showcase project. The icon building and then there’s the other kind that sort of hangs back a little bit and is what you might call the fabric building, the kind of building that makes up the fabric of the city. It’s those quieter buildings, you know I often thing we do well. There are a few. 18 Yorkville in Yorkville which I think both the tower of that building and it’s base work really well.

It’s got a nice park that’s integrated with the buildings, so that the building fits very carefully and thoughtfully onto the street. I think that’s a really good one. It’s a relatively quiet building. What I’m excited about right now is the project 5 St. Joseph which incorporates a whole row of heritage stores along Young Street and puts up a new and very handsome I think tower behind that. I think that conversation between, in both cases, I think your thinking not just about the shape of the building, but also the way in which it fits onto the block and the way in which it interacts with the other buildings around it old and new. You get in both places a really interesting result. A really interesting place to live and to walk through.

Those are a couple. Looking forward I think the Mervish-Gehry project. I’m curious to see what shape exactly that will take. I think there are a lot of questions still to be resolved around that project, but if it comes out anywhere like the way it has been designed so far, I think it’s going to be pretty spectacular, both on the skyline and both on the level of the block.

Andrew: It’s interesting you mentioned the two buildings 5 and 18 Yorkville, both on Young Street pretty much. Young Street is a street that’s undergone major, major, major transformation, especially in the past few years it seems. What are your thoughts on Young Street and sort of where do you see that street? How important is that street to Toronto and where do you see that street going in the next decade to come?

Alex: I think it’s going to be downtown Young Street is going to be one of those areas that as we look back, we’re not going to understand why it was overlooked. You know what I mean? It’s been overlooked and there’s always these pockets in the city that have a certain reputation or have gone through a period of being kind of sketchy.

Andrew: Young Street has been know as sketchy for a very, very long time.

Alex: Yeah, I mean . . .

Andrew: It’s really only recently that it’s sort of, the reputation is starting to turn around.

Alex: That’s true, but you’re talking about the early 1970’s through about three years ago, about five years ago I should say. It’s really about a 30 year period and there was for close to a century before that, it was Toronto’s main street and really Toronto’s hub. I think what’s happening there in terms of new development is mostly very positive. Ryerson has done some good things to improve the state of its campus. The new Ryerson Student Learning Center, is a spectacular building. I’m going to be writing about that soon and I think that really sort of raises the standard for architectural quality in other projects around it.

There are some interesting buildings there. Another one the Massey tower condo project which is doing again really interesting things with heritage, really complex. It fits into its block in a really complex way. Also does a really, what I think is going to be a beautiful, very contemporary tower on top of it. There are opportunities there for good developers to do really interesting things and we’re going to see so me of that. We’re gong to see some buildings that are less good, but I think sort of the stigma that that area had is going to disappear and it’s going to feel and it’s going to in sort of a symbolic sense be as central as it is in a geographic sense.

Andrew: How do you describe the future of Young Street? Is it sort of like a linear Yorkville? Do you see it going in sort of a high end sort of Yorkville type of direction, all up and down. Do you see it as becoming more like an avenue or is it something unique that you can’t really compare it? Its got its own sort of energy?

Alex: That’s a good question. That gets into this weird thing about Toronto. That when you talk about neighborhoods you’re often talking about a street, right? That keeps going. It’s linear and it goes on for a long way. If you like Queen Street West for instance. People talk about that as a neighborhood, but it’s really like a four kilometer long or five kilometer long stretch of street which is . . .

Andrew: It really passes through many neighborhoods.

Alex: Exactly.

Andrew: It’s a neighborhood unto its own.

Alex: Exactly right, or sort of a series of neighborhoods that are kind of vaguely tied together. Young Street downtown, there’s a lot of large scale development happening there now. Some of which is going to be really good and some of which is not. I think you’re going to wind up with it being more residential than it is now and obviously the commercial pieces is not going anywhere. The Eaton Centre is not going anywhere. The street facing retail along Young, a lot of that is going to remain as it is. It’s going to be a little bit more residential and not sort of purely commercial and office space. I think that’s going to be positive.

You get a different vibe and a better vibe in a neighborhood when you really have a mix of people living there, working there, using it at different times, bringing different things to it. I think it’s only going to become more pleasant and more comfortable.

Andrew: Shifting gears to the Gardiner. I know you’ve obviously come out very much in favor of removing the Gardiner. It’s no secret. We’ll have a link to your article, your great article in the show notes for this episode, but before I get into sort of obviously your side of the story. As far as you can tell what is the argument for keeping the Gardiner?

Alex: Well, there are really two options at play now. City council is going to be looking at two choices, one of which is called the boulevard option and one of which has been called the hybrid option. Now, let’s start with the hybrid option, because, that’s the one that involves basically rebuilding the Gardiner as it is. The name is a bit of a feint. That comes from a process that played out over the last couple of years when the developers First Gulf developed a new way of keeping the highway in place at its connection with, keeping the DVP in place and its connection in place with the Gardiner, but moving it. It would have been in some ways a compromise that allowed better use of that area. In effect what we’re looking at now is the hybrid which really means rebuilding the highway as it is or the boulevard.

Now the case that the mayor has been making for the hybrid option really comes down to traffic. The argument is that we just can’t afford to lose a highway connection into the downtown and that’s more or less how its been stated. The changing it, the tearing it down and rebuilding it as a boulevard is going to have negative impacts on congestion, not just there, but across the city. That’s the only real argument that there is for making that move. It’s really all about traffic and really all about protecting a highway that already exists. The mayor has also made some other arguments and said that in passing that you can create great urban design by working around the elevated section of the Gardiner, by building underneath it. By putting park space underneath it.

Which in my view is just nonsense, but I think really what it’s about in political terms, there’s no question that the central issue is traffic. I think that argument and a lot of very smart people are convinced that that argument is just a red herring, it’s just false.
Andrew: Let’s get into your side. Let’s get into your opinion. What are the key reasons why you have come out and said that removal is the best option for the city?

Alex: Well, I should say first of all that I’m far from alone on this among the people who favor this option. The removal or boulevard option includes, it sounds like the cities own consultants quite clearly. The city’s Medical Officer of Health, the current Chief Planner, Jen Keesmaat, the former Chief Planner, Paul Bedford, the former Mayor, David Crombie, and a lot of other very knowledgeable people in the fields of urban design and architecture. If I can summarize the argument by doing the removal or boulevard, what you do is this. You take the DVP where it meets the Gardiner and the DVP curves around and comes down to the ground. Instead of merging into the Gardiner it mergers into Lake Shore Boulevard. Lake Shore Boulevard gets expanded by a lane on either side, so it can carry more traffic than it does right now.

People driving from the DVP can take that road, that new Lake Shore with a few stoplights, four stoplights added and otherwise continue on their way. In terms of the impact on the movement of traffic, it’s minimal. The city studies show that it’s going to carry the same number of cars exactly as the Gardiner does right now and the only real impact is going to be quite small additions to people’s commute times among the people who use that road and that’s a very small number of people. The traffic impact is going to really be quite minimal. I think there’s a lot of misinformation about this. I think a lot of people have the idea that the highway is just going to be torn down and traffic will just be left to scramble, which isn’t the case at all.

To come back to why I think this is important, if you do that, you bring the highway down into the boulevard, you get a ton of positive impacts. First of all, it’s a lot less expensive. By the cities own reckoning, doing that is going to cost something lift half a billion dollars less over the long term, because, rebuilding an elevated expressway is more expensive. It’s more complicated. It takes longer and then you re-build the expressway and it costs more money to run. You build a road it’s cheaper. What you also get and this is what gets me excited is that by doing that you open up a lot of land in that area, which is right on the waterfront, right at the foot of downtown for new development.

The way that looks if you go with the boulevard option, looks dramatically better. You’ve got more space for redevelopment which includes a lot of land that the city owns and will very profitably be able to redevelop. You get to carry out the plan for that area which includes parks along the waterfront, instead of parks on the waterfront underneath an elevated expressway. You get something like 12 more blocks of area that can be redeveloped and generate a lot more money and build a much more attractive neighborhood. It really has the potential to be the next step in what Waterfront Toronto has been doing in building new neighborhoods along the eastern waterfront. The results I think, if we do it right could be beautiful, just as the Waterfront Toronto projects to date have been.

Andrew: Devil’s advocate. It’s a great idea to talk about removing elevated expressways to build new neighborhoods, develop real estate that doesn’t currently exist, but with Toronto’s sort of track record history as you’ve eluded to of poor transit and poor decisions around transit and infrastructure. Is this a recipe for disaster potentially where we’re removing a major artery, at least a section of a major artery of highway, and as the city continues to grow, more people are added, more cars are added, is this a recipe for disaster? If it’s not also accompanied by a transit plan to move this new neighborhood around the city.

Alex: To answer to your question directly, no it’s not a recipe for disaster. The fact is that the Gardiner East carries very few people. It carries something like 3% of all of the commuters going into downtown Toronto on a daily basis. Whatever you do with that number of people is going to have a minimal impact on gridlock, other than in that particular area. Even in that particular area, no one’s talking about taking the road away. No one’s talking about taking away road capacity. In effect what you’re doing is just rearranging the streets and adding four stoplights which is why the city’s own studies show that the impacts on traffic will be quite small. In the broader picture, I think there are a lot of reasons to assume that the demand for driving and for highway driving in particular is going to drop. I don’t think that if you look 30 years from now, there are going to be a lot of people who are choosing to drive from Don Mills or from North York to their offices on the doorstep of Union Station.

Why? Because, there are a lot demographic trends that show us that people who are now in their 20’s and early 30’s are not as interested in driving cars as people who are older than them are. I mean that’s a fact. That’s playing out all over the Western World. More importantly people like to take transit and they’re going to like to take transit more, because, the roads are going to be overcrowded. Whatever you do, downtown Toronto is going to be in terrible gridlock a generation from now. There’s nothing we can do about that. The fact is the only way that you’re going to address, when I say there’s nothing you can do about that, but you can. What you can do is build a ton of transit. That’s the only thing that’s going to really reduce traffic on the roads.

Large scale building of new transit that gives people good options to take transit into downtown and to get around the city, so that they will do that rather than taking their cars. I think there’s no question that that is going to happen in some way or another. We can spend money on that much more cost-effectively than we can in rebuilding what is a small piece of expressway at a cost of $500,000,000.00 to serve something like 5000 people a day.

Andrew: Why don’t you tell us how you really feel.

Alex: You should hear Paul Bedford the former Chief Planner about this. He is apopletic about this. You can’t blame him. People have been working for 40 years to make this a better city and this decision in very clear ways works against a lot of the good work that’s been done here.

Andrew: Maybe elaborate on that a bit. What is at stake in your opinion and the opinion of the planners and people who’ve come out against maintaining the hybrid option. What is at stake, would it really be that bad if we just maintained what we’ve already got? What do you say to that?

Alex: Well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The city will go on and the redevelopment of that district which the city calls the Keating Channel District is going to happen either way. The only thing is that we will have wasted a whole pile of money, number one. Number two that neighborhood when it gets built out is going to be a lot less pleasant than it would have been and that is going to affect people’s quality of life for thousands of people for generations to come. It’s also going to cost the city a lot of money in ways that really haven’t been accounted for yet. The loss in revenue from development for the city itself. Never mind the long term thinking about the property tax impacts of more and better development.

The city upfront is going to lose something like a $140,000,000.00 on the value of its own lands by doing this. You’re looking at a worse neighborhood. You’re looking at a lot of money and you’re looking at a lot of unexpected expenses down the line as well. I think we need to talk about it, as the city hasn’t really done about what they’re going to need to do to execute this hybrid option which is going to involve either expropriating or buying land from the developers who own property right next door at Lake Shore and Cherry.

Andrew: Which is the Keating District Area, is what you’re referring to?

Alex: That’s right and there’s a group of developers there called Three C, which is lead by Castlepoint Realty Partners here. They’ve been working on really big development. The number is I believe 2-1/2 million square feet that they have zoning for now. They’ve been negotiating with the City for something like three years to get the details of that. Now this hybrid proposal came out of nowhere in the last couple of months and surprised them, because, what will happen if the city builds that, essentially the hybrid proposal keeps the highway the way it is, but adds two new ramps off of Cherry Street. Where those two ramps which are long are going to land is right in the middle of that property that Three C owns.

It’s going to impact, take away two blocks worth of development land that they own and impact a couple more. It’s also going to make it a crummier piece of city for the people who live there. I think the developers interest and the public interest is really aligned in this case, but they’re going to get hurt and they’re going to want some compensation. Jan Pepino who’s their lawyer, who’s one of the top development lawyers in Toronto spoke to a committee of city council a few weeks ago. They asked her, what is the value of this for your clients? What’s the value? She said huge. Realistically the number is in the tens of millions. The city is going ahead and thinking about making a decision of this scale and they haven’t even figured this in.

They hadn’t even calculated it that they’re going to be stuck negotiating with some very smart people with very good lawyers on a scale . . .

Andrew: We’re already three years into a process.

Alex: Which is almost finished. The city staff knew exactly what was going on here. The city’s been talking about this for three years, yet somehow the policy that’s being crafted doesn’t take that into account. It’s just bad governance. It’s bad policy making and that result there, which has kind of gotten a little bit lost in this debate, that piece of loan is going to cost the city minimum $40,000,000.00, $50,000,000.00. It could easily be way more . The fact that we’re talking about making a decision of this scale and there’s a variable that big that’s not even being, that hasn’t even been factored in. It just really says so much about how this decision is being made.

This is not about policy. This is not being driven by good policy. If it was we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Andrew: Let’s jump ahead to the future. Let’s say the Gardiner does get removed, the eastern portion. Do you see a day where eventually the entire Gardiner Expressway could be gone from Toronto, or where do you see the bigger picture, the whole Gardiner Expressway. A lot of debates over the years about the entire thing? Eventually we’re going to be having this same debate over the western portions as it starts to fall apart and as the repair bills start to stack up.

Alex: I’m not sure that we are. I think that train has more or less left the station. In the long term certainly. I think in the long term I think it’s very possible that that’s going to happen, but you know this debate has been going on for 15 years now in a meaningful way. What happened along most of the Gardiner is that the city has assumed that it’s going to stay up and the development that’s happened there has happened around it. That’s going to be pretty hard to undo. I mean you could do it, you could bury the Gardiner, which I think would actually be a good idea. I think it would be a very good idea, but it’s hugely complicated. Hugely expensive.

It’s not going to happen any time soon. Really what we have now is a choice about what to do with this one piece which is under used, which is falling down and which is in the way of some potentially great development and on some very valuable land. We have what is really a straightforward choice about what to do with it. I just hope we wind up choosing the correct option.

Andrew: A lot of information, some of the misinformation going around about this issue, I think on both sides of the debate.

Alex: There’s a lot of misinformation on one side. I mean let’s be clear. Let’s be clear about this. They Mayor has been making a case for this for what I think are very clearly political reasons. He’s been saying the gridlock in Toronto is terrible and we can’t make gridlock worse. He hasn’t said anywhere along the way that this project is going to affect the drives of 3% of commuters into downtown Toronto, which is the real number. He said, well gridlock is terrible everywhere. Congestion is costing Toronto billions of dollars a year, all of which makes it sound as though this is going to have a huge impact. It isn’t. It just isn’t. There’s nobody who knows what they’re talking about who believes that this decision is going to have a big impact one way or the other on traffic. It’s just false.

The other major argument that we’ve been hearing from the Mayor and the few people who are with him on this, is that somehow this is necessary to open up new development land. We haven’t talked about what’s happening on the east side of the Don. We’re talking about the zone around the foot of the Don River. On the east side is this big piece of land, the former Unilever site which is now owned by the commercial developers First Gulf.

Andrew: Yes.

Alex: They have a proposal to redevelop that in a pretty dense way. The Mayor’s committed to it. I think it’s a perfectly fine idea and both of the two proposals for the Gardiner that are on the table right now would open that land up for development in just the same way. There is no difference between them in that respect. What we’ve just talked about here are the two arguments that we keeping hearing about why the Gardiner needs to stay up and they’re both false. It’s as simple as that.

Andrew: As Toronto, what would you say, what questions does the average Torontonian need to ask their counselor, or what question to do you wish people would ask themselves about this debate that they aren’t asking right now? What do people need to know that they’re not hearing from the Mayor or from their counselors?

Alex: I think number one if you don’t actually drive on that stretch of the Gardiner or on Lake Shore underneath it and you are concerned about traffic, I really suggest that you go. Because, the numbers that the city throws around about how many people are using this highway, they’re small numbers. It’s 5000 people an hour during rush hour, which is a tiny number when you think about how many people are riding on the King Street car, which is three times that, four times that during rush hour. The point is the numbers tell you a story. Going to look at the thing tells you the same story in a much clearer way. The road is empty. I think it’s really worth going to have a look at it, or to look at some of the images and video that people have been capturing from the city’s traffic cameras that show what it actually looks like during rush hour.

Andrew: Rush hours yeah.

Alex: It’s empty. It just is. The idea that this is an essential piece of infrastructure really depends on the idea that it’s full and it’s not full. It’s never full.

Andrew: I think part of the issue just might be like you said, it’s only 3% of people are familiar with it, so that means 97% of people aren’t on the road. That means 97% of people don’t realize that this section of the Gardiner which is a transition between the DVP and the Gardiner itself it is not, this is not the Gardiner of Gardiner and Spadina. This is not the DVP of DVP and Eglinton, which is perpetually a parking lot. As somebody who does drive that section quite a bit I can definitely agree with that that I am never slowing down ever on that section of the highway versus DVP and Eglinton. When you think of Don Valley Parkway you think of something like that. It’s always backed up.

When you think about the Gardiner and all the issues with that you think about Gardiner and Spadina or Gardiner by the CNE or something and it is very, very trafficked and very heavy most of the time. This section her is not like that at all.

Alex: No, it’s funny. You really do have to know it, because, if you drive on the Gardiner your commute is not fun. You know I get that, but if you drive on the Gardiner from the west, you’re probably getting off at Spadina or at York or Young. You’re probably not going to keep going, because, most people don’t. If you’re coming down the DVP, you’re probably getting off to go into downtown at Richmond which is how most people drive who take the DVP. Very few people actually ride on this piece in between. This conversation is really on a political level, this is really about symbolism. It’s not about the road. People are hearing that we’re going to take down a highway and that makes people upset.

I drive in this city. I drive downtown and I understand that frustration, but you have to look at, you really have to understand the details of what we’re doing here and what we’re looking at. You really have to understand the data, because, it just does not make sense to pour a ton of money into rebuilding what is an underused, relatively empty piece of infrastructure.

Andrew: Alex, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a great conversation with you. If people want to get a hold of you, or find you online, what’s the best way to do that?

Alex: I’m easy to find at the Globe and Mail. If you go to the Globe and Mail site and search for my name, you will find me. You can also follow me on Twitter at alexbozikovic.

Andrew: Great, thank you so much Alex.

Alex: Thank you.

Andrew: Okay, there you have it. That was my interview with Alex Bozikovic from the Globe and Mail. I hope you enjoyed that. I hope that was informative for you, especially if you’re living in Toronto. If you’re a citizen resident of Toronto and you are thinking about the Gardiner yourself and what side of the issue you are on and if you want to speak to your counselor, I definitely recommend that to let them know what you think that the city should do with the Gardiner Expressway East. Obviously Alex makes a very compelling case to remove the Gardiner. There you have it. Once again for the show notes on this episode head on over to You can find links to everything we talked about on this episode. Thank you very much for listening and until next time have a great week.

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