The project focus on the Town of Markham, located on the northern border of the city of Toronto. Originally a small farming community, today it has one of the most diverse population in Canada. The urban face of Markham today is the result of its dynamic growth and evolution. Traces of natural heritage are still prominent in places, contrasting the dominant suburban pattern neighbourhood developments. Abundant green spaces and large parks make the town feel green, however big-box stores and shopping malls have followed a traditional suburban development pattern resulting in an extremely car-centric urban layout.
Main streets are the very core of communities. Great main streets bring together people to live, work and play; they build community spirit; they support economic development and embody the identity of the neighbourhoods surrounding them. Many of the roads in Markham serve a different purpose: people use them to drive from place to place but don’t use the public spaces that surrounds them.
Markham is seeking to change itself for the better as it pursues sustainable alternative transportation methods like expanded public transit, integrated cycling and walking paths, and denser neighbourhoods that incorporate mixed-use and new kinds of urban patterns that strike a balance between density and desirable suburban features.
The design of a new kind of main street is the key to achieving this difficult balance, one that recognizes and respects the best of historic main street design while proposing new strategies that work with the suburban features and attracting people to these communities.
In this charrette, 10 interdisciplinary teams were assigned to 5 different sections of Markham’s major roads. Each team had a design focus drawn from the 5 City Systems: Civics, Ecology, Culture, Economy and Infrastructure. The designs we produced created the template for a community change that could help transform Markham for the future.