Selection of study areas

The nodes chosen for this study are a sample of designated GGH downtowns, nodes, and corridors that represent different categories of UGCs and corridors designated in Places to Grow. The assessment includes the current condition of these study areas and their performance in light of the objectives pursued by Places to Grow, as well as other criteria used to define well-functioning nodes, such as those introduced in earlier plans. Where possible, it mentions trends in the evolution of nodes.

The study includes all four mature nodes in the GGH: Yonge-Eglinton, North York Centre, Scarborough Town Centre, and Mississauga City Centre. By studying areas that are to varying extents functioning as nodes, it is possible to draw conclusions about the way in which nodes actually deliver on the stated benefits of this form of intensification.

Two small downtowns are also included -- Oakville and Kitchener. Oakville was chosen as an example of a downtown area that is generally perceived as successful because of its thriving main-street retail and the way it functions as something of a tourist attraction. Kitchener, by contrast, represents a struggling downtown that has experienced the loss of retail businesses, like so many other downtowns, and where efforts have been made to revitalize the downtown.

Downtown Toronto, which is also designated as a UGC in Places to Grow, constitutes another study area. It is the most prominent node in the region and serves as a useful comparison to other nodes.

The nodes chosen for study also represent four of the five categories of UGCs described in Places to Grow (see Table 3 and Map 4).

Table 3: Categories of Urban Growth Centres (and Corridors)*
Bold-italic indicates UGCs and corridors studied in this report.

Categories of Urban Growth Centres

Urban Growth Centres

UGCs developed within already built-up areas

Downtown Toronto

North York Centre


Existing inner and outer suburban nodes originally

developed on greenfield sites

Etobicoke Centre

Mississauga City Centre

Scarborough Town Centre

UGCs to be developed on outer suburban greenfield sites

Markham Centre

Richmond Hill/Langstaff Gateway

Vaughan Corporate Centre

UGCs that include (along with other types of development)

traditional downtowns of suburban municipalities

Downtown Brampton

Downtown Burlington

Downtown Milton

Newmarket Centre

Midtown Oakville

Downtown Oshawa

Downtown Pickering

Traditional downtowns of self-standing urban areas

Downtown Barrie

Downtown Brantford

Downtown Cambridge

Downtown Guelph

Downtown Hamilton

Downtown Kitchener/Uptown Waterloo+

Downtown Peterborough

Downtown St. Catharines


Yonge Street corridor

Mississauga East corridor

* The Urban Growth Centres shown here are those listed in Urban Growth Centres in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Issue 1 (Ontario, 2005c).
+ Focus in the study is on the downtown Kitchener portion of the Downtown Kitchener/Uptown Waterloo UGC.

The first category consists of UGCs within already built-up areas where density has increased and a functional transformation has occurred. Yonge-Eglinton, North York Centre, and downtown Toronto are examples of this type of node.

The second category consists of existing nodes within City of Toronto suburbs and outer suburbs (municipalities outside the City of Toronto but within the metropolitan region's built perimeter) that were originally erected on greenfield sites. Scarborough Town Centre and Mississauga City Centre exemplify this category.

All the nodes in the first and second categories are outcomes of regional or municipal planning processes. UGCs in the third category are those that are proposed for outer-suburban greenfield sites. Because they are not yet in place, this third category is not investigated in this study.

Map 4: Locations of study sites in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

The fourth category consists of UGCs that include, along with other types of urban environments, the traditional downtowns of suburban municipalities within or close to the built perimeter of the Toronto region. Oakville is the example chosen to represent this category.

The fifth and final category is composed of the traditional downtowns of self-standing urban areas within the GGH. Kitchener is the representative example here.

Two corridors are also included in this analysis, because corridors are intimately tied to the UGC strategy. The first is the Yonge Street corridor, presented by Places to Grow as a model for future high-density/public transit corridors to be replicated across the GGH. The second corridor covers a portion of Mississauga where densities and public transit use are high by outer suburban standards. As defined here, the Mississauga East Corridor includes the largest concentration of high-density census tracts in the outer suburbs. While Yonge Street represents a mature inner-city corridor, where redevelopment has happened within a traditional urban texture, the Mississauga East corridor shares most features of suburban environments.

All the nodes under investigation have been identified in planning documents since at least the 1970s, which demonstrates the extent to which Places to Grow has incorporated prior planning policies. The role of downtowns and corridors as instruments of metropolitan planning also predates Places to Grow.

For more information on the definition of study area boundaries for the purpose of analysis, see Appendixes A and B.