The long planned, expanded town of Queensville is finally set for ground breaking. The new community that is to eventually house 30,000 people to the north of Newmarket is advancing to construction after almost 20 years of planning following the completion of the recent Highway 404 extension to Ravenshoe Road. Developers Aspen Ridge Homes, Countrywide Homes, and Lakeview Homes are proceeding with the development, with the first phase of homes set to begin sales this spring.
Queensville Master Plan, from the East Gwillimbury official plan
The project was a considered a revolutionary new urbanist community when it initially began planning in the late 1990s. Nearly 20 years later however, the project is coming under heavy criticism. As mentioned in aprevious UrbanToronto article, the development lacks a strong public transit connection, instead gaining regional mobility from direct access to the 404. The homes to be constructed have front-facing garages, a feature usually relegated to alleys in other new urbanist developments such as Markham's Cornell neighborhood. The planned town, a pocket of land to the south of the existing Queensville hamlet, received an exemption within the greenbelt, and is located in an environmentally sensitive area surrounded by greenbelt lands.
Town Plan for the residential portion of Queensville, image from myqueensville.com
Other issues with the project include a planned post secondary institution to be built on the northeastern edge of the community that is still languishing in the hands of the province for funding. The planned high school is similarly located on the community's edge, away from the retail centre where it could be providing street life and a customer base for local restaurants and stores. The commercial and employment areas, beyond a small amount of planned office space in the town centre, are located on the other side of the 404 and are planned to be the more typical type of suburban industrial space seen scattered across the urban fringes of the GTA.
render of the planned townhomes in the development, note the streetfronting garages. Image from myqueensville.com
Still, the project is built in a much better fashion than most suburban communities. Most homes will be within walking distance of the central town square. The centre of the town will feature street-fronting retail with parking in behind, and will boast a large community centre on the west side of it. High density apartment buildings will be in the centre, providing direct density to help drive street life. The project represents a better way of providing new low-rise housing stock for the GTA in a sustainable manner, with caveats for the car dependency inherent in the exurban location.
Master plan for Queensville's town centre, image from myqueensville.com
The town is one of many planned and under construction new urbanist developments around the GTA. Cornell in Markham and Mt. Pleasant in Brampton are both well under construction, and have received varying levels of criticism and praise. Pickering's planned new urbanist community, known as Seaton, faces many of the same issues that Queensville does, and will similarly be beginning construction over the next few years. Markham's other new urbanist community, Cathedraltown, has come upon specific scrutiny as of late due to its failure to deliver on the promises made to home-buyers early in the development phase.
Preliminary plans for the town centre retail, image from myqueensville.com
Source: Vanderveen, C. (2015, February 6). New Urbanist Town of Queensville Prepares for Construction. Retrieved April 11, 2015, from http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2015/02/new-urbanist-town-queensville-prepares-construction