By: Tyler McLay MREI, BBA

Toronto residents turning from car to bicycle and development shows it


Neil Pattison was heading to work one January morning when he approached yet another of the city’s notorious bottlenecks. A water main had broken at the intersection of King and University. Cars were clogged and idling in all directions.

Pattison, however, had biked to work. He made it into the office at his regular time.

“Some people who drove were complaining it took an extra half-hour just to get through there,” he says.

Pattison, senior vice-president of development at Graywood Developments, sees that experience as one more sign that city life is shifting. “The future of cities is not about the automobile. It’s become a very inefficient means of transporting people around a densely-compacted urban environment.”

And that environment is getting denser. According to City of Toronto estimates, the population will balloon to 3.5 million by 2030, including 500,000 in the downtown core alone. Chief city planner, Gregg Lintern, has said that type of density will be the norm across the city.

As condo towers shoot up all over the skyline, developers are looking to adapt to how and where people choose to live. “The narrative is changing,” says Pattison.

Graywood is contributing to that narrative with the launch of Centricity Condos, a 53-storey, mixed-use development at Church and Dundas. Located on the site of an old Esso station, Centricity’s site in the downtown core has led to an emphasis on cycling infrastructure, as most of its residents won’t be getting behind the wheel on a regular basis.

“We want Centricity to be one of the most bike-friendly buildings in the city,” says Pattison, who makes his daily five-km., 18-minute commute on a Hyde Pro Cube bike. “And how do we do that? We treat the cyclist equal to the pedestrian. We make it as convenient and practical as possible for people to come and go.”

The building, slated to open in 2027, will feature wide bike-sized elevators, a maintenance and wash station, and temporary storage in the lobby, allowing for a quick trip upstairs without relying on the iffy security of locking up on streetside posts.


Most revealing is the parking; there are nearly 600 parking spots for bikes, compared to just 63 for cars. While the discrepancy has clear financial benefits for developers — a spot can cost up to $200,000, far more money than it might generate — it also reflects changing lifestyles. Sales for car parking spots have been trending down in recent years as more downtown residents opt to walk, bike, or take transit. Centricity has sold only 0.15 spots per unit, while another Graywood project, under construction at Peter and Adelaide, sold 0.17 spots per unit.

City Council recognized this shift back in late 2021, voting to eliminate minimum parking requirements for new condo developments. Previously, condos needed to provide at least 0.5 parking spots per one-bedroom unit, but even that seems excessive by today’s standards, says architect and urban planner Naama Blonder. “If you think about Toronto in 20 years, you have to think about where all these people will live, and how they’ll get around. That puts everything in a new perspective.”

Her firm, Smart Density, designs and advocates for multi-family housing located in compact, walkable communities next to public transit. From six-laneway row houses, steps from Dupont Station, to a 106-unit, midrise, near the Long Branch GO station, Smart Density projects try to promote lifestyles that are both car-free and family-friendly.

“It’s very North American to think you need a big backyard and a two-car garage to be able to raise a family, but we want to show that’s not the case. Not if you have parks and transit so close. I mean, I’d rather spend more time with my kids and less time being stuck in traffic,” she says.

Blonder, whose own car-less family of four lives in a 1,000-square-foot condo at King and Portland, believes continuing investment in transit and biking infrastructure will lead to the sustainable and affordable housing of the future. Public and private sectors are starting to see the same thing. Nine Transit Oriented Communities (TOCs) are scheduled to be built along five new stations on the Ontario Line, and the city’s official bike plan aims to add 100 km. of new bike lanes by 2024, a 35-per-cent increase from 2019.

Although that goal might fall short because of budget concerns, biking’s mainstream appeal has resulted in the approval of the Yonge Street bike lane and the continuing success of Bike Share, which reported 4.6 million trips in 2022, up from 3.5 million in 2021.

One of those new riders is Daniel Kim, who bought a $795,000-Centricity-one-bedroom-plus den condo with his brother. The 33-year-old realtor has never been a frequent cyclist, but saw the 100-per-cent bikeability score for his future home as an opportunity to do more pedalling.

“Everybody wants to live downtown,” he says. “And if you want to live downtown, why drive? You’re so close to everything.”

This is exciting news to Pattison, not just as a developer but an urbanist. “I’m a big believer in cities,” he says. “They inspire and create, they bring people together and they help them thrive. This is how society moves forward.”

Centricity Condos

Address: 241 Church Street

Form: 53 storeys, 594 units

Layout, floor plan: Junior one bedroom; one bed.; one bed., plus den; two bed.; two bed., plus den; three bed.; three bed., plus den

Size range: 400 sq.ft. to more than 1,000 sq.ft.

Price range: Low $600s to $1.3 million