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Expo City – The New Era of Vaughan

June 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Special Features


The New Era of VaughanThe memory is all-too-familiar: sitting in the backseat of the family car with your elders, listening to them reminisce about the past while proudly pointing to residential or commercial areas that were once plains of nothingness. Press the fast-forward button to the near future and you’ll soon be extending your hand towards the unprecedented growth of Vaughan: towering skyscrapers, an integrated subway network and a bubbling metropolitan centre. “The generations coming up are going to drive their kids around and say, ‘you know, when we were younger, this was just fields and no buildings,’ which is sort of the same thing my dad did with me when he drove to some of the sites he was developing,” says Peter Cortellucci, deeply involved in the development industry since he was a teenager. As vice-president of the Cortel Group, a diversified development firm building sustainable residential communities across the GTA, Cortellucci, 25, is palpably young, but somehow formulates words of

wisdom when discussing the approaching intensification of Vaughan.

A place of barren fields, soil and weed, Vaughan was once an agricultural community comprised of historic villages and hamlets. It was incorporated into a city in 1991, and became one of Canada’s fastest-growing municipalities when its population increased by 80 per cent between 1996 and 2006. The current population is estimated at just over 300,000; a figure projected to weigh in at over 400,000 by 2031. This same year a highly anticipated development project will expand its mixed-use environment on more than 179 hectares of land, providing thousands of jobs and development opportunities. Considered the city’s biggest initiative to-date, the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will be the focal point of a forthcoming downtown that will shake up our rural beginnings. The project will bring about advantageous opportunities for the citizens of Vaughan, exponentially impacting the way we live and play against a backdrop of new connections, achievements in urban design and green space.

With its command centre at the axis of Highway 7 between Jane Street and Highway 400, the metropolitan hub will draw people together with retail spaces, offices, condos and entertainment options that will make heading to Toronto to indulge in these pleasures a thing of the past. Vaughan has a vision, and it’s to become a leading city. “One of the things we’re trying to do is create complete communities and complete neighbourhoods here with a wide range of office, residential, retail, cultural and civic uses,” says John MacKenzie, the City of Vaughan’s commissioner of planning. “We want to recreate a distinct and vibrant downtown by 2031. It will have the tallest buildings in Vaughan, and the most intense concentration of development.”

If you haven’t heard of the transformation Vaughan is headed for, now’s the time to get on track. By 2015, the city will welcome a robust public transit infrastructure that will ease the congestion suffocating the city’s thoroughfares, with an emphasis on Vaughan’s main transportation artery. “Highway 7 already operates at beyond its capacity, and the only way you’re going to fix it is with transit and the subway,” explains Cortellucci. The crossroads of Jane Street and Highway 7 will provide a gateway to the upcoming 8.6-kilometre subway network, connecting Vaughan to downtown Toronto’s Union Station and financial district, cities within York Region, Go Transit and an influx of Viva bus stations. Financed by three levels of government, the $2.6 billion investment towards the subway will also go towards supporting the nearby Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. Apart from providing Vaughan residents with the opportunity to leave their cars at home, MacKenzie explains that the city isn’t stopping there in terms of preserving the environment. “We’ve got this subway station, we’ve got this bus terminal, we’ve got rapid transit and we want to have a mix of uses with a really nice open space and public realm system. Part of that includes some of the natural features like Black Creek, which is right now just a ditch along Jane Street. We want to restore and enhance this area so that people can enjoy green space in the future.”

An integral figure planting seeds of smart growth in our community, Cortellucci envisions gridlock-free horizons akin to a European lifestyle. “If you look in the piazzas of Rome or the boulevards of Paris, people are the priority, and their priorities are to walk, cycle and utilize transit systems.” Cortellucci is leading the way in building Expo City, a fastidiously planned pedestrian community set to conclude by 2017 at the heart of Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. “One of the most important things – and where the city is moving very quickly towards – is trying to have excellence in urban design. We want to have quality building and more sustainability, but really, having a high-quality of urban design in our downtown,” says MacKenzie. Concentrating on sustainable living, Expo City will sprout with townhomes, offices, shopping, an entertainment scene and a five-tower residential development (two have already launched) offering 40 types of suites. “Vaughan has always been one of the leaders in the GTA when it comes to growth, and I think people are really going to start identifying that they live here,” says Cortellucci, a visionary raised to look beyond the present moment by his father, Mario Cortellucci, founder and president of Cortel Group. And if there’s anything the past can teach us, it’s that when one envisions the future, the rest is history.


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