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How do we make our cities more livable? We want them to be more affordable, walkable and meet the needs of a tech-powered society. City Space is a podcast that seeks to answer this question

City Space Season 4

How do we make our cities more livable? We want them to be more affordable, walkable and meet the needs of a tech-powered society. So, how do we actually reach those ideals? City Space is an urban living podcast from The Globe and Mail that seeks to answer these questions.

S4 Episode 5 Can Chinatown, Vancouver, survive the neighbourhood’s revitalization?

Canada’s largest Chinatown has been under siege for over a century: first by race riots, then by poverty and most recently by the threat of development. We’re telling the story of why Chinatown, Vancouver, is one of Canada’s most resilient neighbourhoods, forced to evolve and adapt in the face of horrific racism. The future of Chinatowns everywhere should be in the hands of the people who live, work and find community there. So what does the future hold for a neighbourhood constantly in flux?

S4 Episode 4 Prohibition’s 100-year hangover in a Toronto neighbourhood

At the turn of the 20th century, a murder, a bar brawl and a sermon led to a 100-year ban on booze in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood. The Junction was Toronto’s last “dry” neighbourhood — meaning no alcohol was allowed to be sold — until 2000. While other nearby areas saw business booming as bars and restaurants opened, The Junction declined and became known as “The Junkie Junction.” We’re telling the story of the Junction’s prohibition — and how it got its bars back. Today it’s a rapidly gentrifying area, thanks to the allure of its galleries, boutiques, bars and music venues. But are businesses always the best way to breathe new life into a neighbourhood? Has revitalization become synonymous with gentrification?

S4 Episode 3 Halifax is allowing homeless encampments in its parks. Should other cities do the same?

On August 18, 2021, downtown Halifax made international news when the city erupted in a sprawling protest against the removal of illegal homeless shelters from a park. Compared to other Canadian cities, Halifax’s homeless population has tripled in the last three years. Emergency shelters aren’t doing enough. Building new housing takes time. It takes policy changes — and money. Until that’s in place, is leaving people to camp in parks really the best a city can do? We’re telling the story of park encampments, and how the city’s homelessness problem got so bad.

S4 Episode 2 Does heritage preservation stand in the way of housing?

The Van Horne Mansion was a classic greystone house in Montreal’s Golden Square Mile. It was the home of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, the man who built the Canadian Pacific Railway. Despite public outcry, the mansion was demolished in 1973. This lit a fire amongst conservationists, thus initiating the heritage conservation movement in Canada. Today, heritage conservation is an important part of city planning. But what tradeoffs can we afford as the housing crisis in cities across the country gets more dire? We’re telling the story of the Van Horne mansion and its legacy in heritage conservation, asking: Who decides what to preserve, and who are we preserving it for?

S4 Episode 1 Was the Spadina Expressway a crisis averted or a missed opportunity?

The Spadina Expressway was one of five urban highways that were nearly built in Toronto in the 70s. The plan would have bulldozed neighbourhoods so that suburban commuters had a direct route to drive downtown. But campaigners like Bobbi Speck and Jane Jacobs stopped it, saving iconic neighbourhoods like The Annex. Today, Toronto is one of the worst cities in the world for traffic. Should the expressway have been built anyway? We tell the story of the grassroots movement to stop Spadina with the people who were there firsthand. Does the movement perhaps offer tips on how to solve Toronto’s notoriously bad traffic?

S4 Trailer Season 4 of City Space

Who decides what progress means to a city? In the new season of City Space, join host Irene Galea as she delves into the stories of changing cities and how they’re holding on to their identities in the face of 21st century problems. Season 4 will tell stories of progress and preservation — and look for common ground in city spaces across Canada.

S3 Episode 6 Who are city festivals for?

Festivals can transform cities by making space for overlooked people and cultures. Cities all over the world are facing major crises — from mounting inequalities to climate emergencies. And arts and culture have a surprisingly critical role in tackling these urban challenges. How do we make sure festivals remain authentic and true to their communities? In this episode, we hear from Mischka Creighton, the CEO of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, one of the city’s marquee events. Adrian also speaks to Trudie Walters, an adjunct associate professor at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand. She co-authored a paper about how festivals can help or harm marginalized groups.

S3 Episode 5 Will Canada be able to house all the immigrants it hopes to welcome by 2025?

Last year, the federal government set an ambitious new immigration target — to bring in half a million permanent residents a year by 2025. While the country is already dealing with a pretty profound housing crisis, it’s likely everyone will feel the housing crunch even more as a record number of immigrants move to Canadian cities in the near future. Where will all these newcomers live and whose job is it to make sure the country is prepared? In this episode, we hear from Mike Moffatt, the Senior Director of Policy and Innovation at the Smart Prosperity Institute at the University of Ottawa. We’re also joined by Gregg Lintern, the Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, who discusses how Toronto’s housing goals can be met in time.

S3 Episode 4 Urban wildlife: How humans and animals can better coexist in cities

Whether we really think about it or not, cities are habitats for animals. Beyond a flock of pigeons or dogs on a leash, cities are home to all manner of wildlife - depending where you are, you might have bats, coyotes or even bobcats roaming around. How can cities better accommodate the land we share with our beastie brethren and what might be some potential benefits if we get better at it?

This episode we’re joined by Peter Alagona, a professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities. We’re also joined by Erica Spotswood, a senior ecologist at Second Nature, an urban planning consultancy specializing in integrating nature into urban design. She’s also the coauthor of “The Biological Deserts Fallacy”, a paper that outlines the unique ways that cities contribute to regional biodiversity.

S3 Episode 3 How can cities prepare for a rapidly aging population?

Our population is getting older – and fast. By 2046, Canada expects its seniors to outnumber children by 2:1. And by 2050, the number of people over 65 worldwide is expected to reach 2 billion. These demographic changes have huge impacts on how our cities run, from work to health care to design. So how should we reimagine and redesign cities as they become increasingly populated by the elderly – which, if you’re lucky, will one day include you? In this episode, we hear from Joy Loverde, an advisor in aging and eldercare-related issues and the author of Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old and The Complete Eldercare Planner. Adrian also explores the case study of Toyama, a Japanese city with one of the oldest populations in the world, to discover if there are lessons Canadian cities can adopt. And finally, we hear from Thiago Hérick de Sá, who leads the Department of Age-Friendly Environments at the World Health Organization, to learn how the WHO is trying to help more cities reach a higher age-friendly standard.

S3 Episode 2 Why are ER wait times so bad in Canadian cities?

Burning hours in an ER waiting room has long been a fact of Canada’s public health care system, but that wait time is starting to spike. Now, in Ontario it hovers at around 20 hours on average. And our cities, home to more people and more various determinants of health than anywhere else in the country, bear the brunt of it. In this episode, we’re looking at some issues that impact the growing hospital emergency room wait times: What factors are contributing to the problem? And can anything actually be done to alleviate it or is it a pipe dream?

S3 Episode 1 Are smart cities really such a smart idea?

The smart city movement — driven by the idea that we can leverage data and technology to optimize life in our cities — is attractive for many reasons. But critics say that smart cities may not be so wise, and in some cases, they’ve proven to be dangerous for democracy. In the first episode of season three, we’re doing a deep dive into this very concept: What are smart cities, and who are they for? Where has smart-city technology helped, and when does it start to wade into surveillance-capitalism territory ? Adrian speaks to John Lorinc, an urban affairs journalist and the author of Dream States: Smart Cities, Technology, and the Pursuit of Urban Utopias, about how the perception of smart cities has shifted over the years, and how smart city technology can both improve and disrupt our lives. Plus, Globe and Mail reporter Josh O’Kane shares his reporting from his new book, SIDEWAYS: The City Google Couldn’t Buy, which looks at Alphabet’s failed attempt to build a smart city in Toronto and what that high-profile example tells us about citizen engagement and good governance around the world.

S3 Trailer Season 3 of City Space

Canadian cities are evolving–and quickly. City Space, The Globe and Mail’s future of cities podcast, is back for another season to make sense of it all. Join host Adrian Lee over the course of six episodes as he speaks with global experts and those close to home as we learn what our cities are doing right and what can be improved. Up this season: the pros and cons of a smart city, what we can do about our overwhelmed ER departments and how we should be planning for an aging population. Listen to the trailer and catch up on seasons one and two now.

S2 Episode 6 Supply alone won’t fix our housing crisis. Here are three other factors

If we want great cities, people from all walks of life need to be able to live in them. But even with experts predicting that rising interest rates will drive national housing prices down by as much as 23 per cent by the end of this year, most of us would still consider those adjusted prices totally unaffordable. While most of the housing crisis conversation has centered on supply — just build build build — there’s a lot more going on that’s causing the problem. In our last episode of the season, Adrian talks to three experts about other housing crisis factors that don’t always get the spotlight. Guests for this episode are Andy Yan, an urban planner and director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program; Naama Blonder, a Toronto-based architect and urban planner with Smart Density and Rachelle Younglai, The Globe’s real estate reporter.

S2 Episode 5 How online shopping is changing our city streets – and what comes next

With e-commerce largely replacing brick-and-mortar stores, how we shop is having real, physical effects on how our cities work. So in this episode, we’re looking at all things retail: As consumers, have we become addicted to convenience? How are businesses able to offer us even quicker delivery times than ever before, sometimes within even 15 minutes – and what is that doing to our main streets? What is the “last mile,” and why is it so important for making sure we’re taking care of the environment? Adrian speaks to Josué Velázquez Martínez, the director of the MIT Sustainable Supply Chain Lab, about the ins and outs of how products get to where they need to be – and why e-commerce, if done more thoughtfully, could actually be better for our planet. Plus, we hear from Alex Bitterman, a professor and the chair of Architecture and Design at Alfred State University of New York, about the rise of “dark stores”: private warehouses in the heart of our cities that allow for extra-speedy delivery times, while simultaneously threatening to snuff out our main streets.

S2 Episode 4 Hybrid work is here to stay. What will that mean for our downtown cores?

If you’re a white-collar worker, chances are your office setup looks different than it did before the pandemic. After our two-year-long global experiment with remote work, many employees say there’s lots to like about it, with a number of companies now offering hybrid workplaces. All that empty office space is going to have an effect on the rest of our cities. In this episode, Jennifer Barrett, a senior planner with The Canadian Urban Institute outlines three ways that vacant offices could affect our downtown cores and what she hopes will be our way forward. We take a look at what Calgary is doing – since it was dealing with a vacant-office crisis even before COVID-19 – with the help of The Globe’s deputy national editor for cities and real estate James Keller. Samantha Sannella, the managing director for strategic consulting at global commercial real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield, also joins us to talk about how Calgary’s revitalization plans for their downtown could inspire other Canadian cities, and whether plans to convert offices into housing are realistic. Finally, Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, explains why so many people want this office revolution in the first place, and how this represents an opportunity to shift away from the white, male-centric ways in which workplaces were originally designed.

S2 Episode 3 From tipping to farming: How we should change the way we think about food

Cities are filled with seemingly endless options when it comes to food. But we’re also increasingly disconnected from what we eat and how it makes its way to our plate. In this episode, we’re taking a look at how the pandemic has given us the opportunity to rethink our relationship with food, both in terms of the restaurant industry and farmed food that fills our fridge. Adrian speaks to Corey Mintz, a food writer and critic about his new book The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants As We Knew Them, and What Comes After. Corey shares how the pandemic has changed the restaurant industry, from tipping to labour demand, and what diners should think about next time they eat out. Plus, we hear from Carolyn Steel, architect and author of Sitopia: How Food Can Save the World. Carolyn shares how cities have lost some of their essential connections to the food that fuels their citizens, and what we can do about it.

S2 Episode 2 How can cities prepare for climate change?

Climate change isn’t just coming, it’s here. And cities are uniquely susceptible to its effects because of their population density and infrastructure. So how can they better prepare for the increasingly devastating impacts of the climate crisis? In this episode, we explore the concept of climate resilience — how prepared are cities to anticipate, prepare for and respond to natural disasters? We hear from Thaddeus Pawlowski, an urban designer, professor and managing director at the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes at Columbia University, who was on the ground helping New York City rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. Plus, Adrian speaks to Toronto’s former Chief Resilience Officer Elliott Cappell about how he helped Toronto develop a plan to deal with climate disasters and what gives him hope for our future.

S2 Episode 1 How protests put Ottawa’s capital-city flaws on display

From late January, when the first protesters’ trucks and cars piled into downtown Ottawa, to mid-February, when the Canadian government enacted emergency laws to remove them from the streets, Canada’s capital city of Ottawa was locked down. But it turns out, the reasons why the protests proved uniquely disruptive to the people who actually lived there were actually baked into the city’s very design. In the first episode of City Space’s second season, we look at how we design and choose capital cities, why capitals reveal the story of the country as a whole, and what Ottawa’s failures tell us about the broader Canadian project. Adrian speaks to Dave Amos, planning professor at California Polytechnic State University and the host of City Beautiful, a YouTube channel about urban design, about exactly how a capital city is built and what it’s meant to do. Plus Andrew Waldron, architectural historian and Canadian heritage conservationist, explains how the layout of Ottawa doomed the city to chaos when protesters occupied the roads and the core.

S2 Trailer Season 2 of City Space

The Globe’s podcast about how to make our cities better is back for another season. Join host Adrian Lee over the course of six episodes as he speaks with global experts and those close to home as we learn what our cities are doing right and what can be improved. Up this season: the real purpose of a capital city, the future of our downtown cores and how a city can prepare for looming climate-change disasters. Listen to our trailer and catch up on season one now.

S1 Episode 6 How do we build better public transit?

Public transit is essential to the well-being and growth of a city, but as we all know, it’s hard to get it right. Enrique Peñalosa, a former mayor of Bogota, Colombia once said that “a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” And while that’s definitely something to strive for, how achievable is it, really?

On the last episode of this season, we explore what conditions are necessary to create a thriving public transit system in any city - and what, too often, is ignored. Adrian speaks with Christof Spieler, who helped redesign the Houston bus network, about the public transit blueprint he believes can be applied to all cities. We then hear from David Zipper, an urban mobility expert who worked with Washington and New York City mayors, on why focusing on something he calls ‘mundane mobility’ will benefit the average rider in ways even the flashiest of public transit tech never can. Plus, The Globe’s reporter Eric Andrew Gee, tells Adrian about why his time spent riding the Thunder Bay bus network made it clear how political public transit can be.


S1 Episode 5 How unaffordable rent is pushing out the people our cities need

Soaring rent costs is a global phenomenon — and the problem is officially in Canadian cities. In 2020, the average price of rental housing in Toronto was more expensive than it was in San Francisco, London and New York. How did we get here? In this episode of City Space, we explore how the crisis in rental housing happened, how it’s affecting the people we really need in our cities, and what we can do about it.

Adrian speaks to Raquel Rolnik, urban planner and former UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing about the worrying global trends of rental housing becoming exposed to financial markets. We then hear from Martine August, an associate professor of planning at the University of Waterloo, who explains the rise in corporate landlordship. Finally, The Globe’s architecture critic Alex Bozikovic explains what’s really standing in the way of affordable housing in our cities — and how we can change that.


S1 Episode 4 Who are our public spaces failing?

Public spaces are often the best parts of a city. But during the pandemic, many of us started to realize how our public spaces, like parks, weren’t quite working for us. In this episode, we hear from three experts: Adri Stark, project manager at Park People and one of the authors of the 2021 Canadian City Parks Report; Leslie Kern, the author of Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World and Anna Zivarts, the director of the Disability Mobility Initiative Program in Washington. In conversation with Adrian, they share how public spaces are failing people in ways we might not often consider, and how we can really make them work for all of us.


S1 Episode 3 Cars vs. bikes: What do cities actually need to be safe and accessible?

The battle for road space between bikes and cars is a well-known one in many cities. But conversations about being a “bike person” or a “car person” tend to skew more towards identity politics than what the data tells us about how to make a city safest and efficient for all citizens - no matter how they choose to get around. So why can’t we get past our emotional response?

Peter Norton, an associate professor and author of “Fighting Traffic”, as well as the new book, “Autonorama: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving” shares just how cars came to dominate our roads and how they still have a place in contemporary cities. Plus, Adrian talks to Canadian-Danish urban mobility expert Mikael Colville-Andersen about coaching cities around the world to be more bike-friendly. And Adrian comes clean on something you might not expect.


S1 Episode 2 Can we break the middle class of their addiction to sprawl?

A generation ago, a middle-class income could buy you a detached home in a big city. Now? Folks are finding they need to set their sights further and further away from any downtown centre if they want to hold fast to that dream. But as populations and climate emergencies rise, experts tell us that urban densification is the necessary path forward. So what do cities have to do to retain the middle-class? And how, exactly, does the middle-class break their addiction to personal space and redefine “making it” when it comes to acquiring housing?

In this episode, we hear from Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s former Chief City Planner and founder of Markee Developments, on why she thinks rental units and high-quality public spaces will do the trick. Plus, Rollin Stanley, former General Manager of Planning for Calgary, details how governments all over the country should get imaginative with their heritage buildings. Finally, we ask Rob Carrick, Personal Finance Columnist at the Globe, about why he’s letting millennials off the hook when it comes to housing.


S1 Episode 1 Should all Canadian cities be 15-minute cities?

The 15-minute city is an urban planning concept that would see neighbourhoods designed so that day-to-day amenities are always just a short walk or bike ride away. And after living 18+ months of pandemic life, where most of us were forced to stay in our own neighbourhoods, it seems like implementing this idea in as many cities as possible will pay nothing but dividends. But while it’s popular in other parts of the world like many European cities, can we really just cut and paste the idea in Canada?In this episode, we hear from Alain Miguelez, Ottawa’s Manager of Policy Planning, who believes our nation’s capital is ripe for the 15-minute city and why he’s working hard to help execute it there. Plus, we check in with Jay Pitter, an award-winning placemaker and urban planning lecturer, about why she believes there is a crucial — but so far, absent — step necessary for the 15-minute city to actually work in North America.


S1 Trailer Season 1 of City Space

A new podcast from The Globe and Mail about how to make our cities better. Join host Adrian Lee over the course of six episodes as he speaks with global experts and those close to home as we learn what our cities are doing right and what we’re missing.

Adrian Lee

Irene Galea is a reporter for The Globe and Mail’s business section, and a journalist whose varied interests have led her to take on real estate investigations in Canada and archeological excavations abroad. Having grown up in Toronto, Irene is fascinated by how today’s cityscapes have been shaped by past policy and design decisions. In 2023, Irene won a silver SABEW award for her reporting on historic housing policies that still make homes unaffordable. She has a Masters of Building History from the University of Cambridge, with a focus on medieval buildings and the evolution of Toronto’s nineteenth-century bank architecture.

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