The first year of this council term was widely panned for its fixation on cutting down the budget rather than building up the city, but one member of Rob Ford's team is poised to change that, earning accolades from across the acrimonious partisan lines that defined City Hall in 2011.
A report commissioned by Councillor Peter Milczyn, member of Mr. Ford's executive committee and an architect by trade, suggests changes to Toronto's official plan that would refocus the City Hall's efforts on planning future growth.
"It's vitally important," Mr. Milczyn said of oft-ignored long-term vision exercises at city council. "This may not be the focus of the mayor's agenda, but I wouldn't say it's contrary either."
The report, Bolder and Brighter, set for debate at a planning and growth management committee meeting on Thursday, suggests that, to keep up with other international cities, Toronto should consider implementing mandatory design competitions for buildings over a given height, designating pedestrian-only streets, establishing special design districts to ensure new projects jibe with neighbourhood character, and coming up with a bold new city slogan.
Copenhagen, for example, calls itself the "eco-metropolis of the world," and New York claims to be the "most ambitious city in the world." For Toronto, Mr. Milczyn suggests something like "the best big city to raise a family."
The report will help feed into the city's review of its Official Plan.
Other suggestions include designating 25 per cent of floor space in some new developments for business purposes to prevent condominium ghettoes, creating transit-oriented zoning and providing incentives for heritage preservation.
"It's possible budget issues have overshadowed all this kind of thing," said Mr. Milczyn, chair of the planning and growth committee. "But it's vitally important."
One of the mayor's more persistent critics, Councillor Adam Vaughan, would agree.
"If you're going to build a good strong city, you need good strong planning," Mr. Vaughan said. "Peter is one of the first chairs of planning and growth who actually understands planning and understands how you have to both harness and guide market forces to build better cities, so it doesn't surprise me that this document represents some of the best thinking in planning right now."