The 15-minute city urban development is an approach which comprises compact and transit-oriented development, mixed-use, smart and strategic growth. It focuses on meeting all the requirements that a person would need within a 15- to 20-minute radius of their household. The main goal of Mariyan Boychev’s MES major paper is to appraise the adoption of the “15-minute city” model in Toronto as a significant tool for better urban planning to create a post-COVID-19 efficient community, while all at once contributing to climate change mitigation. Boychev underlines that anthropogenic climate change is the defining issue of the current time. Considering the growth of cities and their intense impact on our natural environment, urban planning strategies to alter the built environment are critically important.
“Urban planning presents important opportunities to rethink and reshape the way we use the environment and
invent new ways to enhance the planet” - Mariyan Boychev
The research addresses climate change mitigation through sustainable urban practices by incorporating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Cities are at the centre of attention of the UN strategy as their current development can significantly contribute to accomplishing the UN SDGs. Another important component of the paper is the creation of a city-wide climate perception study conducted to understand how likely residents are to take actions to address climate change. This is important information to accurately implement sustainable urban planning, and it demonstrates that there are still major barriers preventing people from making changes to their lifestyle.
After analyzing the urban issues experienced by other metropolitan areas of the world, Boychev concludes that there is a need for Toronto to focus on investing in communities and to build infrastructure to address socioeconomic and environmental issues which the city is faced with today. For this, it is critical to recognize the sustainable ways to make accessible housing, active transportation, and both pedestrian and green spaces.
The main findings point towards the importance of increasing the amenity rich areas in the city while improving housing affordability. Concerning the requirements for mobility, the results of the study demonstrate that Toronto lacks sustainable public transportation pathways, making the city very car oriented and contributing to socio-economic inequalities. Boychev’s research reveals that the most significant addition for improving road access was incorporating more cycling and walking infrastructure. As for pedestrian and green spaces, the study proposes that establishing more green spaces will also reduce the intensity of extreme weather events due to climate change as well as increase community well-being.
There are different areas of Toronto that can become 15-minute neighborhoods. One of the main projects proposed to make mixed-use and car-free zones in the city is yongeTOmorrow. This is a plan to revitalize Yonge Street between College Street and Queen Street with the implementation of car-free areas and other pedestrian benefits such as commercial centers and parks. Another significant opportunity for applying the model in Toronto is in the West Don Lands neighbourhood. The area is proposed to be a mixed-use community with 6,000 new units and it will contain 9.3 hectares of park and public space. A vital component of the development will be affordable housing. A possible area of Toronto that can easily be converted into 15-minute neighbourhoods is the Downsview Park area. The Downsview Park land provides a great opportunity for the development of the model resulting in healthy, resilient, and equitable communities in the heart of Toronto based on all requirements for creating the 15-minute city strategy.
The climate crisis, global inequalities, and the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic are urgent issues for countries, governments, and municipalities to invest and create healthy and sustainable communities. Realizing that humanity is long past the carrying capacity of the Earth makes it an essential priority to increase our interconnectivity and dependence with nature in order to build and recover from these issues. Considering the growth of cities and their intense impact on our natural environment, urban planning strategies to alter the built environment are critically important. Reshaping our cities is the first move towards more sustainable urban environments.
Mariyan Boychev is a MES alumnus and planner at the Urban Economy Forum whose research is directed towards climate change mitigation through sustainable urban planning. His past research focused on condominium development at the Liberty Village area in Toronto and its consequences for King Street, including an assessment of the results from the implementation of the Transit Pilot Project. His other scholarly interests include creating healthy, equitable, walkable, bicycle-friendly, sustainable and resilient zero carbon communities. His MES major paper was supervised by Prof. Jose Etcheverry.