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Sam Mizrahi: A Great City Needs a Dynamic, Graceful and Inspiring Center

As an admirer of architecture, Canadian developer Sam Mizrahi knows that the great cities of the past were centered around thriving urban cores.

The central city was a showcase, often for the power and majesty of an empire. Its panorama was a statement for the ages, the living embodiment of a civilization’s appreciation for art, design and beauty.

Great civilizations did not believe in letting central urban areas decay. Even the Vandals, whose name is today synonymous with destruction, had a certain amount of respect for the great architectural achievements which surrounded them. They came to plunder, not to spray-paint.

Because the urban core was a priority, it endured — even to this day. Nero may have been the only Roman who ever gave up on central Rome. When life became hard, as it usually was for the typical city dweller, residents didn’t flee to suburbs and exurbs. They knew the city was the place to be, and a place worth preserving.

This has been true across the globe, and throughout the ages. The Los Angeles model — a sprawling megapolis centered on an urban core where no one wants to live — is a historical aberration. Given these two perspectives on urban planning, Sam Mizrahi knows which is the best template for Toronto: the time-tested idea of a vibrant urban core.

Sam Mizrahi has long been fascinated by the Toronto skyline, which first awed him as a young boy arriving in Canada with his family. From those early years, he has known that Toronto’s urban core is a thing of grace; a geometry of beautiful, intricate design. As he became successful as a developer, he focused his attention on enhancing, magnifying and uplifting that beauty with new, awe-inspiring projects.

The One is the most prominent example of this devotion. Next year, Mizrahi Developments’ tower will take its place among the great landmarks in the Toronto skyline, its 94 storeys soaring skyward. At 338.3 meters, it will be the tallest residential building in Canada. Mizrahi could have created such a structure almost anywhere in North America, but he chose to build it at the corner of Bloor and Yonge, one of most prime locations in Canada.

 Mizrahi entrusted the architectural design not to the cheapest bidder, but to renowned London architects Foster + Partners. Already substantially built, The One will host more than 400 luxury condominiums, commercial space and a 135-room hotel.

“Intensification” is a term often used by today’s urban planners to describe this emphasis on enhancing and enriching urban centers, and building out central areas in a way that will bring residents, jobs, entertainment options and mass transit closer together.

According to James McKellar, professor of real estate and infrastructure at York University’s Schulich School of Business, Toronto currently has a density of 4,350 people per square kilometre. “That’s 64 percent as dense as Copenhagen, which is a pleasant city to walk around in,” he recently told The Globe and Mail. “There’s room to intensify here.”

Although it has few tall buildings, Copenhagen certainly is a model of urban design, a place where the great architectural innovations of the past are preserved, and built upon. Newer innovations often need to prove their value. It wasn’t until the 90s that the first fast-food “drive thru” opened in Denmark; and the concept is still comparatively rare. Even today, the choice is clear: Why sit idling in your Volkswagen Rabbit, waiting for a paper-wrapped burger, when you could be lingering at a cafe in Nyhavn?

Adding density for its own sake doesn’t guarantee a livable city, and that is why developers like Sam Mizrahi are such an important part of the equation. With the right designs, “intensification” can mean more intensive adventures, memories and life experiences for urban core residents — and a beautiful postcard-perfect skyline for a world-class city.

Jamie Richardson

Jamie is a 5-year freelance writer who enjoys real estate. He is currently a Realty Biz News Contributor.

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