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Question remains whether the vision for Markham Centre will be embraced by the people it aims to serve

As the dawn of 2024 breaks over Markham, the city is charging ahead with its ambitious urban development plans, aiming not just to grow in size but also to emerge as a beacon of smart city innovation in the north.

Positioned as Toronto's comparable in the northern region, Markham's strides in urban development show no signs of slowing down.

Aligned with the provincial government's directive to alleviate the housing crisis by constructing 1.5 million new homes by 2031, Markham has set its sights on building 44,000 new homes. The city is meticulously updating secondary plans for key communities like Markham Centre and Markville, slated for completion in the coming year.

Markham Centre, a flagship project to the city's long-term vision, is poised to evolve into a vibrant, intensive, mixed-use downtown area. Mayor Frank Scarpitti envisions Markham remaining the largest municipality in York Region, with its population surge emphasizing diversity, as nearly 80 per cent of residents identify as visible minorities.

Stretching across 1,220 acres, Markham Centre dwarfs most downtown areas in neighbouring GTA municipalities. Initially planned for 20,000 residents in the mid-1990s, the projected population has now swelled to more than 170,000.

Scarpitti emphasizes the importance of a livable, pedestrian-friendly, transit-connected, and culturally and ecologically sustainable Markham Centre, asserting its role in reducing the city's carbon footprint.

Under the stewardship of chief information officer Sumon Acharjee, Markham is steering toward becoming a global smart city. Embracing technology and sustainability, the city's smart city strategy aligns with the Markham Centre Secondary Plan update, envisioning a future where connectivity, efficiency, and progress intertwine seamlessly.

While the definition of a smart city varies, Markham believes it encompasses innovative policy, partnerships, and technology to enhance connectivity, efficiency, and residents' quality of life. Benefits include improved service delivery, enhanced resident experiences, increased efficiencies, and reduced costs.

“The smart city strategy and road map are essential components in capitalizing on the power of technology,” said Acharjee. “The road map intends to provide Markham with clear direction on the next steps towards sustainable deployment of smart city technologies by identifying opportunities where smart city technology can be utilized and identifying initial priorities for deployment.”

This strategy aims to achieve scalability, adaptability to evolving technologies, and catalyze Markham Centre's transformation into a thriving smart city. Recommendations span short, medium, and long-term implementations, guiding Markham toward a digitally empowered future.

Markham's pivotal move toward a technologically advanced and sustainable urban hub revolves around the Markham Centre Secondary Plan. Positioned at the forefront of the digital age, Markham is poised to lead in creating a more connected, sustainable and efficient urban environment.

However, as the Markville Secondary Plan faces community pushback and revisions to address concerns pertaining to overdevelopment, the ultimate question lingers: Will the envisioned smart city road map be embraced by the people it aims to serve?

“I really don't agree with the concept of smart cities,” resident Elkan commented on a Markham Centre forum. “This is a term that many people use in other countries in an attempt to garner attention with fancy ‘new’ ideas that on surface seem modern but ultimately do not help build better cities.”

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Yoyo Yan

Quelle/Source: Toronto Star, 04.01.2024

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