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Centre for Urban Research and Land Development gives students inside look at city-building initiatives

Centre for Urban Research and Land Development

The Faculty of Community Services is launching the new Centre for Urban Research and Land Development as a means to investigate and create solutions to the city’s land development challenges.

Urban and regional planning students will benefit from first-hand experiential learning opportunities at the new Centre for Urban Research and Land Development (CURLD).

Opening Nov. 20 in the Faculty of Community Services, CURLD is an expert-led research organization that focuses on the role of market analysis in urban policy development, teaching and public education. With guidance from an advisory committee, the centre’s faculty researchers will explore the economic implications of myriad urban land development issues such as major infrastructure, transit, land-based taxes, exactions and funding programs. The goal of the in-depth research is to produce recommendations and solutions that will help inform policy-makers’ decisions.

“The social, environmental and political ramifications of policy decisions are often considered, but the economic impacts are seldom taken into account,” said David Amborski, School of Urban and Regional Planning professor.

“Many of our graduates go on to hold leadership positions in the building and land development industry,” Amborski said. “In the CURLD, students benefit from experiential learning opportunities to study the industry and really make a difference in it.”

CURLD was established by Amborski in collaboration with Patrick O’Hanlon, urban and regional planning ’83 alumnus, and semi-retired economic analyst Frank Clayton, who ran an urban and real estate economics consulting company for 30 years. O’Hanlon is president of Kylemore Communities, a custom homebuilding company in the GTA, and Angus Glen Development Ltd.

“Up until now, urban policy in Canada has largely been shaped by land use planners and architects – people who don’t have a background in economics,” Clayton said. “At Ryerson though, students and faculty look at real-world issues from all angles, including the financial one.”

Ryerson’s role as a city-builder played a large role in creating the centre on campus. The urban planning undergraduate and post-graduate programs along with other programs such as business provide ample opportunities to teach students about city challenges and their role in finding solutions.

“Ryerson is a city university and is taking the role of city-builder – the centre gives a literal location to that drive and underpins it with an urban planning research foundation,” O’Hanlon said. “Our industry is overtaxed – leaders of our industry want to see their money used right. CURLD wants to take into account the financial framework implicated in planning decisions, and bring that into policy discussions.”

Ryerson’s emphasis on policy-relevant research and its commitment to serving societal needs makes the university an ideal place to establish CURLD, says Usha George, dean of the Faculty of Community Services.

“An independent voice regarding the economic impacts of urban development and policies is lacking in Canada and particularly Toronto,” George said. “It’s critical that Ryerson fills this gap because the university prides itself on being a city-builder.”

The Greater Golden Horseshoe is home to millions of people and functions as one of the country’s major economic engines. The area, however, faces multiple challenges that are intrinsically tied to urban land development and redevelopment, including housing, immigration, transportation, environmental concerns, income inequality and intra-regional co-operation.

Acutely aware of those issues and the need to investigate the economic effects of development, major firms involved in the GTA’s development process are supporting the centre. CURLD is close to achieving the $2-million funding goal.

The Centre for Urban Research and Land Development will launch with a celebration on Nov. 20 at the Sears Atrium in the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre.