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Roger Keil, director of the CITY Institute, weighs in on the transformation of suburbs

Roger Keil, director of the CITY Institute, weighs in on the transformation of suburbs

The Globe & Mail ran an urban renewal feature today on the transformation of Surrey, viewed in the past as Vancouver's ‘ugly sister', into Canada's fastest-growing suburb. Part of its success, Lisa Rochon writes, is Surrey's emphasis on innovative design.

Rochon's article quotes Roger Keil, professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, director of the Canadian Centre for German & European Studies, and director of the City Institute at York University. Here's a snippet:

Itakes only 20 stops on the SkyTrain for the look of Vancouver to morph into that of Surrey. Heading east into the Fraser Valley, Vancouver’s preened and primped metrosexual face – think Pierce Brosnan crossed with Nelly Furtado – loses the chiselled jaw and phosphorescent pink it gets from all that excess skiing and spa luxuriating. By the time the train crosses over the Fraser River, the face of the commuter, exhausted from a day’s work and anxious to arrive home in one of the nation’s largest suburbs, has grown slack and winter grey.Yet even as the world’s attention is locked on Vancouver and the unfolding of the Winter Olympics, there’s a new glow spreading across the raw face of its eastern neighbour. The Olympics may deepen the divide between the rich, resort-like feel of Vancouver and the blossoming edge city, but Surrey is now officially Metro Vancouver’s second downtown core. And what was once pegged as a sleeping monster of sprawl is being transformed, slowly but surely, into an urban shire.


Roger Keil, director of York University's City Institute, has just completed a major research project on suburbs and new forms of density. He says the enormous land mass of edge cities such as Surrey or Mississauga demands separate nodes of development, transportation links and sports and entertainment complexes.

He has witnessed some of the pressures first-hand: “You can see the tension building around York University. What was once an empty, barren field in the 1990s turns out now to be one of the most networked places in the [Toronto area]. That means a GO [transit] station, subway, buses and Canada’s first urban national park. ... So rather than looking at it as a marginal area to which you move because you haven’t enough money to live downtown, on the contrary it is becoming a very attractive option.”

Visit the Globe & Mail to read the complete article.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer