Why Density Matters

If this blog accomplishes nothing else, I at least hope it persuades people to embrace, rather than resist, density.

A proposed mixed use building would add some density to downtown. However, communities looking to make significant progress will need a lot more than one medium-sized building occasionally going up.

Yesterday I argued that adding density is key for revitalizing downtown. But that’s not all it does. In fact, according to an opinion piece from the Toronto Star, it also translates into significant quality of life benefits of various stripes:

But density also means the museum, art galleries, film festivals, Nuit Blanche and major league sports. It includes some of the best universities in the world, not to mention countless restaurants, shops and amenities, everything from skating rinks to pools to….

Density generates economic activity, i.e. jobs and wealth. And in the 21st century, as never before, the business of the world is transacted in large urban centres.


In fact, density is what will save the city and the Greater Toronto Area and enable its 5.5 million inhabitants to prosper in the decades ahead. The alternative — sprawl — is catastrophically wrong. Not only is sprawl environmentally unsustainable, it’s economically ruinous.

Sometimes we may forget just how ruinous sprawl is. However, writing for Citiwire.net, William Fulton offered some examples:

As I have said before, it is easy to mistake shiny new subdivisions for prosperity. New suburban buildings and new wide roads look great when first built. But over time, the strain of that type of development creates a significant burden on a city or county treasury.


In North Carolina, a study by the City of Charlotte found that a fire station in a low-density neighborhood with disconnected streets serves one-quarter the number of households and at four times the cost of an otherwise identical fire station in a less spread-out and more connected neighborhood. Another study in Champaign, Ill., by the respected consulting firm TischlerBise, found that growing within the city’s current urban service area would generate a tax surplus of $33 million, while sprawling beyond it would put a $20 million hole in the city’s budget.

Fulton goes on to mention, as many others have before, that sprawl is a contributing factor in the recent spate of California city bankruptcies.

But in any case, the point here is that density has an array of positive impacts on a community. And though any change is hard, communities that embrace density are far more likely to see positive, enriching progress in the future.



Filed under Development

2 responses to “Why Density Matters

  1. Pingback: Best October Posts | (pro(vo)cation)

  2. Pingback: Density Is Needed Everywhere In Provo | (pro(vo)cation)

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