Metropole Consultants’ distinct approach grounds city plan- and policy-making within a deep understanding of the complex social, technological and economic forces that shape cities today. The success of regional or local plans and policy depends upon understanding key drivers of urban change – that is, understanding urban dynamics.
The specific set of interacting drivers that shape patterns of urban growth, decline and transformation, built form and urban environment, and the urban issues we face.
A globalizing economy is the single most significant force driving urban development patterns, and shaping the critical urban issues that all cities face.
Globalization is having profound impacts that are not being adequately addressed in the planning of our cities.
Issues such as
• changing land use patterns resulting from restructuring urban economies
• very fast growth in some cities, raising pressing infrastructure needs, while other urban areas and cities experience economic and physical decline
• housing affordability
• increasing socio-economic polarization between neighbourhoods
• control, including planning control, over the shape, form and quality of our communities in the face of global capital and corporations.
… a particular relationship based on the industry makeup of the local economy, its strengths and weaknesses, its local assets and urban geography.
Consider for example, the fast-growth, resource-dominant cities of western Canada – versus declining older manufacturing towns in central Canada, versus the global financial centre of Toronto. All are subject to globalization, but intersect with it in different ways.
That is… how is the local economy changing, and what are the implications for the kinds of economic activities that are planning for?
It’s no longer just about providing the right quantum of land for economic activities, but planning for the right kinds of economic spaces and places, in the right locations.
Public policies – such as setting of development charges or taxes – affect prices and decision-making, but not always in ways that are intended or that align with planning objectives. Considering the market context and aligning public policies is essential to ensuring the success of plans and planning policies.
The economy is changing in such a way as to make cities, urban environments, and therefore planning central to economic competitiveness and prosperity.
Cities are no longer just a place where employment is located. Cities and urban environments are a fundamental and integral part of production and exchange, competitiveness and prosperity. Most city plans don’t take advantage of this.
Based on our research and analysis, Metropole Consultants has developed a proprietary conceptual model of the key urban dynamics shaping our cities. We update and refine this model on an ongoing basis with new information and analyses that informs effective urban policy and plan-making.
We combine this model with local analysis of the specific city, region or community we are working in. Beginning with some key indicators, we assemble information from a variety of sources in order to understand the nature of the local economy, its economic geography, and identify key economic assets.
Collaboration Metropole Consultants typically works as part of a multi-disciplinary team, which could include other consulting firms in the fields of planning, urban design, engineering, public engagement, and others. And of course, we work in close collaboration with the client.
There are several important benefits to our approach:
• it is comprehensive – treats the holistically city as the complex, evolving entity that it is
• as such it increases probability that city plans and policies will be successful in achieving their objectives, and reduces the likelihood that solving a problem in one area will create an unintended problem in another
• alignment – ensures that planning policies are aligned with other municipal objectives
• it is forward looking , anticipating future change and issues
• but this is based on an understanding of long term structural change, not just “trends” or short term market predictions
• in understanding planning in the context of urban change, it maximizes the leverage of planning policies and therefore maximizes positive outcomes
• and inherent to the approach is that planning policy addresses only what planning policy can effectively address.
Metropole Consultants conducts research and analysis, and crafts effective policy in the following areas:
Metropole Consultants undertakes work to ensure that an organisation’s broader range of existing policies and tools are aligned to support planning policy or strategic outcomes – for example, that municipal financial tools like development charges or user fees are aligned with municipal planning or sustainability policies.
Sample project: NRTEE, Environmental Quality in Canadian Cities
Metropole Consultants is offering a new service in which it conducts an alignment review for organisations, identifying where various programs or policies could be better aligned, to improve effectiveness and often in so doing, to reduce spending.
Metropole Consultants undertakes economic development strategies based on rigorous analysis and our proprietary model of the dynamics of urban economies.
Sample project: Competitiveness Study, City of Toronto
Metropole Consultants undertakes projects aimed at identifying and exploiting synergies between economic development, environment and planning policy. An example is integrating competitiveness considerations into official plans and planning policy.
Sample project: Regina Official Community Plan
Metropole Consultants produces integrated development strategies for specific urban issues or city districts – for example, for community improvement, or attracting development to specific locations, such as downtowns, suburban centres or transit station areas. Strategic approaches may include the integration of planning, policy, design, incentives, economic dynamics, or market considerations.
Sample project: Calgary South-east Centre
Metropole Consultants undertakes urban regeneration strategies that integrate physical regeneration with good planning and urban design, and an understanding of the underlying urban economic and market dynamics that drive change.
Metropole Consultants conducts and coordinates research on a range of topical issues re the physical and economic evolution of cities, including urban economies, urban development patterns, and the socio-economic geography of cities.
Sample project: The Growth Opportunity
Metropole Consultants uses its unique approach to develop effective and integrated policy for official plans, community and district plans, and regional plans.
Sample project: Regina Official Community Plan
Pamela Blais was part of a consulting team developing a new Official Community Plan for the City of Regina. She provided input to the plan development process and policies regarding the employment elements of the Plan, linking plan policies with economic competitiveness. http://www.designregina.ca
Pamela Blais acted as advisor to the Neptis Foundation on a major consultant study depicting the physical form of the Toronto region in 2031 and its implications for land consumption, transportation, servicing, emissions and infrastructure costs. Click here for report.
Prepared for the Neptis Foundation as input into the Toronto region’s “Places to Grow” Plan, this report shows how urban growth can be deployed as a strategic resource to achieve economic, social and environmental objectives. Click here for report.
Based on a review of economic trends and local conditions, Metropole suggested steps the City of Calgary could take to attract non-retail employment uses to a planned suburban centre. A comprehensive approach included suggestions regarding urban design, infrastructure, business attraction, and planning.
Working with enTRA consultants, Metropole developed a Guidebook suggesting policies and initiatives that the City of Ottawa could undertake to promote transit ridership.
Pamela Blais acted as an advisor to the CIty of Regina in their review of interim development charges, with a view to ensuring that these municipal financial policies supported both planning objectives and financial sustainability for the municipality.
Pamela Blais acted as Special Advisor to NRTEE on its Urban Sustainability Program. The Program developed a set of new fiscal measures to be implemented primarily by the Federal government, where possible with supporting provincial and local measures, to improve the environmental quality of Canadian cities. Click here for report.
Pamela Blais provided the economic rationale for a regional approach to urban growth and development for a White Paper prepared by the City of Regina. The paper was essential to supporting the CIty’s application to the Province to annex surrounding lands in support of Regina’s new Official Community Plan.
Metropole Consultants prepared a report outlining key ways in which the City could support initiatives related to urban form that would both enhance economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability. Major areas of synergy reviewed were: promoting efficient urban infrastructure, promoting industry clusters, reducing non-residential sprawl, and the use of information and communications technology to reduce business-related travel.
Metropole Consultants assisted the Privy Council Office in an analysis of the federal government’s current and potential role in promoting sustainable urban infrastructure.
Metropole Consultants was part of a multi-disciplinary team developing an interactive tool to assist municipalities and plannwothers to assess the relative cost and environmental impacts of development proposals.
Metropole Consultants drafted the (then) newly amalgamated City of Toronto’s first economic development strategy.
Metropole Consultants was part of a team conducting economic research and developing an economic development strategy for the City of Toronto. The results of the project fed into both the economic development strategy and the then-new Official Plan.
While employed at Berridge Lewinberg Greenberg Dark Gabor (now Urban Strategies), Pamela Blais undertook this major background report for the GTA Task Force. The report examined the hard infrastructure and related costs associated with alternative development patterns for GTA growth, finding significant savings to be realised from moving toward a more efficient urban form.