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The town’s council wants to realise the best of both worlds: urban benefits within a rural community.
A new “complete community” named The Orbit is to be built in the rural town of Innisfil in Canada, 60 km north of Toronto. It will deploy advanced technology from autonomous vehicles to high-speed fibre but is designed to preserve the town’s natural landscapes and habitat.
Architecture firm Partisans recently unveiled plans for the development, which Innisfil Council has approved. Partisans describes the initiative as a “clean slate to reimagine how a community of tomorrow is built today”.
The planned project, which could spread over 40 million square feet, will be centred around a new GO regional transit station, since many of the town’s 36,500 residents commute for work. It will feature a high-speed fibre-optic network as a priority to support an ambition to spur start-ups and innovation.
"If the community does not reimagine its approach to growth, it is likely that it will develop like other rural communities have in the Greater Toronto Area…that have little to no agricultural area left."
A report from Innisfil Council said: “If the community does not reimagine its approach to growth, it is likely that it will develop like other rural communities have in the Greater Toronto Area…that have little to no agricultural area left.”
According to the plans, The Orbit could help Innisfil eventually support a population of up to 150,000.
Partisans’ plan, which has been developed with the Council, community leaders, architects, developers and builders, notes: “The region around Toronto is experiencing a housing crisis. The Orbit is a response to that need as well as the reality that people have a real desire to live in communities that provide access to major economic centres while offering the peace of a rural context.”
It adds: “A key principle in building safe, balanced, healthy neighbourhoods is ensuring a mix of individuals and families from all socio-economic backgrounds. As a result, the Orbit will boast a variety of homes for individuals from all walks of life and shared equity programmes will be available to provide ownership opportunities for those who would normally be unable to afford it.”
Innisfil has a history for innovation and was one of the first places to pilot ride-sharing as well as being the first municipality in Canada to accept cryptocurrency payments for city services.
The Orbit could provide "an example of what could be the most sustainable transit model ever conceived."
The Orbit will adopt transport systems including autonomous electric vehicles, alongside pedestrian walkways and cycling paths, providing “an example of what could be the most sustainable transit model ever conceived,” according to Partisans.
There are also plans to explore connecting health centres to larger hospitals in the region through technology and installing drone ports on top of the GO station for last-mile delivery.
Described as “an extension of the tradition of the garden city,” The Orbit plan is based on what Partisans calls concentric “squircles” (where squares and circles merge), inspired by traditional European city layouts. These ’squircles’ emanate from the new transit hub and merge with the existing grid of the region.
The new GO station is scheduled to be built in Innisfil “within the next few years,” with designs completed by March 2020, and the town is inviting input from citizens on The Orbit development.
The council report said: “[The Orbit] represents a one-time opportunity to completely shape a blank greenfield canvas around a future rail station."
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