The Town of Markham is the largest of the nine local municipalities that comprise the Regional Municipality of York, having grown by more than 20 per cent between 1996 and 2001. Its current population of 208,615 is expected to surpass 230,000 by 2021 and to exceed 275,000 by 2021.
Markham includes historic Unionville, Milliken and part of Thornhill. It is a unique blend of small-town ambience, with village festivals, parades and country fairs, and corporate might, home to some of Canada’s top head office complexes and state-of-the-art research facilities.
The town is one of North America’s pre-eminent centres for advanced technology, sometimes referred to as “Silicon Valley North” or “Canada’s high-tech capital.”
While the town presently has no central downtown, it is unique in having two main streets – one in the original Markham village and one in Unionville. The town also has an active regional theatre and historic museum, and many recreational facilities, including excellent golf courses.
Early in the 1990s, the town embarked on an ambitious plan to accommodate its future growth in a form more balanced, healthy and sustainable than the traditional suburban pattern of sprawling, independent communities of single-detached homes, industrial parks, and shopping centres.
Undertaken in 1992 and published in mid-1994, the Markham Centre Study calls for the creation of a central focus for the town and its many communities, a place where people can live and work in close proximity, where there are interesting shops, restaurants, outdoor cafes and entertainment to enliven the streets, and where people can walk, cycle or take public transit to meet their daily needs.
The plan incorporates many “New Urbanism” concepts as espoused by consultant Duany Plater-Zberk & Company, whose principals, Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, are North American leaders in sustainable development.
Markham Centre includes more than 400 acres of parks of all kinds for enjoying the natural and scenic beauty of the Rouge River Valley or for active sports and recreational activities. Trails will link the various parks and open space in the centre and throughout Markham and York Region.
Markham Centre generally occupies the land between Highway 7 and Highway 407 between the Ontario Hydro transmission right-of-way and McCowan Road, an area of 402 ha (992 acres). Overall, Markham Centre will be home to about 25,000 residents and jobs for about 17,000 persons in almost 10 million square feet of office, industrial and retail space.
The area is divided into seven districts. The core area, between Warden Avenue and Kennedy Road, is slated for the most intensive development near the Unionville GO Station and along a new east-west road, dubbed “Central Boulevard” (our “Enterprise Boulevard”). This will be the focus for community life and provide a home for most of the shops and stores.
The plan calls for a concentrated, intensive centre for the town that provides housing of all types, especially townhouses and apartments; work places and daily shops within a short walk or transit ride; a new and elegant “main street” extending from Warden Avenue to the GO station; streets where cars, buses and pedestrians are equally welcome; vistas to open space and important civic buildings; and centrally located parks, schools, places of worship and social services.
In addition to providing transit access and connection throughout Markham Centre, Enterprise Boulevard will also be very pedestrian-friendly and will incorporate a linear urban park tied into a broader network of open space and parkland.
A key aspect of the plan is to protect and enhance the Rouge Valley and integrate it into the life of the community as a backbone for the entire town. Roads that abut the valley will wind along its route, providing access and views. Public squares, vest pocket parks and plazas will supplement larger open spaces.