Is it better to raise kids in the suburbs or downtown? Neither — and that’s a problem for all of us

As Premier Doug Ford’s decision to cut council almost in half reignites talk of the urban-suburban divide, the Star finds the old differences aren’t what they used to be. In an occasional series, One Toronto, we take a look at what divides us and what we share, no matter where the ward lines fall.

On a chilly October afternoon, Nicole Engelmann-Fuller is pushing her 9-month-old son Eero on a swing in Corktown Common, an east-end park built on old industrial land that opened in 2013.

The pair often come to the West Don Lands park, nestled where the Gardiner Exwy. meets the Don Valley Pkwy., enjoying the playground with a sweeping view of downtown’s skyscrapers and the CN Tower in the background.

Having a kid has made the new mom appreciate open spaces more. But she said she’s not tempted by the idea of the suburbs.

“You have to drive everywhere, and we’re not white picket fence people, which is why we live downtown,” Engelmann-Fuller said, as a GoTrain rumbled by on the nearby tracks.

“In lots of cities in the world they do it, kids in New York grow up in apartments.”

The adage is that it’s better to raise kids in the suburbs, with its big backyards and sleepy streets. But aside from schools and safe neighbourhoods, experts say walkable streets, parks, green spaces and other amenities that encourage physical activity such as pools and arenas are the things that children want and need, and make them healthier.

The suburbs, with its car-centric sprawl, aren’t exactly walkable and their green spaces sometimes don’t have the amenities kids need. But downtown isn’t perfect either — it has walkable neighbourhoods, but its parks and green spaces are often overused, as park advocates say the city hasn’t prioritized parks for the growing population.

That makes neither place the ideal location to raise a kid in Toronto — and that’s bad for all of us.

By MAY WARREN Toronto Star Staff Reporter
Wed., Oct. 10, 2018