Toronto grows up: Sam Mizrahi on the evolution of the city
One builder shares how Toronto’s high-rise boom is giving rise to the world’s next great city.
Since he first moved in the late 1970s from Iran to Toronto at the age of six, developer Sam Mizrahi says two major shifts have defined the city. “First we grew out,” he says. “Now we’re growing up.”
The visionary behind Mizrahi Developments, Mizrahi says suburban development outside of Toronto’s core paved the way for a vibrant city, luring people from around the world with affordable homes and backyards close to Toronto’s exceptional attractions and resources. “In the past 40 years, we’ve seen the Greater Toronto Area grow in a way that we haven’t seen anywhere else. It’s grown to include places like Richmond Hill, Oakville and Mississauga—and that’s really changed home ownership and affordability, and attracted people here.”
While the “growing out” era saw the city sprawl to the outskirts of the GTA, the “growing up” phase is building Toronto’s position as one of the most exciting urban centres in the world. Toronto is headed up—way up, and Mizrahi says these are the reasons Toronto is having a moment on the world stage.
Toronto optimizes downtown living
As the vast number of construction cranes across the city skyline—more than any other city in North America, according to the RLB Crane Index—will attest, Toronto’s downtown has become a hotbed of high-rise living. These sky-high homes are no longer relegated to a specific subset of urban homeowners either—developers are building to suit the needs of all kinds of buyers seeking a downtown address. “We have more living spaces in the city core that work for singles, for families and for first-time homebuyers,” Mizrahi says.
While other big North American downtowns clear out on weekends and during the summer as people retreat to the suburbs and rural vacation properties, Toronto retains its buzz thanks to the number and variety of residents who call the core home. “If you look at the Queen’s Quay area or Yorkville, they stay extremely busy. They’re not vacated the way you see in New York, when everyone who lives there has gone away. Toronto stays incredibly activated.”
World-class cultural attractions getting global recognition
With year-round festivals, top museums and other only-in-Toronto attractions, it’s no surprise Toronto regularly shows up on lists of the best cities in the world to visit (most recently, Condé Nast Traveller’s 10 best places to live and Time magazine’s list of the World’s Greatest Places 2022). But according to Mizrahi, it’s the people who live and work here that make the city great; a strong tourism sector is merely a by-product.
“People from all over move here,” he says. “They’re making Toronto their home and bringing different qualities and skill sets. You can see the results in every aspect of our city. I think everyone who enjoys Toronto has a desire and obligation to make it better.”
News that the Michelin Guide, which honours some of the best restaurants in the world, will release its inaugural Toronto edition this year, is just the latest sign of the city’s evolving sophistication on-par with the world’s great cities. But for a developer like Mizrahi, who has travelled the world in search of building inspiration, great architecture is also key to achieving greatness. “Show anyone, anywhere in the world, a picture of our skyline with the CN Tower and they know it’s Toronto,” he says.
An iconic residential tower set to change the skyline
Mizrahi expects that when his 85-storey skyscraper The One, the tallest tower in Canada, is completed next year, it will become a second focal point for the city—both in the skyline and as a destination for residents and visitors alike.
“Nobody has done a project like it,” he says, pointing to the building’s engineering, technological and architectural features, as well as its mixed use offerings, which will include 416 luxury residences, the flagship location of Hyatt’s ANDAZ hotel brand, a 900-person event facility, retail space and three restaurants (that Mizrahi hopes will be Michelin-worthy).
For Mizrahi, there isn’t a more fitting symbol than The One for what Toronto is now, and how it will continue to grow. “We couldn’t have done The One in any other city in Canada,” he says. “The One is designed for the evolution of this city. I hope people see the tower as representative of the optimism and spirit of this city.”
To learn more about The One, visit mizrahidevelopments.ca.