Sugar don't come cheap
City councillor Denzil Minnan Wong made a splash this week complaining about how much money has been spent on waterfront development. In particular he was incensed about Sugar Beach being decked out with a half million dollar rock and thirty six twelve thousand dollar umbrellas. Christopher Hume put up a passionate defense of the spending in a Toronto Star column today essentially calling objections to public spending "small town". He writes: "if you’re one of those guys who knows the cost of everything but not its value, even Sugar Beach, wildly popular, certainly spectacular and utterly transformative, will never be worth the price".
Having pleasurable environments to walk through, views that calm your stress levels and places to seek refuge in the city are things worth paying for. And yes, it does sound outrageous to say we paid twelve thousand bucks for an umbrella but they aren’t really beach umbrellas they are public art works that will endure decades of weather that happen to also provide shade to people relaxing on the waterfront.
The CEO of Waterfront Toronto also pantsed Minnan Wong on the Jerry Agar show Thursday pointing out the money spent on the waterfront has been on everything from creating new parks, to putting in new sewers and infrastructure to accommodate billions of dollars in new residential and commercial buildings. When you spend money making a city more livable it actually enhances wellbeing AND business outcomes.
If you think spending on money on making a city more beautiful isn't worth it you have to check out this Ted Talk in which the city planner for New York describes how they transformed the city during the Bloomberg years with an emphasis on creating green space, walkways and little curiosities that genuinely make people happier. Not only do these things make people feel better, they increased spending on local commerce.
And if you really have some time you have to read Charles Montgomery's book Happy City in which he travels the world to find out how to build a city to make people feel better about their lives.