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Urban Growth and Change in the 21st Century on One Street

Yonge Street - which starts in downtown Toronto, cuts across suburban municipalities, rural areas (including Ontario's Greenbelt conservation area) to end up in Barrie, Ontario - had been named the longest street in the world by Guiness (though the true length and end-point of the street can be disputed). It has also been dubbed "Main Street Ontario."

The length of Yonge Street tells the story of urban growth and change, the move from density to sprawl over the post-WWII period (and to some degree back to density again in the 21st century with Toronto's condo boom). Travelling Yonge Street, one sees the absorption of smaller cities and towns into the growing metropolitan entity of Toronto. A few highlights of Yonge Street are noted below.

First, downtown Toronto - "Old Toronto" - with older buildings mixed in with highrises, including towering new condos as - like in many cities - downtowns and city centres have become increasingly popular places to live.


Continuing north, through various neighbourhoods of Toronto, crossing the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway, one comes to North York, an agricultural town that became absorbed into suburbanizing Toronto in the 1950s and 1960s - it can be considered one of the older "inner-suburbs" and is currently part of the amalgamated City of Toronto. While suburban, Yonge Street in North York has a largely downtown-like streetscape, made up of older and comparatively newer buildings.

North York 

Travelling further north, a more suburban streetscape emerges, with strip malls, box stores, and parking lots - characteristic of suburban sprawl. This streetscape from Richmond Hill is an example in this regard.

Richmond Hill 

Yonge Street continues its journey, through various suburban municipalities, into the countryside. Here, Yonge Street is a country-road traversing farmland.


Other cities in North America have comparable thoroughfares that illustrate the progression of urban development and history - Ottawa's Bank Street is a notable example. Streets such as Yonge Street offer a story of urban growth and change, of the changing streetscapes and building-types of the metropolitan regions they traverse.

NOTE: Images from Google Earth.