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Developers open conversation for Galleria Shopping Centre redevelopment

At the open house about the future of the Galleria Shopping Centre at the corner of Dufferin and Dupont streets last weekend, there weren’t any architectural renderings but there were a lot of ideas on sticky notes.

Developers Elad Canada Inc. and Freed Developments hosted the well-attended public meeting at the mall itself, which is often maligned for its dated 1970s vibe, slim offerings and oversized parking lot. The 12-acre site, which sold for an estimated $80 million, has had a long redevelopment history of false starts. A 2004 application went the furthest, proposing 1,600 residential condominium units in six buildings ranging between six and 19 storeys, as well as a block of 20 stacked townhouses, four new public streets and 1.35 acres of parkland added to adjacent Wallace-Emerson Park. The current developers have said the 2004 proposal does match what they see for the site—they want the property to be mixed use with commercial—and seem to be in listening mode. So were community members, some of who fear massive towers, while others see any proposal as an improvement.

“My takeway is that the developers recognize that it’s a site with enormous potential just because of the size,” says Evan Castel, an attendee and co-chair of the Davenport Neighbourhood Association. “They’re also aware of the diverse interests and diverse needs of the neighbourhood and so they seem to want to move forward in a collaborative way.”

Residents were concerned about density and the ability of the neighbourhood to absorb large numbers of new residents; the Dufferin bus can be pretty packed. Green space was also up for discussion, says Castel.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Evan Castel

Environmental assessment clears way for phase two of West Toronto Railpath

When the West Toronto Railpath was first talked about back in 2002, it was possible to imagine a multi-use trail system running from the Junction right downtown right along the railway tracks to Union Station.

Though Metrolinx’s transit ambitions and condo development have over time limited the scope of where such a path can go, a long-awaited environmental assessment (EA) now points the way forward on how the path can be extended further toward the city centre. Phase one, which opened in 2009, provided a path from Cariboo Avenue to Dundas Street West. Phase two could extend the path to Abell and Sudbury streets relatively quickly.

“It is very exciting to have the EA closed so that Railpath 2 can finally move into the design stage,” says Scott Dobson, a member of Friends of West Toronto Railpath. “The great thing about the EA process is that frankly everybody loves Railpath. Everybody [who has seen it] gets it and wants to see it expand.”

For all extension possibilities beyond Abell, the EA calls for further study, leaving out Liberty Village. But Dobson says he’s pleased the EA cleared the way to get the path south of Queen, though between Dufferin and Abell the path will have to run adjacent to, not in, the rail corridor.

“There was no point in doing something that made nobody happy and strayed from the spirit of Railpath, but at the same time nobody wanted to stall the rest of the route up to Dundas where Railpath currently ends. So all stakeholders felt that getting it built to Abell, while continuing to explore southerly options, was the best option,” says Dobson. “A few years ago, nobody wanted land near or in the rail corridor but now that land is scarce and valuable. At the end of the day, it is because of increased density and new transit projects, which is a good thing. But figuring out the exact route has been time consuming.”

The next step is for an RFP to be tendered for detailed design of the extention. Beyond expansion south, Dobson says advocates are also in the early stages of looking north to go from the north tip of Railpath at Cariboo up to St. Clair Avenue.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Scott Dobson

Residents turn up the volume on Davenport Diamond concerns as Metrolinx pushes January deadline

People living near the Davenport Diamond rail crossing have stepped up their campaign to get Metrolinx to consider options other than a proposed overpass intended to increase rail traffic through the neighbourhood.
 
Last spring Metrolinx announced its intentions to build an elevated structure of more than 1.4-kilometres in length in order to increase the frequency of GO trains along its north-south Barrie line, which currently crosses CP tracks north of Dupont Street. The provincial transportation authority dismissed the possibility of a trench or tunnel, which it said would be more expensive, and initially reached out to residents to consult on mitigating the impact of the overpass with community projects and recreational facilities.
 
Twice this year, the City of Toronto asked that the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP), difficult to change once underway, be delayed until the spring so city planners could more closely examine the proposal. In October, Metrolinx agreed to the delay but backtracked on November 12 when Bruce McCuaig, president and chief executive officer at Metrolinx, sent the city a letter saying the TPAP needed to start in January, “citing any postponement beyond January would result in delays to increase transit service and electrify the corridor within the 10-year program established by the Province of Ontario,” states a city backgrounder.
 
“City staff have reviewed a number of Metrolinx documents and received additional information on the assessment of alternative solutions to the grade separation, including the trench and tunnel options,” states a November 16 city report. “Based on the information provided to date, city staff have determined the tunnel option, on balance, represents greater long term city-building benefits compared to the overpass option. The key benefit of the tunnel is the removal of visual and noise impacts compared to the overpass, and the translation of these benefits into positive long term societal impacts. However, additional time is required in advance of commencing the TPAP process to continue this assessment, and to work with the local community to achieve a balanced solution.”
 
In the meantime, more than 700 residents have signed a petition and put up yard signs protesting the overpass, which they describe as a “Gardiner for Go Trains.”
 
“Dozens of volunteers went door to door this weekend, distributing signs, collecting signatures for our petition and spreading the word about what Metrolinx is trying to do here,” Laura Zeglen, chair of the group Options for Davenport, said in a news release this week. “What is extremely troubling is the number of people we meet who had no idea about the overpass plan—or who had been told it was already a done deal.”
 
Zeglen says the group is not against increasing rail capacity in the GTA. “Expanding transit is important, but so are communities. One shouldn’t have to suffer at the expense of the other.”
 
City Council is expected to review the issue soon.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Laura Zeglen, City of Toronto

City buys time on review of Davenport Diamond rail overpass

Metrolinx has delayed the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) for the proposed Davenport Diamond rail overpass after the city complained that it didn’t have enough time to properly review the project and gather community input.
 
Metrolinx notified the city last spring that it intends to build a 1.4-kilometre rail overpass at an estimated cost of $140 million to avoid the “Davenport Diamond” railway intersection, where commuter trains along the Barrie corridor cross a CN cargo line. Rather than examine alternatives like a trench or tunnel, initial consultations focused how to use the space underneath and around the proposed overpass for community purposes, something that upset many local residents, who see the overpass proposal as a “Mini Gardiner Expressway” through their neighbourhood. If the project followed Metrolinx’s timeline, the TPAP would provide little opportunity for serious input and change.
 
Over the last few weeks, “discussions between senior City and Metrolinx officials have led to a commitment from Metrolinx to delay issuing Notice of Commencement for the TPAP until the spring of 2016, in order to provide more time for community and City input to an appropriate solution,” according to a memo from the city’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, circulated by Ward 18 councillor Ana Bailão. “This is a significant step forward, and will provide the time necessary to table all of the information needed for informed decision-making on the range of viable solutions, in order to advance the RER program on the Barrie corridor in a manner that is most conducive to rail operations and the residents and businesses of the Davenport area.”
 
The memo says the city supports transportation expansion but points out that the Regional Express Rail initiative “can also present significant city-building challenges where major infrastructure incursions, such as the Davenport rail grade separation, impact established communities. Given these tensions and the importance of ‘getting it right,’ the City is fully committed to working with the local Councillor and other elected officials, the community and Metrolinx, to define a solution that meets the needs of our community, the City and transit expansion.”
 
Sam Barbieri, of the group Options for Davenport, says local activists are relieved they’ve been granted more time. “The idea is unprecedented in Toronto. We’ve always said we’re not anti-transit, we’re just anti-bad planning. We’re happy that they’re pressing pause and everybody’s taking a step back to look at this plan,” he says.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sam Barbieri

Opposition builds against Metrolinx Davenport Diamond railway plan

Residents living near the Davenport Diamond railway crossing are worried that Metrolinx is pushing through a plan to build a 1.4-kilometre rail overpass through their neighbourhood without consultation or sufficient forethought.

Metrolinx released a feasibility study last month that endorsed the overpass option, claiming that it would cost $140 million compared to $406 million for a trench and $626 million for a tunnel. Metrolinx also estimated the overpass would be much quicker to build. But Sam Barbieri, a member of the newly formed group Options for Davenport, says that in choosing the overpass, the government agency didn't seriously consider other options or sufficiently address the possible negative impacts on the area. Metrolinx released the plan in the spring, much to the surprise of the community and the City of Toronto, soliciting ideas for what to do with the space under the overpass as if that was the only topic for discussion.

“Metrolinx has a way of saying things that promote their preferred option only,” says Barbieri. “We've been very frustrated because we haven't gotten a lot of straight answers from them.”

Metrolinx wants to remove the crossing of its tracks and the east-west CP freight line at Davenport and Lansdowne, known as the Davenport Diamond, to increase GO train service along the Barrie corridor. Options for Davenport describes the overpass proposal as a “Mini Gardiner” that would be as high as three storeys, creating noise and casting shadows on the surrounding area. Metrolinx created a community reference panel to come up with ideas to mitigate the impact of the overpass, including cycling and walking paths, as well as possibilities for lighting and design. But Barbieri says there are no plans or money to maintain the space.

The City is expected to release a report on the proposal in advance of a streamlined provincial environmental assessment, set to take about six months beginning in November. Construction could start soon after that.

Barbieri says that not only should the overpass itself be reconsidered, but whatever option goes ahead should take into account the long-term goal of electrifying the GO Train system. “Right now all the thinking is so short term,” he says.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sam Barbieri

Weekend planners walk scopes out West Queen West

This weekend, about 65 people walked around  bits of Ward 18 with their councillor, Ana Bailao, and a few of the city’s planning staff talking about Queen Street past and future.

“We discussed everything from public space to the heritage buildings,” Councillor Bailao says, “how the older buildings were in relation to some of the new condos. The Gladstone, what is now the Theatre Centre that used to be a Carnegie library. How people see all that integrating is really important.”

It’s an approach to the public meeting the city’s been using for a few years now, getting citizens out of the meeting rooms and away from the Powerpoint and into the streets.

“I think it’s extremely valuable,” Bailao says. “You experience the environment you’re talking about, the heights of the buildings, the light, the contrasts; you’re looking at what’s going to be the new park.”

The walk, and the report that will follow in February based on the participants comments, is the result of a November, 2013 city council decision to do a planning study of Queen between Bathurst and Roncesvalles, an area that could, given recent precedent, end up being known as West West Queen West, or Queen West West West.

According to the city, the study is looking at “heritage character and value of buildings in the area, built-form and height of new developments, existing policy context, transit capacity and parking in the area, public space improvements, understanding and defining the character of the street and developing a vision for future development along the street.”

A preliminary report was issued at a more traditional community consultation on July 10 of this year.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Ana Bailao

City offers homeowners low-interest loans for green retrofits

It just got easier being green.
 
As of now, the city is offering $10 million worth of low-interest loans to single-family dwelling owners looking to retrofit their house in certain neighbourhoods around the city, but were previously dissauded by the associated costs of doing so.

"At its meeting of July 2013, Toronto City Council unanimously approved a $20-million pilot energy efficiency pilot program for the residential sector," says Rosalynd Rupert, a communications officer with the city.

"$10 million in funding is to be allocated to the Home Energy Loan Program, geared to single-family houses. HELP is designed to advance funding to consenting property owners interested in undertaking qualifying energy and water improvements with repayment via installments on the property tax bill."
 
It's a pilot project for the moment, available in Black Creek, Toronto Centre/Rosedale, the Junction/High Park, and South Scarborough.
 
"The initial pilot neighbourhoods are the same areas where Enbridge Gas is offering the Community Energy Conservation Program, which offers up to $2,000 in rebates and incentives for energy retrofits," Rupert says. "Also, in the pilot neighbourhoods, the city is collaborating with local groups such as SNAP [Black Creek] and Project Neutral [Riverdale-Junction] to jointly promote HELP to local homeowners."
 
According to Rupert, this is a new approach to funding for Toronto, one the City hopes it will be able to extend across the city and use for other initiatives in the future.
 
"Using local improvement charges for energy retrofits is new to Ontario and Canada. A similar financing program for hot water heaters is being rolled out in Halifax," Rupert says.

"The origin of this type of financing traces to Berkeley, California, in 2008. Various US jurisdictions have launched... programs that function similarly to HELP. How they work is municipalities/regional governments issue special bonds to raise funds for a municipal loan program that could cover renewable energy, water conservation or energy efficiency measures. The loans, including interest, are recovered via the property tax bill."
 
Maybe the best part of the whole deal is that there is no credit check to qualify for the loans. As long as you’re in the right neighbourhood, and your property taxes are up to date (and you get your mortgage-holder’s approval), you’re in. Interest rates are 2.5 per cent for five years, up to 4.25 per cent for 15 year terms.

Application forms are available at the city's website.
 
Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Rosalynd Rupert

DUKE seeks to extend the condo core to the Junction

Housing Alternatives blazed the trail, but with the first market-value condo in the Junction getting all its permits and meeting its sales targets, TAS is extending the condo core to the west end.

“I'm amazed that nothing like this has happened in the area already. The Junction is such an exciting part of the city with a thriving social scene, strong artisanal community with a main street retail selection to match," says the six-storey building’s architect Richard Witt of Quadrangle.

"The reaction to Duke at the public meetings was one of the most receptive I’ve ever participated in – and rightfully so," he continues. "There are a lot of other approaches to development which would not have been as appropriate, but in this case TAS and the project team have really gone out of their way to develop a building which builds on the cultural and social basis of the Junction and adds an additional layer to it – to the benefit of all."

DUKE, a synthetic acronym for its location at Dundas and Keele, will have 96 units ranging from 450 to 1,600 square feet over a floor of ground-level retail.

Witt found TAS’s approach to building a good match for Quadrangle's, making the brief – the mission a client gives the architect – more collaborative than usual.

"The basic brief wasn’t that complicated - a residential building of the scale that Duke has become and one that would be acceptable to the community in terms of scale and articulation. A lot of what might be considered brief wasn’t really discussed but was inherently understood in the philosophy of TAS and their selection of architects: great design, environmental consideration, a level of social engagement. As we were going through the process TAS were reflecting on their own brand and many of the considerations of the project became more tangible.

“Ecological aspirations were by nature of the broader team already being applied in terms of good building envelope, consideration of aspect, conformance with the Tier 1 Toronto Green Standards - but they became more obvious and articulated with elements like the terrace planters which were already there to satisfy urban design objectives but developed to become venues for urban agriculture," Witt continues.

"We were also doing the interior design with Mason Studio, who were the lead on the sales centre, and TAS’s aspirations for neighbourhood engagement and local cultural prosperity became very tangible in that collaboration, building on the enthusiasm TAS had shown to benefit the community already, through things like providing a venue for the flea market on the empty site."

Witt’s design is definitely Toronto Condo 2.0, in line with his work on Abacus farther east along Dundas. And its low-rise profile fits with what one hopes is the city’s future approach to downtown density. It explores the idea of laneway projects, giving Dundas West "an opportunity to continue the art and craft presence of the Junction’s culture while offering a real alternative to internalized units."

Witt thinks developing these semi-commercial spaces featuring laneway living with a vertical separation "should be a mandate of laneway projects moving forward."

He figures DUKE will be ready for occupancy within 18 months.

Writer: Bert Archer]
Source; Richard Witt


New French school officially opens in the Junction Triangle

The École élémentaire Charles-Sauriol officially opened last week, the latest in the expanding French-language shool board.

The school will be the 14th elementary school in Toronto for the Conseil scolaire Viamonde, which also operates four secondary schools in the city.

"The school board started working on this project a little more than three years ago," says Claire Francoeur, the board’s director of communications. Francoeur says that the École Pierre-Elliot-Trudeau is operating at capacity, which is what necessitated Viamonde’s purchase of the disused Catholic school formerly known as St. Josaphat at 55 Pelham Avenue in the Junction Triangle.

The school was shared this year with students from St. John the Evangelist school, some of whom learned in portables outside, until places could be found for them. There were 175 French students at Charles-Sauriol this year, and Francoeur expects that number to rise to 200 in September, and to get up to 400 within four years.

After some general clean-up before opening last September, the school is now beginning some renovations for a daycare space, to be completed before the beginning of the next school year.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Claire Francoeur

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to [email protected]


Project Neutral launches second annual household survey

Project Neutral launched the second year of its household survey last week, and while the organization is still concentrating on two neighbourhoods—Riverdale and The Junction—it is opening the survey up to everyone in the city.

From now until November 25, Project Neutral is asking anyone who owns their home, including those with tenants, to fill out a questionnaire to determine their carbon footprint. It takes about 20 minutes, but in an improvement over last year's, the questionnaire allows you to log on and off, permitting you to do it in stages.

"Last  year, we were entirely volunteer-based," says the project's co-founder and managing director, urban planner Karen Nasmith. "It was a pretty massive effort, but we got feedback on the survey that it needed to be more user-friendly."

Though the focus is still on the original two neighbourhoods, with various prizes available to those who fill out the form, Nasmith hopes that more people from outside wards 13 and 30 will contribute data this year. Last  year, the project received 120 completed questionnaires.

Project Neutral's ultimate goal, after establishing a baseline of household data for the city, is to assist in making the city's neighbourhoods as close to carbon neutral as possible.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Karen Nasmith

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to [email protected]


New Gabby's begins reno to open in the Junction this summer

Gabby's is opening its 15th location in the Junction.

"It's the area that attracted us," says Todd Sherman, managing partner for the restaurant/pub company whose brands also include Hey Lucy and Hush. "We think the Junction is a very vibrant, up-and-coming area. We see a lot of change-of-use building going on in the area right now," he says, referring to renovations that transform a commercial space from, say, retail to hospitality, a classic indication of a neighbourhood in serious transition.

"There's a lot more younger families, and a lot of conversion in the area to take it from rough-and-ready to something more polished," says Sherman. "To be honest, I think it's like Yonge and Lawrence 15 years ago." Gabby's opened its first location in that area in 1989. 

The renovation at 3026 Dundas West (formerly the Relax Shack furniture store) began last week, and will ultimately involve about 50 workers in what Sherman describes as a gut renovation of the 2,200-square-foot space.

Sherman expects work on what will be a 75-seat space will be completed by the end of June, though exactly when it opens will depend, he says, on the inspectors.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Todd Sherman

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to [email protected]


French public school system taking over two English schools in September

The ever-expanding French public school system is taking over two formerly English-language schools in Toronto.

The two schools, both primary, are the former St. Josaphat Cathedral school west of Symington between Dupont and Davenport, and the McCowan Road Public School just north of McCowan and Eglinton. As of September, they will be known, temporarily, as École Dundas-ouest and Scarborough sud, respectively.

"Viamonde doesn't select a name until part way through the opening year," says Miguel Ladouceur, the director of building maintenance and planning for the board, known as the Conseil scolaire Viamonde. "We allow the school community to determine the name."

For the first year, Viamonde will be sharing the former Josaphat with its current occupants, Toronto Catholic District School Board, who will be leasing part of the building from them until they find new spots for their students. The former McCowan will be leased from the Toronto District School Board for the first year, while certain city planning technicalities are worked out.

According to Ladouceur, major renovation work will wait until the summer of 2013.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Miguel Ladouceur

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to [email protected]


Green Toronto Awards nominations now open

Nominations opened this week for the 2012 Green Toronto Awards, though the most interesting category from the 2011 edition has been dropped.

Last year, the awards expanded to include a green homes category, aimed at individuals who had done something remarkable to or with their own homes.

"It wasn't our strongest category," says Jessica Chow, co-ordinator for the city-sponsored awards. "We don’t know why. We noticed a lot of them were, 'Oh, I recycle in my home.' It wasn't really what we were after."

So this year, it's been folded into the more general green design category, where individual homes will now compete with eco clothing, green roofs and other design innovations.

Nominations can be submitted here until midnight on Feb. 6. Winners will be announced in March.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jessica Chow

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to [email protected]

Junction's under-appreciated Vine Avenue gets 5 new townhouses where 3 dilapidated husks once stood

Vine Avenue might be called part of the North Junction, that bit between Dundas Street West and the railway line that gives the neighbourhood its name.

It's overlooked, for the most part, though many of the houses are just as attractive as those in the desirable south. Except for those middle three: two semi-detached houses and an old Victorian that had been nice at one point, but had long ago fallen into a desuetude it was not likely to rise from.

"I certainly thought about working with the Victorian," says lawyer, developer and former Junction resident Tony Azevedo, who bought all three and is now in the process of replacing them with five new townhouses. "But it was fire-damaged, and it just wasn't practical. It was in pretty bad shape. The brick veneer was cracked, the mortar was compromised, it wasn't realistic."

Operating under the name of Daz Developments, Azevedo, with architect Paul Da Cunha, have come up with a modern design for the new structure. "It's my first really cool development," Azevedo says, mentioning he's done a few other more traditional ones around town. He's also in the process of developing 1245 Dundas Street West with a design by RAW.

Demolition of the old houses took place in July, and Azevedo hopes the new places, which are up for sale now—about 1,600 square feet each, ranging in price from about $595,000 to around $630,000—will be ready to occupy by February.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Tony Azevedo

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to [email protected]

Crema Coffee Co. installs city's first purpose-built stand-up espresso bar for $800

Toronto is finally able to take its espresso standing up.

After the briefest of renovations, the Yonge and Bloor location of Crema Coffee Co. has become the first cafe in the city, as far as its owner knows, to have a stand-up, standalone espresso bar.

"It's so people will have a place to stand and have a quick espresso," says Geoff Polci, "basically like they do in Italy."

The walnut-top bar was installed on March 25 by Tom King of Discrete and Discreet, cost a total of $800.

Polci plans to install another, possibly larger one at his location in the Junction over the summer.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Geoff Polci

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to [email protected]

21 The Junction Articles | Page: | Show All
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