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Placemaking plans revealed for city’s Port Lands

The City of Toronto and Waterfront Toronto showed off some of their placemaking strategies for the Port Lands at a public open house last weekend.
The event was part of a round of public meetings this month to look at three studies of the area that are currently underway and how the various initiatives, like the draft Villiers Island Precinct Plan, intersect and interact with each other and with nearby projects like the Don Mouth Naturalization, the Lower Don Lands Masterplan and the plan for the Film Studio District.
Because of the size of the area is so large—350 hectares, much of it owned by the city itself—planners have broken the Port Lands up into a series of smaller places to figure out how the area should grow and evolve. Planning will have to take into account residential, employment, commercial and industrial uses. For example, in what’s called the Unilever precinct, close to the Don River, just north of Lakeshore Boulevard East, the city expects that there will eventually be 23,500 jobs, with another 9,250 jobs south of Eastern Avenue and 25,000 to 30,000 more jobs in the Port Lands proper. The area is not a blank slate and will remain home to the city’s port, which will influence what springs up around it.
“We’re basically creating a small city within a city,” project manager Cassidy Ritz told attendees. “When you add up [those jobs], that’s 50,000 people, which is bigger than the town I grew up in.”
There are currently seven active development applications within the Port Lands and South of Eastern area including three new buildings at 459 Eastern Avenue, a seven-storey building at 462 Eastern Avenue, a hotel, office and retail proposal for the existing film studio at 629 Eastern Avenue, a review of the former Uniliever site and employment lands with an eye to creating an employment precinct, a warehouse and designer’s studio at 300 Commissioners Street, a low-rise building at 475 Commissioners Street and a high-rise mixed-use building at 309 Cherry Street.
The first plan likely to be ready will apply to Villiers Island, establishing the streets and block structure, height and massing standards, parks and community facilities, public art and urban design standards, affordable housing strategy, heritage preservation strategy, parking provisions and strategies to develop a mix of uses.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source, Cassidy Ritz, Port Lands Acceleration Initiative

Council to vote on official plan changes

The Planning and Growth Management Committee has adopted policy changes to Toronto’s official five-year plan for City Council vote next month.
The amendments to the Healthy Neighbourhoods, Neighbourhoods and Apartment Neighbourhoods Policies aim to “clarify, strengthen and refine the existing policies as they apply to residential lands,” which came into effect in June 2015. The amendments implement the Tower Renewal Program “by promoting the renewal and retrofitting of older residential apartment buildings,” states the staff backgrounder. “The revised policies encourage small scale retail, institutional uses and community facilities at grade in apartment buildings to better serve area residents, particularly on sites that are not within walking distance of such facilities. Community gardens are also encouraged on apartment sites that are distant from shopping facilities offering fresh produce.”
“When you are looking at pedestrian realm, traffic flow, site lines, skylines, things are very different when you take it from an individual site to a complete neighbourhood,” Sarah Doucette, councillor for Ward 13, told the committee at its meeting this week.
Some of the changes are subtle, like adding the words “promoting walking and cycling by” prior to the words “improving streets” in one non-binding section, or better defining the phrase “geographical area.”
Other proposed amendments will have more tangible effects. Developers in mixed-use areas adjacent or close to residential areas would be required to “orient and screen lighting and amenity areas so as to minimize impacts on adjacent properties in those Neighbourhoods” and “locate, enclose and screen service areas, access to underground parking, and locate and screen any surface parking so as to minimize impacts on adjacent properties in those Neighbourhoods.” This possibility attracted the attention of Loblaw Properties Limited and Choice Properties Ontario Properties Limited (CP REIT), which suggested in a letter from their lawyer to the committee that “in order to maintain flexibility for adjacent developments… a range of strategies should be contemplated as opposed to requiring enclosed service areas, which is not always desirable or needed.”
The plan would encourage owners of existing apartment buildings to achieve greater conservation of energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, achieve greater conservation of water resources, improve waste diversion practices, improve safety and security, improve building operations, improve indoor and outdoor facilities for social, educational and recreational activities and improve pedestrian access to buildings. Apartment owners will also be encouraged to create “small-scale commercial, community and institutional uses” at street level on major streets and gardens for growing food on “underutilized portions of open space.”
City council is slated to consider the review amendments on December 9.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sarah Doucette, Planning and Growth Management Committee

$25 million donation to fund public spaces under western Gardiner

As the city frets about what exactly to do with the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway, a generous donation from philanthropists aims to transform a western stretch of the expressway from an eyesore into an urban gem worth visiting.
Judy Matthews (herself a professional planner) and her husband Wil Matthews are contributing $25 million toward creating more than four hectares of new public space and 1.7 kilometres of multi-use trails beneath the Gardiner from Strachan Avenue to Spadina Avenue. The project will knit together seven communities with parks, trails and programmable space featuring music, food, the arts, sports and recreation, all sheltered by the ceiling of the five-storey expressway. The spaces will be designed as “rooms” defined by the concrete post-and-beam structures that hold up the Gardiner.
With construction starting next year and the first stage from Strachan to Bathurst slated for completion by July 2017, the project is exceptional not only in scale and imagination but in its ambitious timeframe. Public consultations to hear what locals and Torontonians want to see in the new public space and what it should be called will happen very quickly, marshalled by Waterfront Toronto, which is leading the project on behalf of the city.
“We had been looking for an interesting project, a neglected vacant space that had the power to be a new kind of public space,” said Matthews at the announcement Tuesday. She and Wil were driving forces behind the Toronto Music Garden on the waterfront and the revitalization of St. George Street where it runs through the University of Toronto. “Imagine in winter if you come down to find a skating rink with hot chocolate there.”
More than 70,000 Torontonians live in neighbourhoods adjacent to the project, from Liberty Village to CityPlace, most of them high-rise dwellers dependent on public space to give them some room to move. The project will serve them, but also aspires to be a tourist destination comparable to New York’s High Line, linking attractions like the Molson Amphitheatre, Historic Fort York, Queens Quay and The CN Tower. The donation will be entirely devoted to the design and creation of the spaces; discussion about how to fund the maintenance and programming will take place while construction is underway.
“Toronto is an amazing path now where we’re going to find ways to say yes to things like this,” said Mayor John Tory at the unveiling. Restoration work worth $150 million is currently underway on the structure of the Gardiner itself.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Judy Matthews, John Tory, Waterfront Toronto

Last three Aura at College Park penthouses released for sale

When construction of the Aura at College Park building at Yonge and Gerrard started in 2010, few Torontonians, except the developers and planners, would have guessed the dramatic imprint the 80-storey building would make on the Toronto skyline.
The tallest residential tower in Canada stands apart (and uphill) from the financial district’s skyscrapers, and all the more so since this summer, when they turned on the LED-lighting feature. Designed by Mississauga-based Graziani + Corazza, the bold vertical lines running down the building’s top stories for two hours each night have helped Aura command even more visual attention across downtown.
“It’s been off the charts how much feedback we’ve been getting about the lighting feature. Everyone’s really excited about it, thinking it’s really changed the skyline of Toronto, making it iconic,” says Riz Dhanji, vice president of sales and marketing at developer Canderel Residential, who estimates the feature cost about $1 million. “I’ve been to New York, London and other major cities and haven’t seen anything like it.” (On the other hand, the mall in the Aura’s basement hasn’t gotten nearly such great reviews.)
Though most of Aura’s 994 suites were presold before the building was completed last fall, the three last penthouse units have just been released for sale this week, the last phase of a very, very long rollout. The 80th-floor units range in size from 2,201 to 3,055 square feet and in price from $2.4 million to $3.7 million. Unsurprisingly, they offer fantastic views which Canderel showed off to media during a tour of two of the suites on November 11. “You can’t really appreciate the fact that you’re 80 storeys high unless you see the incredible view. These are really one-of-a-kind suites,” says Dhanji.
Although this is the last big announcement coming from Canderel about Aura, there’s one last amenity residents of the building are waiting on—the city park being redeveloped between Aura and next door neighbourhood College Park. Revitalization of the small square, originally built on top of parking garage in the 1980s, is slated to be completed next spring.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Riz Dhanji

GTA to get 14 new schools

Fourteen of the 30 new schools announced by the Ontario Ministry of Education this week will be built in the GTA, and 11 of the 26 schools being renovated or expanded provincially are also located here.
The province is investing $498 million in new and renovated schools this year, as well as toward 2,135 new licensed spaces for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers. That’s an increase over last year’s budget, according to Lauren Tedesco, director of communications to the minister’s office. “This year is unique as well because we included childcare capital funding to build new childcare rooms which are part of the schools.”
Some of the new schools, like the Toronto District School Board’s Davisville Junior Public School, will replace out-of-date buildings on the same site, while others will be new roomier digs for smaller schools that are consolidating. The Davisville project, announced on October 26 but under discussion since at least 2010, will be funded to the tune of $14.7 million, replacing a building built in 1962. The school will host 728 elementary students and a new full-day kindergarten class.
“The boards have just been notified in the last few weeks that their projects have been approved so they will be starting construction soon,” says Tedesco. “There’s a lot of criteria to meet, but the design, the timelines and all of that is up to the school boards.”
Here’s the list of new builds and improvements that will take place in the GTA:
  • Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud, Mississauga, Mississauga
  • Conseil scolaire Viamonde, Richmond Hill, Académie de la Moraine
  • Conseil scolaire Viamonde, Oakville,  ÉSP Gaétan-Gervais
  • Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, Brampton, Mount Pleasant #1
  • Durham District School Board, Ajax, Mulberry Meadows PS
  • Durham District School Board, Oshawa, Windfields Farm PS
  • Halton Catholic District School Board, Oakville, New North Oakville ES
  • Peel District School Board, Brampton, Countryside Village PS
  • Peel District School Board, Brampton, Credit Valley Sub Area 3 # 1 PS
  • Peel District School Board, Brampton, Mount Pleasant # 7 PS
  • Toronto Catholic District School Board, Scarborough, Cardinal Newman CSS
  • Toronto District School Board, Davisville, Davisville Jr PS
  • York Region District School Board, Stouffville, Stouffville Southeast ES
  • York Region District School Board, Thornhill, E J Sand PS
  • Durham Catholic District School Board, Ajax,  St. James CS
  • Durham District School Board, Claremont, Claremont PS
  • Halton Catholic District School Board, Milton, Holy Rosary CES
  • Halton District School Board, Burlington, Alton Village PS
  • Halton District School Board, Milton, Craig Kielburger SS
  • Peel District School Board, Brampton, Esker Lake PS
  • Toronto Catholic District School Board, Downsview, St Augustine of Canterbury CS
  • Toronto District School Board, Etobicoke, Norseman JMS
  • Toronto District School Board, Agincourt, Terry Fox PS
  • Toronto Catholic District School Board, Etobicoke, St Clement CS
  • York Region District School Board, Richmond Hill, Charles Howitt PS
  • Durham Catholic District School Board, Ajax, St. Josephine Bakhita CES
  • Durham Catholic District School Board, Oshawa, St. Kateri Tekakwitha  CES
  • Durham Catholic District School Board, Pickering, Father Fenelon  CES
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Lauren Tedesco

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

Yabu Pushelberg to receive DXI Award

Toronto’s jet-setting design duo George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg will be recognized for their award-winning design portfolio as DXI 2015 award winners on November 7.

DX Intersection, a fundraiser for Toronto’s Design Exchange now in its fourth year, spotlights excellence in the field. As honorees, interior design firm Yabu Pushelberg joins Frank Toskan, co-founder of MAC Cosmetics, who took home the prize last year.

Here in their home town, Yabu Pushelberg are known for projects like the Avenue Road furniture showrooms, The Room at Hudson’s Bay and the Four Seasons Hotel. But they’ve probably been busiest beyond our borders, working most recently on interiors for Ian Schrager’s Miami Beach Edition Hotel, unveiled during last year’s Art Basel, Lane Crawford flagship women’s fashion store in Hong Kong (and before that Shanghai) and Siwilai retail boutique in Bangkok. Upcoming projects where Yabu Pushelberg will be doing interiors for Four Seasons include in a 185-room hotel in Tribeca, New York, and a 263-room hotel in Kuwait, the first Four Seasons offering in that country.

“With offices around the planet but still residing in the six, George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg oversee one of the most recognized design firms in the world,” states the Design Exchange news release.

The duo are also curating “interactive installations and ethereal interventions” at this year’s DX Intersection, which is themed “Kismet.”

Source: Design Exchange
Writer: Paul Gallant

Seaton House replacement key to George Street revitalization

Mayor John Tory’s executive committee is asking City Council to endorse a revitalization of George Street that would be based around a new, combined community services hub replacing Seaton House, Canada’s largest homeless shelter.

The project would demolish the existing Seaton House to build a 600,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility providing a 100-bed emergency shelter program, a 378-bed long-term care home program, a 130-bed transitional assisted living program, 21 units of supported affordable housing and a community service hub. The existing Seaton House, which has been at its current site since 1959, can accommodate as man as 900 men—more than the proposed facility, which would offer a variety of program streams for people with various levels of need.

“Seaton House, with its aging physical plant and an environment that does not meet the needs of vulnerable men experiencing homelessness, is in critical need of redevelopment,” states the Executive Committee item adopted on October 20. “The combination of abandoned buildings and illicit activities on George Street has resulted in an air of neglect and has raised concerns for community safety.”

The new facility would, it’s hoped, provide “a unique opportunity to transform George Street, while setting a precedent for revitalization in the Garden District that is focused on providing a quality public realm and superior building design,” states the project overview released this month. “The redevelopment of the site will create a safe, inviting and vibrant place that reinstates the scale and rhythm of the greater neighbourhood. This project considers the building, site and streetscape comprehensively. Multiple entrances, new pathways, strong indoor-outdoor connections, dedicated landscaped areas, usable and flexible outdoor spaces all work to de-institutionalize George Street, while the restoration of heritage-designated properties revive the vernacular that defines the community’s
rich urban history.”

If the project moves ahead, City Council is being authorized to spend about $100,000 to conduct an analysis of project procurement and delivery options.

Source: City of Toronto
Writer: Paul Gallant

Mississauga’s Sheridan Park gets $46-million reno

SNC-Lavalin’s Mississauga digs are getting more than a facelift, with a $45-million investment by its landlord.

Slate Office REIT will revitalize two key properties in Mississauga’s Sheridan Park, which will house SNC-Lavalin’s nuclear work in 215,000 square feet of research, development and office space for an initial term of 10 years. The buildings at 2251 and 2285 Speakman Drive will be re-purposed and modernized, incorporate optimum energy and environmental efficiency technology.

“We’re extremely pleased to have strengthened our relationship with SNC-Lavalin over the long term in a deal that represents tremendous value for both sides, and in doing so helped to re-invigorate an important business centre such as Mississauga’s Sheridan Park,” Scott Antoniak, Chief Executive Officer of Slate Office stated in a news release.

SNC-Lavalin’s nuclear team provides nuclear technology products and full-service solutions to nuclear utilities around the globe, though the work they do at Sheridan Park doesn’t involve handling nuclear materials. The company has owned the building at 2233 Speakman Drive since the 1980s. The area was one of North America’s first corporate research parks.

Source: Slate Office REIT
Writer: Paul Gallant

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

Humbertown redevelopment goes under the microscope at Swedish conference

How do you accommodate large-scale sustainable growth right next to low-rise neighbourhoods?

In a presentation last month at the Performative Places conference in Lund, Sweden, Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker, a partner at Toronto's Urban Strategies, used the company's Humbertown project as an example of how smart urban design can reduce environmental impact through increased density, greener buildings and shared community spaces.

The project at Royal York and Dundas West, which last year won the Excellence in Planning Award for Urban/Community design from the Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI), would replace a 1950s shopping plaza with a mixed-use village within Humber Valley Village, doubling the commercial space and adding 1,000 residents in a variety of building types, with 12 storeys as the highest building.

Despite the increased density and more intensive uses, there would be five times the number of trees on the site, including green roofs, and a goal of LEED Gold sustainable buildings. Interestingly, the site plan, broken down into five blocks, echoes the existing shopping centre's footprint, a nod to the historic significance of one of the GTA's earliest modern shopping plazas. But the parking, now a dominant feature of the site, will move underground to make way for public spaces that recognize the Kingsway as a main square, knitting the development back into the broader community.

“Humbertown is taking a site which is highly underutilized today, but still plays an important role as the focus of its community from a single-use development pattern to a mixed use development, which is by its nature more efficient, introducing opportunities for different forms of living into the Humber Valley community,” Rottenberg-Walker told Yonge Street Media after the conference. “Children who have grown up there can conceivably buy their first apartment there. There's a retirement housing component, so at the other end of the spectrum, once you've finished with your large house, there's a possibility of moving into a condominium or something that has assisted living.”

Initial community opposition has largely evaporated after extensive consultation. “You're asking for people to buy into something they can't see or feel,” she says. “The reason it happens is that people care passionately about where they live.”

The project is currently awaiting site plan approval. After about a year of infrastructure work is done, construction could start within the year.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker

Residents try to avoid OMB hearing over massive Esplanade development

Both the city and local residents are pressing Sentinel (Sherbourne) Land Corp./Pemberton Group to rethink its development proposals for an entire block of land between Front and The Esplanade, Lower Sherbourne and Princess as they approach an Ontario Municipal Board hearing next year.

A couple of weeks ago, city council voted to oppose the July 2015 zoning amendment application for the lands at 177, 183 and 197 Front Street East, 15-21 Lower Sherbourne Street and 200 The Esplanade, sometimes called the Acura-Sobeys site. That application proposed four towers on 10-storey podiums, ranging from 25 to 33 storeys, creating 1,679 residential units and 1,913 square metres of ground floor retail along Front Street. The city wants the heights reduced to below 30 and 20 storeys, among other changes.

A working group was struck in the spring. Suzanne Kavanagh, president of the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association, says they have been making progress in coming up with a proposal that's more acceptable to the neighbourhood.

“We've been asking them to think of what they'll be most proud of in 20 years,” says Kavanagh. For starters, residents would like the buildings to recognize David Crombie Park with appropriate setbacks and provide an east-west connection through the site. The buildings also have to be appropriate for the area's heritage district status. “We are optimistic that they're listening to us.”

The first proposal was a wall of three 34-storey towers.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Suzanne Kavanagh

Waterfront Toronto presents feedback on Queens Quay revitalization

Since the grand reopening of Queens Quay back in June, Waterfront Toronto has been fine-tuning the transformed space to help people navigate it better. At a community meeting on October 14, they’ll give an update on what’s been happening and share a report on the substantial public feedback they’ve received so far.
The most common reaction has been that people really like the revitalization between Bay Street and HT0 Park which has bigger, nicer sidewalks, new trees and a designated space for the Martin Goodman Trail, which used to disappear as it passed south of downtown, leaving cyclists to fend their way on the means streets of Queens Quay.
Still, there have been some unpleasant encounters between pedestrians and cyclists using the new mixed-use lane, which runs at grade along and amidst the pedestrian spaces. The need for an educational YouTube video and a do’s and don’t’s slideshow also suggest that Torontonians and visitors face a learning curve when it comes to all the painted lines, lights, signs and signals spelling out who goes where and when on Queens Quay. As well as listening to feedback, Waterfront Toronto has been doing intersection-by-intersection audits on how people are behaving on the street.
“This is really a new kind of space in Toronto. What we’ve been doing is just adjusting some of the regulatory systems and signals, the visual cues for the people on the street,” says Mira Shenker, communications manager at Waterfront Toronto. Over the last few months, trail speed limit signs have been posted, as well as “Watch for cyclists and pedestrians” and “Slow, watch for turning vehicles” signs.
Blue boxes painted on the Martin Goodman Trail, intended as a space for cyclists to stop at lighted intersections, turned out to be too subtle (and a different colour from the city’s green bicycle boxes; the revitalization plan was finalized before there was a standard bike-box colour, says Shenker). Since the opening, the blue boxes have had the words “Stop here on Red,” painted on them.
“That was a direct response to the very measured and constructive feedback we received from people simply wanting to know the purpose of the blue boxes,” says Shenker.
At this month’s meeting, there won’t be answers to concerns about the bottleneck at the bottom of Dan Leckie Way, where there’s a 60-metre gap in the Martin Goodman Trail, so signs tell cyclists to dismount when they find themselves on the sidewalk. That area was beyond the official boundaries of the revitalization project. A pedestrian WaveDeck is ultimately planned for that stretch of the route, which would free up the sidewalk for mixed use, but the project is currently unfunded.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Mira Shenker

Vacant Sherbourne lot gets art, tender loving care in advance of new apartment building

When rental apartment developer Oben Flats filed its application to redevelop the property at 307 Sherbourne, kitty-corner from Allan Gardens, the site had been vacant for more than a decade after its last occupant, a gas station, closed up shop.
So a couple of years for city approval and construction of a 13-storey residential rental apartment building with 94 dwelling units didn’t seem so long to wait. Yet Oben Flats decided it would animate the site in the meantime in order to forge connections with their future neighbours. Last week, working the PATCH public art project, the developer unveiled a mural that signals that the space will soon be put to better use. Danny Brown, an urban planner at Urban Strategies and a local resident, helped spearheaded the initiative after an earlier guerilla beautification of the site.
“We think of ourselves as a different developer. We didn’t want to just leave it empty like that,” says Max Koerner, project coordinator at Oben Flats. Partnering with the David Suzuki Foundation and Sustainable TO, the company is planning to have host facilities and activities as varied as a skating rink, pollinator garden or temporary market. Following feedback from the community, Koerner expects that a Halloween gathering and other small events could take place over the fall and winter before the space is greened up in the spring.
In condo-obsessed Toronto, new downtown rental buildings have been few and far between. Many high-rises apartment buildings built in the 1960s and ’70s are often seen as outdated and rundown. Oben Flats, which originated in Germany in 2007, is launching into the Toronto market with three rental projects, the first of which, in Leslieville, will open in 2016. (The company has already built six for-sale townhouses on Harbord Street.) The company has focused on eye-catching design and the demands of young Torontonians who may not be able to afford to buy, but still want modern digs.
“These so-called Millennials appear to be more interested in design and style,” says Koerner.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Max Koerner

Next step of LGBT sports and recreational facility gets green light from city

City Council has voted to strike a steering committee to look into the feasibility of a new sport and recreation facility with an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender) focus.
The project, which emerged out of The 519 Community Centre’s work on PrideHouse for the Pan Am Games, would redevelop Moss Park, including the John Innes Community Centre, a two-storey structure built in 1951, and Moss Park Arena, a single storey building housing an ice rink.  Current centre amenities include a pool, games room, gym, weight room, craft room, kitchen, dance studio and wood shop, while the park already has a softball diamond, two tennis courts, two basketball courts and community gardens.
The feasibility study and community consultations are expected to cost between $1 million and $1.6 million, with the whole project costing as much as $125 million, though that estimate will likely change as the process unfolds. “The determination of final contribution amounts by partners has yet to be formally negotiated,” states the city backgrounder. “This project will not displace other capital projects currently identified in the City of Toronto 10-year capital plan.” The 519 has secured a private donation expected to cover the costs of the feasibility study and will fundraise to cover capital costs if the project goes ahead.
The Moss Park location has moved forward after the first proposed site, the Wheel and Foundry complex located at Eastern Avenue and St. Lawrence Street, was determined to be unsuitable.
Despite the LGBT focus, the project will also be expected to serve the local community. “The 519 is well positioned to lead the delivery of inclusive sport and league programming, particularly for the communities of common bond and create new employment and economic benefits within the neighbourhood,” states the city backgrounder. “Moss Park is a unique neighbourhood that is home to a diverse range of communities including marginalized and vulnerable people, and agencies that provide services for these communities. Many of the immediate communities are experiencing homelessness, living with substance use and mental health issues, Aboriginal and First Nations peoples, youth from diverse ethno-racial communities, as well as those experiencing poverty.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto
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