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Bloor Annex BIA shows off new greening plan

Last week the Bloor Annex BIA unveiled its plans to green its patch of Bloor between Spadina and Bathurst.
The initiative will create four parkettes on city-owned rights-of-way, replace the existing raised tree planter with trees at sidewalk level and increase the amount of bike parking along the street. More than 100 people attended the open house and provided feedback on the preliminary designs that landscape architects dtah have been working on since last spring. The plan, 10 years in the making and expected to cost about $1.5 million, started with a growing frustration with the concrete tree planter boxes on Bloor.
“It’s a very busy street, day and night, and these things just get in the way. The attract garbage, they’re unsightly and, this might be the strongest point of all, they don’t allow the trees to grow to maturity,” says Brian Burchell, chair of the BIA. “Various technologies have been developed in recent years where tree pits can be built that allow the root systems to expand where the tree itself can mature and we’re not constantly fighting with Toronto Forestry to get our trees replaced in the planter boxes.”
The parkettes will see asphalts ripped up and replaced by long-lasting wood decking, seating made from Canadian granite, trees and planting that are pollinator-friendly for bees, birds and butterflies.
After going through the feedback from last week’s open house, the designers will come up with more detailed plans on where the trees and the bike parking will go, and what the parkettes will look like. Those plans will be presented to the public in the fall before they are submitted for approval by city engineers by the end of the year; shovels should go in the ground in 2018.
With the city considering approval of a Bloor bike lane pilot project this month, the new bicycle parking seems particularly timely. But Burchell says the improvements are needed just to meet current demands. “In peak usage of cycling, you can’t find a place to park your bike. It’s a problem,” he says.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source Brian Burchell

Real estate conference explores carbon reduction & urbanization

With buildings accounting for about 50 per cent of the GTA's greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the efficiency of our built form is the easiest and cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions.
At next month’s Land and Development Conference, attended by some of the city’s most high-profile owners, developers, investors, and lenders, two sessions will spotlight the relationship between urbanism and the environment.
“It’s fantastic that they’re now including this perspective on climate change and the role that the building and real-estate sector have in advancing a low-carbon economy, and looking at the challenges and opportunities for the sector,” says Julia Langer, CEO of Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF), who will be leading a session on how cities can reduce their dependence on water and other resources, while improving health, biodiversity and waste management.
There’s certainly a stereotype that developers care only about maximizing profit on any given piece of real estate, properties that show well to prospective buyers—floor to ceiling windows, for example—even if they are not the best for the environment. But Langer says the industry has been improving, as has consumer awareness of the need for sustainable buildings. “There’s attention through the LEED program, through green features. People prefer well-built buildings if they’re sold that way,” she says. “What hasn’t improved as much is attention to de-carbonization. We’re getting more bells and whistles than getting fundamentally to net zero in new construction. Of course, most of the buildings that will exist in 2050 already exist now, so the retrofit agenda really has to be accelerated.”
Through its Green Condo Loan program, TAF has helped developers like Tridel, M5V and Ottawa’s Windmill build projects that perform much better than building codes when it comes to energy efficiency; costs can be recovered through the condo corporation when they find they are paying much lower energy and water bills.  
The Land and Development Conferences starts Monday, May 9.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Julia Langer

Tridel, Mattamy, Daniels, Brand Factory among top BILD Award nominees

It’s the time of year when the GTA construction industry has its Oscar moment.
The 36th annual BILD Awards celebrates builders, developers, designers, architects, and sales and marketing professionals for quality work.
With so many tower projects underway, the battle for mid/high-rise project of the year is particular heated this time around.
Vying for the title is The Daniels Corporation’s Lighthouse Tower at Daniels Waterfront—City of the Arts, with architecture from Giannone Petricone Associates Inc. Architects and interiors by Cecconi Simone Inc. and NAK Design Group; Freed Developments and Capital Developments’ Art Shoppe Lofts + Condos, with design by Cecconi Simone Inc. and DesignStor; Mattamy Homes Limited and Biddington Homes’s J. Davis House, with architecture from GCB Interior Architecture Inc.; and Signature Communities’ East United Condos, with architects Giannone Petricone Associates Inc and interiors by The Design Agency.
Lighthouse Tower at Daniels Waterfront—City of the Arts, Art Shoppe Lofts + Condos, J. Davis House and East United Condos are also up for the People’s Choice Award, along with Geranium Corporation and Pemberton Group’s Friday Harbour, Great Gulf Homes’ Brockton Commons, Kylemore Communities’ Kennedy Manors and Zinc Developments’ 35 Wabash.
You see some familiar names up for  Home Builder of the Year—Mid/High-Rise (Aspen Ridge Homes, Empire Communities, Minto Communities, Tridel), Home Builder of the Year—Low-Rise (Brookfield Residential, Great Gulf Homes, Mattamy Homes Limited, Minto Communities) and for Green Builder of the Year (Mattamy Homes Limited, Minto Communities, Stanton Renaissance
The awards also recognize marketing savvy. Toronto-based advertising and digital agency The Brand Factory and the company’s real estate group have nominated for 26 awards, including two out of the four total nominations for Best Overall Marketing Campaign (Pinnacle) Award for their work with Friday Harbour All Seasons Resort and Zinc Development’s 35 Wabash (Zinc Developments).

Project of the Year, Mid/High-Rise
Art Shoppe Lofts + Condos
Project of the Year, Low-Rise
35 Wabash
Best New Community, Planned/Under Development
Best New Community, Built
Hullmark Centre
Green Builder of the Year
Home Builder of the Year, Mid/High-Rise
Home Builder of the Year, Low-Rise
Great Gulf Homes
People’s Choice Award
Friday Harbour
BILD Lifetime Achievement Award
Ignat “Iggy” Kaneff

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: BILD GTA 

Condo on stilts give Widmer Street heritage homes some breathing room

Throughout Toronto’s tower boom, there’s been a growing reliance on a particular idea of what a tall building should be: a podium of several stories that pretty much fills the site and provides retail space at street level, on which sits a more slender point-tower reaching for the sky.
But the six yellow-brick townhouses at 8-20 Widmer Street just south of Adelaide, all of them built between 1876 and 1878 and all of them listed historic properties, gave Scott Shields Architects a unique opportunity to think beyond the podium for the Clairville Holdings’ 56-storey, 583-unit condo tower slated for the block. Rather than absorb the townhouses into the larger structure, the proposal, filed with the city for approval earlier this month, pushes the tower back from the street. The tower’s upper stories are supported by diagonal stilts rising up from behind the three-storey townhouses.
“We love heritage and the owner of the property loves heritage. The townhouse are pretty, but to be honest, they’re in pretty rough shape,” says Deborah Scott, principal at Scott Shields. “There are lot of steps to get up, then about three steps to get down to the basement, which is not ideal for turning them into commercial/retail.” So after excavating the site and building underground parking beneath the townhouses, they will be restored to essentially what they already are: six individual homes, with patios out front and a laneway behind them, separating them from the tower.
To the south of the site, where there’s a large laneway between the proposed building and King Street’s Hyatt Regency, Clairville has proposed a parkette that will also serve as the pedestrian entrance to the tower. “We wanted to let the townhouses be on their own. We’re not filling up the lower level with mass. We’re leaving it light and airy,” says Scott. “In this part of downtown, with more space at the base, nobody cares how high you are anymore, I think.”
About three storeys above the townhouses—six storeys from the ground—the tower gets wider, providing something of a canopy over the heritage properties. The idea for the stilts came, in part, from the Standard Hotel in New York City, under which the High Line elevated park passes. “They have some amazing columns that hold their building up, and they’re so beautiful. We can make these columns so refined. They will be angled a bit. They’re also like tree trunks.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Deborah Scott

One Bloor West gets a more refined look

Mizrahi Developments turned a lot of heads last spring when it unveiled its proposal for 1 Bloor West, the long-time home of Stollery’s menswear. At 318 metres, the Foster + Partners building would have been out-heighted only by The CN Tower, soundly beating out the 257-metre One Bloor East building that’s risen across the street.
Last month, Mizrahi presented a refined plan to the city planning department and to the Design Review Panel, taking the height down to 304 metres—72 storeys instead of 84 in order to minimize shadow impact on Jesse Ketchum Park. The density of the proposal has decreased, as has the non-residential floor area and the residential floor area.
The experts on the Design Review Panel, which provides non-binding advice to developers and planners, gave the revised proposal a thumbs up, with six members out of seven supporting the new design. Still, panelists thought there was room for improvement as the project makes its way through the planning process.
“The unique location at a major transit hub and important corner in the city was noted as a huge opportunity for city building and will be a long lasting legacy for the future,” state the minutes. “Many Panel members were appreciative of the general improvements and progression of the design since the first review. As per previous comments, panel advised that the significant scale of the project merits a meaningful contribution, particularly to the public realm and transit connections, and this should progress further.”
The panel suggested developing the design to more sensitively address the existing heritage buildings; enhancing the “civic quality” of the tower base, including improved public connectivity to the TTC subway station; resolving wind control to ensure pedestrian comfort at street level; developing podium facades to achieve greater clarity and resolution; and reconsidering the tower crown proportions to match elegance of the shaft. “Several members commended the potential elegance of the tower, with one member noting the tower as ‘outstanding.’ The clarity of the structural expression was appreciated by several members who noted it to have positively generated the form of the tower,” states the panel. But “several members commented that the top of the tower appears to be squat in an otherwise elegant tower, and the proportions unresolved.”
The heritage impact assessment submitted with the new designs suggested that the building’s podium reflect the scale and massing of the surrounding historic buildings, including structures that will be incorporated. The development site currently has six commercial buildings fronting Yonge Street, ranging from two to three storeys. “The building at 774 possesses heritage attributes with Italianate style features and its facade, and street massing will be incorporated in the development. The remaining buildings have been demolished to permit a larger pedestrian sidewalk combined with retail space.”
 Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto, Design Review Panel

OCAD U continues reinvention of McCaul Street

Last week when OCAD University announced its new a $60-million Creative City Campus project, it was giving itself a lot more room to grow, with an 55,000 square feet of new space and a renewal of another 94,700 square feet of existing space.
But it was also furthering the transformation of the intersection of Dundas and McCaul streets—already home to two of pieces of iconic Toronto architecture, Frank Gehry’s redesigned Art Gallery of Ontario and OCAD U’s own Will Alsop-designed Sharp Centre for Design—and taking another step toward turning McCaul into a cultural corridor.
“There will be a real sense of continuity as one walks down McCaul from that gateway intersection. We are going to be revitalizing the George Reid House building, creating much better viewpoints to Grange Park, refurbishing the portico area and participating with the AGO on a thoroughfare from Grange Park to Butterfield Park and an upgrade of their park area as well as ours,” says OCAD U president Sarah Diamond. “We may also have the opportunity on McCaul Street to do some work with our neighbours to really beautify the street and create a dynamic entry point to the cultural community within the city of Toronto.”
The designs for renovations at 100 and 115 McCaul—the George Reid building and the new Centre for Experiential Learning in the Rosalie Sharp Pavillion, respectively—will have to take into account their proximity to two of Toronto’s most attention-grabbing buildings. OCAD U has decided to go ahead with the Bortolotto Architects design for 115 McCaul that would have a dramatic scrim wrapped around the building, peeling away at the corner to reveal what’s going on inside through a glass wall. The Diamond Schmitt Architects preliminary proposal for 100 McCaul, which is yet to be put out for an RFP, is less showy, as the building is below the famed Alsop building.
“I would say the Bortolotto is a powerful design intervention, really tasteful and absolutely considered in relation to the Sharp Centre and the AGO,” says Diamond. “Because we’re building out [at 100 McCaul], any architect doing that work will have to think really carefully to do something subtle enough and beautiful enough that doesn’t compete with what will be three iconic buildings—even though the Bortolotto is small, it will be gorgeous. It will require a lot of collaboration.”
The project at 115 McCaul is expected to be complete during the 2018-2019 school year; the 100 McCaul project in 2019-2020. The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has invested $27 million in the project.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sara Diamond

No billboard for West Donlands park after citizen complaints pile up

Outfront Media has withdrawn an application to erect a digital billboard facing Serena Gundy Park in the West Don park corridor after an outpouring of community protest.
About 32.54 square metres of flashing screen would have been located on the south side of Eglinton Avenue East, east of Leslie Street, within a Canadian Pacific rail corridor. The city received 68 letters about the proposal, all but a couple (from the proponent) opposed to it.
“It would have affected thousands of people in three categories. One is the people living near it. For this type of sign, it flashes every 10 seconds. It’s incredibly bright. If you live within a half a kilometre, it could change the light in your room as it flashes,” says Dave Meslin of the group Scenic Toronto, which fights to safeguard the “visual character” of Toronto’s neighbourhoods, parks, roadways and public spaces. “Then you’ve got all the people who use the park and then third, you’ve got drivers. These signs are designed to distract drivers. So while the government is going out of its way to minimize distraction from cell phone use or whatever, it’s insane for us to give permission to design and install a product which has the sole purpose of distracting drivers’ attention from the road.”
Digital billboards aren’t allowed in most areas of the city but in special areas, a five-person Sign Variance Committee can grant permission. “They’ve done a very good job, but the process only works when the committee hears from both sides, and it’s not a level playing field. The billboard companies have paid lobbyists who know when these meetings are, know how to navigate the agenda and can wait there for hours for their item to show up,” says Meslin, a long-time advocate of better democracy and citizen engagement. “Citizens don’t know about these applications, they don’t know about the meetings, they don’t have time to attend the meetings and they don’t know the procedures.”
Meslin says the city should use plain language, rather bureaucratese, to explain proposals and procedures. Right now the city doesn’t use the word “billboard,” only “sign.” And the city uses the word “static” to describe digital signs that change every 10 seconds.
A staff report to the Sign Variance Committee described the area for the proposed Outfront Media billboard as “largely pastoral and bucolic” and recommended against granting the variance.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Dave Meslin

City considers requiring more space between tall buildings

How close is too close?
At a public consultation last week, downtown residents got a chance to speak up about the appropriate distances between highrise buildings.
As part of TOcore, a three-year study by City Planning into how to positively manage growth in Toronto’s downtown, the city held a meeting to talk about tower separation. That is, how far tall buildings should be set back from property lines and how much space there should be between two towers on a single site to avoid excessive shadowing, pedestrian-level wind and blocked views.
Recommendations that came into effect in 2013 suggests that there should be a setback of 12.5 metres or greater for all tall building towers from the side and rear property lines or centre line of an abutting lane, and for more than one tower on the same site, the setback should be 25 metres or greater. But the current zoning, which requires a setback of only 5.5 metres, is considered outdated amidst Toronto’s current avalanche of 40-plus-storey towers.
Proposed changes to the official plan would require base building height for tall building development to be consistent with the existing streetwall of the block. The new plan might also restrict tall buildings from being built on small sites. The City Planning department would also like more widespread use of “block planning” where numerous tall buildings are proposed, or where the individual lots are too small to accommodate the required setbacks. “These plans take into consideration where towers could possibly be located on any given block to ensure appropriate tower placement, massing, scale and setbacks,” states the slides presented at the consultation.
“Once we review the comments we’ll start making revisions, work with other community planners who typically review tall buildings and host an online consultation where we’ll post policies and have people comment on them,” says assistant planner George Pantazis, who expects this phase of TOcore to be complete by June. About 20 people gave feedback at the meeting.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: George Pantazis

Downtown residents get early look-see at possibilities for new Wellesley Street park

A new downtown park is a rare thing, especially one of any size.
But this week, residents got a peek at what the 1.6-acre park slated for Wellesley Street between Bay and Yonge streets could look like. Landscape architects dtah presented concepts plans for the park based on what people have so far suggested for the space.
“People have talked a lot about wanting a green oasis, a respite from being in such a dense area. People talked about flexible spaces. For example, spaces that can be used as a market one day, for seating area another day or where kids can run around on another day,” says Corinne Fox, policy and standards development officer with Parks, Forestry and Recreation.
The unique opportunity came out of public demand for a park in the area, and the fact that Lanterra has two other adjacent properties on the block. “And so we were able to combine the parkland dedication of three developments to form a bigger park,” says Fox. Several years ago, Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam had lobbied the province, which had owned the land, to turn it into a park. Instead, it sold to Lanterra, leading Wong-Tam to lobby the developer to create a park next door to its 60-storey condo at 11 Wellesley. Council approved the development and park proposal in 2014. “If Lanterra had not worked with us, where a lot of the park is going to be would be mainly buildings,” says Fox.
Following this week’s consultation, an online consultation later this month and another meeting this summer, Fox says a final plan should be ready by the fourth quarter of 2016, with construction expected to be complete in 2018. The fact that the park will be built on top of a parking garage places some limitations on what form it can take. In 30 or 40 years, everything will have to be ripped up in order to place the parking garage’s water membrane. “That’s just the nature of a stratified park,” says Fox.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Corinne Fox

Plan for new bus terminal at Kipling Station moves ahead

Metrolinx is moving ahead with plans for a new 14-bay bus terminal for Kipling Station to improve the integration of GO Bus, GO Train, Mississauga Transit and TTC services at the hub.
The proposed GO and Mississauga MiWay terminal would be to the west of the site at Dundas Street West and Kipling, separate from the existing TTC bus terminal. The new parking and access arrangements would reconfigure the local road network, including a new intersection on Dundas. The plan also attempts to improve access to pedestrians and cyclists.
As a provincial agency, Metrolinx is not required to obtain site plan approval from the City of Toronto, but it filed one this month, agreeing “to work with the City and to take in City comments as input,” states a letter from Jill Hogan, manager of Community Planning in Etobicoke York District that was filed along with several reports on how the new terminal will affect the area.
With major MiWay connections moving to Kipling, the TTC would be able to rebuild the Islington bus terminal “to provide full accessibility and increased redevelopment potential at that station,” states an FAQ from Metrolinx.
An earlier design concept had the new bus terminal located under the transmission lines in the Hydro One corridor/easement, but because of “changes in Hydro One restrictions on development in their corridor, that concept no longer satisfies Hydro One requirements.”

March 30 Update: Kim Johnson, media relations and issues specialist for Metrolinx, says the agency is working on having a preliminary design for the hub ready by the end of 2016 for posting for tender bids.With a design-build contractor on board by mid-2017, the tentative completion of the facility would be the end of 2019.

“Public input is very important during the planning stages and we take all resident concerns in account as we continue on with the project. Extensive stakeholder collaboration is currently ongoing as further design development continues,” says Johnson. “The mobility hub concept is not just about the transit station—it includes the surrounding neighbourhood and is about creating an opportunity to live, work and play, while also being regionally connected.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto, Metrolinx, Kim Johnson

Have you hosted a party to name Project: Under Gardiner?

Under Line? The Six Under? Bent Alley?
Waterfront Toronto’s collaborative campaign to come up with a permanent name for the project that will create welcoming public spaces under the Gardiner Expresseway between Strachan and Spadina avenues goes into phase two this week, as the long list of suggestions is handed off to a jury.
Temporarily called Project: Under Gardiner, the initiative would create 55 outdoor civic “rooms” formed by the Gardiner’s structure of columns and beams (also known as bents). Prompted by a $25-million donation from philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews, the 1.75-kilometre space would connect adjacent neighbourhoods and provide amenities like children’s gardens and performance stages. Waterfront Toronto has been hosting brainstorming sessions and has created a DIY Naming Toolkit to encourage Torontonians to throw naming parties. A week before the April 1 deadline, Waterfront Toronto had received more than 500 submissions, though that number’s expected to double by month’s end.
“Some folks have said, ‘I like the name Under Gardiner name, we should keep it,’ but we think there’s a lot more to draw from and we want to engage Torontonians in that larger conversation,” says Christopher McKinnon, manager of digital and social media for Waterfront Toronto.
While there have some whimsical suggestions—one name that came up during a school workshop was Shark Park—the words “under” and “line” have come up a lot. “Partly it’s a descriptive thing and partly it’s the influence of other high-profile projects in North America, specifically the High Line [in New York],” says McKinnon. “We’re also seeing trends related to The Six, which is the nickname for the GTA amalgamation” of the six boroughs. (Drake’s affection for the nickname The Six might also have something to do with it.)
A panel of judges will trim the list down to between three and five names that will be then put to a public vote in May, then presented to council for approval in June. The project itself is expected to be complete in 2017.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Christopher McKinnon

Hamilton neighbourhood groups successfully fight off new hospital parking lot

A group of neighbourhood associations that joined the city to fight against a new parking lot in their midst celebrated a victory at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) this month.
Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) wanted to expand its 640-spot lot near Hamilton General Hospital at Ferguson and Barton streets, creating 158 additional parking spots on an adjacent vacant lot abutting a residential neighbourhood. The City of Hamilton opposed the application, claiming that the plan for the area, already dominated by institutional buildings and asphalt parking lots, called for mixed-use development. Neighbours were concerned about safety, security and water runoff issues, as well as privacy. Because of the slope of the property, some neighbours worried headlights from the parking lot would be shining in their windows.
The case ended up at the OMB, where several neighbourhood groups banded together to support the city’s position against the new parking lot. They were granted participant status—able to make presentations but not using lawyers or having full “party” standing at the OMB. The provincially-funded Hamilton Health Sciences hospital network hired premier planning law firm Turkstra Mazza & Associates to represent them. But the OMB surprisingly ruled in favour of the city and residents.
“It was an interesting opportunity. We hadn’t had experience in that sort of situation,” says Allison Chewter, president of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association.
What advice would Chewter give to other neighbourhood groups waged in OMB battles?
“Be knowledgeable about how the OMB works. It’s very complicated. We’re fortunate we had another neighbourhood association where several of their members had extensive experience with the OMB and they were able to give us advice. Several other members have background in planning, so we had a good understanding of how it works and were able to not make the decision to spend money on lawyers and planners, and just represent ourselves,” says Chewter. “Be sure that you have a clear message and be to the point and to the facts. A lot of groups tend not to go to the planning argument, which is what the OMB wants to hear.”

HSS currently has an off-site parking lot with an employees shuttle to the hospital. Chewter says the hospital is on a major bus route. "It's not the most reliable bus. Transit could definitely be improved. We think that's something the hospital, which is such a large employer and really a driving force in the city, could have a hand in encouraging the city to expand transit options in that area."
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Allison Chewter

Marriott's Courtyard Toronto Downtown could be replaced with much taller towers

If Yonge Street south of Bloor already seems like an endless series of excavation and construction sites, a new plan for the site of the Marriott’s Courtyard Toronto Downtown may add even more hustings to the mix.
The address 475 Yonge Street is currently home to the largest Courtyard Marriott in the country, with 575 rooms in two buildings, nine and 16 storeys each, connected by a one-storey commercial podium. The proposal submitted this month by Hunter and Associations Ltd. on behalf of CYM Toronto Acquisition LP, would replace the existing structures with two towers, one 65 storeys, the other 45 storeys, connected by a five-storey podium, all designed by Toronto’s Quadrangle Architects.
 “KingSett Capital and InnVest REIT are pleased to announce major plans to position a key downtown Toronto hotel property for the future,” says Nicholas Lakas, vice president of asset management at InnVest REIT.
The new complex would contain 988 residential units, a 289-suite hotel—about half the rooms of the existing hotel—four levels of underground parking, two stories of retail and commercial property and a mid-block pedestrian promenade on the east side of the property to link streets and open spaces in the community. “In our opinion, two sensitively designed tall towers elements are appropriate for the site and fit this key site along Yonge Street, just north of College Street. It will positively contribute to the downtown skyline, with heights that are compatible with the recently approved buildings,” states the report.
In the meantime, the Courtyard by Marriott Toronto is undergoing a $14-million renovation project to renew all the guestrooms, meeting rooms and public spaces. “The renovation project, scheduled for completion in June, demonstrates ownership’s commitment to the on-going operations of the hotel and the delivery of memorable customer experience to our guests,” says Lakas.
The project is certainly in the middle of a hot development zone. Immediately north, at 501 Yonge, excavation has begun on Lanterra’s TeaHouse, which will have two towers at 52 and 25 storeys each. Across the street at 484 Yonge, Kingsett Capital has a 45-storey tower planned, while just a smidge south at 460 Yonge, Canderel is putting up its 66-storey YC Condos building.
The skyscrapering of Yonge aside, the proposed reduction in the number of hotel rooms on the site is also noteworthy. Just a few blocks further south, a proposal for the Chelsea Hotel submitted last fall would see the existing building at Yonge and Gerrard replaced by four towers—80, 50, 74 and 46 storeys—and one six-storey mid-rise structure. Although that plan would create 1,897 residential units, as well as more commercial space, the number of hotel rooms at the Chelsea would drop to 300 from the 1,590 it now has.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Nicholas Lakas, Planning Rationale Report

City awaits details as province promises to allow inclusionary zoning

Ontario should act quickly to allow Toronto to roll out inclusionary zoning to take advantage of the city’s building boom, says the group Social Planning Toronto and a network of other community groups.
On Monday, the province announced “a suite of legislative and policy measures” combined with $178-million over three years, to increase access to affordable and adequate housing in Ontario. Part of that suite is granting cities the power to practice inclusionary zoning—requiring developers to build a certain number of affordable housing units as part of each development project that meets the criteria. Though the news was welcomed by affordable housing advocates, the timeline and the process remain unclear.
“The devil is in the details. They’ve said they’ll introduce legislation ‘soon’ and the definition of soon matters,” says Sean Meagher, executive director of Social Planning Toronto. “This is enabling legislation that allows the municipalities to create these laws.”
Though the City of Toronto has done some preliminary work on the issue, Meagher says it’s hard for staff to draw up proposed inclusionary zoning bylaws without knowing what the provincial legislation will look like. A prolonged provincial process followed by extended discussions at the city level could delay the construction of affordable housing for years. “You can’t bring in legislation that restricts development without talking to the development community and the people of Toronto. Every delay at the provincial level means it will be a long time before we see the benefits,” he says.
Meagher estimates that if Toronto had had inclusionary zoning for the last five years, even the most conservative requirements on developers would have generated about 12,000 new affordable housing units. “Every delay means we’ve missed critical opportunities,” he says. “Inclusionary zoning only helps when people are building. You have to capture the moments when there is development going on.”
Some version of the strategy has been tried in U.S. cities but inclusionary zoning hasn’t caught on in Canada, partly because provinces here often keep their municipalities on short leashes.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sean Meagher

Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District approved

Council voted last week to designate the stretch of Yonge Street between Bloor and Carleton/College streets as a Historical Conservation District (HCD), providing increased protection for the area’s architecture and history.
While the plan, currently in draft form, will preserve the look and feel of the area and restrict what many property owners can change about their buildings, Mark Garner, executive director of the Downtown Yonge BIA, says he wish the city could go further to maintain the gritty, indie character of the “old bastion” of Yonge Street.

“This is one of the last remaining sections of downtown that really has those old iconic businesses, retailers that have been there since I was a kid. I think the HCD is a good thing to preserve the heritage component, but for me it may not have enough teeth around protecting the lived experience. What I’m always afraid of is the usual Toronto façade-ism,” he says. “We have to maintain the independent retail space. We’ve done studies that people want to have the small independent coffee shops, the chocolatiers, the butchers, the vegetable and fruit stands that provide a great retail experience.”
The city states the HCD is “not meant to prevent new development or prescribe the style of new development within the district. Rather an HCD Plan allows for the ongoing evolution of a district, while guiding new development to be sympathetic to its character.”
The Downtown Yonge BIA currently only extends to Carleton/College—just outside the new HCD. But the organization expects to absorb Yonge Street south of Bloor, which does not have a business improvement area, within the next year. The BIA would have to balance the more bombastic and chain-oriented Yonge and Dundas area with the quirkier and sometimes seedier stretch north of College. “I think our BIA respects what the neighbourhoods are about so we’re advocating for the right things,” says Garner.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Mark Garner
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