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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

29-storey tower initial move to redevelop entire Queen East block

The city block bounded by Mutual, Queen East, Shuter and Dalhousie streets will be completely re-imagined over the next few years, starting with a 29-storey mixed-use building called 88 North, with the project slated to launch this spring.

The development application filed last month by St. Thomas Developments, the company behind One St. Thomas Residences and 7 St. Thomas, will offer 421 residential units and approximately 810 square metres of retail at street level fronting on Shuter Street, all on a 0.29-hectare site that’s now the home of a parking lot. But this project, designed by Page + Steele/IBI Group Architects, is just the first phase in a larger plan for the entire block.

There have been development applications for the block dating back to 1979, and during that there have been many changes to the proposals and the zoning by-laws governing the property. In the early 2000s, three 28-storey towers, at the same 30 Mutual/88 Queen East address as 88 North, were proposed, as well as other mid-rise buildings. At that time, city staff recommended permitting that development, though St. Michael’s Cathedral was concerned about the shadow impacts of the development on the cathedral.

According to a description of current proposal by the developer’s lawyers, “the base of the proposed tower is intended to be dominated by food-related retail uses at the street level, with retractable glazed storefront partitions that will oopen up in good weather to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces with patios animating the street and park, creating a vibrant and active urban environment.... The podium is conceived as a series of stacked glass boxes that enclose two-storey loft units. The glass boxes of the podium are composed as a series of interlocking objects that add architectural interest to the podium.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto, Devine Park LLP

Sauna, fur-lined dome among winners in Winter Station competition

When the architects at RAW Design launched Toronto’s Winter Stations competition last year, asking designers to come up with whimsical installations to liven up the waterfront east of Ashbridges Bay during the tough winter months, they were thinking locally: The Beach neighbourhood specifically and the City of Toronto more generally.

But the 380 entries in this year’s competition, themed Freeze/Thaw, came from designers from all over the world, with one of the four winning 2016 submissions hailing from the UK.

“We kind of went viral and once stuff went on the web, we attracted interest from all over the place,” says Aaron Hendershott, an architect at RAW. “There’s an interest in recreating some of these installations and bringing what we do here to other cities. Certainly there’s a lot of interest in design for the wintertime, something that gives people an excuse to go out and enjoy the city in the winter. The beach isn’t just a summertime environment.”

The UK winner, Sauna by Claire Furnley and James Fox at Leeds-based FFLO landscape architects, is an actual sauna, where passersby can see through the transparent exterior to bathers thawing out on tiered seating inside. “I’m interested in stations that are really going to provoke a new type of community space. The Sauna entry is calmer from a design perspective but I’m intrigued how this will work in a public space,” says Hendershott, who worked on the competition with the jury and fellow organizers at Ferris + Associates and Curio.

The station called In the Belly of a Bear, by Caitlind r.c Brown, Wayne Garrett and Lane Shordee of Calgary, has visitors climb up a wooden ladder into a domed interior lined with fur. Floating Ropes, by MUDO (Elodie Doukhan and Nicolas Mussche) of Montreal, offers a suspended cube of ropes in which visitors take shelter. Flow, by Team Secret (Calvin Fung and Victor Huynh) of Toronto, allows 3D star-shaped modules to be reconfigured into different structures with slot-fitting wooden connections.

The four winners, along with stations designed by students at OCAD, Ryerson and Laurentian universities, will be built from February 10 to 14 along Kew, Scarborough and Balmy beaches south of Queen Street East, between Woodbine and Victoria Park avenues. Installations will debut on February 15, and stay open to the public until March 20. Each station is required to cost less than $10,000 in materials and labour.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Aaron Hendershott

A dozen mid-rise wooden buildings on the way after Ontario code changes

Almost a year ago, new rules came into effect allowing Ontario builders to use wooden construction for buildings of up to six storeys.

It’s a policy change aimed at “increase opportunities for designers and builders to create innovative, flexible and affordable new buildings,” and follows building code changes that took place in British Columbia in 2009. Since then, that province has seen more than 200 wooden mid-rise projects and Ontario builders have watched and learned from what’s happened there.

“Builders are really embracing this change and this new building option. There’s definitely a lot of collaboration happening,” says Pauline Lip, senior technical advisor, Ontario Home Builders’ Association.

Wooden buildings are estimated to cost up to 10 per cent less than buildings constructed from non-combustible materials. By permitting them, Ontario is trying to encourage more mid-rise buildings and increased densification since they may be economically feasible on sites where other types of buildings wouldn’t be. “This has really been the next step in unlocking the intensification targets that support the provincial growth plan,” says Lip. “From the home buyer’s standpoint, we have the ability to provide more affordable housing options that have more innovative design.” The new rules come with strict fire and safety regulations that are currently undergoing the process of being implemented.

Since last January, about a dozen mid-rise wooden projects have come out of the gates across the province and are in various stages of planning and approval. While the first to have broken ground was the Sandman Hotel in Hamilton, a $12-million 209-unit development, Quadrangle Architects is aiming to build the first in Toronto. This month the firm, working with Fieldgate Urban and Hullmark Developments, submitted a building permit application for Heartwood the Beach Condos at 1884 Queen Street East. The 40-unit residential project will have street-level retail and target the city’s Tier 2 Green standards.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Pauline Lip

Broadview school expansion plan would integrate modernized facilities into heritage properties

Riverdale’s Montcrest School wants to expand its facility with a modern extension that will provide an interesting contrast with two of the heritage homes the school occupies on Broadview Avenue.

Montcrest’s 300 students—from junior kindergarten to grade eight—get their education in relatively cramped quarters. The 50-year-old independent school moved to Broadview from the Annex in the 1970s, starting in one leased house on Broadview that was eventually given to the school. As it expanded, the school purchased other homes in the neighbourhood and a couple of decades ago built a more traditional three-stsorey school building in the large adjoining lots backing onto the Don Valley. The leadership team had been looking for other neighbourhood properties to purchase but finally realized they might have to come up with a more creative solution on their existing footprint.

“We want to give our kids, especially in the older grades, the opportunity to have spaces to facilitate the types of learning they’re doing,” says Michael Dilworth, director of advancement. “It will give us more breathing room. Also, there’s the ancillary benefit where we can incorporate an improved art space and music space, which are both in the basement at the moment.” Enrollment might increase by a few dozen, but not much more than that.

The proposal, designed by MontgomerySisam Architects, retains the residential-style properties at 650, 658 and 660 Broadview Avenue but introduces new building forms behind and between 650 and 658 Broadview.

“We have been neighbours in Riverdale for a long time so we were happy to be able to maintain the integrity of the houses along Broadview. I think it will feel very much like the streetscape we have now, enhanced by a beautiful facility. I don’t know if I’d call the glass modern, but it integrates the old with the new," says Dilworth. "When someone is sitting in the art facility, they’ll see the exterior walls of those historic homes.”

The school will be embarking on a fund-raising campaign to pay for the project.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Michael Dilworth

Province picks AECOM to oversee construction of new downtown courthouse

The province has chosen the Canadian arm of the international architectural firm AECOM to manage the planning, design and compliance of the construction of the new courthouse for downtown Toronto.

Years in the making, the proposed high-rise will bring eight facilities together under one roof on the site of what is currently a parking lot on Centre Avenue, just off University Avenue, saving money and increasing efficiency if all goes according to plan.

“Once completed, the new Toronto courthouse will be a state-of-the-art facility that will enable the province to continue delivering high-quality justice services for generations to come, while creating hundreds of jobs and stimulating our economy during the construction process,” said Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure during the announcement. “We are one step closer to turning this vision into reality.”

The new courthouse's design will feature “video conferencing to allow witnesses to appear from remote locations and in-custody individuals to appear from jail; closed-circuit television to enable children and other vulnerable individuals to appear before the court from a private room; courtroom video/audio systems to allow counsel to display video evidence recorded in various formats and for the simultaneous viewing of evidence; a single point of entry with magnetometers, baggage scanners, continuous video surveillance, and separate corridors for judiciary, members of the public and the accused for security reasons; barrier-free access to all courtroom,” states the news release.

AECOM will be expected to produce a building design that meets LEED Silver standards, with a focus on energy efficiency, healthy indoor environments and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Once the planning, design and compliance aspects are completed, the Ministry of the Attorney General and Infrastructure Ontario will issue a request for qualifications, probably in the spring of 2016, for a team to design, build, finance and maintain the project using provincial alternative financing and procurement methods.

Based in Los Angeles, AECOM has designed, built, financed and operated infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries. Its companies had revenue of $18 billion in the last fiscal year.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Infrastructure Ontario

RDH architects nap two national Architect Awards of Excellence for GTA projects

At last week’s Canadian Architect Awards, Toronto’s Rounthwaite, Dick and Hadley Architects took two of the five top prizes.

RDH won Awards of Excellent for its work on both Brampton Springdale Library and Neighbourhood Park and the new Eglinton GO Train station.

“They’re both completely different projects but the office has a consistent language and conceptual approach that’s reflected in both of them,” says Tyler Sharp, a principal at RDH.

Both projects do also share triangular influences. Although the Springdale Library is designed to organically blend with the park around with an amorphous edge where some of the rolling created topography of the exterior landscape is echoed inside the courtyards of the building, its overall shape is a triangle. The actual site is quite suburban and flat, so the hills and landscaping are meant to add interest and a greater level of engagement. A neighbourhood park with a splashpad for kids is separated from a terraced garden, intended for more contemplative uses.

The site for the GO Train station is also triangular, so Sharp and the team balanced that constraint against the perspective of the lines of sight of the train tracks. Compared to the infrastructure projects of the past, RDH was able to bring real imagination to the design. The tech specs on the station match other GO stations, but there was room to be creative.

“I think one of the reasons the Eglinton station was chosen was GO and Metrolinx’s attempting a paradigm shift in putting quality of design at the forefront of their projects,” says Sharp.

The Architect Awards recognize unbuilt work. Construction on the library and park project is expected to start soon with completion as early as the end of 2016. The Eglinton GO station has yet to be tendered is expected to be completed in 2017.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Tyler Sharp


Public art project at new Finch West subway station featured at IIDEXCanada conference

The public art component of the six new stations of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension aims to go beyond decorative subway tiles, integrating an artistic experience into the architecture itself.
At a seminar at IIDEXCanada National Design + Architecture Exposition & Conference this week, two of the project leads on the Finch West subway station design will discuss how bringing the artist on board early in the planning process radically changed the look and feel of the station.
“The extension stations will be destination-worthy,” Brad Golden, principal of Brad Golden + Co., told Yonge Street Media in advance of the presentation. Golden worked on the public art component of all six of the new stations on the $2.6-billion extension, expected to open at the end of 2017. “We really pushed the limits. It’s immersive and spatial, with technology involved. The TTC was phenomenal in allowing latitude of the art expression.” The transit commission invested about $3 million into the extension’s public art program.
Communications technology helped bridge the geographic distance between UK artist Bruce McLean—best known for his cheeky works across a variety of media, including sculpture, painting and film—and the project’s architects and engineers. “The artist was given direct input into the model, which was very efficient and helpful. So we knew right away how it would look. He designed the columns in the public space and the bus canopy,” said Ana-Francisca de la Mora C., project architect at IBI Group Architects.
Golden compared the process to jazz, where collaborators take cues from each other as they bounce ideas back and forth.
“In real, successful collaborations those boundaries between the disciplines really break down in a wonderful way, especially if you have the different design disciplines at the table early enough,” he said. “You can look at that station as a piece of art, as a piece of architecture and urban design. A true collaboration is a crossover.”
IIDEXCanada, which this year takes place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, attracts about 30,000 attendees with 1,600 exhibitors, 500 speakers and 350 seminars and tours.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Ana-Francisca de la Mora C., Brad Golden

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

$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

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

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
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