City council must decide this week whether it will demand more of a developer that wants to tear down a light industrial building on Dufferin Street to erect three mostly residential towers.
The development application for 430-444 Dufferin Street has been in play since 2011 and would see a high-rise complex built on Dufferin between the railway tracks and Alma Street. The current proposal from Markham’s SiteLine Group
, for two eight-storey towers and one 12-storey tower providing a total of 369 residential units, is slated to go to the Ontario Municipal Board on June 15.
At issue is whether SiteLine’s promise to include about 60,000 square feet of light industrial space over multiple floors of the north tower adequately makes up for the loss of an equivalent amount of light industrial space in the existing single-storey building. More than 150 people currently work there at enterprises such as the Akin Collective
, the Brockton Collective
, Canadian Salvage Timer
and Design Republic
. The property is zoned as employment lands and the city has opposed the application so far because it worries that losing real estate zoned for light industry will hurt the city’s long-term prosperity.
As a compromise, SiteLine put forward a proposal this month that would dedicate about half of the north tower to light industrial uses, providing a separate elevator, loading dock and HVAC system to separate the workshop spaces from the residential spaces. But at a community meeting last week, tenants of the existing building expressed concerns that they’d be able to afford the space in the new building and whether they’d be able to wait out the construction period, which could be years.
The city has persuaded SiteLine to dedicate a percentage of the industrial space to a business incubator. It’s a new concept for Toronto—and perhaps even for Canada—that would provide below-market space and other supports to nurture small-scale manufacturers, artisans and artists in the building.
“We want residents to be able to create in their own neighbourhood,” said Nirvana Champion, economic development officer at the City of Toronto, who presented the incubator concept to the community.
But attendees at the meeting were skeptical about the level of commitment—and the length of commitment—the developer was prepared to make to the incubator.
“This needs to be in perpetuity or for a long time,” said Ward 18 Councillor Ana Bailão, who called the community meeting. “If we make this building successful, there might be a better chance of another building [in the same employment lands area] doing the same thing.”
Council will vote this week on whether to accept SiteLine’s current proposal, which includes the incubator. If it votes yes, the project is expected to move ahead as proposed. If council votes against the proposal that’s on the table, the OMB will grapple with the case. “Honestly, it could go either way,” says Bailão, “but I think the community really needs to benefit from this.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Ana Bailão, Nirvana Champion and Sarah Phipps