There was dance: There was music

Andrea Nann of Dreamwalker Dance

It was standing room only at the Burdock for both shows of the Build a Better Bloor Dufferin fundraiser on March 27.

A noisy community gathering filled the concert room at the Burdock on Bloor St. for both the first and second shows. Friends greeted neighbours not seen since before the winter’s hibernation 

At both shows the crowd enthusiastically greeted some very local—and accomplished—members of our community. Many shared memories of why they live in our west end and why are fighting to preserve our way of life.

Singer/songwriter Lori Cullen told the audience about the first time she saw Dufferin Grove Park. She was cycling from her then-apartment to a shop in Dufferin Mall. When she entered our park, she knew she was home. “It was paradise. There were dirty kids running all over the place,” she said to appreciative laughs.

Ansley Simpson a Toronto-based Anishinaabe singer-songwriter and Best New artist at the 2018 Indigenous Music Awards said she tries to keep in touch with her heritage by harvesting healing herbs in the park but added: “And I’m not going to tell you where they are.”

Andrea Nann movingly quoted Dionne Brand, a Toronto poet, whose words are memorialized on a bench at the corner of Bloor and Dufferin: 

“Walking here, I turned my face to you and said, 

how on earth will we live, who will dance with us,

will there be music?”

— Joe McAllister


Who Will Dance with Us?

There will be music. BBBD fundraiser, March 27, Burdock

Purchase tickets or make a donation!

Come out and join a few neighbours for an intimate night of dance and song at the Burdock Tavern, all in support of Build a Better Bloor Dufferin. There will be song and dance—Lori Cullen, Kurt Swinghammer, Ansley Simpson (Best New Artist – Indigenous Music Awards 2018), Andy Maize & Aaron Comeau (Skydiggers), dance artist Andrea Nann (Dreamwalker Dance Company), and Georgia Harmer (recently home from an international tour with Alessia Cara!)—and a chance to sample the food and great brews of the Burdock. Book your tickets and get ready to celebrate spring.

“What happens here can set a precedent for future urban development,” Andrea Nann wrote in an email encouraging her friends to attend. “find time to come out on March 27th to hear some outstanding music and to see and do a bit of dancing. We would love to see you.”

Snow and ice aren’t the only coverage these days

We’ve been in the news! Now that more towers are planned for Bloor and Dufferin (with Primaris—the Dufferin mall owners proposing changes to the northern end of the mall parking lot), various media have taken an interest.
In mid January there was a story in the Toronto Star and another in Toronto.com

Because the city also aims to “improve” the rink house at Dufferin Grove, there’s been some attention to that too. For example, the West End Phoenix ran this story. It’s hard not to see the Dufferin Grove plan as related to these other two, especially because green space will be a big issue with the proposed developments’ increased density in the neighbourhood. In both cases, we want community members to be meaningfully consulted on the plans.

Read Jutta Mason’s blog on the subject here at the “unofficial” Dufferin Grove Park website. She knows.

Let’s Talk Numbers

If you look on real estate listings in the neighbourhood, you can get pie charts and data pulled from Statistics Canada (just look under “statistics” on any real estate listing and you can find out more). For example, a house for sale on Margueretta near Bloor listed these facts:Just over 54% of households are headed by people between the ages of 20 and 49 (28.9% 20–34 years old; 25.4% 35–49 years old)66% of households have children.Just about 33% rent their homes.When the stats come to money, we see some interesting numbers. Bloor/Dufferin sits at the intersection of the Dufferin Grove (DG) and Dovercourt–Wallace Emerson–Junction (or DWEJ) neighbourhoods. The 2016 census (City of Toronto Neighbourhood Profiles), found that both neighbourhoods have high rates of households requiring affordable housing, and households requiring units of 2 or more bedrooms:Residents in low income: 17% (DWEJ); 18% (DG)Households not able to afford average market rent (income of less than $60k, based on a calculation of $58k requirement): 46.7% (DWEJ); 50.4% (DG)Households earning less than $100k (amount required to buy average Toronto condo https://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/want-to-buy-a-toronto-condo-you-now-need-an-annual-income-of-at-least-100000): 74.6% (DG); 71.2% (DWEJ)Households living in apartments: 75% (DG); 60% (DWEJ). In the case of DWEJ, some of this includes condos. Dufferin Grove neighbourhood has very few condos to date, meaning the 75% living in apartments are almost all rentals, not including houses that are rented.Families with three or more people: 41% (DG); 47% (DWEJ). 
These numbers raise good questions about what makes for affordable housing. Affordable for whom? Rent in the current market is not affordable for many of us who live here.@

Our list of supporters continues to grow

Community support for Build a Better Bloor Dufferin is stronger than ever. To date, BBBD has received letters of endorsement from Dovercourt Public School School Advisory Council, the Bloordale Community Improvement Association, St Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society, Parkdale Activity–Recreation Centre (PARC), Sistering, Working Women Community Centre, Bloor Collegiate Institute Parent Council, South Asian Women’s Centre, Habitat Services, Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre, Houselink Community Homes, St. Stephens Community House, Social Planning Toronto, and Foodshare Toronto. If you are a member of a community group or organization that shares our values and wants to endorse us, contact us at chair@buildbloor.ca.

What’s going on with the City?

We’ve had a number of meetings, conversations, and emails with our City councillor and City staff in the past few weeks. These have shed some light on the state of the planning process for the Bloor Dufferin TDSB site. All indications are that City Planning has moved ahead significantly in their conversations with the developers since last summer. Although we’ve only had one community consultation (in early 2018), it seems that City Planning is getting close to submitting a settlement report for the site to Community Council.

Unfortunately, as community members we’ve had little access to this process. From July to December we were unable to participate in discussions because of the municipal election period. As far as we can tell, City Planners and the developers are moving toward an agreement that will be much the same as the last proposal—with a small park and the community hub located in the basement and ground floor of the old Kent school. Affordable housing has still not been secured. We don’t know more than that.

Capital Developments has been reluctant to meet with us and City staff have to consult their lawyers each time they speak with us! Our City Councillor Ana Bailão has agreed to include us in a number of upcoming meetings with City Planning and the developer about the site. We will report back to you as soon as we learn more. We are committed to ensuring that this site is well planned, in a way that includes real community input and benefits all of our neighbours, including future neighbours who move into the new proposed developments.


Warm wishes on a sunny ice-melting spring day,

The Build a Better Bloor Dufferin Team

If the cold kept you away

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Open house participants locating their home in relation to Dufferin Mall on an aerial photograph of our community. Most participants were located within walking distance of mall.

 

Over one hundred of our neighbours braved the lowest temperatures of the winter to attend an open house on the redevelopment of Dufferin Mall.

Primaris Management held the meeting in Bloor Collegiate on Monday, 21 January, to give our community the first look at preliminary plans to redevelop two parking lots on the north side of the mall property, adjacent to Croatia and Dufferin Streets. Primaris, which owns Dufferin Mall, proposes four apartment towers rising between 11 and 39 stories plus retail space on the 4.5-acre site.

The meeting was informal. A series of posters detailing the history of the mall site and the apartment tower proposal lined the school’s cafeteria. Primaris VP of development Matthew Kingston circulated, talking to community members and explaining the plans. The public was encouraged to post short comments.

By the end of the evening we noticed a lot of post-it comments about the neighbourhood’s need for affordable housing and the need for more green space, especially in light of the thousands of new residents who will live in the many new developments proposed for the area. Many community members also articulated concerns about how the Dufferin bus and subway station are already at capacity, as well as worries about access to local public schools, many of which are also at capacity. What impact will so many new residents have on the TTC? Where will new residents go to school?

There will be a second open house in the spring for further input. Primaris plans to file a formal development proposal with the City in the spring or summer.

Eric Turcotte, a partner in Urban Strategies and a member of the development team, said retail space built as part of the project will add between 40,000 and 60,000 sq. ft. (For comparison, Dufferin Mall has 550,000 sq. ft. of retail and office space.)

Turcotte said Urban Strategies and the development team have been meeting since late fall on the development process. Urban Strategies and Quadrangle Architects are highly regarded Toronto companies.

City Councillor Ana Bailão was also in attendance and made some brief comments. The councillor emphasized the enormous development pressures in our ward and commended local residents for our efforts to ensure that these developments build a healthy and inclusive community. She discussed the need for investments in city infrastructure, like the TTC, and the community’s needs for affordable housing and community services. Her remarks were met with applause.

Throughout the evening, members of Build a Better Bloor Dufferin spoke with community members and greeted people at a table in the foyer of the school. Almost all attendees stopped to talk and express their concerns about the scale of development at Bloor/Dufferin and the need for good planning. Many were dismayed to learn that the proposal for the site will include rental housing only in the absence of rent control. Our community needs more than luxury rentals and condos.

We also met a number of new neighbours last night who are keen to volunteer and get involved. We always welcome new members! Please do continue to get in touch with your thoughts, concerns, and offers to advocate for healthy development in our community. And thanks to everyone who braved the cold last night to do just that.

 

Sincerely,

 

The Build a Better Bloor Dufferin Team

 

Details on Dufferin Mall Proposal

BBBD holds meeting with Primaris over parking lots to apartments

Have you heard that another large redevelopment is in the works for our neighbourhood? It’s hard to keep up these days, but we want to be sure you have the details because our neighbourhood is undergoing significant change.

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Members of Build a Better Bloor Dufferin met last week (11 January) with Primaris VP of development Matthew Kingston. Primaris owns Dufferin Mall and proposes to build up to four towers on the Dufferin Mall site—of the same height as the proposed buildings to the north at Dufferin and Bloor, which range from 11 to 39 storeys. While the company’s promotional material says that the site will be rental housing, Kingston has said in meetings with BBBD and other community groups that Primaris could change course at any time to build condominiums instead. Other details such as park land and community space have yet to be determined.
Plans for the Dufferin Mall development are still in an early phase, and a formal application to the City is not expected until May or June. The community will have its first opportunity to provide input at an open house on January 21, at the soon-to-be-demolished Bloor Collegiate.

Date: Monday January 21, 2018 (6:30–8:30pm)
Location: Bloor Collegiate Institute (Cafeteria), 1141 Bloor Street West

In her 4 December newsletter, City Councillor Ana Bailão said public participation in decisions about the proposed Dufferin Mall development is “crucial.” She said, “I am bringing this to your attention as soon as I became aware to ensure you have an opportunity to get involved.”
Many residents are concerned that the neighbourhood’s physical and social infrastructure isn’t ready to sustain the thousands of new homes now proposed for the neighbourhood. In addition to the two proposals at Bloor and Dufferin, other large new developments are planned just blocks away, at the Galleria Mall and at Bloor and Dovercourt. As local resident Jason Brown put it, “These developments are just the beginning of the changes Bloordale will see in the coming decade. Instead of treating each proposal as a separate entity, the City needs to step back and look at the whole neighbourhood. Can local schools, transit, and services accommodate this many new residents? Will we see small businesses and lower-income families pushed out of the neighbourhood by rising prices? Now is the time to stop and make a plan, so that our community develops sustainably.”
BBBD will be at the public consultation next Monday. Join us to learn more about what the current proposal looks like and be sure to introduce yourselves to us so we can stay in touch. Let’s work together to make sure all of these proposed developments are healthy ones for our neighbourhood.

Signed,

The Build a Better Bloor team

P.S. Ward 9 is having its first ward forum with the new TDSB trustee, Stephanie Donaldson, on Thursday, January 31 at 6 PM at Bloor Collegiate Institute. This will be an opportunity to learn more about plans for the rebuild of BCI.

A Surprising Dufferin Mall Proposal

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Parking lots into apartment towers

 

Have you heard that Primaris Management Inc. is proposing to turn the northern Dufferin Mall parking lots into apartment towers? This proposal for increased development near Bloor and Dufferin has increased the scope of our work as a Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 1.56.53 PMcommunity group. We see the proposal as another opportunity for responsible development that can benefit all members of our community, and the city at large. We are keen to hear the details and to participate in the upcoming community consultations.  You can be sure that we will advocate for measures to ensure community benefits on this site as well as the one to the north. 

Mark your calendars and join us!  There will be an information meeting on January 21st in the Bloor Collegiate Institute cafeteria. We’ll be there.

 

BBBD meets with developer of school lands

BBBD had a successful meeting on 26 November with Matt Young from Capital Developments. Councillor Ana Bailão also attended, as well as Kirk Hatcher and Svetlana Lavrentieva from City Planning (invited by the councillor’s office). 

We emerged from the meeting with a commitment from the developers to participate in a series of issue-specific meetings that BBBD will convene. We hope that these meetings will help us identify options to ensure that the proposal aligns with community expectations and needs.

We also discussed the importance of transparency in City-developer negotiations, and the necessity of including the community in these discussions. Matt agreed to propose to his team that BBBD be included in future discussions with the City. 

As we continue our discussions with the developers, BBBD will continue to engage the community online and through in-person meetings and outreach, to ensure that everyone is kept up-to-date and that we are accurately reflecting the most pressing community concerns. 

 

A fantastic costume and fantastic cause

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Jordi Conway would certainly scare us into donating

BBBD’s most recent community hero is local resident Jordi Conway who fundraised for us on Halloween night. Eleven-year-old Jordi collects money for social and environmental causes each year while trick or treating. He decided to support BBBD after watching this short documentary about our concerns, and not only raised $112 but raised awarenesss by talking to neighbours as he went house to house. Thank you Jordi!

BBBD has had a busy fall:

BBBD gains “standing” before LPAT

Our Ward 9 all-candidates debate

 

 

 

Bloorcourt BIA’s 40th: Celebrating Our Local Heritage month by month

The city’s seventh oldest Business Improvement Area and our local history

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Emily Bosschaart, manager of The Maker Bean Cafe with the 2019 Heritage Calendar. It’s on sale at the cafe and two-other locations in Bloorcourt—or by email. See below

As part of its fortieth anniversary, Bloorcourt BIA has published a limited-edition calendar containing archival and rare photographs of street scenes from our neighbourhood. Each photograph is accompanied by historical commentary and a month-by-month diversity calendar.

The Bloorcourt BIA (Business Improvement Area), made up of Bloor Street West between Dufferin Street and Montrose Avenue, is the seventh oldest of eighty-three BIAs in the City of Toronto. 

Beginning with the Rosina Shopkeepers’ Project—a unique initiative that celebrated the mainly immigrant shopkeepers and builders of Bloorcourt and was awarded with the 2015 Toronto Community Heritage Award—Bloorcourt has been supporting research into its heritage.

Last year, the BIA sponsored Hurly Burly—An Ontario 150 Community Celebration that celebrated three early movie theatres with current-day Bloorcourt comics, actors, and directors. 

The limited-edition Bloorcourt Heritage Calendar can be purchased for $20 from the following shopkeepers and locations in Bloorcourt: 

Alicia, Carlos, and Alex @ Bloorcourt Village Market, 868 Bloor Street West (near Carling);

Chris @ The Maker Bean Cafe, 1052 Bloor Street West (at Havelock), and

Batiste @ Mediterrania Food and Market, 3 Bartlett Avenue (just north of 1062 Bloor).

You can also order a calendar by sending an email to bloorcourt2019@gmail.com.

All proceeds from sales will be donated to THE Working Women’s Community Centre’s Community (WWCC) Community Engagement Program.

Congratulations to WWCC, which is celebrating their twenty-seventh year in Bloorcourt!

Bloor and Dufferin has long faced development pressures

Our community has always wanted a better Bloor Dufferin

 

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A streetcar turning north off Bloor St. onto Dovercourt Rd. in 1965. This picture was taken one year before the opening of the Bloor subway line.

 

Until 1838-39, what is now Bloor and Dufferin was “nearly impenetrable forest” that the Denison sons cleared to build estates for themselves. Dovercourt was one of these estates, owned by Richard Lippincott Denison. It occupied land between what is now Bloor and Queen, and between Dovercourt and Ossington. The other brother, George Taylor Denison II, built the second estate, which stretched further west between Dovercourt and Dufferin, with the same north/south boundaries.  That estate was called Rusholme.

“By mid-century the Denisons had created their own distinct community on the western edge of Toronto. Replete with impressive country houses, ancestral nomenclature, tenants, and a family chapel, an eighteenth-century dynastic vision had been realized in the nineteenth-century Canadian bush.”

Bloor-Dufferin in Pictures, by Cynthia Patterson, Carol McDougall, and George Levin (Toronto Public Library Board Local History Handbook no. 5)

The City of Toronto was incorporated in 1834. Dufferin and Bloor was the northwestern edge of the city but there weren’t many streets beyond Queen and Spadina. Twenty years later, the Denisons’ land, which they’d “acquired at little or no cost,” had exploded in value to between 100 and 300 pounds sterling for every acre of their 100-acre estates.

By the 1870s the neighbourhood existed on paper only. “Developers and speculators knew exactly where the streets would cut through fields and had already determined the size, shape, and numbers of the still grassy lots.” Subdividing, developing, and selling their properties in the 1880s and 1890s, the Denison family and other landowners made significant profits.

A number of schools and churches—for example, Dovercourt Public School on Bartlett and Hallam, and the Ossington Avenue Baptist church at Bloor and Ossington—were built in this era. By 1900, the city of Toronto’s population had grown by close to 700 percent what it had been fifty years prior. Our neighbourhood looked different from what we know. For example:

  • Residential streets were dirt roads
  • Round cedar blocks made up Dufferin street’s surface 
  • Bloor was unpaved between Dufferin and Bathurst until 1913 and had boardwalks for sidewalks.

Kent School opened its doors in 1908. It was the largest public school in Canada. Part of its playground was taken over for Bloor Collegiate, which was built in 1925. 

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Elephants parade down Brock Ave. in 1920. They were an attraction to a circus held on the grounds of the Dufferin Park Race Track. The racetrack existed for decades but was eventually sold to developers and now consists of the land occupied by Dufferin Mall.

The People

In the nineteenth century most people in Toronto traced their origins to the UK. But after the second World War and changes to immigration policy, just under a third of Bloor and Dufferin’s residents had non-British roots. By the 1960s, 77 percent of people here had roots in non-British countries.  Italians made up 40% of the area. Shops selling Indian and Pakistani groceries and saris appeared on Bloor street among Portuguese and Italian stores and West Indian roti restaurants. By the 1970s people from South America made their homes here, as did more folks from South Asia. Chinese and Vietnamese families arrived in the 1980s.

Development Pressures

When the Bloor Danforth subway opened in 1966, the grand old houses near Dufferin Grove were too large to keep up as single-family homes. Many became co-ops, communes, or rooming houses and some residents felt they didn’t belong in their own neighbourhood anymore. The community was open to developers’ offers.

Bath-Shep Apartments Ltd had options to buy most of the block south of Bloor between Dufferin and Gladstone. They planned to buy all the houses, tear them down, and build a large townhouse and apartment complex. But things didn’t go as planned. Sixty families along Gladstone believed that highrises would replace their homes and had made deposits on apartments or new houses. But facing zoning and money problems, the developer disappeared. Residents turned to the city for help. They were never compensated for lost money.

In 1970 Lionstar Investments had even bigger plans for the area along Bloor between Gladstone and Dovercourt down to Dufferin Grove. The community was divided about the company’s proposal. Many wanted to preserve the old houses. Young families felt that the company’s planned bachelor and one-bedroom apartments had failed to consider family housing. By 1972 the city denied Lionstar’s high-density rezoning requests. Opponents of redevelopment had organized to make their voices heard and it made a difference. The company decided to concentrate on the suburbs where there wouldn’t be so many “so-called community workers” to hold their toes to the fire.

If you have memories, or know the history, of development pressure on our neighbourhood, we’d like to hear more. Do you know anything about the “Ward Four Homeowners Association,” the “Havelock Street Tenants Union” or the “South of Dufferin Grove Park Residents Coalition?”

These were groups active in the 1970s and opposed to massive development in our bucolic neighbourhood. Dust off your bell-bottom jeans and tie-die T-shirts and remind us of our history. We’ve always been shit disturbers.