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.

BBBD gains “standing” before LPAT

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Despite being closed as a TDSB school, Kent Public is still used today for visual arts and language classes.

We will have full access to the tribunal’s deliberations

On 5 November Build a Better Bloor Dufferin was given “standing” before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). As a party we will represent our interests at upcoming hearings.

The next pre-hearing on development of the school lands on the south-west corner of Bloor and Dufferin is scheduled for April 18 of next year.

“We got what we came for,” said Maggie Hutcheson, co-chair of the BBBD. She was one of a dozen neighbourhood residents and interested citizens at the session at the LPAT offices on Bay Street.

Bloor Dufferin Ltd. Partnership (the developer) has appealed to the LPAT about delays in having its development proposal approved by the City of Toronto.

BBBD wanted to have legal “standing” in these matters because party standing gives BBBD the right to speak before the adjudicators, call expert witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses testifying in the hearings. BBBD also seeks to understand the City Planning Department’s issues with the development and other factors surrounding the development.

The April pre-hearing will likely decide the issues to be explored at a full LPAT hearing—which might not happen for a year or more.

Tom Halinski, the lawyer representing the developers, said the proposal was for a “complete community” with residential and commercial space, a park, public plaza and community hub. The initial application was submitted to the city in 2017, then appealed in late March 2018 to the LPAT. A revised proposal, with smaller towers and more park and public space, was submitted in April. It is still under review by the City Planning Department.

By appealing to the LPAT even before submitting their revised proposal, the developers will be grandfathered into hearings under the old Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) rules. The LPAT is the successor to the OMB, but planning issue appeals registered before spring 2018 are grandfathered into the old OMB rules.

Critics claim that the OMB favours developers over local resident groups because of the expertise, money, and lengthy hearings that OMB hearings entailed. The new LPAT system is supposed to give the local communities more input into the process.

City of Toronto lawyer Daniel Elmadany said the development will probably not be debated at City Council before the new year. His department still awaits instructions from Council before it prepares a list of issues and procedural orders to share with parties to the development 30 days before the April pre-hearing.

Andrea Adams, who represented BBBD, said our group needs adequate time to review the issues coming before the LPAT. The BBBD already shared a list of our issues about the development with the developer and city planning.

LPAT Adjudicator Lori Bruce said it might be two years before the developer’s appeal reaches a full hearing.

One surprising development was the presence of lawyer Mike Federick representing Dufferin Mall Holdings. The mall was also granted standing as a party.

Three local residents were granted “participant” status for the coming hearings. This means they can make presentations before LPAT but can’t call or cross-examine witnesses.

BBBD to Local Planning Appeal Tribunal

To seek standing at LPAT pre-hearing on Monday Nov. 5

 

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This sign at Kent Public School says “site of a new high school, community hub and licensed chid care centre” Promises made to us—our community—when sale of the site was first proposed.

 

We’ve been busy! In mid October the Build a Better Bloor Dufferin coalition hosted an all-candidates meeting to a packed house. It was invigorating to hear civil debate prior to the city election.

Since then we’ve been working hard to prepare for the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT)where we will seek standing as a “party.” As a resident-led community group we’ve been impressed and inspired by the range of skills and level of support from our neighbour volunteers. We are grateful for recent advice from community experts and planning lawyers about their experiences with the OMB/LPAT. And we’re grateful for the dozens of volunteers who’ve helped out with community outreach, youth involvement, research, and so much more. Our community is diverse but one thing we have in common is how much we care about this neighbourhood and its future!

A “party” at the LPAT

The LPAT is the successor of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Capital Developments has sought a hearing before the LPAT/OMB because they feel that the City of Toronto has delayed planning approval.

Capital Developments has submitted a proposal to the City of Toronto to tear down three existing schools on the site and build condo towers with more than 2,000 units. The Bloor Dufferin community has demanded that any development there—formerly public lands —should include provision for parks, housing, community spaces, and a new, modern high-school to replace our beloved Bloor Collegiate Institute.

By becoming a full so-called party in the hearings, BBBD will be able to present expert testimony, question development plans, and represent the community’s concerns about the development of the seven-acre site at Bloor and Dufferin.

About Monday’s Meeting

Any resident or business owner can come to the LPAT pre-hearing on November 5 to present your own concerns or to observe the pre-hearing. Tell us your concerns about the proposed development?

Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (Toronto)

16th Floor, 655 Bay Street,

Toronto

10:00 am, 5 November

A whole day has been set aside for a pre-hearing to determine when a full LPAT hearing on the development will be heard. (A full hearing may still be months away and could involve days.) Andrea Adams, a long-time resident, will speak as the representative for BBBD at the pre-hearing. We’ll be seeking more information about the development and the City of Toronto’s planning department position on how the development meets the Official Plan for the area.

What difference can you make?

Whether or not you attend the pre-hearing you can still make a BIG difference by giving your opinion about the proposed development on the City of Toronto planning department website. Click in the box that says submit your comments. We’ve been told that the City planning office reads every comment and will use these comments in the LPAT negotiations. In other words, every voice really does count. Talk to your neighbours and encourage them to speak up! What matters to you in a development at Bloor and Dufferin?

And of course share your views with our newly elected municipal representatives:

Ana Bialio

Councillor City of Toronto

email—councillor_bailao@toronto.ca

Twitter—@anabailaoTO

Stephanie Donaldson

Toronto District School Board trustee:

Twitter: @Steph4schools

Facebook @StephanieDonaldsonTO

Frank D’Amico

Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee:

email—frank.damico@tcdsb.org

Twitter—@TrusteeDAmico

 

For more information.

We’ll keep you posted about next steps.

The Build a Better Bloor Dufferin team.

 

 

 

 

 

bureaucrats & politicians DO listen

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The Paradise theatre got a new marquee in Oct. A sign of what our neighbourhood used to be

The Nov. 5 LAPD hearing and a strategy meeting

Our community can directly influence the future of our neighbourhood. Capital Developments has appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board about supposed delays in approving their massive condo-project at Bloor/Dufferin.

A pre-hearing is being held Nov. 5 and we need to be there to make our views known:

Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (Toronto)

16th Floor,

655 Bay Street, 

Toronto ON

M5G 1E5

10 a.m.

Come out and see how our democracy works. We’ve heard from local planners that the bureaucracy actually pays attention to what the public says. And they have noted the extreme interest we have in proper re-development of our school lands on the south-west corner of Bloor and Dufferin.

If you can’t be there, contact Graham Frank. He’s the case co-ordinator for the pre-hearing. Tell him you are interested and would like to be updated on the hearing process:

Local Planning Appeal Tribunal

Graham Frank, Case Coordinator, Planner,

(416) 326-3047 

Graham.Frank@ontario.ca 

 

Help us plan our strategy:

Build a Better Bloor Dufferin

Oct. 29

Working Women Community Centre

Bloor and Gladstone

6 p.m. 

(enter from the 533A Gladstone Ave. entrance)

If your have knowledge of the planning process or if you if you can attend the pre-hearing, come out and plan the best way to make our voices heard.

Help by contacting our newly-elected municipal representatives:

City Councillor: Ana Bialio

email—councillor_bailao@toronto.ca

Twitter—@anabailaoTO

Toronto District School Board trustee: Stephanie Donaldson

Twitter: @Steph4schools

Facebook @StephanieDonaldsonTO

Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee: Frank D’Amico

email—frank.damico@tcdsb.org

Twitter—@TrusteeDAmico

Or spend a few minutes giving your opinion on the City of Toronto planning department website.

Just hit the Toronto Public Consultation link on Toronto’s Development Application website to write your comments.

All Candidates Meeting

OCT 22 is election day.

Here’s a link to a City of Toronto website. Type in your address and the site will help you find out who is running in our Ward 9

You can also confirm where  you vote.

And most of all make the effort to VOTE.

Candidates understand development pressures

A packed crowd of 175 attended the BBBD all-candidates meeting at New Horizon’s towers on Oct. 18.

Three candidates for councillor in our Ward 9 discussed the rapid scale of development in the ward and their commitment to preservation of our community.

Read the details of the debate on our Twitter feed @buildbloor or here.

 

Below are two You Tube videos of the event:

Tomorrow’s leaders have a message

West NH volunteers promote Thursday’s All Candidates Meeting.

 

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We put the call out to West Neighbourhood House newcomer youth program for volunteers to help promote our All Candidates Meeting this Thursday, (Oct.18) and did they ever deliver! 

About 40 young leaders showed up to lend a hand. West NH staff were there to help. With everyone’s hard work, we were able to blanket the neighbourhood with leaflets and posters. Spot them on Bloor and in a mailbox near you. A few of the youth even signed up to provide whisper translation in Mandarin on Thursday. 

Thanks to Yasmin and colleagues for co-ordinating the youth and to Working Women Community Centre for providing a welcoming space where we could gather to get organized and warm up. 

 

Advance polls are now closed.

Here’s how you find out where to vote on election day:

October 22 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m