Is it best time runs out?

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

There is a possible Dec. 31/19 deadline for developers to get planning approval for luxury condo project.

OPINION:

The best might simply be that time runs out.

There may be a Dec. 31, 2019 deadline on the deal to sell the 7.3 acre site that includes Bloor Collegiate and Kent Public School for the development of luxury condo towers. Many hope we celebrate the New Year with that woeful deal expiring.

According to newly released documents about the sale, the Request for Offers by the Toronto Lands Corporation stipulated that if the $121 million deal to sell the lands to Bloor Dufferin Development Limited Partnership—a consortium of Capital, Metropia, and Timbercreek—isn’t approved by year end, either side can walk away without repercussions.

With the development mired in community controversy and little progress towards resolution, many in the community feel that it would be best the deal die.

When the sale was sprung on the public two years ago, Capital’s proposal to build a retail mall and four towers stretching to 47 stories was quickly met with derision. Documents released as part of a Freedom of Information request for the sale contract, reveal that developers were warned. The school board’s agent, the Toronto Lands Corporation, said clearly that developers were expected to pay significant attention to public input in the approval process. 

In meetings stretching back a decade, community groups, local BIAs, housing advocates, arts organizations and resident taxpayers insisted our school lands should not be sold without adequate provision for affordable housing, daycare, education, parks and community space.

That warning was not heeded by the developers. For example, they want to put a required day-care in the basement of Kent Public School. Provisions for a Hub/community centre are similarly dismal. The proposed park is a minuscule 0.6 acres and only 56 units of the proposed of the 2,124 luxury units are affordable housing, a pathetic 2.6%.

More recently, last month’s mediation sessions called for by the BBBD ended without an agreement. This, despite longstanding community demands that 20% of the proposed development be dedicated to affordable housing and Kent School fully utilized as community/daycare space.

It’s not as if the money isn’t there to build the services needed by the thousands of new residents who will live in the proposed high-rises. The average price of a condo in Toronto is now $600,000; multiply that by the 2,124 condo units proposed for our school lands and the total comes to a whopping $1.2 BILLION. Add another $500 million plus for the two-storey retail mall that will anchor the proposed towers and we’re looking at $1.7 BILLION dollars. Those knowledgeable about condo building costs have suggested profit from the development could be a stunning $750 million.

For comparison, the $121 million sale price, in $100 bills, would fill a Joe’s No Frill’s shopping cart; $1.7 BILLION in $100 bills would overflow a Sufferin’ Dufferin 29 articulated bus. The $750 million profit would fill … well none of the developers would ever have to ride the bus or shop at No Frills.

And the developers want to put our children’s daycare space in the basement. And there is little money or space for a hub or community centre. And affordable housing has been shafted with just 2.6% of units dedicated for that important community need. And the green space offered is minimal. And even those minimal conditions might not actually be contained in the sale contract.

It’s not as if all of those who bid on the property, this developer included, didn’t know how important those amenities were for our community. The newly released Request for Offers from 2016 clearly states that developers:

“will work co-operatively with all stakeholders towards a future vision for the Site including appropriate community and school benefits that can be integrated within a community hub (such as a child care centre), an integration of affordable housing, urban design, provision of open space, height and density as well as other planning matters.”

Of course, the community never knew of these requirements or that the sale depended on Capital working with the community. The Request for Offers was kept secret, until revealed under a community member’s Freedom of Information request. Developers who bid on the site had to sign a confidentiality agreement before even seeing the Request for Offers. The public was certainly not informed.

Similarly the Toronto Lands Corporation and the TDSB have refused any request to release the actual sale documents and what provisions they contain, citing developers’ need to keep their business private. We don’t even know if the actual sale documents and planning approval will actually contain those minimal community benefits.

Can you imagine selling your own house and having your real estate agent assert you have no right to know what the sale agreement actually says? All to protect the private business of the buyer?

The TLC now has an important decision to make. Should they agree to an extension? On the one hand, their mandate is to get maximum value from the sale of TDSB lands, and this land is now worth much more than it was in 2016—some estimates put the difference as high as $100 million. On the other hand, the TLC’s calculations could take into consideration the public benefits planned for the site.

The trouble is, the value of the affordable housing, community space, and parkland in the current proposal falls far short of $100 million. The developer will have to do much better if they want to show that an extension is in the public interest.

You might think the City of Toronto Planning Department would protect our interest. But they seem intent on completing this sale before the Dec. 31 deadline; behind closed doors, without any public input; never telling us what the “deal” actually involves. See the Build a Better Bloor Dufferin newsletter above for some information on what we do know.

You might think Ana Bailão, our city councillor, would refuse such an inadequate deal. After all Ana is Deputy Mayor and official Housing Advocate and …. an affordable housing advocate.

She faces immense pressure from developers to approve the many proposals city-wide, never mind those here in Davenport. The Bloor/Dufferin school lands is the place she should stand with the community and demand better, or let the deal expire.

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