Accept the City’s best offer?

BCI Closing September 2020, do we accept the City’s ‘ best offer’ at the LPAT?, Big on Bloor and a Community Award

Bloordale residents chat with BBBD volunteer Jacqueline Larson (left) in the tent’s shade at Big on Bloor. It was the hottest day of the year and development was a hot topic.

Dear Neighbours,

It’s been awhile since you’ve heard from us. We’ve been quiet only because we’ve been so busy, in countless meetings with our City Councillor and the developers to stay in active dialogue about what our community wants and needs. Here are some highlights of recent weeks.

Bloor Collegiate students to move out in 2020

Students of Bloor Collegiate Institute (BCI) found out this spring that the entire school’s population will be relocated to Central Tech in Sept., 2010, before the new BCI gets built.

In the heated 28 May meeting about the move, parents and students responded with outrage to the fact that the TDSB knew for years that this relocation would occur and knew the timeline written in the deal but hid it from the community until very recently. The scheduled September 2020 removal of students meets the developers’ “needs” but students are concerned about its impact on their high school experience and residents are unhappy that the proposed new school will have fewer amenities for an anticipated larger number of students (especially considering the high-density developments going up in the neighbourhood).

Keeping up the pressure 

BBBD has party standing in the LPAT hearing for the TDSB lands at the southwest corner of Dufferin and Bloor. The next prehearing is scheduled for November but the developers aim to have the deal passed through City Council in October. BBBD will oppose a vote to settle at City Council unless significant gains are made over the next two months. Given that there still isn’t a plan for affordable housing or a community hub on the site, it’s hard to see how the community’s needs will be met by October.

Please fill out our Summer Survey

Now is an important time to keep up the pressure. You can support us by sharing your hopes for the site in this survey: https://bit.ly/2LZ9U4r. It will give us evidence that residents want to see community benefits on the site, such as affordable housing, space for arts organizations and community services, and a large public park. This land was bought and paid for by taxpayers. People who live, work, and go to school in the neighbourhood want this public land to be used for public benefit.

And of course, please let our City Councillor know what you want to see on this site. She needs to hear from as many of our neighbours as possible so that she can represent us accurately!  Councillor Ana Bailão:  416-392-7012, email, or web.

Big on Bloor

We had a booth at last week’s annual Bloordale festival on 20 July, the hottest day of the year. BBBD volunteers heard from many residents and visitors who are still just learning about the sale of the TDSB land and the developers’ plans for multiple condo towers at Bloor and Dufferin. People expressed alarm, anger, and sadness when they learned about the paucity of affordable housing and reduced community and green space in the proposed plan. And then many offered to help. We have such a great neighbourhood!

BBBD wins community development award!

Maureen Fair (left) Executive Director of West Neighbourhood House, introduces BBBD’s (from left to right) Lynn Cepin, Maggie Hutcheson, and Emily Paradis.

On 20 June West Neighbourhood House honoured Build a Better Bloor Dufferin with the Sir James Wood award for community development. With a cheque for $1,000, the award recognizes an individual or group who, among other things, “works at making change and community impact; goes above and beyond the call of duty towards the betterment of society; has demonstrated the ability to provide leadership and vision which promotes community development and has a commitment to improving the quality of life in their community.” Maureen Fair, the executive director of West Neighbourhood House, said the award “is so well-deserved—you are an amazing group of people fighting persistently for our community.”

Stay cool, enjoy the summer and our wonderful neighbourhood and don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to get involved in our work.

Sincerely,

The Build a Better Bloor Dufferin Team

Sufferin’ Dufferin 29

Our favourite bus route gets some needed attention

Opinion

TTC Riders, a transit advocacy group, has stirred up a storm about our favourite bus route…the Sufferin’ Dufferin 29. That’s what one protestor wrote on a sign at a July 25 morning rush hour demonstration at the Dufferin station.

TTC Riders are concerned about a report, prepared by transit staff, which said the Dufferin 29 was the most overcrowded bus route in the entire system. At peak times it operates at 120% of capacity. A close follow-up? You guessed it, the Lansdowne.

TTC Riders, a grassroots transit advocacy organization, calls for a number of funding options for the TTC and dedicated bus lanes on busy routes such as the Dufferin bus routes. 

Here’s a City TV report on the TTC Riders demonstration:

Anna Lemer of TTC Riders

And here’s one by CTV Toronto:

Chris Fox , CTV News Toronto

Which brings us back to the two massive developments proposed for the corner of Bloor Dufferin and questions about why those two developments don’t take transit into consideration.

Up at the Dufferin Galleria site provision has been made for buses to pull off of Dufferin Street and into the parking lot where they can load and unload….and buses can be short turned if needed.

Why, at Bloor and Dufferin are buses expected to load and unload on the street? Shouldn’t there be provisions for buses to pull off of Dufferin Street and load and unload at protected loading platforms. That would sure improve car and truck traffic flow on both Dufferin and Bloor.

Even better why shouldn’t the buses get off of Dufferin Street and make a wide arch around this new planned community….making a stop in front of the new apartment and condo towers, continuing on to a stop in front of Walmart and ending the loop in front of Joe’s No Frills?

Isn’t easy transit access a main requirement for a well-planned community?

Since both of the developers involved (Capital Developments for the condos on the school lands and Primaris for the mall apartments) are advertising their developments with easy access to transit shouldn’t they step up with some innovations?

Sure, there’s talk of a tunnel under Bloor Street to connect new residents on the southern developments to the subway just north of Bloor, but precious little else.

The scrape of green space allotted for the ill-named Dufferin Common park that sits across from the Dufferin Mall entrance is described by Primaris as little more than a waiting room for the Dufferin 29 bus. Isn’t this the perfect place for a bigger and better Dufferin Grove Organic Market?

Couldn’t Primaris offer to build and maintain the site but let the people at the Grove’s organic market run it? Maybe the much vaunted design people at Urban Strategies could design some nice tent domes to shade the vendors.

Sure, we’d all miss strolling beneath the canopy of trees which shelter the overflowing vegetable stalls rink at this time of year. But those wonderful canopy trees near the hockey rink would probably thank us for stopping the weekly influx of vans and trucks compressing their tree roots.

And maybe we could expand the market to two days a week. Or….a Christmas market featuring local artisans?

-Joe McAllister

Dufferin Mall Towers

Formal application to city reveals Liberty Village II

OPINION

Dufferin Mall has formally submitted an application to build four apartment towers on its parking lot. And the July 8 submission to the City Planning Department looks worse than we had hoped.

The massive apartment complex proposed will have a much bigger presence on Dufferin and Croatia Streets than many anticipated. On the west, overshadowing Brockton Stadium, will be a six storey retail and commercial complex. On the east, facing Dufferin Street, and replacing the existing fast-food stores, will be an eight story retail/commercial building.

Towering from these two massive pedestals will be four apartment towers—39 and 34 stories on the west and 23 and 14 stories on the east. There will be 1,135 rental units: 117 bachelor, 452 one bedroom, 461 two bedroom, 105 three bedroom.

For comparison, the tallest building at Bloor and Dufferin right now is the New Horizon’s Tower at just 15 stories. The mall towers will be matched with the 40-storey behemoths slated for the school lands.

Primaris Management, which owns Dufferin Mall, is a well-regarded manager and owner of shopping malls. (Dufferin Mall is one of the most profitable malls in the GTA.) Quadrangle and Urban Strategies have been involved in the building of a number of Toronto landmarks. Both should be ashamed of their squinted vision for the Dufferin Mall apartments, which will be a major addition to our community.

The massive six and eight story pedestal buildings proposed in their submission, hulk over Dufferin and Croatia Streets. There is no set-back to the pedestal buildings, no extra space for sidewalks and people.

Neither Primaris nor Urban Strategies wants such a desolate, cramped area. They well know that retail success for the businesses which will rent space along Dufferin and Croatia Streets will demand space for people to shop and dine and stroll.

The only reason developers make applications to build to the legal limit is to game the planning system.

Here’s how the con works: a developer proposes building right to the limits of what is allowed: the community complains: developer agrees to a setback: and then claim they have listened to the community or city planning department so should be allowed to overbuild the property. The con works every time.

Don’t believe me? Then believe what Urban Strategies wrote about Dufferin Commons.

That’s the name the Urban Strategies has attached to the patch of “nature” they have devoted to park space. Located at the entrance to Dufferin Mall, the “park” or “commons” is roughly the size of Micheli’s Garden centre, which sets up each spring to sell bedding plants. (There is no recognition that west-end Toronto is one of the most green-space deficient areas in the GTA.)

In its formal application for city permission to exceed our planning policies Urban Strategies admits the minuscule park space “also lends itself (to) act as an improved transit-waiting area along the 29 Dufferin route.”

That’s great: Instead of adding to our parkland we’ll get a nice bus station. We’ll all be comfortable waiting for the Dufferin 29 bus: if it ever comes and isn’t overcrowded due to the new condo and apartment developments.

Still not convinced? Consider the paucity of three-bedroom apartments. Just 10% of the proposal is for three-bedroom apartments. Three-bedroom apartments are family friendly: two kids, each with their own bedroom or a bedroom for an aging parent. Local families looking for bigger apartments won’t ever be able to afford Dufferin Grove Common if all of the three-bedroom apartments are clustered in the  luxury penthouses of the four towers.

Shouldn’t the community have expected better from Primaris, Quadrangle and Urban Strategies?

-Joe McAllister

Future of our community

Neighbourhood wants four floors and a green roof.

Ana Bailão addresses resident in the BCI cafeteria June 24.

Opinion

When the future of Davenport was discussed at a June 24 public meeting, special attention was paid to over-the-top development in our neighbourhood.

Ana Bailão, our councillor, has been holding meetings around Davenport asking local residents about how our community should grow. In her most recent meeting at Bloor Collegiate Institute cafeteria, Ana spoke to a group of 45 residents about current successes: a light-industrial complex at Dufferin and Queen, a seven-story office complex slated for Wade Ave., park improvements and planning for an expanded Bloor Bike Lane.

Ana also wants to bring express buses to Lansdowne Street, given the success of express buses on the Dufferin 29 route. “We need to be more proactive” about transportation, she said.

But many of the questions Bailão faced involved the proposed massive developments and their effect on transportation, parks, community space and housing.

Bailão, referred to a TTC study which suggests development in the Dufferin corridor from Wilson to the Lakeshore will result in 200,000 new residents. (We’ll update this item if we find out more details about the study and the timeframe.)

Build a Better Bloor Dufferin had a table at the event and attracted many residents seeking information on the condo towers to be built on the school lands at Bloor Dufferin and the apartment towers on Dufferin Mall.

(BBBD also talked to hundreds of concerned neighbours at the Dundas West Fest in early June. As one of the first street festivals of the summer it was a crowded event.)

Bailão has been busy trying to raise support for affordable housing and community benefits. She had held numerous meetings with the Capital Developments team, city planning staff, community representatives and BBBD.

Presently city requirements would result in less than 100 of the 2,000 residential units planned for the school lands being designated for affordable housing. Talks have stalled on the idea that 100 plus units could be made available.

Bloc D is the building labelled 16, and fronts on an unlabelled Kent Public School. (Courtesy Primaris)

There are also ongoing discussions about the Hub or community centre to be built in the remains of Kent Public School. The TDSB required at least 30,000 sq. ft. of community space from anyone buying the school lands. Capital’s proposal would have this 30,000 sq. ft. include space for daycare. The basement would be renovated for daycare with the first floor being occupied by a small amount of community space. 

Some in the community propose the entire four floors of a renovated Kent school be dedicated to community/daycare space. (And a green roof on  top of the school be open to the public.) Further there has been talk that the smallest tower in Capital’s plans—Building D —be completely dedicated to affordable housing, which would result in 400 residential units. Capital is believed to be offering a building with significantly fewer units.

Despite the vast differences between what the community wants for the sale of our school lands and what Capital is offering, it is expected the city’s planning department will approve a deal this coming fall. Our city’s planning department has a history of caving to developers’ demands. A strong community demand for housing, parks and amenities makes a big difference.

(For comparison Wallace Emerson at Dufferin and Dupont is about 100,000 sq. ft. now. And the approved proposal for the Galleria redevelopment will result in new, larger and expanded community centre.)

In response to a question from the audience, Bailão told the June 24 meeting that she expects it will take two years before the deal is finally approved; it must go to City Council and be approved by the Ontario Municipal Board/Local Planning Approval Tribunal. These institutions have been upended by Doug Ford’s changes to the planning acts which favour of developers. Nobody knows what will result. — Joe McAllister (this post has been amended since first published on June 26)

BCI to Central Tech 2020

Slated to close in September 2020

OPINION

More details were released at a public meeting held by the Bloor Collegiate Institute’s parent council on May 28 about the re-location of BCI.

The school, as a whole will move to facilities to the underused Central Technical Institute at Bathurst and Harbord with classes commencing Sept. 2020. (Note: previous reports here and elsewhere indicated the move was to commence in Sept. 2019. They were incorrect.)

There will be physical and institutional separation between the two institutions despite co-existing in the same building complex: possible separate entrances and facilities for BCI students and CT students; both schools will maintain separate principals and management.

The move is expected to last two school-years. There is a possibility the school could move to its new building early if it is completed on schedule. The old Brockton High School is presently being torn down before the start of construction of the new BCI.

There was concern expressed by students and parents of opposition to a move to Central Tech. Some indicated they would not have attended BCI or will move to other schools if the move is made.

BCI Principal Susana Arnott agreed the situation was “difficulty” but said she was happy with the CT option since it was on a subway line and was local so staff already were familiar with one another. TDSB superintendent Mike Gallagher said: Don’t think this will be easy” but promised separation of facilities.

We learned more about the reasons for the move and some of the politics behind it:

  • After the 2017 sale of the school lands at BCI, Brockton High School was designated as the new site of BCI. The school was slated for what is called a “deep retrofit” to bring it up to modern standards
  • In the spring of 2017 it was determined a “deep retrofit” would not meet the needs of a new BCI. The TDSB approved a new building and about the same time a Request for Proposals was issued.
  • In the fall of 2018 the TDSB, through its real estate arm the Toronto Lands Corporation, asked for an extension to the date they were to turnover the existing BCI building to purchasers Capital Developments et al. A six-month extension was granted by Capital. Originally the school properties sold in the $120 million sale were to be turned over the developers in July 2020.

With the removal from the school of our students slated for 2020, the development could be approved in October by City Council and construction could commence in 2020.

This summer and early fall might be our last opportunity to influence a massive development that does not meet out community’s needs. Talk to your elected representatives.

BBBD has, in a series of meetings with our city councillor, our MPP and the developers, proposed that the first six floors of one of the four condo towers be designated for affordable housing.

The BBBD steering committee is also developing a proposal for the “Hub” a type of community centre with 30,000 sq. ft. In comparison, the same amount of public space is allocated just for a vegetable market at the Bloor/Bathurst development of Mirvish Village. There are only 800 condo units in that development compared to 2,000 in the Bloor/Dufferin School Lands.

—Joe McAllister

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