T/EY Community Council opposes Duff Towers proposal
Toronto East York Community Council, on July 16, voted to reject a proposed development of the north parking lot of Dufferin Mall into a series of apartment towers.
Council voted to direct city staff to oppose mall-owners, Primaris Management, who have gone to at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal claiming the City has not responded quickly enough to their development proposal.
City Planning detailed a list of concerns, including a too-small park, lack of affordable housing, and few public amenities, among other deficiencies. The City will probably argue before the LPAT that Primaris has not met the minimum requirements of the planning and development acts and therefore should have no expectation of quick City approval.
The City will continue to negotiate with Primaris about the development
Here’s the digital meeting. If you go to 1:56:30 you will hear the issue being debated. Erella Gagnon, speaking on behalf of Build a Better Bloor Dufferin and Councillor Ana Bailão voice their concerns.
Spending time on Bloordale Beach? That’s the name locals have given to the sandy, barren demolition land slated to be the site of the new Bloor Collegiate Institute. It was the former site of Brockton High School. Artist Shari Kasman and other locals have posted signs promoting the beach… and apparently nominated the site for UNESCO Heritage protection.
There is an important meeting this Thursday of the Toronto East York Community Council, which will be debating the city’s response to the development of four massive towers on the north-side of Dufferin Mall.
At issue is the developer petitioning the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal to make the City approve the plans and issue the needed permits. The City Planning department wants direction from the council and says the development, as proposed, doesn’t meet basic requirements for parks, affordable housing and community benefits, among other deficiencies.
Build a Better Bloor Dufferin is voicing our support of the planning department’s concerns. Read our letter to the council, below.
If you want to attend the virtual meeting, it starts at 9:30 a.m. You can watch at http://www.youtube.com/TorontoCityCouncilLive. If you want to speak to the issue, you must register by noon the day before the meeting: 416 392 7033 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Dufferin Mall issue is expected to be debated about 10 a.m.
TE16.8-900 Dufferin Street – Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-law Amendment – Request for Direction Report.
Build a Better Bloor Dufferin would like to add our support and agreement to the Planning Department which recommends:
“…that the City Solicitor, together with City Planning staff, and other appropriate City staff, attend the LPAT in opposition to the current proposal. As proposed, the application is not consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement (2020), does not conform to the Growth Plan (2019), and does not conform to the City’s Official Plan.”
Further we note from the background report on the request:
“Although the current application only applies to the north portion of the Dufferin Mall site, the entire property has an overall size of 8.5 hectares, which would constitute as a large site as per Official Plan Policy 18.104.22.168. For applications requesting an increase in height and/or density, this policy requires that the first priority community benefit be the provision of 20 per cent of the additional residential units as affordable housing. Affordable housing is not currently proposed in the application.”
We agree with City Planners when they state in the background report:
“To ensure that the Dufferin Mall site redevelops over time into a complete community which fits into surrounding neighbourhoods, this application needs to be reviewed in the context of a master plan framework for the entire mall site.”
Given the scale of new development planned for Bloor and Dufferin, a site this large requires a comprehensive plan to properly integrate it with the surrounding neighbourhood and address impacts on park space, transit, and walkability. BBBD is very concerned that, if approved, this plan would set a dangerous precedent enabling owners of large sites to develop their sites piecemeal and evade responsibilities such as provision of affordable housing.
BBBD is a resident-led volunteer group which includes service providers, artists, business owners, and members of the local school communities who advocate for equitable and inclusive development in Bloor-Dufferin. Our neighbourhood wants significant community benefits in all new development; public parks, affordable housing, space for community services and arts organizations, and robust schools and daycares. BBBD represents more than a thousand supporters; residents, service providers, artists, business owners, and members of the local school communities, We advocate for equitable and inclusive development in the Bloor-Dufferin neighbourhood.
Members of our community will attempt to attend the July 16 virtual meeting.
It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to meet in person to talk about development in our neighbourhood. Today there’s some welcome good news about affordable housing.
Affordable Modular Housing An affordable rental housing project has been approved for the site of the former police station on Dovercourt between Dundas and College. The City-owned land is zoned for residential purposes and currently vacant. 150 Harrison Street will include 44 bachelor units and support services.
Ward 9 City Councillor, Ana Bailão, explains: “Last month City Council approved a plan to build new affordable rental apartments using modular housing, basically prefabricated buildings that are manufactured off-site to high standards and then installed once the property is ready. This type of housing is less expensive than building more shelters or putting people up in hotels or motels, it is better quality and will help people to have a small place of their own.” The apartments are scheduled to be built and ready for occupancy in fall 2020.
“This project is on an expedited timeline to meet the urgent need for housing,” said Brian Johnston, CEO of CreateTO—the city’s real estate agency. “COVID-19 has forced us to rethink how we work. We have all pulled together to get this done on an expedited basis, and will continue to do so.”
Build A Better Bloor Dufferin couldn’t agree more that there’s an urgent need for deeply affordable, accessible, and supportive housing. COVID-19 has highlighted more than ever how vital a safe home is for health and life.
Sadly, we’ve heard that some neighbours plan to speak against this development. Usually this kind of opposition is based in fears and misconceptions about the folks who live in affordable and supportive housing. Luckily, we have great organizations like The Dream Team nearby—a speaker’s bureau whose members raise awareness and combat stigma by sharing their own stories of mental health struggles, homelessness, and supportive housing. If you have questions or concerns about supportive housing, check out their website to learn more.
We know that most of our neighbours treasure our neighbourhood’s diversity and inclusion and want to keep our community affordable and welcoming for people from all walks of life. We will be participating in the upcoming public consultation sessions about this site and encourage you to join us. Let’s celebrate this great news and voice our support for affordable housing on this site and on future sites in our neighbourhood.
There are two upcoming consultations about building and site design elements, such as lighting, pathways, landscaping and parking; ongoing community engagement, and ideas for how to support and integrate the new residents into the neighbourhood:
Wednesday 17 June 4:30 to 6:00 PM Call: 647-484-1598 Access code: 133 318 6123
24 June 6:30 to 8:00 PM Call: 647-484-1598 Access code: 133 963 2197 You can also join the online session or learn more at toronto.ca/modularhousing.
If you are unable to attend either of the sessions, you can also write to the City of Toronto to express your support. Send your email to email@example.com by 24 June.
If you are unable to attend either of the sessions, you can also write to the City of Toronto to express your support. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 24 June.
Supporting Small Businesses on Bloor Many of you will have heard the story about Pam’s Roti on Bloor. The owner of the restaurant, Jameloon “Pam” Bacchus Singh, sent out a public plea for help when her landlord threatened to evict her for not being able to pay her full rent for June. She wrote “take-out only sales have dropped but I know once the restrictions are lifted, sales will rise and things will be different.” She asked the landlord to apply for the CECRA rent subsidy that would cover 75% and she’d pay 25% for June’s rent. He refused because it was “too much work” to fill out the application forms! But our community stepped up. Residents generously contributed to two different locally organized GoFundMe campaigns and raised enough money to cover Pam’s rent and save the restaurant.
“Main streets” like Bloor are the life blood of a community and here in Bloorcourt/Bloordale we value both our local businesses and the rental housing above many of their storefronts. We don’t want to lose businesses like Pam’s Roti to big chains or speculative vacancies. Look out for further information from us soon, as we ramp up a campaign to keep our strip of Bloor diverse, local, and affordable.
A Message to Our Working Groups Our fabulous February 20th community forum feels so long ago now—another era, even. But we haven’t forgotten about the incredible community energy from all of you who signed up to join BBBD working groups. We are revamping our working process for these times but still welcome your energy and contributions! We’ll be reaching out soon to those who signed up. Get in touch if you can spare the time to help with advocacy for community space, parks, affordable housing, or arts and culture in our neighbourhood. Contact email@example.com for more info.
Who we are Build a Better Bloor Dufferin (BBBD) is a group of residents, local business owners, artists, service organizations, and members of the local school communities. We are dedicated to the sustainable development of the Bloor-Dufferin neighbourhood as it changes with the proposed new development at the southwest corner of Bloor and Dufferin.
Community groups and nonprofit housing providers are pleased to announce the creation of a historic land trust that will invest $17 million in housing and community facilities.
Build a Better Bloor Dufferin (BBBD), a community group advocating for community benefits from the large development at Bloor and Dufferin, secured these benefits from Capital Developments. The arrangements will commit funds through local nonprofit housing providers Habitat for Humanity and St Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society.
The lengthy negotiations emerged from the community group’s continued efforts to ensure that the billion dollar development contributed significant amenities to the neighbourhood and moved past the current status quo in Toronto where massive developments still provide only modest investments in the community. A land trust will be launched with a $9 million contribution and $8 million interest-free loan from Capital Developments and Metropia, the companies redeveloping the Bloor- Dufferin site. Half of the land trust funds will be dedicated to affordable housing development in Ward 9, with priority to projects that directly benefit the Bloor-Dufferin community. Two million dollars of the funding is reserved for acquiring community space for nonprofit services and arts organizations in the neighbourhood.
The investment in the land trust comes in addition to the $10 million contribution toward an eight-storey building across from the site that the City of Toronto negotiated separately.
“This was intense multimillion dollar haggling,” said BBBD co-chair Maggie Hutcheson, “which we don’t do every day. But we were confident that a development this big could contribute more and we had to stick to our guns to make that happen. The status quo in Toronto is for developers to earn hundreds of millions out of density the City grants, with far too little of that value going to public benefit.”
“Other cities get far more, so we felt we had to dig in and get more for the community too,” said co-chair Emily Paradis. “Let’s hope that this becomes a pattern, and that the next negotiation and the next housing plan see more of the benefits created by the housing boom going to ease the pressures the housing boom is also creating.” BBBD is a community-based group of residents, local business owners, artists, service organizations, and members of the local school communities dedicated to the sustainable development of the Bloor-Dufferin neighbourhood as it changes with the proposed new development at the southwest corner of Bloor and Dufferin.
Hello BBBD supporters! It has been a dizzying few weeks, with some major new developments – including an anticipated date of November 5 for the City to make its settlement with the developer public, and the revelation of a December 31 expiry date for the purchase agreement between the developer and Toronto Lands Corporation*.
*Toronto Lands Corporation is the real estate arm of the Toronto District School Board, which sold this public land out from under our neighbourhood back in 2016.
Negotiations continue – calculators or community?
On October 2, BBBD met with representatives from Bloor-Dufferin Development Limited Partnership and the City’s Planning, Affordable Housing, and Social Development and Finance divisions, in a formal mediation process with land-use planning mediator James McKenzie. The issues discussed in mediation must remain confidential, but we can tell you that it was a very long day, with much intense discussion, and many calculators.
Bloor-Dufferin residents and BBBD Steering Committee members Maggie Hutcheson, Sean Fitzpatrick, Lynn Cepin, and Sean Meagher acted as BBBD’s mediation team. We also had the benefit of some expert advisors from the neighbourhood: Andrea Adams of St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society, Maureen Fair of West Neighbourhood House, Jacquie Thomas of Theatre Gargantua, Joshua Benard of Habitat for Humanity, and urban studies professor Emily Paradis.
Though no settlement has come out of it, the mediation was a productive process that moved the conversation forward significantly. And we sure learned a lot about how things happen behind closed doors in major developments in Toronto – something few residents ever get to see.
Even though mediation didn’t lead to a plan that satisfies BBBD’s demands for affordable housing, community space, and park space on this public land, we are still working to get a better plan in place ahead of the upcoming November 25 pre-hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board. Failing that, BBBD will request a full hearing – a process that could take up to a year.
We know the developer and the City are eager to settle on November 25 – especially given the recent revelation that the purchase agreement with Toronto Lands Corporation expires December 31, 2019 (check out the opinion piece on the expiry). Let’s hope this motivates them to consider the community, not just their calculators.
City preparing to settle for 2.6% affordable housing and a basement daycare – have your say at Community Council
The City says it intends to bring a report about this development to Community Council in November or December, after which the planning approvals will go to City Council.
The staff report will include recommendations about whether or not to approve the site as currently proposed, and details about the community benefits that the developer will be required to provide. In anticipation of the City report, the developer submitted a revised proposal just a few weeks ago, on Sept. 12 2019. Check the City’s Development Applications website for details.
From BBBD’s meetings with the City in the weeks before mediation, we anticipate that the City is preparing to allow the development to go ahead with only 56 affordable units out of the 2124 luxury condos planned for the site. This is just 2.6% of the development for affordable housing, falling far short of the 20% BBBD has called for on this public land. To make matters worse, the few affordable units—all bachelors and one-bedrooms, unsuitable for families—will be grouped in a single small building across the street from the rest of the development. This flies in the face of all principles of inclusive community-building.
It also looks like the City is planning to put the promised daycare in the basement of the former Kent School building, and limit the community hub space to the ground floor. Community space will total just 30,000 square feet, not the 70,000 square feet of services and arts space recommended by the Community Hub visioning group that consulted with hundreds of residents in 2017.
BBBD considers these minimal provisions for community benefits to be woefully inadequate – and from our summer survey results, we know that the neighbourhood agrees. [link to survey results]
But in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it ain’t over till it’s over! These plans will come to Toronto and East York Community Council on November 5 or December 3. We won’t know the date for sure until the agenda is published online the week before – you can see meeting dates and agendas here. Community Council is the opportunity for all of us to have input on the plan by making deputations or sending written submissions. We will keep you posted.
Now that the federal election is over, does your front window or lawn seem empty without a sign? BBBD to the rescue! Our beautiful new signs are popping up all over the neighbourhood. Suitable for balconies, windows, or lawns, these signs send a message that neighbours of all political stripes can agree with – Dufferin and Bloor is for everyone! Suggested donation of $20. Proceeds will help to fund BBBD’s legal costs at the Ontario Municipal Board.