Time is Running Out!

BBBD Calls Developers into Mediation Over Bloor Dufferin Site

Rainbow over Kent Public School, Sept. 23, 2019

After more than 20 meetings with the City, Councillor, and developers in the past year, BBBD has requested a mediation process. Talks stalled earlier this month when it seemed that the proposed settlement with the developer would create only a fraction of the affordable housing, community space, and green space that we know is achievable on the site. BBBD sees mediation as an opportunity to both demonstrate the viability of our community’s vision for the site and build a bridge to a workable solution. In hopes of arriving at an agreement quickly, we will go into mediation next week, on October 2nd.

We believe that the public land at Bloor and Dufferin has the potential to showcase an exciting new approach to redevelopment in Toronto that can help turn the tide on our housing crisis and the growing inequality in our city. Respected nonprofit housing developers have shown how we could build five times more affordable housing on the site than what’s currently on the table. We’ve endorsed a visionary plan that would see hundreds of units of affordable housing integrated into the 2,000 proposed condominiums, along with a beautiful, spacious community hub. This could be a new St. Lawrence neighbourhood—a truly inclusive community for residents across all income brackets, next to a subway station. What better use could we make of this public land?

The developers, in the meantime, are moving fast in the hopes of bringing a settlement to the next Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) pre-hearing on November 25th.  While we are hopeful about the mediation process, BBBD is prepared to use its party status at the OMB to stand up for community benefits like affordable housing, community space, green space and a successful rebuild of Bloor Collegiate.

We need your help to make this vision a reality. Scroll down to see how you can donate to help with BBBD’s legal costs. We also need your moral support! Wish us luck on Twitter, Facebook, or by email.

BBBD’s Community Survey

Our summer straw poll showed we are united over Housing, Parks, Community Space and Schools

We asked—and you answered! BBBD’s summer community survey garnered more than 125 responses from people of all ages (half under 40) and all living situations (60% owners, and 40% renters).

The results show how committed BBBD supporters are to keeping the Bloor-Dufferin neighbourhood diverse, inclusive, and affordable.

Some highlights:

  • Your priorities for the site are the same as BBBD’s. When asked to rate aspects of the development on a scale from “not at all important” to “very important,” there was strong consensus about what is important to you:
    • Public park space (93%)
    • Community services (91%)
    • Arts & culture (91%)
    • Affordable housing (87%)
  • Almost two-thirds of the people surveyed say that at least 50% of the units should be affordable to people with average incomes—including one in seven who say ALL units should be.
  • Almost three-quarters of responses say that 20% or more of the units should be affordable for people on low incomes. In fact, one-third of all respondents want to see 50% or 100% deeply affordable units on the site. 
  • Almost three-quarters also say that 25% or more of the commercial space on the site should be for non-profit community services and arts organizations. 
  • 93% say the 0.6-acre public park the developer is proposing is too small. A large majority want to see at least 1 acre of public park on the site, and many want the current 2.7-acre green space on the site to be maintained.
  • Three-quarters want the TDSB and developer to find a way to keep Bloor Collegiate students in their school until the new school is built, instead of moving them to Central Tech in September 2020.
  • 85% say the current plan for the BCI rebuild is inadequate. Most want to see the new school have at least the same amenities as the current building, including an auditorium and pool, and they want it to accommodate more students as the neighbourhood grows.

Click on graph to enlarge

When asked to share their priorities, hopes, and worries about the site, survey respondents were eloquent and visionary. The range of passionate responses and exciting ideas show how important it is to engage community members throughout the process of redevelopment.

Here’s just a small sample:

I would like to see mix of housing that people from different backgrounds can access and will live in for many years. These might include young families who want to buy a home, older residents who are downsizing, renters and people with lower incomes. This type of housing will sustain the neighbourhood and the people who live here. I am concerned that the units will quickly become vacant or short-term rental spaces and used only as income properties. I understand the need for densification in Toronto but tons of people are getting pushed out of the area (or even the city) by developments. They’re not actually solving the larger housing issue.”

“Each of the suggested buildings should have a large green roof patio for the residents. There should be lots of small retail spaces to accommodate family businesses/ workshops or offices and some of those who will undoubtedly be displaced by this development. There are plenty of large retailers at Dufferin Mall. All buildings should be built to a high environmental standard with low energy use and emissions, easy access to recycling facilities and a large amount of bicycle parking. A daycare facility and space for after school programs.”

“[The park should be] At LEAST 2 acres with provisions for new tree planting and an area for a community garden. Initiatives across the country for large buildings have proven to be an effective way to build neighbourly relationships by way of sharing garden tending duties.”

“These are Indigenous lands and local Indigenous peoples need to be consulted on this project. Also, disabled people should be consulted to ensure that the space is physically accessible.”

“I would be more excited if I felt that the development included different types of housing that would address the shortages / inaccessibility / affordability in Toronto.”

“This could be an exciting addition to the neighborhood and an example of good development:

  • be truly Green (as the developers had in their initial advertising) 
  • serve Toronto’s diversity of incomes, family types, immigration periods
  • keep the landscape of small owner occupied stores – on ALL levels of retail.”

“A school that will accommodate the predicted student population projections for the coming decades. It must include amenities, like an auditorium for the arts, that will foster a diversity of skills for the students.”

“I’m not excited about the redevelopment because I don’t trust the developers to make considerate and thoughtful decisions for the neighborhood.”

“I love the diversity in our neighbourhood and how people know and look out for each other. I’m concerned this development will change that. Not to mention a staggering number of units in an area where the buses / subways are already packed and traffic at that intersection is a gong show.”

“[I am excited for] the potential to create incredible park space that has more qualities than the existing green space. The opportunity to get away from unaffordable, private condos, and a quick, expensive build, like the rest of the city and the chance to actually make a meaningful project that serves the community (which this doesn’t look like it is doing at all yet).”

“I am concerned that the site will just be another condo and retail space that prices out the people who currently live and work in the neighbourhood, continuing the segregation of lower income and otherwise marginalized people further and further towards the outskirts of the city and away from public transit. I am concerned that the developer might care more about short term profit than the health of our city.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! 

We will be sharing all the survey results with our Councillor, City staff, and the developer.

It’s not too late to have your say—take a few minutes to add your voice here.

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