November: Bloordale Beach

Update on development at Bloor/Dufferin

The empty lot behind Bloor Collegiate that has become our local “beach” has been called “an oasis of weird in Toronto’s west end.” Read the full article.

It’s been a while since we’ve touched base about developments in our neighbourhood. Like most people in the city, members of Build a Better Bloor Dufferin have been working to figure out how to meet in physically distant ways, how to navigate in the midst of this weird and challenging new normal. And Primaris/Dufferin Mall Holdings Inc., the owners of the Dufferin Mall, are also working to make their plans for the northern Dufferin Mall parking lot a reality. Here’s some of what’s going on:

We’re representing you at the tribunal—take our survey and help define the issues

Between the massive new developments at Galleria, Bloor Collegiate, and Dufferin Mall, our immediate neighbourhood will see more than 6,000 new units added in the near future, with more to come. That’s why BBBD believes we need a Secondary Plan—a neighbourhood-wide plan by the City that sets parameters for new development. We need to ensure that our neighborhood’s physical and social infrastructure—from water mains to transit to parks and affordable housing—can keep up with all this growth.

BBBD has been granted party status at the hearing on the Dufferin Mall redevelopment before the Land Use Planning Tribunal (LPAT). We are developing our list of issues for that hearing and we want to know what members of the Bloor-Dufferin community think! COMPLETE OUR FIVE MINUTE SURVEY HERE to let us know your priorities for the site.

Dufferin Mall Development Update

Primaris is proposing to redevelop the north parking lots of the mall into rental buildings and commercial space. The East Block bordering Dufferin Street is proposed to have two towers of 14 and 23 storeys, connected by an 8-storey “podium.” The West Block, bordering Croatia, is proposed to have a 5-storey base with two towers of 35 and 39 storeys. A total of 1,135 rental units is proposed for the site. The proposal also includes a 1,561-square-meter park (that’s less than 0.4 acres) south of the buildings on Dufferin, and a private street connecting Croatia to Dufferin. You can see all the details about the proposal on the City’s Development Application portal.

A key problem with the proposal is that, at 8.54 hectares (21 acres), the Dufferin Mall site should fall under the City’s Large Sites Policy, which would require a master site plan with significant community benefits, including 20 percent affordable housing. But by applying to develop only a portion of the site, Primaris evades these obligations.

BBBD has been keeping tabs on this proposal, and we started taking action in early 2020 right after we won $17 million for affordable housing and community space from the developers of the Bloor Collegiate site across the street.  

In February, BBBD members attended the public meeting about the Dufferin Mall development. Like our neighbours, we were not impressed with the tiny proposed park, non-existent community space, and total absence of affordable housing.

The June 25 2020 City Planning report recommended that the City oppose the application at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), citing concerns about the building height and massing, shadowing of surrounding schools and parks, and problems with the proposed private road. When the proposal came to Toronto East York Community Council in July 2020, BBBD sent a letter supporting the City Planning report.

Since August, BBBD Steering Committee members Lynn Cepin, Erella Ganon, Joe McAllister, and Maggie Hutcheson have been participating in the working group on Dufferin Mall convened by Councillor Ana Bailão.

Between the massive new developments at Galleria, Bloor Collegiate, and Dufferin Mall, our immediate neighbourhood will see more than 6,000 new units added in the near future, with more to come. That’s why BBBD believes we need a Secondary Plan—a neighbourhood-wide plan by the City that sets parameters for new development. We need to ensure that our neighborhood’s physical and social infrastructure—from water mains to transit to parks affordable housing—can keep up with all this growth.

10 November: Consultation on the City’s Online Inclusionary Zoning

Inclusionary Zoning is a tool that enables the City to require that every new development includes a fixed percentage of affordable units. When implemented properly, IZ is an important tool for ensuring equitable and inclusive development and discouraging predatory speculation.

The Planning department is consulting on its proposed IZ policy for Toronto. There are some good things in this policy—like the requirement that units stay affordable forever instead of for a limited time period. There are also improvements that need to be made—especially increasing the “set-aside” or what proportion of a development would have to be affordable. Currently the City is proposing set-asides between 2.5 and 10 percent, when their own analysis showed that some strong market areas could support set-asides of 20 percent or more.

With our neighbourhood at the epicenter of Toronto’s transit and development boom, Bloor-Dufferin residents need to make our voices heard.

On November  10, from 6 til 7 pm, ACORN, Progress Toronto, and Parkdale People’s Economy are co-hosting an online event in advance of the City’s 7-9 pm online IZ consultation. Please register ahead to participate in this event

Party at the LPAT

Not that kind of party! BBBD has registered as a party at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) hearing on Dufferin Mall which is scheduled to take place in August of 2021. We remain committed to fighting for community benefit from any development in our neighbourhood.

As part of the LPAT process, BBBD must submit an “issues list” outlining our community’s concerns with the proposal, and what changes to the proposal we are seeking. Needless to say, we have issues! We are developing our list of issues for that hearing and we want to know what members of the Bloor-Dufferin community think! Complete our 5-minute survey here to let us know your priorities for the site.

And let the City know your priorities:

Councillor Ana Bailão councillor_bailao@toronto.ca

City Planner Carla Tsang Carla.tsang@toronto.ca

Modular housing update

Shovels hit the ground at 150 Harrison street (the site of the former police station on Dovercourt between Dundas and College) recently to build a three-storey building with 44 bachelor apartments and support services. The urgently needed affordable units will house people who are currently in the shelter system. “Supportive housing combines affordable housing with coordinated services, and can truly make a difference in peoples’ lives,” said Mayor John Tory.

This plan is exactly what BBBD wants to see: 100 percent affordable housing on public land, with community space included in the development. The outcry from a small but well-organized group of residents opposed to this development shows us that there is still work to be done to address stigma and discrimination in our community.

City Against Mall Towers

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.

Duff Mall Towers and Bloordale Beach

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 some light summer reading while catching a few rays on Bloordale Beach, here is the Planing department’s report https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2020/te/bgrd/backgroundfile-148522.pdf and here is their backgrounder on the development.https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2020/te/bgrd/backgroundfile-141191.pdf

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 teycc@toronto.ca. The Dufferin Mall issue is expected to be debated about 10 a.m.

Submission to Toronto East York Community Council

ATTN: Ulli S. Watkiss, City Clerk, (clerk@toronto.ca)

Ana Bailão,Councillor, Davenport (councillor_bailao@toronto.ca)

re: July 16, 2020 meeting agenda

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 3.2.1.9. 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.

Emily Paradis

Maggie Hutcheson

Co-chairs, Build a Better Bloor Dufferin

We Have Good News!

Site of the former Brockton High School. The new BCI is to be built on this property.

Dear Neighbours,


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 modularhousing@toronto.ca 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 modularhousing@toronto.ca 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 chair@buildbloordufferin.ca 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 Group wins $17-million Land Trust

(Download the PDF version of this press release here)

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.

Contact: Maggie Hutcheson, maggie.e.hutcheson@gmail.com, 416-985-2424
Emily Paradis, e.paradis@utoronto.ca, 416-802-4025