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

It ain’t over till it’s over

BBBD newsletter Oct 26 2019

Bloor Collegiate Institute, October 2019

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. 

—The Build a Better Bloor Dufferin Team

Show your Neighbourhood love! BBBD Fundraiser 

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.

Is it best time runs out?

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

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

OPINION:

The best might simply be that time runs out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.