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

City Planner Carla Tsang

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.

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.