Help us pressure the owner of Dufferin Mall

Dovercourt House, a fixture in the local dance community is changing.

Friends,

If you want to have some influence on development in our neighbourhood, now is a crucial moment, and we could use some help.

To recap, a third Yonge & Eglinton style development of 30 story condo towers and commercial space is about to drop in our neighbourhood. And that’s if we are lucky. It could turn out to be even worse. We could end up with Dufferin Avenue looking like Front Street: just a giant wall of concrete cutting through the middle of our community from Dupont to College, with few community amenities and little or no community benefit.

Here is the latest

While we have all been focused on getting through the pandemic, H&R Real Estate Investment Trust, the multibillion dollar real estate development company that owns Dufferin Mall, has been moving ahead with speed to get started on its massive redevelopment of the Dufferin Mall site.

The City of Toronto’s Planning Department wasn’t moving fast enough for the developer, so H&R REIT, like so many Toronto developers before it, filed an application to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly the infamous OMB) to try to sidestep the Planning Department.  The developer’s hearing at the LPAT is now scheduled to start in August.

The LPAT process isn’t an easy one. The City’s lawyers seem to think that communities are to be seen but not heard, making it difficult to work together. And the developers seem to think that bylaws affecting development are pylons to swerve around, not boundaries to be respected. As we learned while advocating for affordable housing, community space and a better park on the TDSB-owned Bloor and Dufferin site, community groups have to fight hard to be taken seriously in development processes. Toronto could be so much better if this wasn’t the case.

To try to avoid that hearing, the City and the developer are currently in a mediation process. Our group, BBBD, is also participating in mediation to try to influence the outcome.

What the developer is proposing

The Dufferin Mall owners are proposing to build four condo towers on the north end of their site. The current proposal is for towers of 39, 35, 23, and 14 stories, along with102,721 square metres of commercial space. These four towers would contain around 1,135 condo units – adding approximately 2500 to 3000 new residents (this will be in addition to the 6 towers ranging from 22 to 37 stories that another developer is about to build on the corner of Bloor and Dufferin, and the 8 towers ranging from 18 stories to 35 stories that the Galleria developer is building at Dupont and Dufferin.) At the moment, there are no plans to make any of the Dufferin Mall units affordable, and the current plans show no community space, no cultural space, and only a private street.

To make matters worse, the only park space included in the developers’ latest proposal is a postage stamp parkette right on Dufferin Street. One of the proposed towers (the 39 story one) will also shadow both the new Bloor Collegiate building and the other postage stamp parkette that was promised as a result of the massive Bloor and Dufferin development to the north. Dufferin Grove is already busy and our neighbourhood has been designated by the City as parkland-deficient. Where will residents, old and new, gather for picnics, sports and playtime?

Here’s the West End Pheonix take on Dufferin Mall redevelopment and our future. But who is the illustrator, the artist

Our Goals for the Site

Build a Better Bloor Dufferin (BBBD) is not a NIMBY group.  We know that this city and our neighbourhood need more housing, and fast. We also know a big ground-level parking lot like the one at Dufferin Mall doesn’t make sense in the centre of Toronto. It could, and should, be more.

What BBBD does want, though, is development done right. Large developments like this one should make our neighbourhoods more inclusive, more liveable and more vibrant, rather than serve as a source of superheated profits for multinational REITs. At BBBD we want developments that support tenants, seniors, essential workers, arts and culture workers and small businesses. Over the past year, BBBD has been working with Ward 9 City Councillor Ana Bailão to try to ensure that the Dufferin Mall development will meet some of the basic needs of our community, and contribute in a positive way to the neighbourhood. In particular, we’re looking for the developer to meet their obligation under the City of Toronto Large Site Policy- an obligation to provide 20% affordable housing- as well as deliver adequate park and community space. Sound reasonable? If you think so, you’re in agreement with many of your neighbours!

BBBD Takes Action

Survey.  BBBD has been gathering community input on the Dufferin Mall development over the past few months through an anonymous survey.

Survey results to date show overwhelming support in the community for:

  • significant green space
  • affordable units
  • daycare
  • other community services like affordable space for arts and cultural activities

Thank you to everyone who has completed the community survey so far and sent in comments.   If you haven’t completed it yet, it’s not too late! Here’s a link to the survey.

Community Working Group.  BBBD also has representatives on Councilor Bailão’s Dufferin Mall Community Working Group. Along with other community members, we helped to draft a visioning document for the site, which was presented to the developers last December. Chief among the community’s vision for the site is a demand for adherence to the City’s “large site” planning bylaw, which requires 20% of units built on large sites to be affordable housing. This bylaw exists to ensure inclusive development and the visioning statement sent a powerful message to the Dufferin Mall owners about our community’s expectations of inclusive housing, contiguous parkland, and support for our sports and artistic communities.

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a link to the Dufferin Mall Working Group’s Vision Statement. If you support the Vision Statement, be sure to let Councillor Bailão and the City Planner assigned to this file, Carla Tsang, know. They can be reached at: Ana.Bailao@toronto.ca and Carla.Tsang@toronto.ca

Networking: BBBD is connecting with other nearby community groups who are also responding to development in their neighbourhoods. We are particularly excited to be sharing our strategy.

Our strategy

Our strategy is simple.  We are working to get the City and the developers to respond to community needs. We are letting the City know what the priorities of our neighbourhood are and what we want to see included in this massive development.  We are asking Councilor Bailão and City Planning to establish a dialogue with us and the developer. 

We are also letting the developer know that there are risks as well as rewards for their behaviour. They are both the owner of a shopping mall in our neighbourhood, that relies on the positive views of local shoppers, and a real estate developer.  If you want to maintain the goodwill of your core shopping customers, you are going to have to listen to the community and provide positive community benefits.

Learn More and Get Involved

BBBD will host some short meetings by zoom to update the neighbourhood on the public plans for the Dufferin Mall site and to answer any questions we can about our current work. These meetings will take place over the coming months and each will be the same, so you only need to attend one to get up to speed. Send an email to chair@buildbloordufferin.ca if you’d like to join one of our meetings.

Also, as always, if you want to get actively involved, just get in touch by emailing info@buildbloordufferin.ca.  We need help with everything:

– building a campaign to pressure the REIT that owns Dufferin Mall,

– writing & distributing our newsletter,

– strategizing, networking, fund raising, whatever you can do.

We also know our neighbourhood has a wealth of expertise on issues related to development — things like planning, architecture, affordable housing, homelessness, community services, arts and culture.

If you can help in any way, big or small, please contact us at info@buildbloordufferin.ca

Donate – please.  Finally, we need to replenish our LPAT funds. When we were preparing for the LPAT hearing for the Bloor Dufferin site (a process that won our community a $17 million affordable housing land trust) we raised money with an incredible concert at the Burdock. Neighbours also bought our inspiring lawn and window signs to contribute. If you are in a position to contribute now, we would greatly appreciate your support.  You can give online at https://secure.qgiv.com/for/babbd/

Thank you for reading this update and don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Sincerely,

Build A Better Bloor Dufferin

DOVERCOURT HOUSE: AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT WE NEED TO SAVE

Dovercourt House, just north of Bloor Street, is a vital space for professional dance and theatre rehearsals during the day—where people in our community practiced their livehoods—and also the go-to place for many social dance clubs on evenings and weekends.

There is a new lease holder for the building and many long-standing users may loose their dance homes.

For over two decades, the brick building with its sprung floors has been home to an eclectic mix of dance events. Tens of thousands of Torontonians have come through its doors to practice Swing, Latin and Urban as well as yoga, capoeira and more.

Our community needs spaces like the Dovercourt House that can support arts, culture and social gathering.

Here’s BlogTO’s take.

“The thing about Bloordale Beach is that it is totally a real Beach.” Now that the Duff Grove gardens are being shut down to accommodate construction of the new rinks, isn’t it time to guerrilla garden Bloordale Beach?

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.