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U of T, locals butt heads over 42-storey proposal

June 10th, 2010 · No Comments

By Tim Legault

A proposal to build a massive 42-storey academic residence at 245 and 253 College Street, between Spadina and University, was met with a general unease from local residents during a May 18 community meeting.

“Nice building, wrong location,” said Ceta Ramahalawansingh, who has lived in the area since 1971. She added that the building does not seem to fulfil its promise of providing a quality community for students. “What I see is a very traditional, ordinary floor plan, which will not do.”

The site is currently home to a five-storey storage warehouse and a smaller two-storey building used by U of T Press.

The University of Toronto and Knightstone Capital Management Inc., a real estate development company, own the buildings. The proposed development would be a private venture by Knightstone.

“This is not a U of T residence, but rather a building to house students,” said Lucy Fromowitz, assistant vice-president of Student Life at U of T. “Quality student housing in close proximity to our campus is something we would support.”

Knightstone said the building provided a solution to U of T’s ever increasing demand for student housing in the area.

The building would be composed of two- and four-bedroom units to house roughly 1,200 students. There would be zero parking and there are also plans to relocate the U of T bookstore, currently at the Koffler Centre (214 College St.).

Knightstone’s development team suggested they would likely create a drive-thru connecting College Street with Glasgow Street—a small residential street adjacent to the proposed site—sparking anxiety from a local woman who has lived on Glasgow for over 40 years. “I’m not looking forward to stepping outside of my house and looking at this big tall building with 1,200 new neighbours every year moving in, moving out,” she said.

Some residents expressed fewer objections to the building’s size if it meant that the residence would swallow up a large number of students who currently dominate the area and occupy the area’s stock of rental units.

Other proposals for high-rises in the area have met similar resistance. In 2005, public outcry from U of T and the local community led to the cancellation of a 40-story condominium that was to go up where the former Planetarium sat.

Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) was in attendance to moderate the event. He held no official position on the proposal and insisted his role was to facilitate discussion between the developers and the community.

Vaughan did warn that such a large building with a high density could impact the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation’s (MPAC) assessment of the areas property taxes, causing them to increase.

Vaughan and the developers stressed that there is still a long way until building plans are officially decided upon and the end product may be radically different from the initial proposal.

“As you can understand, we shared some very early stage conceptual drawings at the meeting, solely to introduce the project to those in attendance as a way to help create context for a productive dialogue,” wrote Danny Roth, a PR representative for Knightstone, in an email. “Of course, the renderings are only in their earliest design stages and are under ongoing review.”

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