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Mixed-use, mixed feelings: Proposed development largest since Loblaws

December 29th, 2010 · 3 Comments

328 Dupont Street is one of six properties referred to in an Official Plan amendment application. Perry King/Gleaner News

By Perry King

The Wynn Group is moving forward with its plans of developing a 29-storey hotel and condominium on a strip of Dupont.

An application to amend the Toronto Official Plan, that will change the designation of six Dupont properties from an employment to a mixed-use site, was submitted by the Wynn Group in May, but was only given public notice in October.

The application was submitted in conjunction with the proposed hotel-condo project that the Wynn Group ultimately wants to develop on the site.

If the Wynns’ applications are approved for amendment and rezoning, the development will be the largest on Dupont Street since the Loblaws supermarket (650 Dupont St.) came to the neighbourhood in the mid-1990s.

The Wynn Group, led by Paul and Les Wynn, have been proposing a mixed-use development on the site for years. According to an article from the January 2008 edition of the Annex Gleaner, Paul Wynn sought community feedback on a proposed 22-storey residential property with commercial entities and professional offices. “The issue, right now, before the city, is whether or not the land should only permit employment uses, and the reality is within employment areas of the city, it’s a pretty narrow range of employment uses,” said Mark Flowers, the Wynns’ legal representative.

Perceived by local residents and the Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) as “precedent-setting” at the time, the Wynns retained counsel in 2009 and have been doing their own research into the feasibility of mixed-use.

The Wynn Group, operating for 40 years, is based out of an office at 330 Dupont St. They have over 2,000 residential properties and 2 million square feet of commercial space in the GTA. Those include high-rise buildings in Parkdale, including the notorious West Lodge Apartments. The Wynns were awarded the runner-up “Golden Cockroach Award” by the Parkdale Tenants Association (PTA) in 2004. They also have a retail chain for furniture and appliances.

The amendment application, to be taken up by community council as early as January, only publicly refers to 328 Dupont but also applies to 330, 332, 344, 358, and 374. These properties are mainly filled with businesses that rent the spaces, including a few massage therapy schools, a DNA testing centre, and an office for the Ontario Conservatory of Music.

The city has traditionally rejected residential applications on the north side of Dupont because it is provincial policy to have cities protect these lands since they are economic generators. The Wynns originally wanted to apply the amendment to the entire north side of Dupont to Bathurst, feeling the land was not being used to its fullest capacity. Since there is already a limited number of residential tenants, they believe it is already a de facto mixed-use area. However, consultants recommended keeping the application specific to properties the Wynns own, as well as the adjoining auto shop at 374 Dupont.

Barry Brooks, the city planner handling the Wynn’s application, is pessimistic about their chances. “We have some concerns, obviously, because changing the Official Plan designation from employment area to mixed-use area is a substantial change. We’re interested at looking at what’s appropriate, and we’re still making that determination at this point,” he said.

Brooks will be reporting the status of the amendment application in the new year. “Staff are taking a close look at the application and are evaluating it against the context of the city’s official plan and provincial growth plan for the Golden Horseshoe, and we’ll be reporting to council on that,” said David Oikawa, Brooks’ superior in the city planning department.

Should council adopt the position of rejecting the application, Flowers said the Wynns will likely appeal at the OMB. “I would fully expect that we would then appeal that, and the Ontario Municipal Board would have to make a decision on the land use issue.”

Community opinions on the matter vary. In 2008, locals expressed concerns about traffic congestion, proximity to the CP rail corridor, and the possibility of obstructing the sight lines from Casa Loma (1 Austin Ter.).

Those height concerns are echoed today by ARA chair David Harrison, who finds the 29-storey height to be “crazy” and “a mistake.” He hoped that a Dupont Visioning Study, similar to the previously completed Bloor Visioning Study, could be developed before Wynn’s proposal was considered. “I am told nothing will go ahead with the Wynn brothers until after that. Who knows, we got a new team downtown, but that’s the last I heard,” he said.

The ARA’s position is that height restrictions for buildings on Dupont should be capped at seven storeys.

While Harrison said that the local community would not be in favour of a residential development on-site, there are some who see a benefit to it. “There are a lot of mixed feelings, people that live around the area are happy because their property values will go up,” said Robert Chee, who manages the Diverso restaurant and cafe (328 Dupont St.).

“I personally think the area needs it. There’s not much on this strip from here to Bathurst, or just past Howland. There’s no banks or hairstylists or convenient places to shop. It might be good for this area.”

A Dupont revisioning study, a project to be taken up by Councillor Adam Vaughan’s office (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), the Planning and Growth Management Committee, and city planning, has been talked about for years, but the city planning department has been stalled by lack of revenue. But with the Bloor Visioning Study completed, the time may be right to get the study underway.

“We’re hoping to have some discussion as to what would be the appropriate form for development on Dupont. Obviously it’s going to be mixed-use, but I think we would very much hope that height restrictions would be in place. We’ve seen some height restrictions now on some developments,” said Harrison.

The Wynns have not yet submitted an application for the rezoning of the development, but plan to do so if their amendment application is approved.

Tags: Annex · News

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mary-Beth // Dec 30, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Great story. This is my first visit to Gleanernews.ca, I shall return!

  • 2 lawrence // Jan 19, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    anyone living directly south of this will end up with a basement full of raw sewage if they don’t have a backflow preventor on their sewage pipes. the sewer system in the annex is over 100 years old and needs to be updated before developments of this size is considered.

  • 3 A Walmart on Dupont? RioCan purchases 1.4 acres in Dupont-Christie area // May 5, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    […] Gleaner reported last December on plans for a hotel and condo by the Wynn Group at Dupont and Walmer […]