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Condo development could set height precedent in Little Portugal

April 11th, 2011 · No Comments

The Maple Leaf industrial yard at Dundas and Manning has been operating in the neighbourhood since 1932. As soon as this fall, ground could be broken on a new mixed-use development, closing the lumber and supplies store. Perry King/Gleaner News

By Perry King

If approved, a condominium at Manning and Dundas will be the tallest building in the neighbourhood.

As early as this fall, owner Maria Da Conceicao Silva and developer Andrew Dales Consulting will be breaking ground on the new development.

“Everyone has their opinion on it. Some people don’t want to see any height increase at all,” said Elspeth Cassar, a resident of Euclid Avenue. Cassar said she would support the development if it were within the limits outlined by the city.

Fifty neighbourhood signatures were submitted to community council on Feb. 11 opposing the height variances the developer is seeking for the eight-storey (27 metre) project. The Harmonized Zoning bylaw restricts buildings to 16 metres on Dundas between Bathurst and Grace.

Cassar says local residents have a broad range of concerns, from lost daylight to density to parking. But, she says many residents see the change as inevitable. “Other than people who work at the site who are going to lose their jobs, [many people] welcome the development. I would love to see a mixed commercial-residential building. I think it would be an improvement for the neighbourhood.”

Others are less supportive. Lee Anderson, a Manning Avenue resident calls the size of the development “insane.”

“This is an established neighbourhood with an established amount of water usage, sewage usage, electrical usage, and cable-internet usage,” he said. “I understand the need to fill space in a reasonable way for density purposes, but that’s a lot.”

Kenny Conners, who manages the Café Brasiliano (849 Dundas St. W.) across the street, notes that the neighbourhood was previously changing at “about a snail’s pace. But I’ve seen, in the last couple years, a lot of new things going up.”

Conners thinks the changes are a good thing. “A lot of people say it’s bad because the Portuguese are getting pushed out a little … but in a way, we need that new blood,” he said. “Toronto ain’t the same city that it was back in the 1950’s or the 1970’s. We’re all about change.”

Plans for the north part of the project, encompassing the back alley and properties on Manning Avenue, would include a row house with eight four-story units. The south part of the project, encompassing the lumberyard, will be a 95-unit, mixed-use site with commercial space and underground parking.

The five properties listed in the applications are 854, 856, 858 Dundas Street West and 217 and 291 Manning Avenue. A preliminary city report submitted Jan. 19 says the project could be precedent setting.

“You can’t just put big buildings like this on small pieces of land,” said Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina). He  says that avenue studies generally recommend a 20-metre height cap to foster a “healthy density” in new developments along streets like Dundas.“[In terms of height] we still don’t know where we’re going to end up falling here, but I think any building that goes up in that neighbourhood is going to set a precedent for what’s going to happen on the street,” said Layton.

In an email to the Gleaner, area resident George Sawision said: “This is a precedent setting development that seems to be a ‘done deal’ with a re-zoning hearing scheduled regarding the ‘extra 7 metres’ that will be added to the top. It will change the area forever as other developments are waiting to see if this one is approved.”

On Feb. 16, Toronto and East York Community Council adopted the preliminary report. There have been no formal talks between the developers, locals, and the city about the property to date. Local residents have not seen the full plan from the owners, and Layton has advised residents from the Trinity Bellwoods Community Association (TCBA) to voice their opinions once they are provided with the owner’s plan.

Several other developers are eyeing the Little Portugal area for condo developments, which makes some neighbours nervous, while others embrace the change.

On Jan. 24, developers submitted applications for an eight storey, mixed-use site at 1243 Dundas St. W., west of Ossington. Near Anderson’s home on Manning between Dundas and College, 45 town homes will be built starting next year at the location of the former St. Francis of Assisi school (250 Manning Ave.) and the adjacent parking lot.

“Our street is already used as a thoroughfare for people going south in terms of car traffic. That’s going to increase tenfold. If the driveway entrance to that building is on Manning, that means people have to come all the way down from College Street to get to it. That bugs me a lot because they’re turning it into a main street, which it’s not,” said Anderson.

As for the lumberyard, a staple of the neighbourhood since it was founded in 1932, its shutdown is a major change in itself. Tony Goncalves, a manager at Maple Leaf lumber, says that the staff had met with the owner several weeks ago, who gave them “a timeline of about a couple years” for the development to take place. Employees will be relocated to other locations if they opt to remain with the company, but Goncalves is not sure when this will happen.

“We have customers who keep coming in and asking ‘Where are you going to go?’” he said. Goncalves is accepting of the prospect of change to the site, saying “the city is changing.”

TBCA chair Chris Shulgan sees the change as symbolic. “I think it’s a really interesting story because it represents the transfer of the area from an ethnic community to, for lack of a better word, a hipster community,” he said.

“It’s owned by Portuguese people, it’s the biggest and I think you can call it the mainstay of the Portuguese community along that stretch of Dundas. If it is becoming condos, it is really indicative of the direction that the community is changing.”

For information on an upcoming community council meeting, please contact councillor Layton’s office at 416-392-4009 or councillor_layton@toronto.ca.

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