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U of T, community in talks over Bloor United project

June 21st, 2012 · No Comments


By Sadie McInnes

Imagine the impact of a 40-storey building at the intersection of Bloor and Huron streets. That’s what the Bloor United Church (300 Bloor St. W.) proposed to Annex residents.

At this year’s Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) annual general meeting, Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) spoke up, warning the community of the proposed development.

“This neighbourhood is not the place for a 40-storey building,” said Vaughan, concerned that this building could set the standard for future Annex developments. “Once you build one, every building becomes a possibility for a 40-storey building.”

“We’re going to try to be creative and come up with a design that has less storeys.”—N. Barry Lyon

Vaughan announced that the development would be completely replacing the church, with affordable housing that would serve University of Toronto students as well as students from across the city.

The amount of density the 40 storeys of housing would bring to the Annex area would have been remarkable, leaving Councillor Vaughan no choice but to turn to residents for support in boycotting the development. Calling it a “war for land,” Vaughan asked residents for their help in protecting the “Bloor Street vision.”

Since then, however, development consultants from N. Barry Lyon have met with residents to bring some peace and clarity to the situation.

The project is still very early in its development, but after meeting with residents they intend to partner with developer Northrop to build something that will have slightly less impact.

Scott Walker, a consultant with N. Barry Lyon says they will try their best to downsize.  A 39-storey proposal was initially proposed, he says, adding “We’re going to try to be creative and come up with a design that has less storeys.” He said that their current goal is to be somewhere between 30- and 35-storeys.

Walker assures residents that the University of Toronto is not at all involved in the development, and never were, though it is possible that they will occupy some of the 40,000 square feet of office space that the building will house.

Contrary to what Vaughan believed, the building will not replace the church, but instead will be set back from the street on Bloor United property. The rentable space it will house will help the Bloor United Church with their struggling finances, and several offices will be occupied by the United Church of Canada. On top of office space, the church will be building a new sanctuary, adding 11,000 square feet of new community space, as well as renovating their current building to preserve the historic façade.

Walker says they will be designing the space with the community by using a working group process. “It’s this or nothing,” he said of the redevelopment, since Bloor United’s finances have been struggling for some time, leaving them very few options. “They’re trying to make the best of a bad situation, and we’re trying to do better,” said Walker, “we’re trying to do something great.”

Walker says he thinks the building will improve the area. “Right now it’s a mish-mash of buildings at Huron and Bloor, the development will add some liveliness,” he says. “I think at the end this will be quite impressive.”

Vaughan’s call for help paid off, since meeting with residents the Bloor United Church is reconfiguring development plans before proposing more neighbourhood friendly options.  As Walker put it, “the ball is now in our court.”

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