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NEWS (MARCH 2017): Westbank presents latest proposal

March 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

Community, city closer to approving Mirvish Village development

PHOTO COURTESY WESTBANK PROJECTS CORP.

By Geremy Bordonaro

It all came down to this: one final community meeting about Westbank Projects Corp.’s application to build a large mixed-use development on the former site of Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village. After a long and unprecedented involvement from the community — including residents and local business owners — Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) and Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) hosted a meeting on March 2 to present the latest (and perhaps last) iteration of the application.

It was standing-room-only in the Bickford Centre cafeteria.

The proposed development has undergone many changes since it was first presented in 2015. The mixed-use plan includes a total of 804 rental residential spaces, a park spanning 1,150 square metres, a market alleyway, and 15,000 square metres of non-residential space. Twenty-three heritage buildings (up from 15) will be preserved out of a possible 27. All told, 47 unique buildings, including a 28-storey tower, will be raised.

“Thank you all so much for being here and welcome. This is the 750th meeting we’ve had for the Bloor and Bathurst street corner and section of town,” Layton joked. “I’m encouraged to see so many faces that are still so enthusiastic about what’s going on up the street.”

Cressy said he was to have a developer who did not shy away from confronting and keeping open communications with the public.

“Do we like absolutely everything that’s here? Is it perfect? Not yet,” said Cressy. “But, my goodness I can’t tell you in Ward 20 how many times we have a developer come in and a couple of months later they are at the Ontario Municipal Board.

“This is a model for how we want the development community to engage with us. When they work with the community and listen to the community we build better neighbourhoods.”

“The priorities for the community throughout this process have been limiting the height and density, and understanding the impact of these new buildings with regard to conserving as much heritage as possible of both the built and intangible heritage,” said Graig Uens, a community planner with the City of Toronto. “The site itself is special for a variety of reasons beyond the buildings that exist on it.”

These priorities dictated the flow of the meeting and feedback from those given the microphone to speak. While reassurances came from Cressy and Layton, there were still a number of those who called for the towers to be lowered and the density to be lessened.

There were also those who were concerned about recognizing and protecting the cultural history of the neighbourhood.

“I’m really concerned about the legacy of the local black community. There’s a long history that has expressed itself in the patty shops and the barber shops that continues to today. It’s a sacred site for a lot of communities,” said Kenneth Montague, who has run Word of Mouth Dentistry in the Annex for more than 20 years. “There needs to be a dedicated plan that says there will be community meeting places, art exhibitions, and so forth. I just want to make sure that in all this very beautiful planning there is something that maintains this history that we have.”

Gus Sinclair, chair of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association, said that while his organization supports the plan, his concerns are whether or not the promise for fully rental and affordable will be kept.

“We applaud the rental prioritizing of this project. Is there a way to guarantee that this will be all rental?” Sinclair asked. “That’s a critical question for us because we can imagine what would happen if it wasn’t and we’d rather the rentals would stay.”

Westbank, however, said they were committed to the rental model.

“[At this meeting] we’ll give you a sense of what’s happened over the past few years from our initial ideas, what we brought to the table at the beginning, how it has evolved and changed from your input and the input of city staff,” said Gregory Henriquez, lead architect. “We’re here to make it as good as it can be. We’re here to listen again.”

Henriquez valued the input on the project thus far and acknowledged that the development has “been strengthened” by residents and city staff.

Graig Uens said the city’s concerns with the proposal have been remedied, and that a recommendation to approve the application will be forthcoming.

“Our priorities [for] the site have largely been addressed by this development. This is a different approach from that brought to us by Westbank. We’ve reviewed the application and brought it into the community,” he said. “On April 4, we will bring forward recommendations to community council to approve the ­development as you see it today.”

 

READ MORE:

FORUM: Build a neighbourhood (March 2017)

NEWS: Height, density still top concerns (July 2016)

NEWS: Westbank submits revised application (June 2016)

DEVELOPINGS: Annual review reflects tension between community activism and OMB (March 2016)

Westbank towers over 4 Corners (January 2016)

City hosts first Mirvish Village community consultation (November 2015)

Residents’ associations share concerns for Mirvish Village (October 2015)

Westbank submits application (August 2015)

BABIA endorses Westbank proposal (July 2015)

How do you make it real? (April 2015)

Tags: Annex · News