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NEWS (Oct. 2017): First look at Bloor Street United

November 2nd, 2017 · No Comments

Residents balk at tall tower plan

By Emilie Jones

Local residents got their first look at plans to renovate Bloor Street United Church late last month. The proposal calls for a 38-storey mixed-use building, a renovation, and partial demolition of the church, as well as a new promenade. Located at the corner of Bloor and Huron streets, the building is over a hundred years old.

It was the second time the church hosted a meeting on the future of the building, and this time, representatives from StrategyCorp., KPMB Architects, and Bousfields Inc. were on hand to present the initial plans.

Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) set the tone from the outset, applauding the church for its attempt to engage with the community.

“This isn’t an application yet. The way we are engaging in the development process is a longer process, and it means the community has a better say,” he said, adding, “I encourage a constructive dialogue, this is not a point of pitch forks, it is a point of conversation.”

Aware that many residents would be anxious about the proposed height of the new building, Louis Tinker, a partner with Bousfields Inc., took pains to assure the audience that the proposal was in line with the planning guidelines for the area.

The Toronto Core Study is a comprehensive secondary plan for downtown Toronto in response to growth in the past 15 years,” said Tinker. “It has identified areas of growth, and this space is one.”

He added that the church’s essence will stay the same.

“Buildings that have an identity are important to our city, we don’t just want residential buildings along the street. Accessibility is an issue, as we welcome the more diverse, and we want to make sure there is more transparency on Bloor [Street].”

His remarks, however, fell largely on deaf ears.

“Why a tower of 35 [storeys] when the study said 20 to 24?” asked Norman Track, a local resident. “If you are negotiating with us, why do you play this game?”

That sentiment reverberated — angrily — throughout the meeting.

“I don’t know how you are talking about community when you’re talking about something so destructive,” said Reva Landau, also from the area. “It sets a dangerous precedent of high spaces north of Bloor [Street]. The community is going to get nothing, the only people who benefit are the church, because they don’t want to pay for [the renovation] themselves.”

Marianna McKenna, a partner at KPMB, explained that projections from a shadow study showed a tall building to be the best option.

“We tried to put density around, but a tall elegant building is better than a short fat one. Height is not the issue, it is beauty. We are asking for a trade-off of densities…a low stockier building would have a continued shadow.”

One member of the congregation defended the proposal, noting that “of the whole footprint, the tower takes a small part of it, and is at the back. There is a lot of air space even with the tower, that’s a very good thing…going up means we can have air space.”

Other than the height, another big concern brought up at the meeting was the congestion this plan will create. The proposal includes only about one hundred parking spaces, which will not even be enough for the proposed number of residential units, without accounting for the parking spaces needed for church events.

“There are people living there, office spaces, people coming and leaving, how are they going to get there? The TTC, which is already over-subscribed?” asked Track.

McKenna reiterated that this was still an initial proposal.

“The application is not done yet, everything is fresh out of the oven. We welcome all feedback.”

The next community meeting will be held in November.

 

READ MORE:

NEWS: New vision for Bloor Street United (JULY 2017)

U of T, community in talks over Bloor United project (JUNE 2012)

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