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NEWS: Parking versus housing (Oct. 2020)

November 2nd, 2020 · No Comments

Kensington Market considers a change

By Mary An

Priorities are shifting in Kensington Market, according to a recent motion adopted by Toronto City Council that declares the parking lot at 25 Bellevue Ave. a surplus location that could be used to build affordable housing. 

Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) recently pushed a motion requesting a non-profit organization with strong links to Kensington Market be allowed to operate and develop an affordable housing project at that location and that new parking opportunities be found within the Toronto Parking Authority. 

The idea to change the purpose of 25 Bellevue Ave. has been circulating within the Kensington Market community for some time. In 2018, the Kensington Community Land Trust (KCLT) committee brought the idea to Joe Cressy (Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York). 

“We had some conversations with Joe, who referred to that piece of land as the largest underutilized piece of land within the whole Kensington Market area,” said Kevin Barrett, co-chair of the KCLT said in a recent interview. 

Cressy brought a “visioning” idea for 25 Bellevue Ave. to council, where he requested that the process identify some city-building opportunities to replace the parking lot. Some potential ideas for the space at the time included affordable housing, a community gathering space, neighbourhood gardens, and an area for small businesses. This idea for a “visioning process” to replace the parking lot was adopted by council in 2018. 

The KCLT also had their own “visioning exercise” that included many residents and business owners within the area. 

“We did some consultation and some advertising around the neighbourhood and gathered a very diverse group of Kensington residents, merchants, and community members,”  said Kevin Barrett. “There was a lot of support for redeveloping that site.” 

Layton said he hoped this recent motion would jumpstart the process of finding a partner to redevelop the site. 

So far, residents and community groups of Kensington Market are reacting positively to Layton’s initiative.

“As someone who lives in Kensington, I think it’s more important to have affordable housing than a parking lot,” said Hope McNeil, a Kensington Market resident of three years.

 According to Dominique Russell, Co-Chair of Friends of Kensington Market, community members are excited to see the parking lot turn into affordable housing. She says people are reassured by the idea that the developer will have strong community connections helps ensure faith that the project won’t potentially hinder the “spirit of the neighborhood.” Russell only had a small concern with the development idea, which was a lack of parking space in the community. 

“The parking situation is complex because on the one hand, residents need to park, and on the other hand there’s people we need to bring in from the outside to shop,” said Russell.“But again, the motion addresses this by looking at different ways to accommodate this issue.”

Layton predicts that parking won’t be much of a concern in the future. 

“The reality is that people who live in the downtown core drive less and ownership of an automobile is lower with the option of public transit, as well as car share services,” Layton said. “We are moving to a world where fewer people will own cars.” 

Layton and city staff are currently working on finding an advocate with strong ties to the Kensington Market community to help move forward with this development. 

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