Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

NEWS: Too close for comfort (Winter 2022)

March 14th, 2022 · 2 Comments

Side-by-side condo tower development on Davenport

The site of the former Just Desserts restaurant is slated to be the new home of Designers Walk Building, a 22-storey “vertical forest” with trees on every terrace. The condo tower by Cityzen and Greybrook Realty Partners will be the first of its kind in Toronto.

By Nicole Stoffman

A new condo neighbourhood is rising on Davenport Road between Dupont Street and Avenue Road. With the completion of the 35-storey AYC condos and townhouses at Bedford Road, and another seven builds ranging in size from 7 to 35 storeys, the L-shaped curve at the northeastern edge of the Annex is set to boom.  But the Annex Residents’ Association is concerned that a liveable neighbourhood has not been planned for.  

Corinna Prior, planner at the City of Toronto, would disagree with that assessment. The qualities of a liveable neighbourhood, such as appropriate built form, community services, a welcoming public realm, and “the creation of a comfortable microclimate,” have been planned for, she told the Gleaner in an email. 

When reviewing applications along this stretch of Davenport, the city was guided by the 2019 Downtown Plan which concluded that there is sufficient social infrastructure, like schools and libraries, to accommodate growth, she said. Planning staff also referenced the 2018 Davenport Triangle Guiding Principles, a 2018 vision statement for the triangle bounded by Dupont Street, Davenport, Bedford Road, and Designer’s Walk Lane. 

However, the Davenport Triangle Guiding Principles were at times overruled by the province, and a 22-storey tower was approved for the northwest corner of Davenport and Bedford, even though the principles advocated only midrise buildings for the triangle. 

“This is a classic example of spot zoning,” said Henry Wiercinski, co-chair of the Annex Residents’ Association’s planning and development committee. “This is site by site. No vision.” The ARA prides itself on working with developers to ensure builds that contribute to the neighbourhood, “We are not anti-development,” said Wiercinski. But without a visioning study for this stretch of Davenport, he thinks there’s been a lack of construction management logistics. “You wouldn’t have one [building] under construction and three that will be in construction in a short period of time,” had such a study been done, he said.

The city adopted a motion on Jan 19, 2021, to remove parking minimums in new developments, to reduce dependence on cars and promote affordable housing (parking is expensive to build and the cost gets passed onto the buyer.) Yet two of the new towers on Davenport will have four levels of underground parking each, and another will have three levels. Wiercinski thinks Davenport is a good candidate for increased density, but doubts the roads will be able to accommodate such a dramatic increase in traffic. Prior said planners coordinate with other city divisions, such as transportation, when reviewing planning applications.

He would like to have seen a visioning study for Davenport similar to the one adopted in 2011 for Dupont between Kendal and Ossington. Developers are adhering to its nine-storey height limit and public realm considerations, he said, because the developers took part in the negotiations between the city and residents. 

Councillor Layton told the Gleaner that there is already a backlog of planning study requests to his office. City staff take adjacent guidelines and apply them to applications along this stretch of Davenport. Like Prior, he cited the Davenport Triangle Guiding Principles as well as the Annex Heritage Conservation District. 

“This area of Ward 11 is exceeding the provincial targets,” adds Layton. Furthermore, three of the four corners at Davenport and Bedford will have high rises, which the ARA thinks represent too much density. 

However, when checked against the 2020 density target as set out in the provincial Growth Plan, “A Place to Grow,” the davenport condo boom seems to be underachieving. The minimum density target set out for downtown Toronto is 400 people and jobs per hectare by 2031. This is the same target from the previous 2015 Growth Plan put in place by the Liberal government. There will be a total of approximately 1,200 new residents along this 550-metre stretch of Davenport, when all 7 builds are complete. Therefore, the growth target would be 4,000 for this 5.5 hectare stretch of arterial road, assuming five hectares of land on each side.

Nonetheless, Oren Tamir in the city planning division confirmed Councillor Layton’s observation in an email to the Gleaner: “If the density trends continue, it is likely that Downtown will exceed the Urban Growth Centre density target well before 2031.”

Consideration has been given to the public realm on Davenport, despite the lack of a visioning study, in the form of Joseph Tough Park and two publicly accessible spaces on Pears Avenue and Designers Walk Lane. Prior told the Gleaner it adds up to “more than $2.5 million in-kind contributions toward public realm improvements.”

Improvements have also been made to social services in the area, thanks to the $1.8 million collected in cash contributions since 2016 from Section 37 funds. These were spent on improvements to food security, health services, and amenity spaces in local social housing, such as at 250 Davenport Road. “Additional public benefits are anticipated in connection with other applications still under review in the area,” Prior told the Gleaner.

Of a total of over 800 units, there are no affordable units confirmed among the 7 new builds. The one exception is the 35-storey tower at 148 Avenue Rd. Planner Bruce Hawkins told the Gleaner in an email that the developer has not yet proposed any affordable units, but that the city is exploring opportunities for incorporating affordable housing into the proposal. 

The target markets for these dwellings range from mid-market to luxury. For example, 321 Davenport by the Alterra Group is aimed at “affluent end-users and downsizers,” said Dagmar Caine, Assistant Marketing Manager. “It is people looking for a lifestyle change and the comfort and security condominium living provides while also maintaining their current luxuries.”

It remains to be seen if this stretch of Davenport Road will feel like a complete community, but some will welcome it with open arms. “I happen to love higher density development,” said John De Porter, owner of Misto Lino Linen Shop on Avenue Road. 

“This area is not the most vibrant, so a new project, like a very tall, glass tower, brings in a lot of excitement and a lot of buzz, so I’m all for it.” 


Tags: Annex · News

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Christopher King // Mar 15, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    The ARA was invited to participate by TCHC residents living at 250 Davenport Rd way back in 2012 when the AYC condominiums/townhomes were still being proposed.
    Only ONE ARA member showed up, and only once during the consultation period.

  • 2 Jay // Mar 18, 2022 at 7:25 pm

    I thought this article did a nice job voicing different points of view, but I just want to note my disappointment in the ARA for opposing high-density development, even if it has some flaws (such as perhaps too much parking). Just one time, I would love to see a neighborhood association oppose a development plan because there’s “not enough” housing.

    As someone who is on the house hunt, it is just appalling that one would need to spend more than 1 million dollars to buy a simple place. The lack of development in this city (and most North American cities) has led to a housing crisis, and we can’t simply do things gradually without an entire generation (my generation) losing the opportunity to have a place to live and develop stable roots.