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NEWS: New highrise planned for Bloor and Spadina (May 2022)

May 17th, 2022 · No Comments

Residential development will displace businesses

PROPOSED: Developer’s rendering of the tower. COURTESY BDP QUADRANGLE

By Fox Oliver

A proposed 37-storey highrise in the heart of the Annex could drastically alter the Bloor and Spadina intersection. On November 8, 2021, developer First Capital proposed the construction of a building at 320, 328, and 332 Bloor St. W. 

Designed by architecture firm BDP Quadrangle, the building will have 628 sq. metres of commercial space, 377 residential units, 61 parking spots and 447 bicycle spaces. There will be a new public green space, as well as a path connecting Bloor St. W. with Paul Martel Park.

THEN: Scotiabank at the northeast corner of Bloor and Spadina in 1972. Courtesy City of Toronto Archives

On the proposed site there are currently three mixed-use buildings which house over a dozen businesses and offices. This development will not only displace these businesses, but it will reduce the commercial space from approximately 2000 sq. metres to 628 sq. metres (roughly one third of the size).

There are seven other developments close to the proposed building at 320 Bloor St. W. At 350, 316, and 300 Bloor St. W., there are four highrises in development, as well as one at 145 St. George St. A 23-storey University of Toronto residence is under construction at 700 Spadina Ave., as is an 11-storey purpose-built rental building at 666 Spadina Ave. The International Estonian Centre, KESKUS, held a groundbreaking ceremony on April 8 at 9 Madison Ave. Greater population density at this intersection will increase the number of pedestrians in the area, including in Spadina Station. Sidewalk crowding, due to more pedestrians, can negatively affect the experience of walking through an area, while simultaneously damaging commerce. 

NOW: April 2022, the soon to be demolished retail strip includes Scotiabank, Pizza Pizza, and Fresh. FOX OLIVER/GLEANER NEWS

To many people, replacing these small businesses with highrises feels very damaging to the community. Goodness Me! Natural Food Market (formerly Noah’s Natural Foods) is one of the businesses located on the proposed site. Owner, Sarshad Sahim, is worried that too many towers will damage the unique culture of the Annex.  She said that the food market, in operation since 1984, is well “established within the community. People keep coming back because they have history, and their parents went there years before them.”

If the development goes ahead, Sahim would like current businesses to have the option of returning  to their original locations. At a community meeting, Chris Atkins of First Capital stated that, “given where we [First Capital] are in the [development] process, there have not been discussions with potential tenants or users of that space.”

In response to questions about the building, Atkins said that the residential units would likely be rental units, as opposed to condo units, although he said this could change as the building plan undergoes further revisions.

According to the City of Toronto affordable housing costs 30 per cent or less of before-tax monthly income. As of 2021, for one-bedroom units (one-person households at or below the 60th percentile income) this value was $1090 per month, compared to the average monthly rent of $1980 for a one-bedroom apartment in the Annex. Although representatives from First Capital said that they would engage in discussions about affordable housing, there is no mention of these units in any of the building application documents.

Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) stated that while the city will continue to negotiate with the developer for the best possible deal for residents, it “cannot force the developer to provide affordable housing.” After repeated attempts by the Gleaner to contact First Capital regarding their plans for affordable housing, they did not reply.

At a community meeting, Layton said that Toronto is experiencing an affordability housing crisis and that developments are important. He believes, however, that “just adding density for the sake of density will not help.” He stressed the importance of looking at how a new development “interacts with the street, the local amenities” and how it can “reinforce what’s great about our communities.” This process involves appropriate and thoughtful use of the commercial space at ground level.

An interesting city bylaw explains why this development has been capped at 37 storeys. The city’s Official Plan states that views of the spire of the former Knox Church, 1 Spadina Cres., must not be obstructed. 

A pedestrian looking north from the College and Spadina intersection must be able to clearly see the spire, as well as have an unobstructed view behind it. This 800 metre long “view corridor” restricts the heights of all buildings within it, limiting changes that can be made to this development.

If this project is approved, it will certainly shape the future of this intersection and the surrounding area. Currently, city planning staff are working with the developer to solve preliminary issues, and they will update the community once these have been resolved.  

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Tags: Annex · News