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Kensington Market ready for action

July 3rd, 2015 · 1 Comment

Residents and business-owners vow to battle proposed development

By Annemarie Brissenden

Kensington Market is once again preparing for battle. In what’s becoming an increasingly familiar story in this part of Toronto, an application to replace a non-residential automotive rental facility at College Street and Augusta Avenue with a mixed-use development has the area’s residents and business-owners up in arms.

“We’ll go big, as big as we did for the fight against Walmart. We’ll do the same thing again,” vowed Su Alexanian, chair of the Kensington Market Action Committee (KMAC), which famously prevented RioCan from bringing the discount big box store to Bathurst and Nassau streets.

“In the end it was the developer that backed down.”

Attendees at a community consultation meeting held May 14 were decidedly against the proposal as it stands, citing concerns about height, the sandwiching of lower rise housing between tall buildings, density, and the proposed development’s lack of harmony with the neighbourhood.

“The overwhelming response is concern about this application,” said Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina). “We had a packed house of more than 200 people [at the meeting], reflective of the diverse neighbourhood.” Among the attendees were representatives of the Kensington Business Improvement Area, KMAC, the Kensington Residents’ Association, the Habord Village Residents’ Association, the Harbord Village Business Improvement Area, and Friends of Kensington Market (FoKM).

As Dominique Russell, chair of FoKM, put it, “the community expressed its concerns fairly clearly at the public meeting. The development doesn’t complement Kensington Market.”

In its current form, the application is summarized on the City of Toronto’s planning site “as a 13- and six-storey mixed-use redevelopment. The College Street building will rise to seven storeys and provide setbacks at the upper levels as it transitions to 13 storeys, with a height of approximately 42 metres. The Augusta Avenue building will have a four-storey base, setbacks at the fifth and sixth levels, and a height of approximately 21 metres.”

Residents of the two buildings, which will be made up of 29 one-bedroom units, 135 two-bedroom units, and eight three-bedroom units, and connected by a bridge at the fifth level, will share the indoor amenity spaces. Cressy highlights several major concerns with the application. At least 10 per cent of every new development in Ward 20 should consist of at least three-bedroom units, and “the height is not in sync with the character of the neighbourhood, particularly on Augusta Avenue.”

Given the local opposition to the application, the developer’s representative, a lawyer with Goodmans, agreed to revise its proposal and attend another public meeting once the changes have been made.

Little is known about the developer itself, though rumours suggest it consists of a consortium based in Hong Kong. That lack of information, combined with open questions about the nature of how to accommodate growth itself, continues to plague the area’s residents, many of whom are wondering whether this type of density makes sense for a neighbourhood like Kensington. “Are there neighbourhoods [like ours] where we shouldn’t be putting up tall towers?” asked Russell. “Would putting up tall towers destroy the reason people come here to hang out?”

Cressy had the same question, but framed it differently. Noting that under the Official Plan, “downtown is zoned for growth,” he questioned whether downtown’s boundaries should extend north of College Street.

“There’s no designation for a neighbourhood that wants to stay the same,” explained Alexanian. “We are one of the most valued neighbourhoods in the city, in the country even, and we have nothing [with which] to protect ourselves.”

She is also concerned about the type of residents the development will attract, another recurring theme throughout the Gleaner’s coverage area. “They are talking about family-sized apartments that are 450 square feet. I’m sorry; that’s not a family apartment.”

“It seems to be really directed at small space living,” added Russell, noting that the common areas were referred to as “study spaces”. She’s quick to point out that “there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with student housing,” and that many students live in the market, but that preserving diversity is essential.

For now, community members are left to ponder these questions, as the application is currently back with the developer, who did not agree to a timeline for revising the application.

“The ball is in their court,” said Cressy.

David Bronskill of Goodman’s LLP, the developer’s representative, did not reply to an interview request.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Christopher King // Jul 4, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Seriously, they’re concerned about this mixed use development and NOT the devastation that will occur when Alexandra Park is finished being redeveloped and the additional 2-3000 additional people move into the area with their cars and desires for brand name franchises?

    Seems to me that the Kensington Market Action Group has already lost the battle, and they just haven’t figured it out.