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NEWS: Preserving a sense of community

March 9th, 2016 · No Comments

Seaton Village loved for its friendly, low-key character

By Annemarie Brissenden

In Seaton Village, children regularly run the risk of being late for school, but the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of their parents. In this everyone-knows-everyone neighbourhood — still a friendly hamlet that’s home to residents who have lived there for decades — the morning walk, or the inevitably not-so-quick jaunt to Fiesta Farms, is an opportunity for friends to swap stories and share the latest news. It’s easy to lose track of time.

“The city planning process…doesn’t help build communities”—Jennifer Hunter, SVRA president

“Seaton Village is kind of like the little brother everybody forgot about,” said Jennifer Hunter, the president of the Seaton Village Residents’ Association (SVRA). “We’re an interesting, self-contained spot.”

Diane Fotheringham agreed.

“It’s still a bit of a secret, a wonderful little residential area. It’s not quite gentrified, and still has a neighbourhood feel,” said Fotheringham, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 20 years and owns Titus & Louise on Dupont Street. “I didn’t come here willingly, but I quite love it.”

Like so many other historical downtown neighbourhoods, Seaton Village is facing encroaching development and gentrification, but as a March 3 open house demonstrated, its residents are finding ways to preserve the sense of community that they hold dear.

Working in conjunction with Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) and Toronto City Planning, they’ve developed a Dupont Street Study — already being appealed by eight different properties at the Ontario Municipal Board — in the hopes of guiding development along the area’s northern flank. The study highlights existing characteristics that reflect many of the city’s older neighbourhoods: diversity, useful services and retail, strong built form and heritage, and a stable population with long-term residents. It also reflects a desire to maintain the area’s walkability and family-friendly focus, while adding green space, and more restaurants and patios.

According to Hunter, there are eight development applications alone in the Davenport Triangle, and a total of 28 stretch west along Dupont Street.

“Dupont Street is a little commuter route that people used to go from point A to point B, but now everyone is landing there,” she said.

Noting that re-invention and re-imagination can be very exciting, she added that gentrification doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

“It provides an extraordinary opportunity, but it’s a little daunting. It has to be handled with sensitivity to the neighbourhoods.”

Seaton Village has its share of “micro” development issues as well: minor variances to two- and two-and-a-half-storey houses that are being purchased for $1 million.

“These minor variances are the most complex,” explained Cressy. “We’re working on new guidelines for the Committee of Adjustment relative to Seaton Village.”

The hope is that it will make the application process for minor variances less adversarial.

“The city planning process really pits neighbour against neighbour. It doesn’t allow you to resolve it amicably,” said Hunter. “It doesn’t help build communities.”

For the SVRA, however, developing the studies is a way to counteract that.

“We are looking at the visioning as a means to connect with people.”

It’s that sense of connection that the residents clearly want to preserve.

“Every street has a street party, the festivals are starting to grow,” reflected Hunter. “It’s really cool how many different hubs there are: Vermont Park, St. Albans, the school…there’s so many opportunities to see people.”

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