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NEWS (July 2016): Height, density still top concerns

July 25th, 2016 · No Comments

City hosts consultation on Westbank’s Mirvish Village plan

By Annemarie Brissenden

So pervasive is the spectre of Donald Trump these days that it’s impossible to escape, even in the Annex.

“Thank god it wasn’t Donald Trump,” said one community member of Westbank Project Corp.’s plans for Mirvish Village during a June 13 community meeting at the Bickford Centre. Met with much laughter and applause, this was perhaps one of the few times everyone in the room was in agreement.

“The building has to fit with both the existing and planned context”—Graig Uens, Planner, City of Toronto

It was City Planning’s first opportunity to canvass the community for feedback on the developer’s revised application for the project, which it submitted to the City of Toronto in May. Hosted by the planning department, the meeting included many representatives from Westbank, councillors Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) and Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), as well as several officials from the city’s parks, transportation, and planning departments.

Planner Graig Uens provided some preliminary comments on the revised application. Noting that the parcel of land — which includes Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village and is bounded by Bloor, Bathurst, Lennox, and Markham streets — is targeted for growth in context, Uens said that the revisions correspond to areas previously flagged by the city: increased green space and heritage conservation, and a refined built form. He added that the city is continuing to work externally with the applicant and internally to ensure new services keep pace with growth and intensification.

These latter concerns were the ones communities focused on the most during the question and answer session.

“Believe me, things are pretty dense there right now,” said Seaton Village resident Aaron Davis, who was echoed by a neighbour: “it is already difficult to get on the subway east from Bathurst. [With] no changes in transit capacity, how can the neighbourhood add 1,000 units?”

Some people expressed the need for greater bicycling services, while others, like one Palmerston Boulevard and Lennox Street resident, wondered how traffic would be handled, both during construction and after, especially in the context of development in the Bathurst corridor.

“It’s difficult to get up my driveway between 4 and 7 p.m.; I haven’t seen a clear analysis of how we’re going to handle that density.”

Connected to the questions about density are questions about height, particularly regarding the taller two towers, one of which tops out at 29 storeys.

“The towers stick out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the community; the max should be nine storeys,” said a member of the audience, who identified herself as an architect.

Many asked how the application fits into the context of the Four Corners Study — which currently states that no building at Bloor and Bathurst streets should be higher than nine storeys — a planning document that would govern development in the area that is also underway at the city.

“Westbank has ripped [that] document to shreds,” said one person to much applause.

However, Uens was at pains to explain that “the southwest corner is a different animal; the larger site affords an opportunity to do more.”

“The building has to fit with both the existing and planned context,” he added.

Not all those who took to the microphone were opposed to the development. As all the units remain rental, some believe it will enable those who don’t anticipate being able to afford to buy a house in the Annex to continue to live in the neighbourhood.

An 18-year-old Harbord Collegiate Institute student with the demeanour of a young Joe Cressy stood up in “[full] support of this project. It will allow people to live in the neighbourhood.”

“Hats off to the [Westbank] team for listening, and incorporating the funky things that make the Annex so great,” said Geoff Cape, the founding CEO of the Evergreen Foundation. “I have teenage boys, and maybe they will be able to stay in the neighbourhood.”

“I think we’re close,” said Brian Burchell, chair of the Bloor-Annex BIA (who also publishes this newspaper). A supporter of the project from day one, he challenged the “dynamic duo” of Cressy and Layton to “find a way to make sure this does not end up at the Ontario Municipal Board, if we wish to show that we can effectively plan in this city without being under the constant thumb of that erratic provincial arbiter.”

All of Westbank’s submissions are available at the city’s planning portal. This article is part of a series of this newspaper’s ongoing coverage of the development.



 NEWS: Westbank submits revised application (June 2016)

DEVELOPINGS: Annual review reflects tension between community activism and OMB (March 2016)

Westbank towers over 4 Corners (January 2016)

City hosts first Mirvish Village community consultation (November 2015)

Residents’ associations share concerns for Mirvish Village (October 2015)

Westbank submits application (August 2015)

BABIA endorses Westbank proposal (July 2015)

How do you make it real? (April 2015)

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