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NEWS (OCTOBER 2016): Preventing a wall of towers

October 28th, 2016 · No Comments

Spadina Avenue high-rise not a bar for height

By Annemarie Brissenden

A 25-storey, 334-unit apartment building is providing the model for a new mixed-student residence at the northwest corner of Spadina and Sussex avenues, but not in the way local residents’ associations would like.

“It’s effectively the same height as 666 [Spadina Ave.],” said Scott Mabury, vice-president university operations, University of Toronto, of the proposed development, which includes a 23-storey building and a separate 3-storey townhouse complex. The 2.2-hectare site assembles six properties at 698, 700, 702, 704, and 706 Spadina Ave., as well as 54 Sussex Ave.

“Coming in at 11 storeys is pretty respectful”—Sue Dexter, HVRA

The high-rise includes a four-storey podium that “has been designed to frame both Spadina and Sussex avenues with a height and massing that is generally in keeping with the surrounding built form, and will animate the street with new retail uses” according to a Bousfields Inc. report on the planning rationale for the university.

Yet, Sue Dexter of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) fears that using “666 Spadina [Ave.] as a justification for that kind of height” sets a dangerous precedent that will lead to a wall of towers along the eastern edge of her neighbourhood.

Julie Mathien of the Huron-Sussex Residents’ Organization (HSRO) wrote in an email that it “remains concerned about the height, density, and lack of resident mix in the proposed new development at Spadina and Sussex [avenues].”

Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) agreed.

Noting that he is the third councillor to work this file, Cressy applauded the university’s willingness to start consulting with the community long before it submitted its application to the city, but said, “the application isn’t there yet.

“We still need a more sensitive built form, but the height doesn’t reflect that yet.”

Height is but one of the concerns.

Dexter said she’d like to see a “mix of students that better reflects the community,” and points to 666 Spadina Ave. as a model of what works, explaining that about 60 per cent of that building is students. She would like the proposed residence to include graduate students, as well as faculty with families.

“We have a crying need in the neighbourhood for family housing,” she added.

Cressy also pointed to 666 Spadina Ave. as a model, particularly for how its owners are managing their own application to add an 11-storey mixed use, 128-unit rental apartment building and eight stacked townhouses to the site. The original building — which is included on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties because it was designed by architect Uno Prii — will remain intact.

“A lot of the stuff we’ve said is important, they are responding to,” said Cressy of the applicant, who like U of T, met with the city before submitting a formal application to rezone the site. “The built form is appropriate and transitions to Robert Street.”

“Coming in at 11 storeys is pretty respectful,” said Dexter, cautioning that the 666 Spadina Ave. proposal needed further study. “By comparison with the university process, 666 is very responsive…. The university talks a lot but they don’t change their process.”

Mabury pointed out that after 2.5 years of public consultation, U of T has adapted the proposed “quite significantly”, reducing the number of students it will house from 800 to 550. It is anticipated that the tower will be made up of 60 per cent first year students and 40 per cent upper years, all commingling on the same floors.

“Nobody has a built a resident with that diverse a population in Canada,” said Mabury. “We are trying to balance what we hear [from the community] with the needs of U of T and its students.”

And what the university needs more than anything are spots for students in first year.

“That’s part of our guarantee; after that students want to move out into the broader marketplace.”



CHATTER: Two new rezoning applications submitted to city (September 2016)

NEWS: Tall tower before OMB, as city battles back with block study (August 2016)

NEWS: Planning for the future (May 2016)

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

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