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NEWS: Condo plan evolves (Winter 2019)

March 14th, 2019 · No Comments

Developers, city planners, hold meeting

By Ahmed Hagar

Annex residents packed into Bloor Street United Church’s McClure Hall on December 17 alongside planners and developers to express their continuing concern about the development plans for the church, known as 300 Bloor Street West.

The development will include 256 residential units, spaces for offices, community programs, retail and cafe space on the ground floor, and a renovated multi-faith worship space. The project will also maintain the historic stone facade of the church, which has been a part of the community since 1886.

The proposed height of the project, which started at 38 storeys and has been decreased to 27, remains a point of concern for many locals. City planner Barry Brooks says that the height change, which amounts to a decrease of 45 metres, was proposed and reviewed at a previous Working Group meeting, and presented at a community meeting in September 2018.

“However, as mentioned at that meeting, there are still some outstanding planning issues about the massing and height of the tower base, tower floor plate size, and the proximity to the existing church roof and structure to be addressed,” Brooks said. “Both these proposals will be further discussed by the Working Group in January 2019 prior to any further planning reports being completed. The two options would have similar densities and number of units.”

During the question and answer period, a number of people living in the neighbourhood expressed a concern that the proposed building was still too tall.

“We just want it to be lower and reasonable,” said one such resident, Margaret Hoffman. “It is a domino effect. Once a tall building goes up, it sets a precedent and another one goes up and another one goes up.”

The 300 Bloor Street West project is a partnership with BSUC, Collecdev Inc., and Northrop Development. Collecdev president Maurice Wagner responded directly to one concerned neighbour’s question about how much profit developers would lose by cutting the height of the building.

“With 10 storeys less, or even a couple of storeys less than the 27 storeys, we do not see this as a viable project,” he said. “In the perspective of the sources of capital that are required to get a project like this off the ground, we would not get financing for a project that does not have the type of margins it requires on costs.”

Councillor Mike Layton said that the initial proposal was “very ambitious” and commended the developers for making changes and listening to the residents’ feedback. He added that a conversation about the building’s height should focus more on how it impacts the neighbourhood.

“Is it the density that the concern is, or is it the shadow impacts?” he asked. “Height is not always the first thing that impacts how great a development can be. It is related to the tangible things people can feel and touch.”

Locals have also taken issue with the development’s impact on traffic since the entrance to the underground parking garage will be on Huron Street. Brooks says that the developers are proposing to have fewer parking spaces than what is required by the zoning by-law.

“The required parking is 174 parking spaces and proposed is 109 parking spaces,” he said. “The applicant’s transportation consultant for the development has indicated that they believe traffic will have a minimal impact at the intersection within the study area based on a taller building with more dwelling units than is currently proposed.”

Some residents have voiced support for the project as it includes affordable housing and accessible community spaces. Paul McLean, chair of Palmerston Area Residents’ Association, spoke about his experience working with developers to get affordable housing in the Mirvish Village project and the importance of having it as a part of the project.

“We happen to believe that the opportunity of living in this neighbourhood needs to be shared by a broad spectrum of income levels,” he said. “Your absolute best choice is to have it in the building. The second choice would be to take your money, section 37 or whatever else the developers are willing to put on the table, to make affordable housing in other parts of this neighbourhood.”

Brooks said that the council and city staff will consider whether section 37 contributions can be used to fund social housing during further negotiations.

Layton will oversee the latest working group on this project and Brooks will provide a report to the community council by March.

“I do not think you will see a completed project for three years,” says Layton. “It takes 18 months to build an eight-storey building, so building a 20- or 30-storey building adds on some time.”

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