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NEWS: A threat to the soul of the city? (Feb. 2021)

March 5th, 2021 · No Comments

College/Bathurst development undermines a lively corner

A rendering of the planned development slated to occupy the SE corner of College and Bathurst streets has raised concerns. LUCA TATULLI/GLEANER NEWS

By Luca Tatulli

On January 20, Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) hosted a tumultuous online consultation for the proposed development at the corner of College and Bathurst streets. While the development has received significant press due to the fact that it will involve the destruction of the building that now houses Sneaky Dee’s, residents at the meeting seemed more concerned about how the new development will change the demographics of the neighbourhood. 

“This is valuable time and energy taken away from those with desperate needs,” said Kile Mugwat, a resident of the area. “This is not needed, this is not necessary.” 

He added that he opposes the development due to its failure to prioritize the needs of low-income Annex residents, and cited the anonymity of the developer as another point of concern.

“I think any development  that isn’t introduced to address community needs specifically shouldn’t go ahead,” said Mugwat indicating his further opposition to the development. “Right now, it should be only about creating housing for the people who need it.”

The applicant for the development is currently unknown and has not come forward. Representatives from the Goldberg Group, the site planners for the project, were present during the meeting on their behalf. The practice of developers’ agents attending consultations in their place is not uncommon.

The Goldberg Group has indicated that the developer would work with the community and has uploaded the project’s 3D modelling and architectural plans to the City of Toronto website.

The proposed development at 431 College St. has been the home of Sneaky Dee’s since 1990. The restaurant has hosted a wide variety of Canadian punk rock and alternative bands. The strip is also home to restaurants Onnki Donburi and Queztal along with RBC Royal Bank. The proposed development would replace the current College and Bathurst strip. It would see a 13-storey multi-purpose building replace the current plaza. The development would have 169 units in total and it would share three ground-level retail spaces. Residential units would be located above the proposed retail units. The proposed development will provide just over 13,009 square metres of living space.

“There’s a real feeling that the city doesn’t care about what we, as residents of this community, want,” said artist Lex Corbett in an interview with the Gleaner following the meeting. “There’s a huge amount of frustration with the idea that people with a lot of money can come in and alter the landscape with little input from the people who live here. I don’t want this development but the developer isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been done countless times across the city. There’s certainly no element of coercion. It is simply people with a lot of money doing what they do: investing in real estate to the detriment of the community.” 

Corbett is also the founder of the Stop the Sneaky Dee’s/College Bathurst Development Facebook group. The group is active in opposing the development by attending community consultations and sharing up-to-date information about the development. The group itself does not push for any specific policies, serving instead as a community platform. 

Councillor Mike Layton is opposed to the overall development, but says that it is necessary to negotiate with developers to secure affordable housing for residents. Developers currently do not have to commit  to building affordable housing and the city does not have the power to mandate affordable housing in new developments. 

“If we don’t engage with the developer they will simply appeal and we know from experience, we won’t get as good a result,” said Layton “We cannot legally secure affordable housing without the developer’s agreement.”

A policy framework for the application of inclusionary zoning (IZ) was drafted for the city in September. 

The existing provincial rule allows municipalities to obtain affordable housing in new development projects but the lands in question have to be at least within a 500-800 metre radius of a transit stop or station. In Toronto, proposed IZ rules would apply to qualifying areas that have moderate to strong markets for housing. A minimum of 5% of total rental units in these areas would be set aside for affordable housing. 

The official plan application for the project was submitted to the city on Sept. 23. The application itself is currently under review with a city council decision on the project pending.


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