Good Egg owner Mika Bareket in "quirky, eccentric" Kensington Market.
Trinity-Spadina councillor Mike Layton is calling for a study of Bathurst St. between Queen and the Dupont train tracks to determine what kinds of development and heights would be appropriate along that stretch.
His call comes while property developer RioCan is amassing several adjacent properties (the Kromer Radio site for one) on Bathurst’s west side near Nassau for a large retail building.
The developer’s move has raised concerns in the local community, especially in Kensington Market.
RioCan’s proposal, Layton said in an interview, “could have a significant impact on the local retailers on College, on Dundas, Queen and in Kensington Market.”
One of those local retailers is Mika Bareket, owner of Good Egg in Kensington Market. “I’m worried one big supermarket could come in and out price some of the smaller businesses in Kensington Market as well as Chinatown,” she said.
Over time a large retail development “could affect the demographics in (Kensington) and change the vibrant diverse neighbourhood—with such a wonderful independent spirit—into the cookie cutter strip mall environment,” she said.
She’s worried a large retail development would also attract lots of traffic causing gridlock that could be detrimental to emergency vehicles trying to access Toronto Western Hospital.
Layton’s motion for a Bathurst study, seconded by councillor Adam Vaughan, states that “a new wave of development has begun on Bathurst St. that is challenging existing planning guidelines and policies.”
For the most part “these policies are 50 plus years old. We were building a city of quite a different size and scope (back then). Building structures were different, building codes were different,” he said as he explained the need for a study. “There are different demands now on buildings that weren’t the case before.”
Years ago a secondary plan was done for Bathurst south of Queen. But for the section between Queen and College “we don’t have the same controls there so we’d like to get a better idea of what is appropriate to build on that section,” Layton said.
He added that when property uses don’t necessarily fit well into the neighbourhood “we know that there’s probably someone eyeing it to build on, and that was the case with the application by RioCan to the committee of adjustment.”
Layton would like to see the studied section kept as retail with residential overtop. More retail on Bathurst would help connect with shops on Queen, College and in Kensington Market, he said.
Bareket said a study of Bathurst, which would be conducted by city planning staff, should look at what the neighbourhood is currently lacking—services like a post office, a dry cleaners, a garden centre.
But most of all she’d like to see a gym or athletic centre on Bathurst at Nassau. “I’d love to see two or three floors of yoga studios, an in-door track, maybe a pool, workout rooms, even athletic-focused retail like a sporting goods store.”
If a large retail store causes the downfall of “quirky, eccentric, progressive, grassroots, diverse” Kensington Market, said Bareket, then Toronto will lose “it’s hub of expression and freedom and open-mindedness.”
She said RioCan should be cautious about what it plans to do.
“This is a very passionate and enthusiastic community and they should be concerned about a backlash. Any time a brand name comes anywhere near Kensington Market there’s always grave dissent and it will not reflect well on RioCan.”
Layton noted development in Toronto moves at a fast pace. “The city’s constantly trying to catch up. Our city staff and councillors do their very best to get out ahead of it, but it’s tough when you have one hundred and one other planning applications.”
He said studies like the one he’s requesting “are a good opportunity to figure out one step at a time how we are going to make something work here.”