Downtown groups wanted more say on Yonge tower

Dennis Hanagan–

Community council approved a revised proposal for a Downtown condo tower, but reps from nearby residents group said they didn’t get a chance to voice their opinion on the revision.

In April, Council approved a 44-storey tower by Cresford Capital Corp. for the east side of Yonge between Dundonald and Gloucester streets with 528 units, 232 parking spaces and retail and commercial uses. City council gets the final say.

The tower was revised from an earlier plan submitted by a former proponent. That plan went to the Ontario Municipal Board because the city didn’t make a decision on it in time. It’s since been revised by the new owner and proponent, Cresford Capital. In the revision heritage buildings at 7 and 9 Gloucester would be saved.

Representatives from the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association (CWNA) and the Bay Cloverhill Community Association (BCCA) suggested to community council that the proposal, with its revisions, should have gone to the Committee of Adjustment where the public could have had input.

The tower’s revision was settled on by Cresford and city planners. It conforms with the 0fficial plan, the North Downtown Yonge Area Specific Policy 382 and is consistent with city council-approved guidelines, says a planning report.

Paul Farrelly with the CWNA told councilors there was “a very significant change” between the revised and original plans. He said there had been no community engagement, and that for neighbourhood groups to hire expert help and take the matter to the OMB would be expensive.

(Downtown community organizations have started the New Life For Yonge Street Fund—newlifeforyongefund.ca—to raise money to take Yonge planning issues to the OMB.)

BCCA president Rick Whitten-Stovall noted the revisions, in a letter to community council, and pointed out that unit sizes have been reduced in square metres; that increases the overall number of units. He asked if the downsizing is “truly realistic” for buyers looking for family-size units.

Of the 528 units 110 are 3-plus bedrooms, 129 are 2 bedrooms and 178 are 1 bedroom. Bachelors number 111.

Kathryn Holden of BCCA suggested to council that Downtown planners, with a larger number of case files than their counterparts in other wards, require more staff to help review development proposals.

She said Downtown wards might have planners carrying 20-40 files—“that’s almost impossible,” she said—while planners in other wards might have only six. “Has all this come about because of the imbalance of the ward system?”

Representing Cresford. Jane Pepino of Aird and Berlis said the number of family-size units—standing at 21% of the total—has been “substantially increased” over the city’s target of 10%. She said that overall, city staff agree the revised tower is an improvement over the original plan.

Speaking about the OMB and the community’s frustration with it, Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said “no one is more frustrated with it than our planning staff … Their positions are constantly undermined at the board.”

Section 37 funds totaling $1.2 million will be used to improve James Canning Park and another $100,000 will go toward a master plan for landscaping and designing Norman Jewison and George Hislop parks.

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