Isabella intensification riles Yonge St. businesses

Dennis Hanagan –

A proposed condo for Yonge and Isabella streets took a few hits at a public meeting Feb. 26 when some local businessmen and residents complained about the march of tall towers along Yonge from Bloor.

The proposal has “no sense of the historic connection” to the area’s 19th-century buildings, one man told architect Sol Wassermuhl, president of Page + Steele IBI group who fielded questions at the city-organized meeting. It was held at St. Joseph College School on Wellesley St.

A Yonge Street businessman said “there’s a saturation of tall buildings along Yonge St.”

But planning consultant Paul Zamodits of Church Street’s Bousfields Inc. said the proposal is in keeping with recent Yonge developments. “It fits within the range of towers. We feel we’re in the ball park range.”

The city has received an application for a zoning amendment to demolish buildings at 625-637 Yonge and 1-9 Isabella and replace them with a 40-storey high rise with a 4-storey podium. The site falls within a stretch of Yonge being considered for a Heritage Conservation District.

Eyed for demolition are the Yonge St. Fitness Club, several small retail shops, Rabba Fine Foods, an internet café, and a tanning salon. The site is owned by a consortium including Jack Rabba.

The podium’s two lower floors would have retail shops with two floors of office space above. The 36-storey tower portion calls 326 condominiums with 240 1-bedrooms, 69 2-bedrooms, and 17 3-bedrooms.

Four underground levels would provide space for 107 vehicles accessed from Gloucester Lane. There’d be space for 243 bicycles, the majority of them on the mezzanine level. The condo entrance would be off Isabella Street, and the podium entrance off Yonge.

City planners don’t like the proposal as it stands, arguing the site isn’t big enough to support such a large building. They recommend additional lands to the south be incorporated into the proposal.

They also don’t like the fact the podium would be built right up to the property line with no plans to widen the sidewalks along Yonge or Isabella, and they’re concerned the tower would block out sunlight in Norman Jewison Park and to the low-rise residential homes on the east.

Senior city planner Mark Chlon said the city is under development pressure. “There’s an interest to intensify from landowners.”

A business owner complained tall towers and the “chaos” created during construction is “wiping out Yonge Street. You’re killing Yonge Street.”

A member with the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association said he liked the office and retail component but argued for more family-sized units.

A businessman said he liked the proposal and told the audience as he left to return to work “Don’t stand in the way of progress.”

A resident said condo developers use the charm of the local neighbourhood as a selling point “and then they destroy what they are using as their marketing principle.”