Rooming house turn Waverley project from student housing to rental

Dennis Hanagan —

The architect of a proposed 22-storey residential building that would replace the 114-year-old Waverley Hotel and its sidekick the Silver Dollar faced an antagonistic standing-room only audience at the Lillian H. Smith Library Feb. 11.

“Do you care what any of us think,” a woman asked David Butterworth of Kirkor Architects and Planners. The proposal by the Wynn Group of Companies “is out of proportion to the neighbourhood, out of character,” she said.

City planning staff told Toronto and East York Community Council in January the proposal is “not supportable,” adding it doesn’t promote “a harmonious fit” with the neighbourhood.

The Wynn Group has taken its proposal to the Ontario Municipal Board with a pre-hearing set for March 25. A full hearing could take place in late summer or early fall.

The developer wants the OMB to rule on its application to have zoning for the site amended. If the board rules in Wynn’s favour it could order the city to issue a building permit.

Butterworth told the gathering that with the lot size at one-third of an acre it’s a “very tight site” to build on. But he felt the proposal is in keeping with the size of other buildings in the area. It would have 220 units with 70 underground parking spaces.

A proposal for a University of Toronto student residence at 245 College seems to have triggered more applications for tall buildings around College and Spadina, among them Wynn’s.

Trinity-Spadina Councillor Adam Vaughan understood the original Wynn plan intended to have privately-owned and operated student housing. But action by the city seems to have forestalled that.

Vaughan explained in an interview: “The 245 College (site) is the first one, and then we get four or five right afterward, all looking to replicate the model.”

“In fact, we (the city) changed the zoning bylaw around rooming houses, and they (Wynn) may have changed this proposal as a result of the steps we took to protect neighbourhoods from these massive rooming houses which (the Wynn proposal) originally came in as,” said Vaughan. “It’s still a sub-standard building in a very bad spot.”

In addition to its height residents worried about the shadow it would cast on nearby Lord Lansdowne Public School. Butterworth said the shadow “moves very fast across the site.” A student at the school said car traffic in an adjacent laneway would cause pollution in the schoolyard.

A questioner felt the laneway was too narrow to accommodate 2-way traffic. However, city senior planner Marian Prejel explained the city requires new developments, adjacent to laneways, to be set back far enough to create six-metre wide laneways.

Vaughan told the meeting the proposal causes “significant concerns” for the city. He said for one thing the developer is using “compressed floors” so that units would have only 8-foot high ceilings as opposed to the standard 10 feet.

A representative with an architectural conservancy group suggested incorporating the broad forefront of the 4-storey Waverley into the plan.

The Wynn Group is adamant about saving the Silver Dollar sign, said Butterworth.

The city’s Heritage Preservation Services is scheduled to study whether the Silver Dollar and the Waverley are historically worth saving.

A merchant from Kensington Market, just blocks from the development, expressed concern that the 12,000 square-foot second floor retail space might someday become a grocery store.