Seaton House plan presents heritage, green space challenges

—José Gonzalez

The upcoming plans to renovate Seaton House begin in earnest as the first public consultation was held going over the project’s first proposed incarnation. Community residents were invited to look over the current plan and then offer their own suggestions about its future direction.

The meeting began with a lengthy presentation from the city staff and planners describing plans to change land designation from residential to institutional in the area, giving them the flexibility to offer more services.

The proposed building is a nine-storey structure that includes 378 long term care beds, 130 transitional assisted living beds, 100 emergency shelter beds and 21 affordable housing units. In addition to the support facilities, a 4000 square metre space will serve as a community service hub, offering space for community activities and groups. The new facility will also change Seaton House from a men’s shelter to a shared facility for men and women. Two underground parking levels are also part of the plan with 160 spaces.

Comments from the community were limited to several round table discussions held during the second half of the meeting. Residents split to the tables to offer their concerns in a number of categories including architecture, transportation, and heritage. They were offered about an hour to speak on each issue, and encouraged to circulate to each table, but with eight tables in total, it would leave roughly 7 minutes to listen and speak on each issue. With each table run by a member of the committee, comments directly from the community were limited to a summary of each table’s discussion.

Seaton House currently operates as a shelter for homeless men, housing up to 634 at maximum capacity, making it the largest shelter in the city. It has drawn criticism over the years for the deterioration in the surrounding area, and one of the goals of this project is to improve overall conditions for the individuals seeking shelter and the residents in the neighbourhood.

One of the challenges highlighted was the difficulty in creating an appropriate development for the site as a heritage site. Some of the structures date back to the 19th century, and the new plan will preserve five of the buildings, and demolishing one.

Also part of the proposal is the plan to improve the outdoor space, adding more greenery to the area, and having sections of the lower building’s level be made of glass, offering a clear view inside.

All of the proposals are currently still pending, and for residents who were not able to attend the meeting, additional comments have been solicited by the committee. They can be made to Derek Waltho, one of the city planners for Ward 27, at his office number: 416-392-0412.