Mid-rise developments, not towers, are the new enemy in Toronto condo battles
Now that condo towers have sprouted on most of the available tracts of land downtown, developers are opting for mid-rises in neighbourhoods known for their single-family homes. The two most high-profile battles against the builds are over the six-storey Lakehouse Beach Residence (it’s been called both a “monstrosity” and an “abortion”) and the six-storey 109 Ossington Avenue proposal (some claim it’ll “suck the life out of the strip.”) But there are many more mid-rises on the way: the Toronto Star reports that in the first four months of 2012, there were 106 “active” condo projects of five to 11 storeys, totaling over 13,000 units. “The rise of the mid-rise,” as the National Post calls it, has local residents worried about the arrival of transient condo-dwellers who don’t have strong ties to their neighbourhood, and potential negative effects on property values, neighbourhood character and traffic.
However, the city’s official plan calls for intensification, according to the National Post:
The city has specifically pushed for these developments as a means to intensify what it calls “Avenues”—a city phrase for the main streets of Toronto. In its Official Plan, the city identified stretches of major transportation corridors, such as Bloor Street West, St. Clair Avenue and College Street, as key areas for intensification. […]
The guidelines give developers 19 performance standards they must adhere to when building along these identified Avenues. This includes maximum width, height, allowance for a minimum of five hours of sunlight on the ground level and other conditions. They also encourage a retail component at the ground-level of the building.
The approval process is an uneasy dance between developers (who are seeking out empty pockets of land in the city’s hottest neighbourhoods), residents (who themselves are divided over the new builds) and councillors (who must balance constituents’ wishes against the threat of developer appeals to the condo-friendly Ontario Municipal Board). The city’s official plan is up for review next year, which could be a chance to give councillors more power over what gets built in their backyards. That, or fizzling condo sales could stem the march of developers into low-rise areas.
• Battle over Ossington Ave. condo among several in city [Toronto Star]
• Communities clash with developers over mid-rise condo projects in the city [National Post]
4 thoughts on “Mid-rise developments, not towers, are the new enemy in Toronto condo battles”
4-5 stories melts reasonably well into low res hoods. 11? nah.
1. Toronto’s Official Plan says this, in Structuring Growth in the City, Policy (2i): “Growth will be directed to the Centres, Avenues, Employment Districts, and the Downtown as shown on Map 2 in order to … protect neighbourhoods … from the effects of nearby development”. Map 2 can be found here: http://www.toronto.ca/planning/official_plan/pdf_chapter1-5/2_urb_str_dec2010.pdf.
Map 2 is completely clear that Ossington is in none of these categories.
The Applicant for this proposal, Shelley Fenton, recently stated that “the assertion that this is protected land is ludicrous” (http://www.globaltoronto.com/ossington+residents+angry+over+mid-rise+condo+development/6442676787/story.html). Actually, what is ludicrous is the Applicant’s attempt to blur the sharp lines drawn in the Official Plan by saying it’s OK because Ossington is “kinda like an Avenue” — the lines that allow Toronto to grow without wrecking what is great about the neighbourhoods we already have.
Or it would be ludicrous if it didn’t open the barn door to “build anything anywhere”, which is what you get if “kinda like” is the standard, because everything is “kinda like” everything else.
That might suit the Applicant just fine but wouldn’t be so great for our fair city.
2. 4 storeys meshes well with Lowrise hoods. There is no such thing as a 5-storey building: that extra storey means a completely different, much more expensive and impactful construction technique. Developers will do everything they possibly can to get to storey #6 — then they go for a minor variance to get #7. The application next door then comes in at 8 storeys and ends up getting built to 10.
Our position is: don’t play word games with the Official Plan; Keep Ossington Lowrise; cut that little game of leapfrog off before it gets hopping.
While I do believe height is an issue and the buildings need to fit into the surrounding area, I think the biggest problem with current development is the size of the units. When we were looking to buy, as well as friends of ours, we had a very difficult time finding what we wanted over 1000 sqft. Our real estate agent said there are not enough larger units in new buildings in part because foreign investors want smaller units to rent out and most single or new buyers can only afford smaller units so these are the units that sell first, which means developers don’t want larger units that take longer to sell. Which, in turn, would take longer for them to achieve their 65% sold before they get financing and can start building. Developers are awarded additional height with promises of 3 bedroom ‘family’ size units however there is no stipulation on the actual size of these 3 bedroom units, some of which are only 900-1000 sqft. 3 bedrooms in that little space is outrageous. These are not family friendly sizes. There is a major shortage of units over 1000 sqft, more specifically between 1100-1400 sqft that are not penthouses or ‘sub-penthouses’ which you pay a premium just to say it’s a penthouse. The city should enforce unit size requirements for every new building.
I’ve spent a bit of time looking into this issue, as i don’t live far away from the site. I can only conclude by the tone of the arguments against the development, that these simple-minded opponents have a very personal and specific agenda against the developer, not the development. There’s absolutely no reasonable grounds to object to this project – except some burning desire to see the Reserve Development people lose money.
Get over yourselves.
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