Mid-rise developments, not towers, are the new enemy in Toronto condo battles

Mid-rise developments, not towers, are the new enemy in Toronto condo battles

The sales office for 109 Ossington, one of Toronto’s most contentious mid-rise proposals (Image: Cory Doctorow)

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]