Queen street visioning study pushes ahead

The first of three parts of the Queen Street East Visioning Study is now complete. The aim of the process is to shape future development along Queen Street East between Coxwell and Neville Park.

On July 16 the newly formed Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC), comprised of 42 members of the community, met at the Toronto Fire Academy to discuss three key issues: the different precincts along Queen Street, built form for future developments, and street rhythm, materials and streetscape.

The end goal of the study is to draft and complete a new set of design guidelines for Queen Street East. These guidelines are not part of the zoning by-laws, but can be used to strengthen any opposition to development proposals that fall outside of them.

They can also be amended into the City of Toronto Official Plan – something that most resident organizations in the Beach would like to see as soon as possible. The city continues to accept development applications in the study area, but decisions will not be made until completion of the study.

These SAC members vary from local professionals to neighbourhood organization members, from historians to visionaries.

James Parakh, Senior Urban Designer at the City of Toronto led the meeting with a series of possible solutions to the various issues being discussed.

The current guidelines, which were written in 1987, divide the stretch of Queen Street between Coxwell and Neville park into five distinct sections. The question was posed to the SAC if there should be any divide when it comes to defining the guidelines, and if so, if the borders should change.

The group appeared to be somewhat divided on the issue, with the majority agreeing that there should be “sections” along Queen Street, while others thought it should all be treated the same. The reason for dividing the strip into different sections, according to the members in favour, is that building characteristics differ as you move east. Coxwell to Woodbine, for example, is very much developed. Woodbine to Glen Manor is more of a commercial area, while to the east there is more residential.

The Queen Street East visioning study is well underway, with the next public meeting scheduled for July 25 at 6 p.m. at the Toronto Fire Academy.

Members also suggested making Queen and Coxwell or Queen and Kingston Road the “gateway” to the Beach and that more parking should be available in those areas for visitors to park their vehicles.

One member thought the study should extend south to the boardwalk in order to tie Queen Street to the more tourist-heavy area of the actual beach. Having easier access from the beaches up to Queen Street could bring in more business to the local establishments.

Discussion then shifted focus to built form, and it was clear that building height was the biggest issue on the table. The members were quick to passionately suggest that the height of future developments should be strictly enforced and brought down from its current 12 metre zoning by-law.

Many felt strongly that the front walls should be no higher than 10.5 metres and no more than three storeys. Many agreed that the absolute maximum height of any new building should not be more than 13.5 metres.

One member suggested that not all buildings be turned into a mix of commercial and residential, and that some buildings should be all commercial, as in an office building, to help generate local jobs.

There was also discussion around the number and size of restaurants along Queen Street. Currently, restaurants are restricted to an area of 165 sq. m. This guideline was established in order to prevent larger places that could be turned into nightclubs, but at the meeting SAC members questioned whether that was still a cause for concern, some suggesting that night life should be encouraged in the area.

Others also expressed a need for patios and suggested that new buildings have a large enough setback so that patios may be set up in front. Others suggested using side streets for patios and taking advantage of a law that allows liquor to be carried away from the establishment.

“I think the meeting went very well. I think we got some good feedback and many of the things we presented were well received,” said Parakh.

All the information gathered will now be condensed and presented at a wider public meeting, which will take place July 25 at the Toronto Fire Academy at 6 p.m. The academy is located at 895 Eastern Avenue.

Variance in ideas and input were obvious during the meeting and that may prove to be a challenge for the City staff when they draft the guidelines.

“I felt the meeting was what you’d expect from a group this large. There were some good ideas, but there was such a variety of those ideas that I don’t know what the conformity and consensus will be down the road,” said Adam Smith, a member of Ward 32 Councillor’s Transportation Committee.

“Obviously not everyone is going to be happy with the outcome, but in the end something will come out that will satisfy most of us,” added Smith.

In attendance with the five City of Toronto staff was Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon.

“This is fantastic,” she said. “There were great conversations and tons of great ideas.”

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