Queen and Woodbine condo clash looming

The recently adopted Beach Urban Design Guidelines (UDG) may face a trial by fire at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), as two development proposals for the northwest and northeast corners of Queen and Woodbine do not meet the new guidelines. The city’s Planning Department and Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon indicated their intention to defend the UDG all the way to possible appeals to the OMB, while explaining that both developers have indicated they’re not interested in redesigning their proposals.

The hall at the Balmy Beach Club was packed to near capacity on Feb. 13 for a presentation by the Planning Department on the development proposals. The crowd drowned out the noise at the bar, while a group of Boy Scouts earning a badge kept the discourse relatively civil.

Senior Planner Leontine Major presented both proposals, each for six storey buildings, followed by a comparison to the recently adopted UDG.

The property at 1880 and 1882 Queen Street East and 196 Woodbine Avenue, marketed as 200 The Beach, has been submitted for both a rezoning application and site plan approval. The proposal calls for 27 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units, with retail on the first floor. There would be 34 parking spaces for the residences, two for visitors and three for the retail.

The UDG calls for a 45˚ setback above the fourth storey (12.4 m) on the Queen Street side, and a setback of 45˚ above 10.5 m at the rear. A portion of the proposed building would also cut into the 4.8 m setback required for sidewalks throughout the length of Queen included in the UDG. The proposal’s mechanical penthouse is not within the angular planes called for in the UDG.

The building proposed in the rezoning application for 1884 Queen St. E., the site of the former Shell gas station, would contain 43 one-bedroom units and 27 two-bedroom units, again with retail at the ground floor. There would be 34 parking spots for residences, four visitor spots and 19 paid parking retail spots that would be available to the general public as well.

The building as proposed would not meet most setback requirements in the UDG (the Queen Street side can go up to three storeys or 9.5 m, then step back 3 m up to a height of 12.5 m, then set back at an angle of 26˚ for a further storey). The proposal also would not maintain views of the fire hall clock tower as required.

Major said both developers have told planners they intend to pursue their proposals as presented, without any further changes.

“It does not comply with the design guidelines. City Planning has requested the owner to comply with these guidelines, and if no further revisions are made…the City Planning division will be considering recommending a refusal of the application in its current form,” she said.

Major also explained that normally there wouldn’t be any community consultation when a refusal report is being prepared by planning staff.

“We are coming out to the community because we went through a lengthy process through the Urban Design Guidelines with the community, and we want to reflect the opinions of the community…in our report,” she said.

While both developers had previously told planning staff that they wouldn’t be changing their proposals, Karsten Riedel, developer of 200 The Beach (and the Rainsford project to the west) didn’t entirely rule out possible changes when asked point blank by Jan Hykamp of the Greater Beach Neighbourhood Association.

“Are we prepared to fully comply with the guidelines? At this time we haven’t made a final decision,” Riedel said, explaining that that was partly why he was attending the meeting.

The biggest reaction of the night came from a young Scout, who stood up to comment on the importance of the intersection, and, therefore, whatever is built on the site.

“It is the gateway to the Beach, as the gentleman over there stated, and I think that the gateway to the Beach should definitely be symbolic of what the Beach is. The gateway to the Beach should be the most ‘Beach-ey’ part of the community,” he said to loud applause.

The question and answer format, as often happens, veered off-topic occasionally, into parking, property tax and commercial rules complaints, but veered back to the topics of the UDG, building materials and the character and style of the Beach, which isn’t necessarily uniform. Riedel said he’s trying to build something that both all Beachers and potential buyers can be proud of, with a style inspired somewhat by the filtration plant.

“Can you duplicate exactly what’s in the Beaches? No, you never can again. You can’t build a wooden building, for example, on the corner. The Ontario building code simply does not permit it,” he said. “What exactly is the character and style? Does the old Lick’s building reflect the filtration plant?”

The meeting came to an end before everyone in the room had their say, but without any major changes from the developers, the process in both cases appears likely to end in a showdown at the OMB. For some Beach residents, the difference this time is that the planning department is on their side. Whether that will make any difference remains to be seen.

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Love the “Gateway to the Beach” – Pizza Pizza on the ground floor of a non-descript tenement style building and formerly a Shell station/Coffee Time frequented by street people and panhandlers. And Beach residents and their councillor are protesting the redevelopment of this corner? Get a grip people! Developers, stick to your guns! Saner heads will prevail at the OMB.

This intersection can definitely use a revamp! We traveled out there the other day to perform some routine plumbing and drain inspection services in the area and the ‘gateway’ to the beach is not much of a gateway at all, as Joe so eloquently wrote that intersection is in desperate need of attention!

I live in the beaches and condo’s are no way to revamp the beach especially at the corner of Queen and Woodbine. The developers are both out of their minds. The city needs to make developers put something that everyone will welcome everyone into the entrance to the beach. We need to keep the beach as original as possible. It does NOT need any upgrading. People come to the beach because of what it is, and what is there. What exactly are we saying if we put more condo’s especially right there at the corners? We are not saying ‘welcome to the beach’. I’d have to say the majority of people living in the beach are totally against these gawky ugly buildings going up. And developers are going out of their way to make sure they get what they want. Its all about money in their pockets not what the beach is about.

RR, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have not seen any renderings of the building proposed for the Shell site, but the 200 Woodbine proposal is visually quite impressive. And I’d have to say that a majority of Beach residents are in favour of these developments and re-development in general. I have absolutley no evidence of this, just as you have no evidence whatsoever for your statement to the contrary.

Furthermore, people don’t visit the Beach to view the ramshackle bulidings on Queen Street or to frequent the mediocre businesses and restaurants that occupy them. They come for the beach – end of story. New development will revitalize the Beach and improve it tremendously!

You cannot say “the majority of people living in the beach are totally against these…buildings”. That is your opinion!

I’ve lived in the beach for over 30 years and I support new condos, providing they are upscale and architecturally beautiful. I am retiring in the next 5 years, I want to stay in the Beach; and climbing stairs in a house is getting more and more difficult for me — knees are giving out. I look forward to buying a new condo in the beach. I think that there should be a restriction on their size, however, packing in multiple 1 bedroom, 500 square foot units is a huge problem (they do this to keep the prices down, which is a mistake in the beaches). No micro condos should be allowed, there should be a minimum size of, say, 800 sq. feet for a 1 bedroom unit. Most of the people I am friends with, my age, DO want to buy a condo in the beach when they retire (some already have bought units in the new developments). This is the age group they should be marketing to. One Rainsford units were very large, beautifully designed interiors, and it sold out in a matter of weeks. That is the standard we should be setting in terms of size & architecture.

Once again, no one who has been part of the process to ensure development is appropriate is against development. All we want is the ensure the development enhances the quality of life for residents. Of course the intersection should be redeveloped, the guidelines allow that. Anyone who trys to shut down a mature discussion by simply quoting NIMBY is about as intelligent as the Ford Brothers. Keep in mind the new guidelines area 50% increase in height allowance, by right, than the old zoning. Clearly given the support by residents groups inplies we are open to development.

For those of you that want to keep the old look and feel of the beach , I will personally buy your property at 1990 prices. After all, if you don’t believe in gentrification than you shouldn’t believe in financially benefiting from it.

Angel – gentrification and redevelopment are different things. Take all those residential homes in the Annex, Rosedale or Yorkville which were rooming houses in the 60s (with people like a penniless Joni Mitchell living in one) but by the 1980s they were all fixed up and filled with rich people.

The Beach was the same – used to be lots of rooming houses here too but by the 80s the Beach was trendy and young people had moved in and restored or renovated homes that were formerly rooming houses. Rules were put in place in the late 80s and early 90s to protect the heritage character of the area but the planners stupidly took them away in 2002-2006 with the new Official Plan. Property values are much higher than in 1990 all across the city due to a number of factors… even areas with little or no development that are still not trendy or have had little new development.

Look at Niagara-on-the-Lake or other areas where the old character has been protected – these areas tend to be very pricey. Or look at Yonge Street in North Toronto – development north of Lawrence is highly restricted but those neighbourhoods are even pricier than here.

Gentrification brings a market for redevelopment by making an areas desirable, not the other way around.

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