Quarry lands plan includes big-box retail

Even as the puck dropped in game seven of the Leafs-Bruins series, people were pulling out extra chairs at Blantyre Public School to see the latest plans for the Birch Cliff quarry lands.

The more than 100 residents at the May 13 meeting got a first look at sketches showing Build Toronto’s plans for four-storey apartments, townhouses, a park and a big-box store on the 19-acre parcel it owns along the west side of the old quarry site at Gerrard Street and Victoria Park Avenue.

Prakash David is the senior executive in charge of development at Build Toronto, a city-owned real estate corporation tasked with selling surplus city property.

David said the plans reflect local residents’ calls for low-rise buildings that suit the surrounding neighbourhood. The site will be home to about 600 new residents, plus what will most likely be a new home improvement or department store.

James Tate, Build Toronto’s retail consultant for the project, said the new store will be somewhat larger than the Loblaw supermarket across the street on Victoria Park, but it will have underground parking and a street-front that looks more like the Canadian Tire at Leslie and Lakeshore.

Tim Weber is president of the Concerned Citizens of Quarry Land Development, a group that has led a decades-long effort to stop high-rise development on the quarry lands.

“I think for the most part people like Build’s plans,” he said after the meeting. “Certainly they’re a big improvement on what they were looking at some years back.”

The group’s central concern is not the Build Toronto site, but a plan by Gerrard Clonmore Developments Ltd. to build seven high-rise towers with a total of 1,455 units on the site’s eastern side.

Weber welcomed the City of Toronto’s decision to hold a one-foot “reserve” around new residential roads that will be built as part of the Build Toronto project. Such reserves are often used by municipalities to restrict private access to public roads, since any move to lift them requires a vote by city council.

Weber said that while GCD can go ahead and build the towers without access to the new roads, he hopes it will put some pressure on the company to drop its plans for high-rises.

“They won’t get access to the established neighbourhood unless they can build something that’s in keeping with the neighbourhood,” he said. “Something that fits in, that’s responsible.”

Managers at GCD declined to give an interview for this story, but in November of last year the Ontario Municipal Board re-affirmed a 1968 bylaw that allows for seven high-rises built around a cul-de-sac off Gerrard Street East.

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