OMB hearing wraps up, waiting begins

A rendering of the six-storey condo planned for Queen St. East and Woodbine Avenue. IMAGE: RAW Design
A rendering of the six-storey condo planned for Queen St. East and Woodbine Avenue.

It all hinges on a point of view.

As lawyers debated plans for a six-storey condo on Queen St. East at the Ontario Municipal Board last week, they took different angles on a key question: How much of the historic Kew Beach firehall should people see from Queen if the condo is built on the nearby  corner lot at Woodbine Avenue?

Speaking for the developer, lawyer David Bronskill said there is no in-force policy requiring what the city and a group of Beach residents’ associations is asking for – an open view of the firehall clock tower from all four corners at Queen and Woodbine.

That requirement is listed in the new Beach Urban Design Guidelines, which were championed by Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon after city council approved another six-storey condo a few blocks east on the former site of Lick’s hamburger restaurant.

Toronto city council adopted those guidelines in principle in November 2012 and passed a corresponding bylaw in May.

But as Bronskill noted, the developer had already applied to build the condo about a month before the guidelines were adopted, in October 2012. That application landed at the OMB after the city failed to act on it by its four-month deadline.

Unlike the historic firehall in Yorkville, he added, the Kew Beach firehall has no specific protection in the city’s Official Plan, although the city has  forwarded a request for one to Ontario’s Ministry of Housing.

“Show it to me in an in-force policy document,” Bronskill said in opening remarks to the OMB. “They will not be able to do that.”

[flagallery gid=23 name=”1884 Queen Street East”]

Many issues besides the firehall views were raised during the 10-day OMB hearing that wrapped up yesterday and attracted some 50 residents to the Bay Street hearing rooms.

The owner of 223 Woodbine, a four-storey apartment building just north of the site, bowed out of the hearing on day two after resolving shadow and privacy issues with the developer.

Architect Michael Spaziani, an expert witness called by the Greater Beach Neighbourhood Association, criticized the six-storey stone corner of the proposed condo as “virtually a sheer wall.”

Leontine Major, a senior planner with the City of Toronto responsible for the Beach area, said the city clearly wants more density at Queen and Woodbine.

The corner was recognized by planners as the entry to the Beach more than 20 years ago, she said, but it has been home to a gas station since the late 1960s. The developer, Queen EMPC Six Ltd., is affiliated with Kilmer Brownfield Equity Fund, which cleaned up the site.

But the six-storey condo goes against recent decisions made by city council, Major said, not to mention council’s 2010 decision to exempt Queen Street East from the city’s Avenues and Mid Rise Guidelines – guidelines that encourage five- to 11-storey condos on major roads as the best way to house the 500,000 new Toronto residents expected to arrive by 2031.

Architect Roland Rom Colthoff, who designed the condo in question, is a major proponent of the mid-rise approach.

“We think the building as designed meets Toronto’s mid-rise in spirit,” he said.

An awarded member of Toronto’s design review panel, Rom Colthoff and his firm, RAW Design, have five mid-rise condo projects nearby: the Bellefair church conversion, the six-storey condo on the former Lick’s site, a four-storey condo on Kippendavie, a six-storey condo at Woodbine and Kingston Road and a seven-storey condo at Woodbine and Gerrard.

Clad in red brick to match the firehall and the one-storey TTC substation beside it on Queen, Rom Colthoff called the building a “modest insertion into the existing fabric.”

Its many vertical windows are a contemporary rendition of local heritage structures, he said, and the white stone facade on its corner gestures to a southern Ontario tradition of marking key intersections.

One block south, he noted, Woodbine has traditional cottage-style homes on one side and tall, bright New Urbanist townhomes on the other.

As for council’s 2010 decision to exempt Queen from the Avenues and Mid-Rise study that guided his design, he and other experts representing the developer noted that city planners have said the study represents a good guide for urban design in Toronto, whether on an official Avenue or not. When he spoke to planners about this and other projects on Queen, it was always the Avenues guidelines they referred to.

“Because council took it out of the guidelines, it kind of leaves planners at a loss,” he said.

Final arguments at the OMB were made after the Beach Metro press deadline, but will be covered in a future story. A decision by the OMB may take four to six weeks.


Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly listed a condo under construction at Queen and Rainsford as a RAW Design project. In fact, that condo is by another firm.

This story has been corrected to show that Beach Club Lofts, a seven-storey condo at Kingston Road and Woodbine, is a RAW Design project.

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Please save us from this horrible development! We need to preserve wonderful properties like the tenements to the north and south of this site.

That is a truly horrible building that is proposed. I hope and pray it does not get built. I write as someone who lived at Queen and Woodbine for 6 years. The planned building is too big, and will overshadow (figuratively) the surrounding buildings and dominate the intersection. Plus, it is really ugly! I hope this gets bounced out PDQ!

Let me get this straight – you are trying to save the dirty gas station and coffee time doughnuts that used to be there?

They are gone… nobody wants a vacant lot… just something that fits in and doesn’t destroy the views of the fire hall… and that is ignoring the concern that we will get more massive condos that will make traffic and other infrastructure problems worse.

There you go again Brian. “Massive” condos. I thought it was about built form and scale? Do you get to decide what is massive?

Just curious as to what you would consider a fit for the Beaches – a single story tribute to Jack Layton, complete with green roof?

Zing! I love it. That would ensure that the entire Queen Strret strip remains firmly mired in the 60s just as the anti-development crowd dreams. These are the people who stand up at the OMB and say with a straight face that the fire hall clock tower is our Eiffel Tower or our Leaning Tower of Pisa. LOL. The good thing is that gave the OMB a great insight on the type of people they were dealing with.

These renderings are misleading – as I pointed out at the hearing. There are several reasons why:

First, the building will not be clad in red brick – the one consultant said “light-grey” brick, and what was clear at the meeting was that the building in the pictures is not what is going to be built – that will be decided later at “site plan approval” stage and it could look quite different, and use different materials such as not having the white marble on the corner.

All that was really before the OMB was a set of drawing and a bylaw – which has yet to be written as the original bylaw they drafted they have agreed to change because they llovered the part of the building on th enorth.

Not noted here was that the apartment owner settled with the developer.

I am disappointed that this article seems to not include any commentary from any of the local people who spoke against the condo – about 11 community members and 4 “particpants” such as myself, while the architect and lawyer for the developer get a lot of coverage.

There was also a joke about bansai trees that was a riot!

Brian, if as you say, that’s not even the building that is going to be bullt, then why all the whinging from the anti-development NIMBYs about what an “ugly” and “out of character” building it is going to be? Also, keep in mind, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water was out of character for the area it was built in! If the developer promised to use the building style of the building either to the north or south, would you NIMBYs be satisfied? LOL. And what’s wrong with light grey as opposed to red brick?


The massing pretty much dictates the scale and character of the building, but some features, like the choice of brick and marble etc., may not be included in the final plans. PLUS the actual bylaw is written later – and the version we saw does allow all sorts of “exceptions” which would allow for things to exceed the approved shape of the building – balconies, railings, parapets.

Falling Water is magnificent and is not out of character – there isn’t another building within site of it – unless you think it out of character with the trees and waterfall!

Light grey brick is a drab cliche that all trendy architects use – it is on about 80% of the condos being built and it is out of place here even more than elsewhere… why bother taking pictures in colour if there is no colour? It is like living in an area surrounded by Borg cubes!

Hey Brian, what color does the builder need to use to meet your tastes which should, of course, rule all others?

Sadly, McNulty wants the Toronto beaches to look just like Camden, New Jersey. Piece by piece he’s getting his way.

Well, the anti–condo NIMBYs throw up another Straw Man. I’m shocked! I’m not even sure what you mean? Does Camden have a lot of lovely, six story, modern condos built on their main streets.

This is the type of argument that you get from people who want all intensification to occur in Scarborough, but oppose building proper rapid transit that will allow it to occur.

yep! – McNulty said NIMBY again… you’re a broken record.

And be honest – you don’t just want condo boxes on “Main Streets” you want them on side streets too. I recall you supporting the 900% increase in density at 66-76 Kippendavie. Be up front about it – you want the entire beaches to be rows upon rows of mega box condos.

I frankly, doubt very much that you live in the beach. Perhaps you used to and hold resentment for those of us who do and hope to bring up our kids in a family focused environment.

Nope, born raised and lived my entire life in the Beach. Raised my family here. Still here. Intensely passionate about the Beach and deeply involved in the community. Shocking isn’t it that I am not obstinately anti-development and in fact would encourage the modernization of Queen Street, perhaps the most moribund commercial strip in the city, littered with run down, decrepit buildings.

I see that you’re still bitter about Kippendavie. You need to get over that and acknowledge that the development is a great addition to the Beach.

Intensification is coming and the Beach can’t bury it’s collective head in the sand in hopes that it will by-pass this area. Six story well-designed buildings are entirely appropriate. You do realize that Beach residents are mocked elsewhere in the city where 10-70 story condo buildings are the norm don’t you?

Mock us if you will. We don’t want the beaches to become an unrecognizable part of downtown. All rows of condos. And we sure don’t want 900% intensifications on side streets. We can’t get over the 66-76 Kippendavie condo because it’s a disaster for this street. It is 400% larger than permitted by the existing rules, it has practically no green space — it’s just a giant block consuming it’s entire plot of land. Look at it from Buller and tell me that it fits in — it’s the entire north facing skyline.

When the condo craze collapses hopefully the beach will be spaced as much as possible. Comparing Toronto to other world cities there is no logical reason to explain the intensity of our condo boom. Unless of course you realize that Toronto condos are too often not real-estate (homes for Canadians) – they are really a form of international currency bought up by foreign speculators. This means that this bubble is created and controlled by foreign interests. What will happen to our “real-estate” when international events burst our condo bubble?

I hope that beach residents will not follow McNulty and his mob mentality that we must do and be exactly like others or else we’ll be teased. Take a bit of time to study economic history and you’ll see over and over again what happened to the followers of irrational exuberance.

Wow Kippendavie. Lot’s of slogans there. Do you get your talking points from your masters at the GBNA?

I thought this was all about built form and scale? Now you’re talking about a real estate bubble. Where are your facts in support of your assertion that there is a bubble or that, if there is one, the Beach is a part of it? What about facts to back up your assertion that large numbers of condos are being purchased by foreigners and, if that is in fact true, that foreigners are purchasing condos in the Beach as a ” form of international currency”? And please don’t cite the Toronto Star in support of any of this. As I expected, you are fanatically anti-condo and no form or scale would be good enogh to satisfy you! Steve’s comment above is perfect for anti-condo anti-development zealots like you.

As for a mob mentality, that more accurately describes the GBNA which continues to claim that it represents the entire Beach community when nothing could be further from the truth.

With respect to your figures on Kippendavie, while they may be accurate, they are wildly misleading. Of course the intensification is going to be a large percentage when you develop on large plots of land formerly occupied by single family homes. Kipendavie already had a history of multi-unit buildings and the new development is a vast improvement over them (as well as over the run down homes that it is replacing). The fact that such a small building so greatly exceeded the existing zoning shows how unduly restrictive that zoning was. Thank goodness the OMB is there to bring some rational thought to zoning which is too often influenced by local councillors concerned about re-election pandering to vocal special interest groups like the GBNA.

McNulty, posting your comments to the beachmetro site multiples times each day surely isn’t enough for you. Have you ever thought about your own podcast, blog or something? Just out of curiosity, do you work for a living or is transforming the beaches into a mirror image of downtown your full time commitment? Do you work for developers? Please be honest… the “I’m passionate about the beaches” line just doesn’t cut it.

By the way, a frustration I think many people out there feel with your posts is that your logic is remarkably rudimentary. Your response to any and every comment about development that demands appropriateness within our neighbourhoods is “NIMBY!!!!!!!!!!”. NIMBY is an acronym, which stands for Not In My Back Yard. The correct use case for NIMBY is when a community refuses to even contemplate a development of some sort. This has typically been the case for things such as gas plants or pipelines. An honest assessment about the dialogue concerning big-box condos in the beach reveals you to be remarkably disingenuous. You create a shadow position alleging that anyone who wants responsible development is proposing abandoned, derelict properties in the beach. This is simply not the case.

You fervently support the 60-unit condo on Kippendavie (a 900% increase in density). Kippendavie is a little side-street that has already done its share towards density and supports Kew Beach Junior Public School and daycare. Kippendavie has abysmal traffic through-put – all the cars pushed down Kippendavie either re-route back North via Kew Beach to Woodbine or Kenilworth hitting Queen E. Kippendavie is just not designed for mega density…. so why an 80 or 70 or 60 unit condo on a street that can’t support it?? Folks around here were advocating for townhouses on the property but the developer wanted to drop a giant block to occupy pretty well the entire piece of land —- the developer won and the people around here believe that there was some special grease applied to make the illogical and offensive happen. McNulty, why are you so opposed to town-houses on side-streets?

McNulty, any and every re-development site does not have to be all about maximizing Developer profits OR a barren wasteland. Our City is growing, and people who actually live in the Beach do want it to grow but in a responsible way. We don’t want the beaches sold out and turned into a developers’ paradise — this is our community! Mega profits for developers and a place for foreign speculators to invest should not be the blue-print for our neighbourhoods. You see only black or white. Or are you really only seeing the colour of developer cash?

Oh, Kippendavie, where to begin? How about pot, meet kettle. Multiple posts in one day? Imagine.

I suppose refuting the substance of my arguments is beyond your limited abilities so you repeatedly resort to your old standard, ad hominem attacks. I’ll ignore those.

Since we’re speculating about identities, let me try this on you. You’re one of the loonies responsible for vandalizing the Kippendavie developer’s heavy equipment?

The Kippendavie horse is well out of the barn, much to your chagrin. However, I suspect that it will be a huge success, aesthetically and otherwise. You disagree. Despite your protestations, traffic south on Kippendavie to Woodbine is very light – I drive it regularly to visit someone in the area. The addition of a few condos will not have an impact of any significance on this traffic.

People like you are NIMBYs. And it’s not just me saying it. Do you read the mainstream media? See, for example, And Chris Hume is about as loony left as you are! The fact that you are anti-development NIMBYs is exemplified by the GBNA’s assinine proposal that they would be satisfied if the 1884 Queen Street development was reduced to three stories! They know that this unrealistic and is evidence that they and their ilk are opposed to any sort of development.

As for your “condo bubble”, the best you could do was an article by noted expert Ben Rabidoux in the Econcomic Analyst (who dat, what dat?)? His predictions were from late 2012. How long do we have to wait for this “bubble” to burst?

Finally, enough with the straw man arguments! “Turning the Beach into an image of downtown”. Seriously, when was the last time you were downtown. 40, 50, 60 story condos are the norm. No one is suggesting that or anything close to it for the Beach. In fact, your beloved Visioning Study suggested that there is a very limited number of potential development sites in the Beach. Five to 10 six story condo buildings are not going to change the character of the Beach. In fact, they will enhance it.

As for foreign speculators, why don’t you (and the “many” people who disagree with my views — who are they besides you, Graff and the other NIMBYs at the GBNA?) do a little research and find out who has bought units in the existing and under construction condos in the Beach. I think that your hypothesis may be proved to be wildly off base.

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.

What do the Ford brothers have to do with this debate. They weren’t on the TEYCC that approved the Lick’s development. I believe that several members of the looney left, including Adam Vaghan, Paula Fletcher, Gord Perks, Joe Mihevic and Mike Layton, were! Surely you’re not equating the Ford brothers to Chris Hume of the Toronto Star?

Is it part of a mature dicussion for the GBNA to suggest to the developer of 1884 Queen that they would be satisfied if the development was limited to three stories when under their beloved Beach Urban Design Guidelines the developer is permitted six stories as of right?! That is classic NIMBYism. All I can say is, if the shoe fits…

Joe, are you able to write any response without using the pejorative label NIMBY? Frankly, I like a few shabby houses (you`d say run-down, I guess), They add character. Plus, they can be renovated into something that has real personality, as opposed to a grey or red or brown or whatever box.

And if the rest of the city laughs at us, so what. I notice you are the only one here who is writing in favour of what you are doing, by the way.

As a person who actually went to mew beach public school and a person who loves the beach as much or more than anyone, I would like to say you are both right as well as wrong.
On kippendavie I do not believe the condo should have ever been approved, towns would have stayed in more with conforming use.
The towns on the upper part of the street where built in the 70s and those where on derelict land. I remember the old whitehead house that was there and the tree forts we had in the backyards. All areas of the city should expand and grow and this includes (as much as I hate to admit it.) the beach; however, growing does not mean crushing everything in you path.
The new condos on queen are a much needed improvement to some of the structures there.
The office building built on the south side of queen between kenilworth and waverly, sat almost empty for years. The rejuvenation of the beach has taken longer than in other parts of the city, the reason is simple. Small town mentality, we want nothing to change.
We have to change to survive, How long do you think the beach can survive when it is know as a niche little place? Styles change on a regular basis and so should we.
No condos on the smaller side streets only on the main ones. Build towns on the side streets.
This allows the increase in density and slows a massive influx of traffic on the side streets.
As a side note, Ms. Simon was our principle at kew beach

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