Reactions mixed on plans for expanded Kingston Road YMCA

Some want to move in, or move their butts. Others want to be sure that local traffic moves, too.

An artist's rendering shows plans for the Beech House Condos and new YMCA at Kingston Road and Beech Avenue. Image courtesy Mitchell Lofts
An artist’s rendering shows plans for the Beech House Condos and new YMCA at Kingston Road and Beech Avenue.
Image courtesy Mitchell Lofts

Plans for a new YMCA topped by condos got a mixed reaction on June 17, when more than 100 people packed a meeting inside the low brick building on Kingston Road that the Y first opened in 1953.

Combining a two-floor YMCA, the six-floor Beech House Condos, and possibly some ground-level stores, the new seven-storey building would replace the existing Y, the neighbouring Sherrin Funeral Home, and two houses on Balsam Avenue.

“From 10,000 feet, what a lot of fantastic benefits the Y is going to bring to this community, and having it rolled up in a development helps pay for it,” said the newly elected Beaches-East York MPP, Arthur Potts, who campaigned on a pledge to support the project.

“I know we can work out the issues we’re addressing now,” he said. “But what I sense from this meeting is a great seal of approval for the overall concept.”

Many people at the meeting did welcome plans for the Y’s new pool and gym, which it would house in a glassed-in basement level that people could see from Kingston Road.

But the image on a lot of minds was that of cars backed up on Beech Avenue, where the plans call for a ramp down to a delivery area and three and a half levels of private and public parking.

Others saw themselves driving home at 6 o’clock to find no street parking left on Balsam or Beech Avenues.

“We remain open to a lot of comments, both critical and otherwise,” said Craig Hunter, a planning consultant for the YMCA and Mitchell & Associates, the Beech House developer.

Regarding traffic, Hunter said they will ask the city to make Beech Avenue a two-way street for the block beside the building. Asked why the ramp couldn’t go along Kingston Road, Hunter said city planners want such entrances on side streets rather than major roads.

Bob Mitchell, founder of Mitchell & Associates and a Beech Avenue resident, said a traffic study for the project showed it would not make much difference to the flow of cars on Kingston Road.

“It’s people moving through the neighbourhood,” he said. “That’s where the congestion is coming from.”

On parking, Hunter said the building will have 116 private parking spaces for 95 condos – more than city planners require. It will also have 50 spaces of public parking, he said, adding that they are thinking about giving YMCA users validated passes to discourage street parking on Beech or Balsam.

Initially, the YMCA and Beech House had no plans to build ground-floor shops or buy the two houses on Balsam Avenue that requires.

Mitchell said they bought the properties mainly to get a more squared-off shape for the YMCA facility – the whole “block” it sits on is actually a triangle.

Widening the property may also allow for a YMCA entrance on Kingston Road that is flanked by the gym and the pool, he added.

Asked about construction, Mitchell said it would likely take about two years, with the busiest part – putting up the building’s “shell – taking just under a year.

Jan Hykamp, president of the Greater Beach Neighbourhood Association, applauded Mitchell and the YMCA for speaking with the GBNA and other community groups even before the mandatory public meeting. They did not seek their endorsement, he added, only their input.

“Certainly the openness of the process is different from what we normally see,” said Hykamp.

One man who plans to move into the Beech House condos said he grew up in the Beach, but high house prices have so far meant he could only afford to rent here.

“As everyone knows, it’s actually not that conducive to a single person,” he said, winning a whole room full of laughs.

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