Medical office challenged at OMB

Neighbours are challenging plans to build a five-storey medical office beside a row of houses on Queen Street East.

If it goes ahead, the office will replace a two-storey house at 1895 Queen Street – the last in a row of seven older houses across from the Kew Beach fire hall.

Most of the houses have small shops or businesses inside, including the dental and dentures offices at 1897 Queen, next door.

Speaking for neighbours who oppose the office is lawyer Robert Holland, who argued before the Ontario Municipal Board last week.

An artist's rendering shows the medical office building proposed for 1895 Queen Street East. IMAGE: C& Partners Architects Inc.
An artist’s rendering shows the medical office building proposed for 1895 Queen Street East.
IMAGE: C& Partners Architects Inc.

“We’re making the case that the development at 1897 Queen Street East, which is next door, is illustrative of what needs to be preserved,” said Holland, speaking to Beach Metro News before the two-day hearing started.

A small, cream-coloured house with a front yard and bright blue and red awnings that advertise the dental and denture clinics, Holland said the building at 1897 illustrates “what is special about the Beach, and its village flavour.”

In June, C& Partners Architects gave city planners a site plan showing a contemporary-looking office with a first-floor pharmacy, three floors of medical offices, and an architecture office on the top floor.

The top two floors of the office would be stepped back to be less visible from the street. The first three floors would be clad in materials that resemble wood and limestone, with a copper canopy over the main entrance.

But Holland pointed out that the office would take up almost the entire lot at 1895 Queen, and also requires five minor variances to existing zoning bylaws – variances to allow more height, more density, less front-yard setback, and less parking supply.

The building would have two parking spaces, while the bylaw requires nine.

But city planners did not object to the variances, and they were approved in December by the city’s Committee of Adjustment.

Holland said he and his clients disagree that the variances are minor. Rather than going to the Committee of Adjustment for minor variances, Holland said the plans should have gone to city planners for a more in-depth report on a possible rezoning.

“We’re talking about what is literally the gateway to the Beach,” said Holland.

Local city councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said she supports the office proposal, and so do city planners.

“It’s the type of development that we crusaded for in our vision study,” said McMahon, referring to the series of public meetings in 2012 that led to a new set of urban design guidelines for the Beach stretch of Queen Street.

Among other things, the guidelines require buildings that appear no more than four storeys tall to someone standing across the street.

McMahon also said she likes the fact that the building is designed for a pharmacy and medical offices.

“I think that’s a positive addition to the neighbourhood,” she said.

The OMB decision on the proposed office building is expected later this year.

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It’s so ugly! If this is “the type of development that [McMahon] crusaded for,” the Beach is in serious trouble.

And no, I don’t think everything east of Woodbine has to be red bricks and picket fences, but really — make at least some effort to look like you fit into the streetscape.

We’ve been in trouble for over four years, Thomas.

The thing about the Beach, I think, is that it is eclectic. I may not fully understand the zoning on Queen East but it seems to allow buildings that are much larger than what is there now. There is no life on the street in front of a place like this. We have four more years of a member of council with little imagination. Too bad.

“McMahon also said she likes the fact that the building is designed for a pharmacy and medical offices.”

What is strange is that when the developer of the Shell station site across the road went to the OMB, the City Planner objected to their being a version with offices on the second floor – even though there would have been some pay-parking in the basement – unlike this project.

I am all for more office space (jobs) on Queen – but this doesn’t fit in – I agree with the previous two comments.

IMO, this building is very attractive and will be a positive addition to the streetscape, proving once again that esthetics are very subjective. BTW, the Queen St. Streetscape consists largely of makeshift boxes cobbled on to the front of ramshackle old homes. See for example, Cob’s or Ends.

And if I hear the phrase “gateway to the Beach” one more time I may very well throw up. For the last thirty years at least, that “gateway” has consisted of a run down apartment building with retail at grade (Pizza Pizza) and a massive billboard on top, and a gas station with a seedy coffee shop.

These busybodies should worry about preserving their own properties and let other property owners get on with their business.

The whole idea of “gateways” is a crock… often it has been an excuse for bigger condos. The city also came up with this idea that it is a good idea to have bigger buildings at major intersections. On Yonge, this makes some sense in that that is where the subway stations are. Look at Paris and they don’t have “gateways” or bigger buildings on the corners at intersections – the city established rules that sets out maximum heights and every building in the street follows those rules so they end up with a consistent streetscape. In Toronto, every building essentially stands on its own, which is what we end up with unsightly blank walls on the sides of buildings

This 5 story building will have a 5 storey high side wall towering over the 2 storey home that is set back from the street. This massive wall will be painted concrete block.

Joe McNulty never met a redevelopment project he didn’t like. Sadly, if you look at the 5 condos on the racetrack, the stores are mostly vacant. One Rainsford has all vacant space – not one store has bee rented out… partly because food and restaurants can’t go into those storefronts.

I am actually happy to see that 1895 is office space and not a condo – in fact, the Shell station should have been office space, but this building does not fit in in term sof massing or architectural design.

“…the stores are mostly vacant”. More nonsense from Brian Graff. You should get out of your mother’s basement and take a walk in the neighbourhood once in a while. You also have no idea what can or cannot go in the retail at 1 Rainsofrd and whether or not any of the space has been leased.

Did you ever stop to think that the home stet back from the street is the building that is out of place on a main arterial road?

Joe – I was actually agreeing with you that “gateways” are a stupid cliche! But when you wrote “if you look at the 5 condos on the racetrack, the stores are mostly vacant” it might be a little bit of an exaggeration but in some of the 5 buildings this is true – I think about overall the vacancy rate is about 30% to 40% of the frontage when I actually tried to measure it a few years back. And in every condo being built, the space is not meant for food stores and restaurants – this is one reason why the new buildings are not going to be vibrant and add to the economic life.

What’s the problem? Everyone coming to the medical building can just park on Kippendavie – along with everyone picking/dropping off their kids while parking on top of sidewalks from KewBeach Public School and KB Daycare and ABC Academy Daycare, and Bikram yoga and everyone looking to visit the beach or visiting the new 60 unit McMahon condo block etc etc. What’s amazing is that Kippendavie can support an unlimited amount of parking and congestion – even if cars have to park on sidewalks or in the middle of the street. I’m sure that the two parking spots provided will suffice – the offices within the 6 story building will surely coordinate all visitors for the two spots. OR – let’s face it McMahon is adamant that we are not a neighbourhood at all.

I understand the city and their desire to meet the requirements of intensification through growth along main arterial roads. I spoke before with Robert Holland about this project and felt the planning arguments were somewhat weak with the massing being substantial and the parking very limited. I would think the parking will be used by staff only and whatever the arguments no patient will ever see one of those spaces. That said I feel the location is out of context with the existing built form on the east side of Woodbine. Call it a gateway or call it a location worth re-investment due to varying levels of stagnation..the point remains that although intensification is good along arterials the city may have overstepped its own boundaries for intensification when they allowed it to creep onto the east side of Woodbine, what I would call transition zone from the west side were there are condos etc…
Everyone has their opinion of what is good planning. Protection of neighbourhoods is important. The city should protect these areas in their Official Plan, creating a Secondary Plan regulating the uses, density and parking requirements. Sometimes the general provisions of the by-law don’t speak to the Official Plan directives very well as they must deal with the whole of the city. Anyone looking to protect their neighbourhood should contact City of Toronto Planning and meet with them to have discussion regarding better protection of their neighbourhood. Robert Holland is…

The real problem here is that this type of height and density is within the maximums of the Official Plan Amendment (almost like a Secondary Plan) for the area, but whereas condos have had to go through rezonings, this was done at the Committee of Adjustment – essentially a 20 minute hearing with people getting less than 5 minutes each to speak and with no community meetings, studies required by the developer etc., so thatit is almost as if Queen Street had already been rezoned.

McMahon has once said that the best way of protecting Queen street was to make it a Heritage District, but this takes time and she has done nothing to advance it – meanwhile, these other changes she has implemented will have the effect of accelerating redevelopment and development will largely be what is in the owner’s applications and approved with few changes if any.

And so far the planning department has been of little or no help – they see their role as facilitating development and rarely listen to what the community says… consulting with planners hasn’t achieved much – they feel they are the experts and know better what is good for us and the city, which is intensification.

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