Danforth planning study beginning to take shape

IMAGE: City of Toronto

A city-directed planning study of the Danforth between Coxwell and Victoria Park is beginning to take shape, with the East York Community Council receiving the preliminary report at today’s May 10 regular meeting.

The report lays the groundwork and timeline for the study, which aims to get ahead of expected development and help shape the character of the neighbourhood corridor.

City staff are recommending a community consultation meeting with councillors from Ward 31 and 32 be scheduled to review the draft terms of reference for the study. That feedback will then be incorporated before the study begins by the end of 2016.

The study was initiated in July 2014 in response to a rezoning application for 2359 Danforth Ave. and “with the intent of taking a proactive approach to managing change on Danforth Avenue,” reads the report.

Danforth is identified as an “Avenue” in the Toronto Official Plan and is mostly low-rise, two to three storey buildings. Avenues are areas where development is “anticipated and encouraged to create new housing and job opportunities, while improving the pedestrian environment, the look of the street, shopping opportunities and transit service for community residents.

“This particular Avenue segment (Coxwell to Victoria Park) was selected as it is experiencing some development interest, there are sites that may attract redevelopment interest due to their size, attributes or availability, and a local framework to guide and manage growth is needed at this time,” reads the report.

Toronto’s city planning department will lead the comprehensive study, with other departments supporting as needed. They will look at “character and place, the built form, the public realm, the retail vitality, the community services and facilities and the heritage and historic character of Danforth Avenue, in the context of the various surrounding neighbourhoods.”

The study will include a stakeholder advisory committee made up of 12-15 members – people from residents associations, land- and business-owner representation, and members of the public. Three or four community meetings – which can be workshops, charrettes or more formal meetings – will be scheduled, with the first anticipated for June of this year.

The estimated timeline for the study shows the study completed by the end of 2017.

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The planning Department will ram down more height and density that the community wants and put in place guidelines that the developers will treat as minimums….

We have seen this before, starting the the Queen/Beaches Urban Design Guidelines, and the Riverdale ones, then the Queen/Leslieville ones and the Queen/Ashbridges ones.

The planners will say “we have to do this because the rules cannot conflict with provincial policy or the Official Plan, but both are wide open to interpretation and each have objectives that conflict with other objectives, and then after saying they can’t have rules that are in conflict with the Official Plan the planners will eventually suggest an Area Specif Official Plan Amendment – a tool meant to allow parts of the City to have rules that might differ from the general Official Plan polices!

Uhhh… expect the outcome to merely be a tweak of the 2010 Avenues and Mid Rise Guidelines that suggest little more than a different streetwall height and/or a stepback.

density brings money and money improves retail and retail improves streetscape and it all improves home value. lt all starts with density. don’t fight density,

Funny, but Greektown is very healthy without extra density… and very dense areas such as around Moss Park downtown are retail deserts.

A lot depends on retail mix, the area image and the actual quality of the streetscape and buildings. Take the 5 condos on Queen on the south side west of Woodbine – these buildings havehigher density than the rest of Queen Street but the retail space is a huge problem in terms of vacancy and the quality of tenants.

Many condos prohibit restaurants or food stores, or the layout is poor for such uses (including no provision for ventilation of kitchens) – often shallow wide units without extra space in the basement.

There is a case for extra density very close to subway stops (provincial policy) – but the problem with The Danforth is the lack of decent surface transit, unlike streets with streetcars or frequent buses. And the subway stops are about 1km apart, unlike Yonge Street Downtown – so extra density halfway between stops should not be at high densities.

There is also heritage – many nice buildings get demolished. The planners want to ram as much density as they can on communities, instead of building beautiful avenues.

I dunno, the NO CONDOS AT ANY COST crowd aren’t doing so well in the Beaches and their local politicians seem unable to stop ugly condos. Condos with good design features, like mid-rise (great in condos; uncomfortable in jeans,) street level retail space, employment provision, shadow-reducing tiers and cladding that is similar to the surrounding area is important. So far the condo that everyone feared in my neighbourhood at Woodbine and Danforth seems to be a plus. It has a large pub and a niche retail store providing jobs and foot traffic on the sidewalk. That being said, when I look at those condostrosities planned for Queen Street around the Woodbine area, I’m glad I live in East York. Our councillor Janet Davis seems a lot more in tune with her constituents.

In our local “Megacity” system, the local councillor has a lot of power over planning because other councillors have a “tit for tat” policy and tend to not get involved in other wards… though from time to time a councillor will lose if the others gang up. However, the planning department has even more power.because if the planners “recommend” something, this helps the developer at the OMB and council has to spend money to hire outside councillors to fight the ones on staff!

Davis does have more on the ball than McMahon in terms of planning – Adam Vaughan had th emost experience on TEYCC. It is imperative that when a new councillor is elected the voters pick the person with a lot of knowledge and experience in relation to planning, and someone who is not in the pockets of local developers. McMahon has been a huge disappointment because she came to office saying the right things but never delivered..

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