A six-storey co-operative housing unit has been proposed for a lot on Coxwell Avenue at Gerrard Street East, with a community consultation scheduled for December 7.
The site at 355 to 363 Coxwell (the northeast corner at the northern Coxwell and Gerrard intersection) is currently home to an occupied shopping plaza which includes two sports bar and a hairdressing shop with parking. As proposed, the six-storey co-op would have one retail unit at street level and 33 apartment units above. An office space is also proposed. Nine surface parking spaces are included in the proposal.
The 21-metre building’s entrance would face onto Gerrard Street East. A six-storey apartment building sits to the east of the property with a residential neighbourhood to the north and west.
The developer is Innstead Co-operative Inc., an East End co-operative non-profit housing provider that operates several co-operative housing initiatives in the area. The developer’s architect is LGA Architectural Partners.
Innstead describes itself on its website as “perhaps the most scattered cooperative in Canada with 52 properties spread over 3 square kilometers of Toronto, from Jones east to Coxwell, from Queen north to the railway tracks.” It has 120 members.
The Coxwell property would be the non-profit’s largest initiative to date – since 1976 they have focused on “well built, solid, brick, detached and semi-detached houses” with their largest property containing six units.
“This is by far our largest,” explained Paul Connelly, Innstead consultant. He said the development is part of a larger term strategy to expand the co-op’s portfolio and provide its members with more accessible units.
The co-ops current houses are renovated, having been built in the ‘20s or ‘30s.
“Narrow staircases and corridors,” he said. “We don’t have any units that are really good for people as they age. We want to serve people who have disabilities.”
Innstead chose the Coxwell and Gerrard site because it is in its catchment area, the property is big enough for their plans, and it was the most cost-effective. The co-op is financing the project through equity it has developed over the years and hopes to get some help from the city under its affordable housing umbrella.
In city planning documents, staff note that the proposed development would be “eligible for the Open Door for Affordable Housing program,” which “offers financial incentives as well as a streamlined planning review process for new affordable housing.”
Another key piece in why Innstead picked the site is that it is on transit, which is a need for the residents served by the co-op. That it’s on a busy transit corridor and “behaves like” an avenue could help the co-op in convincing the city to relax some of the bylaws on the property to allow for the mixed-use, higher density building, he said.
As for what the building will look like, Connelly said the focus is going to be on big windows and inviting open spaces.
A meeting room for members and an office for Innstead is proposed and the plan is to be energy and water efficient and meet or exceed the city’s green roof standards. Units would be offered below market, he said, consistent with the co-ops other properties.
While some in the neighbourhood might push back against a six-storey building, Connelly said they believe they have a good case.
“We know that people recognize that there is a need for affordable housing,” he said. “Basically we are a good neighbour and we hope people would support us.”
The next step in the planning process is the community consultation meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 7 at the legion on Coxwell Avenue.
This article has been updated.