Proposal adding height and depth to Kingston Road building raises concerns over impacts on local business

A proposal to add two additional storeys to the location at 955 Kingston Rd. will be heard by the City of Toronto's Committee of Adjustment at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 27, Inset photos, the back of 955 Kingston Rd. and neighbouring The Great Escape Book Store; the plans for the addition (front and back views) for 955; an addition to block of stores on Kingston Road just west of Victoria Park Avenue.

By ALAN SHACKLETON

A proposal to add height and depth to a storefront in the Kingston Road Village is raising concerns among a number of community members including the owner of neighbouring The Great Escape Book Store.

The proposal is for 955 Kingston Rd., on the south side between Scarborough Road and Silver Birch Avenue. The building is part of a connected row of two-storey buildings with mostly storefronts at street level and apartments above that was built in the 1920s.

The proposal seeks to add two additional storeys to the site at 955 and to also extend at the four-storey height to the rear of the lot.

The owner of 955 Kingston Rd., Allen Chin, is making the proposal.

A hearing by the City of Toronto’s Committee of Adjustment (CoA) on the proposal is set for 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 27. The CoA will consider whether to approve requested minor variances to the existing zoning bylaws by the owner.

Those variances include raising the maximum permitted floor space index (FSI) on the lot from the permissible two times (310.8 square metres) to 2.28 times (354.14 square metres).

Variances also being sought are for platforms on the third and fourth storeys; and a change in setback from 5.5 metres from the lot line to 0.9 metres on the west lot line.

The issue for many people who have sent letters of objection to the proposal is the impact the height and depth will have on the back of the properties, in particular the rear area of The Great Escape Book Store, on other neighbouring businesses and on the street-culture in the area.

The Great Escape is a beloved institution in the area, and the location has been a book store for decades. It was known as Ed’s Books for many years before the name was changed to The Great Escape in the 1990s. Katya Nosko, owner of the store, said she will lose light and the appeal of the area at the back will be completely lost by this proposal.

She said her business and the backyard event space she had created there could completely disappear as it will be blocked out by a three-storey brick wall.

“There is a huge loss of light there and the loss of my garden,” said Nosko.

She uses the large garage at the back of lot to hold concerts, art and photo exhibitions, readings and other events including weddings.

 

Much of Kingston Road is identified by the City of Toronto as an area for intensification and higher buildings, and there is a building somewhat similar to what is being proposed a couple of blocks to the east at 1035 Kingston Rd., where Collected Joy is located.

However, the back area behind Collected Joy is at a through laneway, which is not the case for the 955 proposal.

The laneway there is a T-junction which cannot be driven or walked through, and which has allowed the creation of “a little eco-system of neighbours who look after each other,” said Nosko.

Since she is well known in the community due to the popularity of The Great Escape Book Store, the community events she hosts and her work on environmental issues, Nosko said she has been able to get the word out through social media about the proposal to the wider community.

“I felt it was important for the neighbourhood to know. If you don’t know, you lose your chance. So I put it out there and the response has been enormous…People sent in letters of objection if they had concerns.”

More than 50 letters of objection to the proposal have been sent to the city’s Committee of Adjustment.

Allen Chin said his proposal is intended to make the neighbourhood a better place while also adding more space for people to live.

“I happen to be building the missing middle. I’m replacing parking spaces with living spaces,” he said.

“My plan has consideration for the neighbours. I did not maximize the envelope (building space available)…I’m looking for gentle densification. This does not impact them and I took great care with that.”

Chin, who was born and raised in the East End, said he’s been disappointed by the tone of some people’s objections and how they are questioning his motives, his right to make such a proposal or that he is trying to hurt other businesses on the block such as The Great Escape Book Store. He said he has also received support from other community and business members.

“I am not encroaching on her property. I am not forcing her to close her business,” he said. “I am trying to support her.”

Chin wanted to stress that they are not developers, but residents of the building who are looking to expand the space for their family to live in and run their business.

The Committee of Adjustment will either approve or reject the proposed zoning variances. If approved, those in objection to the proposal can appeal to the Toronto Local Appeal Body which reviews committee rulings. The same option is available to Chin if the proposal is rejected by the committee.

Wednesday’ hearing is one of the first steps in the development process for this proposal. For more information on the proposal, please go to the City of Toronto’s Development Application Centre at https://secure.toronto.ca/AIC/index.do and type 955 Kingston Rd. into the search area.

To watch the April 27 Committee of Adjustment meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m., on You Tube, please go to https://www.youtube.com/c/TorontoCityPlanning


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