Community centre concerns highlighted in consultation meeting on proposed highrises in Danforth and Main area

This image shows proposed (pink), approved (yellow), under construction (blue), and existing (grey) buildings in the Danforth Avenue and Main Street area.

By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A virtual community consultation meeting to discuss three new development proposals for the Main Street and Danforth Avenue area took place on the night of Wednesday, March 8.

In attendance were about 109 participants. That number included a panel of 29 officials representing both the City of Toronto and developers for the three proposals being discussed at the meeting. Also in attendance was Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford.

“As a result of Bill 109 (Ontario’s More Homes for Everyone Act, 2022) legislation and our need to hit expedited timelines thrust upon us from the province, we are now stacking planning meetings on specific days in each ward in the city,” said Bradford. “So that’s what we’re doing tonight.”

The first of the three proposals discussed was a rezoning application to redevelop portions of the property on 2575 Danforth Ave. with five new buildings.

Designed by WZMH Architects for Victoria Wood/Main Square LP—with planning by Hunter & Associates—this proposal includes towers which will range from 15 to 55 storeys, creating up to 1,543 additional residential units consisting of both rentals and condominiums.

There are currently 1,113 existing units on site as part of the Main Square apartment buildings development.

“There have been notable changes around the site’s address since the 2006 approval, said Benjamin Larson, Planner at Hunter & Associates. “Along Danforth the plan is now for new transit supportive development, ground floor retail space, and overall improved public realm.”

According to Len Abelman from WZMH Architects, an important part of the planning was the ability to have pedestrian flow through the site.

Although the City of Toronto isn’t quite prepared to invest in an underground path that links the Main Street TTC Station just north of Danforth Avenue to the Danforth GO Station to the south, there will be a direct pathway that runs through Main Square, leading to the station.

The second proposal discussed was for two towers at 2681 Danforth Ave. (the Canadian Tire site east of Main Street). They will be 33 and 44 storey mixed-use buildings that will provide 905 residential units.

These buildings will have a total gross floor area (GFA) of 79,854 square metres, including 68,788 square metres of residential GFA and 11,066 square metres of non-residential GFA which will be reserved for Canadian Tires retail operations.

The third proposal discussed was a rezoning application by Marlin Spring for a proposed 38-storey mixed-use building at 8 Dawes Rd., just south of Danforth Avenue.

This development will contain 399 dwelling units, consisting of 39 three bedroom, 109 two-bedroom, and 251 one-bedroom units.

No affordable housing component in proposals

Together, the three proposals aim to bring in 7,500 new residential units to the area but, at the moment, none of the developers have announced any concrete plans for affordable housing components in their buildings.

“It’s a lot and there’s no affordability provided in that and I just think that’s a shame,” said Bradford at the meeting. “It’s important that we make sure that we’re building complete communities.”

In November of 2021, Toronto Council approved an Inclusionary Zoning framework to require a level of affordability within all new developments.

According to Bradford, the city had asked the Province of Ontario for this power “no fewer than seven times since 1999”.

Council’s Inclusionary Zoning framework required up to 22 per cent of units in new condominium developments in growing areas to meet a definition of affordability that is tied to a household’s income and that these units would remain affordable for 99 years.

However, as a result of the provincial government’s Bill 23 (More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022), changes were made to Inclusionary Zoning laws that directly contradicted Toronto’s affordability plan.

“Bill 23 capped the percentage of affordable units required at five per cent, reduced the affordability period from 99 to 25 years, and changed the definition of affordability to one no longer tied to household income,” said Bradford in response to questions from Beach Metro Community News after the meeting.

“However, as of today, there is no Inclusionary Zoning in effect in Toronto given that the Official Plan Amendments needed to implement any new framework are still awaiting Ministerial approval.”

The proposals for the Danforth Avenue highrises are still in the early stages so it is unclear at this time whether the applicants will make revisions that cater to the City of Toronto’s affordable housing needs.

As a result of the expected increase in residents due to the growing number of approved developments in the area, the Main Square Community Centre would require an expansion. The future of the community centre emerged as the main point of concern for many in attendance at the March 8 meeting.

They insisted that a gap between closing the existing community centre and constructing a new one would be disruptive to those who regularly use the gym and swimming pools at Main Square Community Centre.

City of Toronto staff, however, assured those attending the meeting that a disruption of services will be avoided.

“The community centre lease is set to expire in 2023, but we are in discussions with Talisker about that,” said Andrea Bake, Senior Project Manager for the City of Toronto. “There is funding set aside in the capital budget for a replacement facility, but the location has not yet been determined.”

The budget, which was approved last month, includes design work set to commence in 2028 and construction in 2030. The new lease discussions aim to meet this timeline.

Other concerns expressed by those attending the meeting included safety of the proposed new park; shadowing as a result of tall towers which the developers assured has been dealt with as taller towers will be kept a distance away from Danforth Avenue to mitigate shadowing on street level; and traffic congestion in an already busy area.

BA Group Transportation Planner Tony Snih, who is working in collaboration with Marlin Spring on the traffic impact study in the area, told those in attendance that the development at 8 Dawes “is adding very minimal traffic to the network.”

Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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