April 24th 2012
As a general rule, I’d say most of us are not great with change in our neighbourhoods – we can handle the small stuff, say a new store here or there or a neighbour’s updates to their front porch. But introduce larger changes and we all get a little uncomfortable.
The proposed new building at 1844 Bloor St. West has brought some controversy along with it. People are uncomfortable with the 14 storeys, worried it will block sunlight from yards and not fit in with our more quaint architecture. Parking is already difficult, homeowners are stressing over more cars fighting for spaces. And parents are concerned about more traffic and children’s safety while playing outdoors. Renters are concerned about fewer rental properties.
If we could go back in time, I’m absolutely positive we would hear our 1910 predecessors complaining about store fronts being built on previous farmland or how their neighbour’s house was being built too close to their own. In the 1950′s, folks probably complained about some of the walk-ups being built. And we already know that in the 1970′s we were worried about the subway and the strip malls taking our customers away from our shops (hence the birth of our Bloor West BIA, one of the oldest in Canada.)
And yet, we love, love, love our neighbourhood today – believing in some fashion that it’s at its best right now, no changes required. But our neighbourhood has evolved over many generations to meet the needs of its inhabitants. It is important to remember that change can bring good things to our village, as it has in the past.
More affordable housing for those young couples starting out would be great – it seems unfair that only a few generations ago, every young couple starting out could have a home of their own. More daycare spaces in our area are not only desirable, but necessary. As we are the Sandwich Generation, a new, one level, maintained apartment close by, for our aging parents would certainly make life easier. And although it’s not quite as bad as the States, we have to face the fact that there are those of us who may need to downsize our living space due to economic difficulties but desperately want to stay in our beloved High Park.
I get it. Fourteen storeys seem like a lot. But the reality is that the building is exceeding many of the city’s standards – in a very positive fashion. And the Daniels Corporation also took our feedback seriously.
Here is some information for you to ponder:
The building will house a minimum 14 rental units consisting of one and two bedroom units and will have rents no higher than the mid-range limit as defined in the City’s Official Plan. These units will be secured as rental housing for a minimum of 20 years. This replaces the 16 rental units previously on this site.
The loading/service entrance has been redesigned; the driveway and service area changed in an effort to minimize the appearance of a public lane and to slow traffic movement along the service lane. The lane now has a curve and is screened from Pacific Avenue.
All signage and warning requirements dictated by the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic School Board have been met.
The building will have 274 parking spaces, plus 2 Green Share spaces (for things like Zip Car i.e. vehicle sharing), plus additional parking for the retail area. Plus visitor parking. These meet the city’s requirements for parking in new builds.
At the last community meeting I attended, the local city officials said they were committed to solving the street parking issues – which definitely falls to the city as their responsibility.
Sun and Wind – studies were conducted and the results determined that there would be minimal impact on sunlight in neighbouring areas. Despite that, the Daniels Corporation actually purchased additional surrounding land to increase the buffer between the building and the neighbouring properties to exceed the city standards. Appropriate landscaping, which we will be able to participate in, will be done to mitigate any concerns around wind.
A Public committee has been formed to provide input on the finishes of the building; glazing has been significantly reduced and more stone features have been included to adapt the building to the local architecture.
Permeable paving and green materials are being used to beautify the area. The building is actually a LEED Tier 2 i.e. higher than it needs to be) which is entirely voluntary for the builder. For more information on LEED, click here.
All FLAP standards have been met (FLAP are the bird friendly guidelines around lighting in buildings.) For more information on FLAP, click here.
It is proposed to be 14 storeys at its tallest point. Because of the community’s concerns, the 14 storey section of the building has been moved to the back of the lot to join the other existing multi-storey apartment buildings in the area (up to 31 storeys I might add) while the courtyard and retail shops will face onto Bloor St. The courtyard was increased in order to soften the edges and make sure it was as nice a place to stroll as the rest of Bloor West Village.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the worries we’ve had – let’s look at some of those positives…the things folks haven’t been talking about.
There is a proposed Daycare/Nursery stand-alone building at the rear of the site, solely for said use. The High Park neighbourhood is deficient in day care spaces. Options including not-for-profit, City-operated, and for-profit child care have been discussed throughout the process.
The current development proposes a 650 square metre (almost 7000 sq ft for us non-metric babies) daycare with an outdoor space, parking and drop-off areas.
More Affordable Housing:
The average cost (looking over the past 6 years) of a semi attached home in High Park is easily $750K. Based on a little general research (no verified figures) you’re probably looking at a starting price in and around $475 to $525K for these units.
The city requires the builder to commission a public art piece for the area at a cost of 1% of the entire building structure cost. We all know how High Park loves art!
Parks and Community Support
The Daniels Corporation is also required by the city to contribute a staggering 1.5 million dollars to Ward 13 Parkdale–High Park for local parks, streetscapes or non-profit childcare facilities.
Another $15 000 has to be given over for the High Park Straw Bale Teaching Kitchen – part of The High Park Children’s Garden (a 2009 David Suzuki Digs My Garden Contest award winner). For more information on the High Park Straw Bale Teaching Garden, click here.
It seems to me that the change we’re looking at here has a lot of positives. It is always imperative that we look to the future, and we of course, want to maintain our lovely neighbourhood. But we also have to let it grow and meet the needs of a changing world. Those who came before us did – equally carefully, paying attention to detail and the greater good.
While I appreciate that getting used to a 14 storey building at 1844 Bloor St West may take some doing – the absolute truth of the matter is that the area has been designated long ago, by those we elected, as an Apartments Designation. The building is allowed to be there…and the builders are really trying to make this change as positive an experience as possible, when they really don’t have to.
For me the positives outweigh the negatives. Change can be hard – but as Winston Churchill said “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” And my goodness, look at the building issues he had to deal with…
*to review all documents pertaining to 1844 Bloor St. West, visit http://www.1844bloorstreetwest.com/index.html ; these were the sources for the building information, as well as a public meeting I attended on March 1st, 2012.