Blo­ordale site goes to ap­peal

Com­mu­nity bands to­gether to fight de­vel­op­ment process

Annex Post - - NEWS - –– Ge­orge Redak

The Blo­ordale com­mu­nity was shaken up in 2016 when the Toronto District School Board de­cided to sell ap­prox­i­mately 7.3 acres of pub­lic land at the Bloor Street and Duf­ferin Street in­ter­sec­tion. In re­sponse to this, a group of con­cerned cit­i­zens formed the Build a Bet­ter Bloor and Duf­ferin (BBBD) as­so­ci­a­tion. The group has been cam­paign­ing to en­sure that the com­mu­nity will play a role in the de­vel­op­ment process of these lands.

Cap­i­tal De­vel­op­ment pur­chased the land for $121 mil­lion and sub­mit­ted plans in 2017 for its vi­sion. Since then, BBBD has been ac­tively chal­leng­ing the devel­op­ers, al­ready forc­ing them to al­ter their orig­i­nal pro­posal.

The new plans in­clude 2,098 res­i­den­tial units, ap­prox­i­mately 169,000 square feet of re­tail, a one-acre park and a 30,000square-foot com­mu­nity hub.

“Right now what we hope to achieve is to make sure that the land, which has been pub­lic land for over 100 years, is used for pub­lic good,” said Emily Par­adis, co-chair of BBBD. “We are hop­ing to in­flu­ence the de­vel­op­ment process and bring the com­mu­nity’s per­spec­tive into that process.”

A pre-hear­ing on Nov. 5 with the Lo­cal Plan­ning Ap­peal Tri­bunal (LPAT) is sched­uled, and BBBD plans to at­tend. The group wants to en­sure that the com­mu­nity’s voice is taken into con­sid­er­a­tion when de­cid­ing on the fu­ture of the 7.3 acres of land.

Hav­ing failed to block the sale of the land by the Toronto District School Board, BBBD is now fo­cused on us­ing this de­vel­op­ment in a way that will greatly im­prove the Blo­ordale com­mu­nity for cur­rent and fu­ture res­i­dents.

“Per­son­ally, I felt robbed,” said Par­adis about the sale of the land back in 2016. “How can they just take this land that has been here, an as­set that be­longs to the com­mu­nity, and just sell it for pri­vate de­vel­op­ment? That is why I got in­volved.”

For Par­adis, who de­scribes this neigh­bour­hood as a “blue-col­lared com­mu­nity,” the lack of af­ford­able hous­ing be­ing pro­posed by Cap­i­tal is alarm­ing.

“If you de­velop 2,100 con­dos and not one of them is af­ford­able hous­ing, you are ba­si­cally cre­at­ing a gated com­mu­nity,” said Par­adis. “And those new prop­er­ties of­ten drive up the res­i­den­tial com­mer­cial rent in the rest of the neigh­bour­hood, push­ing long­stand­ing res­i­dents out be­cause they can’t af­ford it.”

BBBD is ask­ing for a 200-unit build­ing of deeply af­ford­able hous­ing to be in­cluded in the project. This along­side a 1.5-acre park are a few of the de­mands be­ing made by the com­mu­nity.

Ad­di­tional funds are also needed, BBBD ar­gues, to ex­pand the com­mu­nity hub be­ing pro­posed and to cre­ate an ad­e­quate re­place­ment for Bloor Col­le­giate In­sti­tute, in which they hope will in­clude ameni­ties such as school gym­na­si­ums, au­di­to­ri­ums and swim­ming pool.

In­spired by the work of this com­mu­nity, Camila Gar­cia, a film­maker and jour­nal­ist based out of Toronto, made a short doc­u­men­tary about the re­de­vel­op­ment of the school lands called Bloor-Duf­ferin.

“I saw hope in all of them, hope to do the right thing,” said Gar­cia about her ex­pe­ri­ence while mak­ing the doc­u­men­tary. “I saw that they are us­ing this is­sue to set a good ex­am­ple for the rest of the city, to set an ex­am­ple in terms of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.”

Wit­ness­ing the com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion of BBBD led Gar­cia to take on this pas­sion project. Along with her part­ner Pe­dro Miguez, a Toronto-based cin­e­matog­ra­pher, the two brought at­ten­tion to the bat­tle BBBD mem­bers are un­der­tak­ing.

“We wanted to bring aware­ness and to help them,” said Gar­cia. “To help raise this is­sue, have these di­a­logues, start the con­ver­sa­tion with other peo­ple. That was our in­ten­tion with the doc­u­men­tary.”

Cap­i­tal De­vel­op­ments did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

“How can they just take this as­set that be­longs to the com­mu­nity and just sell it for pri­vate de­vel­op­ment?”

Emily Par­adis, co-chair of the Build a Bet­ter Bloor and Duf­ferin as­so­ci­a­tion

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