Bloor and Duf­ferin’s mas­sive revamp

Pro­posal’s lack of a com­mu­nity hub draws com­mu­nity ire

Midtown Post - - News - — Ju­dith Muster

The City of Toronto is re­view­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion to trans­form the south­west cor­ner of Bloor Street and Duf­ferin Street into a mixe­duse de­vel­op­ment that will in­clude six new build­ings rang­ing in height from six to 47 storeys, 2,219 res­i­den­tial units and a com­mu­nity hub. De­spite pro­vin­cial fund­ing and in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal plan­ning for the hub, its fu­ture re­mains un­cer­tain.

The Prov­ince of On­tario pledged $20 mil­lion dol­lars, meant to sup­port both a new school’s con­struc­tion and the com­mu­nity hub, with $7 mil­lion al­lo­cated to the hub. One clear re­quire­ment the prov­ince has for the hub is that it must in­clude child care ser­vices. How­ever, as of a city com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing on Feb. 7, no spe­cific hub plans ex­ist.

Mag­gie Hutch­e­son, a long­time area res­i­dent, at­tended the con­sul­ta­tion at which res­i­dents, in­clud­ing Com­mu­nity Hub Vi­sion­ing Group mem­bers, learned the fund­ing de­tails of the hub.

“There is, in fact, no guar­an­teed space for a com­mu­nity hub but, rather, $7 mil­lion that the City can use to pay back the de­vel­oper for a small por­tion of the build­ings to serve as a com­mu­nity hub,” she posted on Face­book. “Given that the de­vel­oper may make close to a bil­lion dol­lars sell­ing these units, it’s pa­thetic.”

The land was de­clared sur­plus by the Toronto Dis­trict School Board (TDSB) in 2013, and later its real es­tate di­vi­sion, Toronto Lands Cor­po­ra­tion (TLC), pre­pared to ac­cept de­vel­oper bids. But when the prov­ince launched a com­mu­nity hub cre­ation ini­tia­tive, the TLC de­ferred the sale to con­sider tak­ing part. A com­mit­tee was formed, com­pris­ing the TLC, TDSB, prov­ince and city, “to look at op­por­tu­ni­ties that might be avail­able as part of the dis­po­si­tion process,” said TLC CEO Daryl Sage.

Af­ter re­search and com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tions, the com­mit­tee rec­om­mended that 30,000 square feet should be set aside for the hub. Yet TLC se­lected a de­vel­oper for the site with­out in­clud­ing con­struc­tion of the hub as a manda­tory con­di­tion of pur­chase.

“We en­gaged the de­vel­op­ment com­mu­nity say­ing, ‘ We want a place­holder of up to 30,000 square feet of com­mu­nity space, and you will build it pro­vided there’s a fund­ing source,’” said Sage, adding, “If it comes at the ex­pense of the de­vel­oper, it comes at the ex­pense of the school board.”

In De­cem­ber 2016, Cap­i­tal De­vel­op­ments and Metropia were se­lected as pur­chasers in a con­di­tional $121.5 mil­lion sale, pend­ing city plan­ning ap­proval. At the same time, the prov­ince an­nounced its fi­nan­cial pledge.

His­toric Kent Se­nior Pub­lic School, one of two schools on site, will be in­cor­po­rated into the de­vel­op­ment, with its main floor and base­ment now be­ing con­sid­ered for com­mu­nity hub use. Bloor Col­le­giate In­sti­tute will be de­mol­ished and re­placed with a new 125,000-square-foot school on ad­ja­cent land that will re­main in TDSB pos­ses­sion.

The de­vel­op­ers will be re­quired to pro­vide money for com­mu­nity ben­e­fits un­der Plan­ning Act, Sec­tion 37. Yet the $7 mil­lion in pro­vin­cial fund­ing is an added, sep­a­rate con­tri­bu­tion, which, ac­cord­ing to the de­vel­oper, is “to en­sure a day care is built within the hub.”

Coun­cil­lor Ana Bailão of Ward 18, Daven­port, em­pha­sizes the di­vi­sions be­tween city in­volve­ment and pro­vin­cial in­volve­ment.

“The money that comes from the prov­ince is not part of [the city’s] plan­ning [process] but is part of the sale process,” she said. “We have Sec­tion 37 ben­e­fits and as a com­mu­nity will de­cide how to spend those. I have con­cerns about how we’re go­ing to put a good com­mu­nity hub to­gether given the lim­ited re­sources we have.”

Daryl Sage, too, high­lights the dis­tinct re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of those in­volved.

“There’s a great op­por­tu­nity for the hub since we es­tab­lished the place­holder space, but the school board has no ju­ris­dic­tion over city plan­ning. The prov­ince is mak­ing a con­tri­bu­tion, and if only that money goes into the hub, if that builds them 5,000 square feet then that’s what will oc­cur on site.”

Given that the de­vel­oper may make close to a bil­lion dol­lars sell­ing these units, it’s pa­thetic.

A ren­der­ing of what the area could look like if the de­vel­op­ment is ap­proved

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