Trans­formed down­town is fresh bat­tle­ground

Unique con­cerns sur­round­ing condo boom in Toronto’s new wa­ter­front rid­ing


When Julie Beddoes moved to a Dis­tillery Dis­trict condo15 years ago, the neigh­bour­hood was a “dark and dreary waste­land.” The trans­for­ma­tion has been amaz­ing, said Beddoes, chair­woman of the Good­er­ham and Worts Neigh­bour­hood As­so­ci­a­tion’s de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee. But as de­vel­op­ment in­creases, it raises con­cerns about sus­tain­able growth.

It’s an is­sue on the minds of many in Spad­ina—Fort York. The new rid­ing in­cludes the en­tire wa­ter­front from Duf­ferin St. to the Don Val­ley Park­way.

With Lib­erty Vil­lage, City Place and other pock­ets of fast and fu­ri­ous condo de­vel­op­ment in the rid­ing, the win­ner of the Oct. 19 elec­tion will be rep­re­sent­ing thou­sands of house­holds that didn’t ex­ist dur­ing the last gen­eral elec­tion.

“It’s a very dif­fer­ent rid­ing than the one that ex­isted in 2011,” said Lib­eral can­di­date Adam Vaughan. He es­ti­mates 70 per cent of the res­i­dents live in condo tow­ers. “As a re­sult you live in the down­town in a way that’s new, and there’s lots of chal­lenges that come with that.”

Sixty-eight condo con­struc­tion per­mits have been ap­proved in the rid­ing since 2011, ac­cord­ing to the city of Toronto’s build­ing depart­ment.

Who­ever wins, the MP will an­swer to a con­stituency con­sumed by con­dos and the is­sues that ac­com­pany growth, such as transit de­mands and sus­tain­ing liv­able neigh­bour­hoods.

In Lib­erty Vil­lage, 10,000 res­i­dents and 9,000 work­ers put a crunch on roads and transit, ac­cord­ing to BIA man­ager An­drew Flint. Res­i­dents, pushed to get cre­ative, re­cently crowd-funded for a pri­vate bus ser­vice to down­town.

To the east, St. Lawrence neigh­bour­hood dwellers are “sali­vat­ing” over the prospect of fed­eral funds for Toronto transit, said neigh­bour­hood as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Suzanne Ka­vanagh.

“The in­fra­struc­ture is very pre­car­i­ous,” she said. “I’m think­ing, one of these days, ev­ery­thing’s go­ing to im­plode be­cause you can only get so many peo­ple on the 504 street­car.”

The fed­eral par­ties have been talk­ing up sup­port for ur­ban is­sues — tra­di­tion­ally a mu­nic­i­pal and pro­vin­cial ju­ris­dic­tion.

The NDP has pledged $12.9 bil­lion in in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing, in­clud­ing $7.7 bil­lion for transit, for the GTA.

Lib­eral Leader Justin Trudeau an­nounced plans to ear­mark nearly $20 bil­lion for public transit over the next decade, though it’s not clear where those dol­lars would be spent.

The Con­ser­va­tives pre­vi­ously promised $2.6 bil­lion for Mayor John Tory’s Smart­Track plan.

In­clud­ing Union Sta­tion’s re­de­vel­op­ment and re­vi­tal­iz­ing the Don River mouth, Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date Sab­rina Zu­niga called the in­vest­ments “very im­por­tant for our econ­omy and for the func­tion­ing of our city.

“Hav­ing con­dos get ap­proved and just go up so quickly with­out tak­ing care of the in­fra­struc­ture,” Zu­niga said, is “a very big con­cern.”

Call­ing the re­cent de­vel­op­ments “con­dos gone wild,” Green party can­di­date Sharon Dan­ley said her party will com­mit 1 per cent of GST — $6.4 bil­lion an­nu­ally — for in­fra­struc­ture and trans­porta­tion.

“With a good in­fu­sion of funds, bet­ter plan­ning, trans­parency and work­ing to­gether we can re­di­rect the route this cur­rent ap­proach is tak­ing,” she said in an email.

Olivia Chow also lamented the speed of growth in the past few years.

“I would say in the last four years it’s grow­ing too much,” the NDP can­di­date said. “It’s too much be­cause, where is the park space, where is the com­mu­nity cen­tres, where is the child care cen­tres?”

For Beddoes, trans­porta­tion and hous­ing should be fed­eral is­sues.

“Af­ter all, they’re the same is­sues that peo­ple are con­cerned about in ev­ery other city.”

The top con­tenders in the fed­eral elec­tion for Spad­ina—Fort York, Adam Vaughan and Olivia Chow, will have to ad­dress de­vel­op­ment is­sues.


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