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.