NOTE: The U of T Proposal for a student residence at Spadina and Sussex now has its own webpage: see it here.
HVRA has established a reputation for considered and knowledgeable responses to development proposals. Our opinions are taken seriously because we do our homework and ask for reasonable adjustments in the public interest. The notes below describe projects recently under consideration and not yet built.
HVRA very much values residents’ observations and concerns, and collects written input to use in its submissions to the City. Please write the HVRA Planning and Development Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the eastern border of Harbord Village, at Sussex and Spadina, two very different designated Heritage buildings face each other across Sussex: on the north side, a Victorian corner building housing a beloved book store, and on the south side, a modernist “Tower in a Park.” Together, they form a unique gateway to a Heritage District in Harbord Village. Both are under development proposals, and the two developers’ approach to community concerns are as different as the two buildings.
In July 2016 the owners of the apartment building at 666 Spadina applied to the City to rezone the property to build more intensively. The re-zoning process is exhaustive: various City departments examine the application, along with the Ward 20 Councillor and HVRA.
The original application documents are available on the City website. They proposed adding an 11-storey mixed-use building with a total of 128 rental residential apartments on the south side of the property and 8 stacked townhouses on the north side. The existing 25-storey building would stay, and parking would be added within the existing underground parking structure. The document noted that the building has Heritage designation.
The re-zoning process began on 11 April 2016 with a pre-application public meeting organized by Ward 20 Councillor Joe Cressy for the community to get a first look at the plans and make its concerns heard.
The City’s Community Consultation Meeting on 29 November 2016 was described as contentious by Brian Burchell in a story in the December 2016 Annex Gleaner. The City also had concerns, which are evident in the City’s Preliminary Report from 25 October 2016.
In the months after this public meeting, complex negotiations between various City services, the Councillor’s office, HVRA, and the developers ensued. The proposal’s modest height and the fact that all of it would be rental housing were strong points in its favour.
By Summer 2017, the original plans had undergone substantial changes, with a new design by the Page & Steele / IBI Group. Eric Chen describes it in an Urban Toronto story, excerpted below:
A tower-in-the-park infill project at 666 Spadina Avenue has evolved in the recent months following concerns from the City of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services. The tower was designed by the acclaimed Estonian-Canadian architect Uno Prii in 1972, and is a quintessential example of North American modernist architecture; as a result it is listed in the City’s Heritage Register. As a tower-in-the-park project, 666 Spadina features large areas of empty green space surrounding it, the result of mid-twentieth century experiments in city building and urban form.
…. Citing heritage preservation concerns, the design of the proposal has been revised to keep some of the original tower-in-the-park intentions and reinforce strong landscaping features while still animating them.
Changes in the plan include:
- Removal of the proposed stacked townhouses at the north end of the site.
- Redesign of the rental building (11 storeys, 114 feet in height), which will replace lawn and service areas to the south of the site, but stand slightly further from the existing tower.
- New layout of that building, with 685m² of retail space at grade (instead of 460m²).
- More units of larger size: now 1 studio, 60 one-bedroom, 8 two-bedroom, and 14 three-bedroom units.
What’s more, in further negotiations with the City, the Councillor and HVRA, the developers were willing to adjust their plans and to retain the greenspace along Sussex as a city park. There will also be an additional 725 sq.m. POPS (privately owned publicly accessible space) along Sussex Mews Laneway, which is even larger than the city park on Sussex. Taken together, these green spaces almost double the existing park space in Harbord Village!
HVRA’s letter to the TEYCC sums up this community success story. As the HVRA Vice-Chair Gail Misra noted:
This was an excellent example of a positive iterative process between the HVRA, a local developer, the Planning department and our Councillor’s office. Congratulations and many thanks to Sue Dexter and Carolee Orme, who worked tirelessly on the consultations with the owner of 666 Spadina to get us to this point.
This large project took several years to plan and negotiate, and will take several more to build. For unfolding news, visit the site itself at Bathurst and Bloor, and watch for postings on the website of the Mirvish Village Task Group, which includes representatives from HVRA.
This major redevelopment is right next to Harbord Village, and HVRA—along with three other residents’ associations and the two local City Councillors—was active in the planning process. Our work made real gains for the communities, and has provided a model for joint planning among government, developers, and residents. in September 2017, the four residents’ associations made this statement:
The community’s involvement in the Mirvish Village redevelopment is continuing through a process of committee discussions between Westbank, the developer, the councillors, the City, the communities and stakeholders. City Council approval of the development plan, driven by Councillors Cressy and Layton, included mandated ongoing community input on construction management and planning, site plan, park space, public realm, and business plan.
There have been three meetings of the Construction Management group, which have already shaped construction planning to ease impacts on the neighbourhood. We have now been approached by other associations to provide our experience to guide their neighbourhoods in the construction phase of major developments. The terms of reference of the committee have provided a good working basis for engagement between the developer and community. Westbank has proved to be open and receptive to this process.
In April 2017, the City accepted a final proposal for the project. HVRA’s letter to City Council expressed conditional support. It noted “a daunting list of work to be done,” including traffic management, public realm improvements, and park design. It approved of the provisions in place for daycare, affordable units, and community space.
Current plans and detailed documentation are available on the website of the Mirvish Village Task Group (a consortium of the local residents’ associations, including HVRA).
You can now enjoy an overview in the informative slide show (downloadable as a PDF file) prepared by Roy Sawyer, resident of Markham Street and one of the lead negotiators in the Mirvish Village Task Group. He and Councillor Mike Layton presented it at the May 2017 AGM of the Palmerston Area Residents’ Association.
It compares earlier proposals with the much-improved final version: fewer units, but more of them affordable; protection of nearly all heritage buildings; much more green space. The diagram below shows the estimated construction timeline. (Westbank has also provided a more detailed breakdown of plans.)
To address concerns about traffic flow to and from Mirvish Village, the four residents’ associations and the councillors joined forces on a public realm visioning exercise which treats streets not only as conduits for traffic, but also as public realm and life opportunity spaces. The resolution speaks for itself.
Demolition started in late 2017. A video story from the Toronto Star shows photos of the various stages, with Rick Salutin’s commentary on the institution of this unique store.