Current Planning Studies

SPADINA AVE. |  U of T CAMPUS

HVRA’s Planning and Development Committee (P&D) monitors and responds to studies from the City Planning Department. We also engage with studies about development of the U of T campus, our huge next-door neighbour. The HVRA Planning and Development Committee welcomes your ideas about the ongoing studies described here. Contact them at development@harbordvillage.com. 

See the page Development Plans for development projects in process, and the page Past Development Issues for completed studies, including those on Laneway Housing and College Street Built Form. To look for specific topics, use the Search button or the Site Map on the righthand sidebar.


Spadina Avenue Planning Study

Recognizing the changes already happening on this main street, in 2012 Toronto and East York Community Council asked Planning to review the policy context for Spadina Avenue from Front to Bloor. A staff report of 2014 called for a formal study, including a community consultation process.

That study was to begin in Fall 2016. It will have its own webpage on the City Planning website. HVRA representatives attended the first working group meeting and identified key issues of interest: movement (all forms of transportation), climate change mitigation, and finding some way of creating buildings that will have a Spadina face and a designed relationship to the community.

(This study remains in abeyance. This page and HVRA e-blasts will report any further news.)

Plans for Renewal of U of T Campus

The University of Toronto is a huge next-door neighbour, and its plans for building and rebuilding necessarily have an impact on our area. The CIty mandates that neighbouring resident associations have seats on a U of T Area Liaison Committee. HVRA’s representative Sue Dexter is kept busy monitoring development pressures. A special concern is green space.

U of T is currently framing several large development plans, including upgrades to landscape design and an application for rezoning that could transform the official “secondary plan” for the St. George campus. This page ends with a historical note outlining some of the past successes of the liaison committee in working with U of T.

Read more below, and watch for ongoing news. See also our page about U of T plans for a high-rise residence at Spadina and Sussex.

1. Landscape Design

2015 plan U of T front campusU of T is revitalizing its historic downtown campus, applying principles of greening and eco-responsibility. In 2015, it announced a competition (“Landscape of Landmark Quality”). Members of the public were invited to a presentation and to an exhibit displaying the designs submitted.

The design chosen for the front campus bans cars from King’s College Circle and surrounding areas, and incorporates walkways and gathering spaces amongst grass and trees. Parking for 400 cars will be built underground. The full announcement, with drawings, is available online.

Also proudly eco-friendly, a five-storey addition to Robarts Library will be built on the Huron St. side. It will incorporate an extensive green roof, rainfall recycling systems, low-emissions building materials and optimized energy efficiency. A story in the Winter 2016 issue of U of T Magazine gives more detail.

Some greening projects have already been completed. New College has an updated portico on Willcocks St. near Huron, which softens the entranceway between buildings and improves the sidewalk and landscaping along the Willcocks frontage. Most existing trees next to the college were preserved and new ones added, including a flowering dogwood, a linden, a tulip tree and a horse chestnut. An improved irrigation system will keep them watered. This project extends the impact of the pedestrian-friendly Willcocks Commons east of Huron.


2. U of T Secondary Plan

Map of St. George Campus showing areas for secondary development plansIn Fall 2016, the University sent its overall plans for Secondary Development to Toronto City Council. That means that a formal process for rezoning the whole of the St. George campus is underway, reflecting ideas for future development. The U of T envisions redevelopment and infill in the northern and southwest sectors of the campus (yellow and blue in the diagram at left), with preservation of the oldest part of campus (green area).

The rezoning process is expected to last more several years. Documents for the ongoing application are available on the City of Toronto website. They include a series of studies on such matters as shade effects and energy efficiency, and describe intentions for height ranges and massing of new buildings.

HVRA has made detailed and thoughtful responses to this major planning process through participation on the U of T Liaison Committee. Presented below are an overview noting concerns with the range of heights proposed for new buildings, then two sets of incisive comments on specific sites based on group “walkabouts.”

HVRA Response to the University of Toronto Secondary Plan Proposal
By Carolee Orme and Sue Dexter, HVRA Planning and Development Committee, June 24, 2017
The University has put forward an application for a re-zoning of the 1997 St. George Campus Secondary Plan. There are improvements to the public realm and walkability of the campus. But there are worrisome elements in the plan.
To date, there have been two walkabouts [see the files attached below]. The first was on the southwest section of campus, described in the University document as a sector of ‘Western Expansion’. The second was around the proposed development sites on the north end of campus, between Queen’s Park and Spadina, excluding the Huron-Sussex neighbourhood, which has its own set of potential sites.
There are three issues: the number of sites, the permissive nature of the zoning applied for, and the potential intensification of building on campus. HVRA is concerned that specific heights are not defined, and could be out of keeping with existing buildings that are likely to be retained. Densities need to be defined. (NOTE for readers: One storey is slightly more than 3 metres, depending on residential or institutional use.)
The University’s proposal is under review with City Planning, the Councillor and the neighbourhoods, and will require Council approval.
Moving along Bloor from University to Spadina, the University has proposed six locations for major infill or tower additions.
Block O, Queen’s Park Cresc.
Context:  includes Law, 30 m. and ROM, 25 m.
Proposed: Two sites, one includes a taller element.
  1. Planetarium/Falconer Hall, height could be 12 metres stepping back to 48-66 metres
  2. Edward Johnson Music Faculty, height could be 30 metres
Block N, along Bloor Street from Devonshire to St. George
Proposed: Three taller elements at three locations
  1. Devonshire Place west side, over the loading bay of the High Performance Centre. Context: Munk Observatory 18 m., High Performance centre 23 m, Varsity stadium 26/48 m. New tower atop the loading bay of the High Performance athletic centre 48-73 m. Proposal could include a cantilever.
  2. East side of St. George. Context: the Woodsworth residence tower at Bloor is 48-73 m. New tower at Woodsworth College to the south on the east side, could be 48-73 m.
  3. West side south of Bata Shoe Museum. Context:house form west side of St. George. New tower should the University get permission to demolish the University Women’s Club, infill 32/48-73 m.
Block M, Proposed built form heights applied for St. George in general:
  1. East side South to Hoskin 32-39 m.
  2. From Women’s University site south to Sussex, including Innis College 32 m.
Block L, Large corner site at Spadina and Bloor, to the rear and west of UTS, including much of the parking lot. Varied height, with two taller elements in the building to occupy that site:
On Spadina, heights 48-93m.
On Bloor, 48-77 m.
On Huron, heights 26/48-77 m.
On Washington, 32/48-77 m.
In the Southwest, there are nine sites identified for taller elements in the University plan, with heights ranging from
Harbord, 48-88m.
Huron, St. George, Willcocks, Russell, campus interior 48-66 m.
Spadina frontage at Willcocks, 32 m.

This overview of the U of T preliminary plans finds lots of buildings with height ranges in the very tall category. Now read these two lively commentaries on specific sites and buildings. Sue Dexter and Carolee Orme sent them to the U of T Liaison Commitee after two group walks around campus, observing the current streetscape and previewing what might come.


Past Successes and Challenges

For historical perspective, here is a 2004 account of the U of T Liaison Committee’s work and its influence on U of T plans.

Living next to the University of Toronto is like being in bed with…

  • Remember Varsity Stadium? 25,000 seats, rock concerts?
  • Remember ROM South condo tower?
  • Remember the historic house at the Bahen Centre on St. George?
  • Want the green spaces preserved and enhanced at the university? We’re doing our level best.

Representing the community is the mandate of the City’s University of Toronto Area Liaison Committee.

The communities surrounding the University of Toronto St. George campus are deeply affected by the actions of the university and its sister institutions, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Some background

In the 1990s, then-councillor the late Dan Leckie created a formal City committee, the University of Toronto Area Liaison Committee. It brought three parties to the table: the university, representatives of the community, and the City, represented by City Planning and the sitting councillor. The mandate: to discuss any matters of common interest. The catchment area is Queen’s Park to Spadina, College to Bloor St.

Trees, landscape and construction conditions, buildings in general, planning, architecture, enrolment, student activities, parking, quality of life issues are all part of the liaison committee mandate. When our greater community interest is involved, HVRA, along with Huron-Sussex Residents’ Organization and the Annex Residents Association, bring those issues to the liaison committee.

Successes:

  • Saved trees from damage and increased green space in university-proposed buildings.
  • Negotiated $50,000 from the ROM’s Crystal Project for planting large trees in Philosopher’s Walk to compensate for lost trees.
  • Got the Royal Conservatory of Music to reduce the footprint of its new concert hall by switching the direction of the hall to east-west, saving precious green space in Philosopher’s Walk.
  • Negotiated protection for heritage buildings as a result of construction damage.