Mediated Settlement for Sussex-Spadina Development

plans for Robert St. areasAfter several years of contention and discussion, all parties have agreed to a plan for development of properties at the northwest Sussex-Spadina corner. The final stage of discussion was confidential mediation by James McKenzie of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly the OMB). The settlement allows the building of a 23-storey student residence, but retains heritage protection for 698 Spadina, creates a new public greenspace on the northeast corner of Robert and Sussex, and gives improved community access to the Robert Street field.

  • On Aug. 16, the Globe & Mail ran a story about the settlement that indicates the key role played by HVRA in gaining these improvements. It ends with cogent remarks by resident Nick Provart and Board member Sue Dexter about working with such a big neighbour as U of T: “They’re the elephant and we’re the mouse.”

Fuller information is available on the City of Toronto website as background material for the City Council meeting of July 23, 2018, where the settlement was approved without amendment.

The following letter of August 10, 2018 from Councillor Joe Cressy and HVRA outlines the terms of settlement.

Dear Neighbours,

After a long appeal process at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), we are writing to inform you that a settlement has been reached regarding 698-706 Spadina Avenue and 54 Sussex Avenue, known as Spadina-Sussex.

The development proposal from the University of Toronto and Daniels’ Corporation for the site located at 698-704 Spadina Avenue (the northwest corner of Spadina Avenue and Sussex Avenue) has been the subject of many years of public discussion. In July 2016, an application was submitted for a 23 storey – plus two mezzanine levels – mixed used student residence at the site.

Due to concerns regarding the proposed height and density, the appropriate mix of students within the building, heritage considerations, and on-site/nearby parkland provisions, the application was not supported by City Planning or the community.

In March 2017, City Council approved a motion to designate the bookstore and its building at 698 Spadina Avenue (corner of Sussex and Spadina) for heritage preservation under Part IV, Section of the Ontario Heritage Act. Following this decision, the University appealed the designation, and later appealed their re-zoning application to the Ontario Municipal Board, now the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

As many of you know, a fundamental flaw in our planning process was the existence of the OMB, which prevented local communities and the City from guiding decisions on development. Unfortunately, although the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal now has jurisdiction over local planning matters rather than the OMB, the appeal of the Spadina-Sussex application occurred under the rules of the Ontario Municipal Board due to the timing of the Appeal before the deadline set out by the Province. Thus, an appeal of the application was granted.

A lengthy mediation process was undertaken to review all elements of the proposal, including height, urban design, current tenant assistance, and the need to enhance greenspace in the area.

During the mediation, we held firm and were able to achieve significant wins for our community, including a new public greenspace, community access to Robert Street Field, reduced impacts of the development on the neighbourhood, and more. The mediated settlement isn’t perfect. However, it represents a middle-ground result that all parties felt they could agree to. The details of the settlement include:

  • 23-storey (70.05 metre) mixed-use student residence containing 511 beds, with a narrower design, smaller footprint, and protected separation distances to the north to minimize the impact on the neighbourhood, and rental-replacement townhomes;
  • Protection of the view corridor above Knox College, looking north from College Street and Spadina Avenue, as a result of the reduced building height;
  • Designation of 698 Spadina Avenue under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act;
  • Retention of the heritage building at 698 Spadina Avenue and incorporation into the development;
  • Entrance to the building on Spadina Avenue;
  • A commitment to pursue a 60/40 mix of first year students to upper year/graduate students;
  • Enhanced assistance to current tenants of 698-700 Spadina Avenue, to ensure they can stay in the neighbourhood throughout the construction term;
  • Creation of a new, 1,590 square metre public greenspace, on the northeast corner of Robert Street and Sussex Avenue, to be designed in consultation with the local community and the City;
  • Improvements to Robert Street Field, with conditions regarding scheduling and lighting, and including a community access agreement to ensure public access to the Field and greenspace for a period of no less than 25 years; and
  • Enhanced landscaping and treatments to maximize laneway greening and slow vehicular movement.

Again, the mediated settlement isn’t perfect. However, we held firm and were able to achieve significant wins for our community.

We would like to thank all of the community members who worked so hard to ensure that any development on the Spadina-Sussex site would benefit the community from this addition to our neighbourhood.

Please feel free to reach out to any of us if you have questions

Councillor Joe Cressy
Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina

Harbord Village Residents’ Association

For the long background story leading to this settlement, see our webpage Spadina-Sussex Residence.