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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
May 18, 2005. 07:05 AM
Annex outrage is short-sighted

CHRISTOPHER HUME

So Annex residents are going to do everything they can to kill the proposed twin condo towers of One Bedford.

What else is new?

These days, the howls of neighbourhood outrage can be heard throughout the length and breadth of Toronto. If it isn't a condo scheme that has the locals up in arms, it's the spectre of affordable housing. If it's not that, it's a new rail line, or some addition to the skyline that might block someone's sunshine, increase traffic or, horror of horrors, bring more people into the area.

To those who would stop One Bedford, two words: Bloor Street.

Hard though it may be for these good people to accept, Bloor is more than their neighbourhood amenity. It's one of the main streets of Toronto, a destination, a place that belongs to the city, a commercial, retail, cultural and institutional hub. It even has its own subway line, and is serviced by the University and Yonge lines.

If there's any part of Toronto that should be intensified with this sort of project, it's Bloor St. This is the central recommendation of the new official plan passed by council last year. Given that Toronto's expected to grow by up to a million residents over the next two or three decades, intensifying the main streets makes a whole lot of sense.

This proposal, which includes two towers of 33 and 19 storeys, represents the future of urbanity. Even without green roofs or solar collectors, that's what makes it sustainable. The proximity of public transit also means it will attract buyers who don't need cars.

But for the neighbours, the issue, as always, is height. Make it ugly, build it cheap, just don't go high; that has been the NIMBY cry forever. But in the 21st century, it's starting to grow tiresome.

Of course, at Toronto City Council, whole careers are carved from these fears. Most municipal politicians would rather follow the NIMBY hordes than lead. Too many — Michael Walker and Karen Stintz from North Toronto are good examples — are development ostriches who spent most of their time with their heads in the ground.

Developers haven't done themselves any favours, either. They have given Toronto a well-deserved reputation as a city of overwhelming architectural mediocrity. If they can cut back, they do. If there's a way to cheap out, they'll find it. Little wonder people are so suspicious when some builder comes looking for permission to build yet another condo.

But the architectural firm of record in this case, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg, happens to be one of the best in Canada. Their design shows a striking glass tower that leans out dramatically towards Bloor. At ground level, an eight-storey street-scaled base provides continuity with existing buildings.

"We've pushed the tower away from the corner to create a garden court on Bedford," explains architect Bruce Kuwabara. "We're using our own property to expand public space and the pedestrian zone. We're trying to make a great urban streetscape. The base will be limestone and we're introducing some innovative partnerships with the Intercontinental Hotel next door.

"It's also coincident with the redevelopment of the ROM and (the Royal Conservatory of Music) on the south side of Bloor, which is very foreshortened right now; it ends at Avenue Rd.

"(One Bedford) will extend the street. Though it has two towers, it's really one building. The tower is set back from the corner; it forms a forecourt that will be intensely landscaped, in keeping with what Annex is all about."

None of this will allay the fears expressed at a public meeting held Monday night.

"This is the biggest threat the Annex has faced in a generation," the chair of the Annex Residents Association, John Bygott, told a crowd of about 200. "The last one was the Spadina Expressway. The scale of the project is completely insensitive to the community that surrounds it. It doesn't work here and it has to be completely rethought."

As well as being hysterical, comparing this scheme to the Spadina Expressway is sheer NIMBY nonsense. Yet it's nonsense to which the city's political masters will pay much heed. That's why we have the Ontario Municipal Board — not to protect us from developers, but from politicians.

One Bedford even has Mayor David Miller sounding like a vote-chaser.

"The site is an appropriate site for development," he told the Star yesterday. "It's on a major arterial road and it's at the intersection of two subway stops. In general terms, density should go where subway stops intersect."

But, he added, "I think it's too dense."

What does that mean? Thirty-three storeys is too big, but 27 is fine? How about 28 or 29? Perhaps 26?

An OMB date has already been set. Along the way, the approval process will lead to any number of compromises. That's as it should be, but many of these will likely be dumb and meaningless, meant only to appease the neighbours.

In the end, they still won't get what they want — which is to stop change — and the city's record of mediocrity will remain intact.

High dudgeon

Minto Towers: When developer Minto proposed 54- and 48-storey towers at Yonge and Eglinton, residents banded together to fight it. The project is proceeding in reduced form.


100 Yorkville: In this beautifully designed 18-storey condo, neighbours saw the end of Yorkville, though it will fill a parking lot and enhance the streetscape. Developer Barclay-Greyson won at the OMB.

St. Gabriel Village: Developer Shane Baghai's planned condos for Sheppard Ave. near Bayview Village Shopping Centre met with anger from merchants. OMB approved.

London: Residents have battled Cityzen's highrise on The Esplanade. Former mayor John Sewell argues the low-rise St. Lawrence community works, "but just up the road, a developer and the city want to give us an awful highrise."
 

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Here's what they are moaning over saving...looks perfectly awful to me...in fact it's the one spot along that entire stretch of Bloor West (Avenue to Spadina) that stands out as not fitting in. Anything would look better and give some continuity to it.









KGB
 

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Well that decrepit Mr. Sub adds alot of charm and value to the area, I can see why they wouldn't want to get rid of it. [/sarcasm]
 
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