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Fantastic story on the area in NYT Home and Garden section, in Julie Lasky’s ‘Four Square Blocks’ series, ‘Between a loft and a hard place’. Some highlights”

First came the manor houses, then the mental hospital, then the stockyards. By the end of the 19th century, the part of Toronto known today as Queen West had had more reversals of fortune than an entire season of “Dallas” (the original or the new version).

That was before industry and immigration billowed in the 20th century, before this neighborhood west of downtown grew seedy and unpredictable, before a gangland double murder was committed in a karaoke bar in 2003.

And long before the poles reversed again, and Queen West became one of the most appealing places in Toronto. […]

Despite these cliches of gentrification, the neighborhood is like no other. It has charming exaggerations: a retired Victorian fire station (now a drug treatment facility) with a tower like a pilgrim hat […]

“This is probably the most fertile creative area in the city right now,” […]

It is also one of the oldest. In the late 18th century, Queen Street was known as Lot Street, after the narrow 99-acre parcels that John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, bestowed on his military confederates as a way to create a loyal landed aristocracy.

By 1818 a manor house called Brookfield, the estate of the Denison family, stood at the northwest corner of present-day Queen and Ossington, where the Canadian film director Atom Egoyan opened Camera, a screening room and bar, 186 years later. Directly south, the Provincial Lunatic Asylum was opened in 1850 on the current site of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health.

As lot owners sold off their lands, and the area became populated and industrialized, the parcels crumbled into small blocks with little coherence. They are “helter skelter,” said Benj Hellie, the spokesman for the Ossington Community Association, which has pushed to have the neighborhood declared a heritage conservation district. In his proposal, Mr. Hellie, who is also a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto, described cattle being driven from Ossington along tiny Bruce Street in the 19th century on their way to the slaughterhouse.

The application for heritage status was recently turned down, Mr. Hellie said, on the grounds that the district was “not sufficiently intact.” In some ways, his proposal can be read as a memorial to the many neighborhood buildings that have been demolished and the historical layers buried. The oldest existing structures he identified on Ossington appear to date from no earlier than 1871. One is a modest shingled house at No. 91, now home of Crywolf.

Still, the neighborhood throbs with historical echoes. Not two blocks north of Bruce Street, where cattle marched to their doom, is Côte de Boeuf, a butcher that provides meat to Union restaurant, a sister business at 72 Ossington. The Candy Factory Lofts, on the south side of Queen, east of Shaw, is a relic of local industry, as is the 1970s former textile factory that houses the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, or Mocca, diagonally northwest.

bid on ossington

mike layton in the house to auction off such goodies as —

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

— coming this september

fun!raising auction and community jamboree

— plus, say ‘hello, stranger’ to some warm weather by boogie-ing with some ossingtonians!!!!!!!

109OZ Info Sheet

  1. Upcoming Community Council meeting info
  2. Basic facts about 109OZ
  3. Impacts on communities: school, bike, business, resident, Toronto

1. Upcoming Community Council meeting info

Date and time: Tuesday, June 18, 11:45am

Where: City Hall, 100 Queen St. West, Committee Room 1

Item number: 2013.TE25.18

Link to item notice: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2013.TE25.18

Link to Direction Report mentioned in notice: http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2013/te/bgrd/backgroundfile-58823.pdf

For Discussion of the implications of the Direction Report: http://individual.utoronto.ca/jmwilson/DR_Concerns.doc

The recommendation is for the City to negotiate a bit, but says 6 STOREYS IS FINE. Planning is treating Ossington as if it were an “Avenue” like Dundas or Eglinton, relying partly on the “planning fiction” that 17.5m Ossington will someday be widened to 20m (the minimum “Avenue” width) which would require tearing down every building on Ossington.

Luckily, one of the primary functions of Community Council is to amend motions for submission to City Council, and it appears that Councillor Layton is going to introduce an amendment in order to support the community’s position.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1. Please call or email Mike Layton ASAP and express to him the importance of supporting the community and getting the number of storeys down on 109OZ.  Phone: 416-392-4009  Email: mailto:councillor_layton@toronto.ca

2. Please attend the Community Council Meeting June 18.  A bit turnout can make all the difference (http://www.torontosun.com/2013/05/14/councillors-shoot-down-humbertown-development).  You can either speak, give a PowerPoint Presentation, or use the Overhead Projector.  If you plan to give a Powerpoint Presentation, bring your own computer and make some backup paper printouts of your slides just in case—if there are technical difficulties, the Overhead Projector can project your printout.

3) If you cannot attend, email your comments to Community Council at teycc@toronto.ca, citing “2013.TE25.18 on June 18, 2013 for distribution to Community Council members” (or see link below).

Even better: DO BOTH: send in your written comments or your presentation in advance and THEN go to the meeting and deliver them in person. This page gives more information about written and delivered comments:

http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/tmmis/have-your-say.htm

If attending in person, then it is best to register before 4:30 the day before, but you can also sign up at the meeting. One can submit comments or register to speak by clicking the ‘submit comments’ or ‘register’ links at the top of this page:

http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2013.TE25.18

2. Basic info about 109OZ

  • 103-109-111 Ossington, near Argyle, centre of Ossington strip
  • 21.5m (25m with “mechanical penthouse”): 6 “official” storeys, but really height of 8-storey building. Existing zoning is 4-storeys, 14m.
  • 9 storefronts wide, occupies large footprint of large lot
  • No ground level green space
  • 86 units, no family size
  • 70 underground parking units off of Argyle Place
  • 3.9 density, existing zoning is 2.5
  • One single 12,000sqft ‘AAA’ retail space (i.e., chain store)
  • For overhead views giving sense of size, see http://www.scribd.com/doc/109555668/views
  • For ARRIS Strategy Studio Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review, see http://arris.ca/OCA/

3. Impacts on communities

SCHOOL

  • 70 cars and heavy truck loading in this building
  • Argyle Place laneway mouth only 5.5m wide
  • Argyle Street only 6m wide from parking lane to curb
  • Makes for a very tight turn during morning rush across a sidewalk where children walk to school
  • Pattern of one-way streets means traffic pressure on school loading area and children’s routes to school (such as Bruce and Argyle)
  • If the endgame is the whole block goes midrise, that means ballpark 200 more cars using that laneway
  • Unit makeup is not inviting to families – doesn’t increase school vitality
  • Loss of sky views from west-facing playgrounds and classrooms
  • Increased dog urine and feces in the playground
  • Construction dust

BIKE

  • Argyle Street is part of city’s Bikeway system: Argyle-Robinson Bikeway runs from Brock to Bathurst, plugging West End Bikeway “black hole”
  • Argyle Street only 6m wide from parking lane to curb for one lane of traffic and one contraflow bike lane; Argyle Place laneway mouth only 5.5m wide
  • 70 cars and heavy truck loading in this building
  • If the endgame is the whole block goes midrise, that means ballpark 200 more cars using that laneway
  • The /Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review/ calculates that growth on Ossington realistically makes for at most 1/1000 of the city’s total population target (which is more than met already anyway; and the city already has a condo glut anyway)
  • The Official Plan calls for promoting “active transport” like cycling
  • Disrupting this crucial link the Bikeway network is a far-reaching effect; the tiny gain in density can be easily recovered in a less strategic location

BUSINESS

  • Ossington is a character area. It is 200 years old, one of Toronto’s oldest streets, and the historic center of the West End village. We should be proud of our local history rather than making everything cookie cutter.
  • People come here in part because of the great business community but also in part because it feels good as a place to hang out.
  • That is because of the century old streetscape and because it feels like a public square. In Europe, they have main streets with midrise buildings, but they also have public squares, where people go to hang out. Ossington has that same chilled out feeling. Given that it is a street rather than a square, why is that? My guess is: in both case, you have open sky views — it’s no different from going to the park.
  • You wouldn’t want to hang out on Queen at Ossington, with the Shopper’s and the Tim Horton’s. You wouldn’t want to hang out on Bay Street, or King and Shaw. Midrise is inevitably sterile and oppressive.
  • Yes, the building would mean more people. But at most 100 — divide that by the 26 restaurants & that means a drop in the bucket for you.
  • Does it seem like a good balance, to get 100 more people on the street, against disrupting the character, which draws people from around the city?

RESIDENT

  • This is your neighbourhood. The new building is not about neighbourhood building, the environment, or respect. It is just about profit.
  • Ossington is a character area. It is 200 years old, one of Toronto’s oldest streets, and the historic center of the West End village. We should be proud of our local history rather than making everything cookie cutter.
  • This would be a looming citadel right at the heart of our neighbourhood. So long historic Trinity-Bellwoods vibe, hello ego-tripping condo stack.
  • Think of the block of three buildings to the north, with Golden Turtle/Rua Vang. This building would be more than twice as high, three times as wide, and go back twice as far. That means it is the size of *twelve* 3-storefront-wide 3-storey buildings stuck together. That might be fine on Queen or Dundas, but on Ossington that is ridiculous.
  • The community has spoken: loud, clear, multiply, and as close to with one voice as it gets. The Official Plan says they are supposed to listen.

TORONTO

  • You care about the environment, and so do I. You dislike auto dependence, and so do I. You like Paris, and so do I.
  • But what is great about cities is that they are not all the same, and that each city has individual parts that are different from each other. Paris has the low-rise Marais. London has Camden Town. New York has Greenwich Village and Williamsburg. And Toronto has Ossington (and Little Italy, the Annex, Kensington, Chinatown, Queen West, Queen East, Cabbagetown).
  • Ossington is 200 years old, one of Toronto’s oldest streets. It is the historic center of a West End village. It used to be where Dundas Street started, but when Dundas got integrated into the city grid about 100 years ago, Ossington got cut off. As a result, Ossington is like a time capsule. Toronto is uneven on its history. Why not make this a case where we get it right?
  • The Official Plan doesn’t say “pack in as many people into as little space as possible”. It has a lot of different priorities. Density is one, but so is preserving character, memory, history, and context. In general the OP aims to find the places where density can go beneficially, to preserve other places. Ossington seems like a clear case worth preserving if possible.
  • As the /Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review/ calculates, maxing out population on Ossington would only add 1/1000 of Toronto’s total population target.
  • Toronto has already met its population target many times over.
  • The Official Plan calls for a diversity of types of housing, noting that there is already a glut of condos. Most new population is to come from immigration, meaning families, meaning condos don’t even help.
  • There are thirteen areas with Official Plan Amendments to protect lowrise character: Kensington, Chinatown, Baldwin Village, St Joseph Cottages, Yonge-Gerrard, Church-Wellesley, Bloor-Walmer, Annex/Old Yorkville, Yorkville, Yonge-Rosedale South, Yonge-Rosedale North, Avenue-Pears, and Casa Loma. Almost all are on the subway; all are more than 1km closer to the subway than Ossington. Most have as their primary merit that they are upscale. None are West of Kensington. Ossington, a West end destination district, deserves this kind of consideration.
  • Planning law in Ontario is weird, in ways that are demanding on the community and require all decisions to be approached by the City carefully and with great judiciousness. All of us are in this together. Ossington is not designated for growth by the Official Plan, there is no policy reason to require growth on Ossington, and there is plenty of policy reason to preserve Ossington. Nevertheless, City Planning seems to have jumped the track. Why think that won’t happen in your neighbourhood real soon?

ohsdrThe OCA is very proud to announce the release of the Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review — click the image, or click here, to read it. The OAHSDR was released to the members of Community Council yesterday, and the OCA is now making it available to the general public.

The OAHSDR was prepared by Arris Strategy Studio for the OCA. The principal author of the OAHSDR is Terry Mills, BArch, Registered Professional Planner. One of Terry’s many accomplishments is establishing and running The Midtown Plan, a framework tying together the many different players with a hand in the complexity of Yonge–Eglinton. Suffice to say that Terry is a bigshot renowned for seeing the patterns in chaos.

The OAHSDR makes a great read for its sensitive description of the character of the area, especially against a background of extensive historical research. The Review proposes a certain profile for the widely discussed “109OZ” site — basically five storeys with a 28 degree angular plane. My fellow planning geeks will be engrossed for many hours.

Here is the executive summary of the OAHSDR judgements pertaining to “109OZ”:

INAPPROPRIATE AND UNSUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

  • It is a full-on Avenues solution in a non-Avenues context.
  • It is out of scale and character, diminishing the significance of buildings and spaces.
  • It has a character, texture and treatment that conflicts with the existing urban grain.
  • It is unsustainable, and cannot be readily replicated elsewhere on Ossington Avenue.
  • It involves setting precedents, that can only be used as parts in other types of projects.
  • It creates adverse impacts on the adjacent Neighbourhood, not currently experienced.
  • It creates undesirable conditions of overview & overshadowing on the Neighbourhood.
  • It does not pass the tests of fit, respect and improvement:
  1. interlacing into the Ossington Avenue High Street’s existing context
  2. incorporating compatibilities appropriate to future increments of development
  3. contributing to the maturation of Ossington Avenue’s streetscape, and locality
  • It does not incorporate Ossington Avenue’s memories, but rather extinguishes them.

Cover letter below the jump: Read More

I (Jessica Wilson, representing the OCA) went to a pre-application meeting hosted by Layton at City Hall yesterday in re the development of the lands currently housing MOCCA (the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art), the Edward Day Gallery, Mutt Animation Studio, as well as the character building to the east currently housing the Clint Roesnisch Gallery.

Alan Saskin, President of UrbanCorp, and Prishram Jain from TACT Architecture presented their current proposal. Saskin is the developer behind Westside Lofts and several other large developments in the Queen W. Triangle, Liberty Village, and elsewhere across the city; Jain has worked with UrbanCorp and other companies on these sorts of buildings, and in particular is the designer of 2 Gladstone, going up across the street from the Gladstone Hotel.

Anyway, to the proposal.  Where there is presently a primary art and culture node in the West End, a beckoning opening into a museum of contemporary art abutted by two of Toronto’s best art galleries, a stage for Nuit Blanche and other events, framed by sky and a huge ever-changing mural—is now envisioned a 9-storey, 26.9m (really, 31.9m, with mechanical penthouse), 151-unit mid-rise condominium building, currently designed with only a single large retail space, spanning more than 1/3 of the block between Shaw and Givins (width of 9 average storefronts) and going twice as deep, involving a gesture at brick vernacular for the first couple of stories before rising up in typical glass box fashion.

The height and density limits—not just the existing height limit of 18m, but the performance standards of the Avenues and Mid-rise Building Study (AMRBS), are grossly violated, left and right.  So, for example, the AMRBS is adamant that the height of a mid-rise on an Avenue (which Queen is) cannot exceed the width of the street right-of-way (ROW).  Queen’s ROW is 20m; the proposed building is 26.9m/31.9m, going beyond the AMRBS guidelines by two additional storeys (this in an area where the average building is 2 storeys).  The building crashes through the back and especially the front angular planes.  There is no side-wise stepping back to adjacent residences on Shaw, who will be looking at the side of a building 5 storeys high.  There are no family-sized units (115 units are 1BR of around 700sqft, around 29 are 2BR of around 820sqft).  No ground level green space, no courtyard.  No cross-ventilation in the majority of the tiny single-window units.  (As Ken Greenberg said, “These are essentially extended-stay hotels”.)  Due to laneway constraints, there will be a driveway for the hundred or so cars and service vehicles with entry and exit onto Queen.  Both the built form and the inevitable chain retail will be grossly out of keeping with the distinctive independent retail old-school character of W Queen W business district (recently deemed the 18th most “stylish” business district in the world).  Etc., etc.

Moreover, some of the most serious potential impacts were not even mentioned or discussed.  At the meeting, the architect’s drawings just showed affected properties to the east and west of the property.  I was concerned about the impact on the residential properties in these locations, but I just looked at the location on Google Maps and see that the primary residential impact concerns properties to the North.  Nearly every house on the east side of Givins and the west side of Shaw, South of Givins-Shaw school, will be affected by way of shadow, blocking of sky, and/or loss of privacy by (I estimate) close to 100 balconies overlooking their backyards.  The shadow impact will be especially bad since the proposed building is directly to the South of these properties.

The architect’s response to height and density overage concerns was to highlight the depth and large size of the lot (though why a large lot should be allowed to have a larger building that will then even more intrude on the surrounding low-rise landscape is unclear to me) and to say that the 1-1 height-ROW mid-rise guidelines reflect the supposition that there are buildings on both sides of the street (in the present case a CAMH park is across the street).  In response to concerns about affecting character his response was to note that W. Queen W. is not an officially designated “character area”.  As noted, the primary impact on residents on Givins and Shaw was not even mentioned.  The developer’s typical response to requests to make changes in some way responding to the various concerns was to say “No, we’re not going to do that”.  And though Saskin didn’t make the sort of overt threats that Shelley Fenton of Reserve Properties did at our first meeting with him, Saskin did make sure to say that even though he (admittedly) had been saying ‘No’ to everything, he might be able to adjust here and there (e.g., with respect to the retail space—an easy “compromise”); but if he ran into too much opposition, he would find it more convenient to just go to the OMB and “take his chances” on the design as it stands.

So, here we go again.  A building in blatant non-conformity to both existing and planned context, completely alien to the character of the area, that will clearly negatively impact dozens of residents, a developer and architect who are quite used to getting their way, and City officials that, if past and recent history is any indication, are completely ineffective at maintaining the integrity of our long-standing cultural, residential and business district communities.  “Art and Design District”?  Not for long.

The 2015 OCA Officers election took place at the upcoming Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 4 March. Here is the new Exec Board:

President: Shawn Winsor
VP: Jessica Wilson
Treasurer: Rachel Horvath
Corresponding Secretary: Jennifer Horvath
Recording Secretary: Benj Hellie
Director: Stephen Colville-Reeves
Director: Robert Wasserman