Photo: Josh Sherman
The writing was on the post-it notes.
Scores of the sticky little yellow papers were stuck to boards showcasing Westbank’s Mirvish Village redevelopment proposal during the City of Toronto’s first community consultation event for the project last Wednesday evening.
These written notes were one way community members expressed their thoughts on the proposal, which may bring 1,017 rental units and five towers — the tallest coming in at 29 storeys tall — to a west-end neighbourhood where the current peak structure, B.streets condos, is nine storeys.
“We want to hear what the community has to say about any proposal,” said Graig Uens, one of the City staff members in attendance. “Those comments inform the recommendations that we make to the applicant and council in regard to what is appropriate development on the site,” he told BuzzBuzzHome News.
Uens was joined by City staff from various departments including Heritage Preservation and Transportation Services at the drop-in event held between 4pm and 8pm at the Bickford Centre (777 Bloor St. W.). Staff answered questions and clarified key points about the application that Westbank filed back in July.
Along with five rental towers, this proposal features a new public marketplace, a micro-retail strip geared towards startups, a daycare and offices.
One recurring concern that Uens has been approached with has to do with the size of the project. “The height and the density in relation to the context of area, which is a much lower scale — that’s a common theme that I’ve heard,” said Uens.
Joe Cressy, City councillor for Ward 20, has received similar feedback, and at the meeting he told BuzzBuzzHome News that the proposal’s scale is also one of his concerns. “To me, it is too tall and too dense for the established neighbourhood.”
Neighbourhood resident Bernd Baldus agrees. “It is a monstrous structure sitting in an area that is still completely low rise,” he said. As well, rather than the rooftop green space that appears in renderings, Bernd would like to see a large public park created at ground level.
For resident Carolina Landolt, increased traffic is a major issue. “Now I understand that for commercial purposes you would need some parking, but a parking space is an invitation to own a car,” she said of the proposal that includes 669 of them in total. Landolt did like some elements of the reimagined Mirvish Village, though, such as the rooftop gardens and the way the development incorporates towers of varying heights and designs rather than a uniform block. She also thinks “more rental units in the downtown is a good idea.”
She isn’t the only one, according to Uens and Cressy. Both noted a number of community members have responded positively to the fact that the Mirvish development will be comprised of purpose-built rentals.
The Trinity-Spadina councillor mentioned other positive elements were public space elements as well as the opportunities for small, independently owned businesses that the micro-retail strip presents.
“The question is, can you keep those positive attributes and scale it down to make it more compatible, and that’s what I want to see,” said Cressy.
The development site is bounded by Bloor Street, Bathurst Street and Lennox Street, and spills over about halfway between Markham Street and Palmerston Boulevard.
Rick Wismar, a Palmerston resident, who was in attendance, voiced concerns about the construction period should the development move forward. “I don’t want to hear trucks backing up [going] beep, beep, beep every morning and all the dust and dirt and shit that’s gonna come with the next three years,” he said.
Still, Wismar sees positives in the proposal. “I do like the modern-ness and the idea of bringing some new blood here,” he said. “I was always afraid of Honest Ed’s going up in flames, that would’ve been horrible, that place is a tinder box,” he said, referring to the iconic retailer that takes up a big chunk of the Westbank property.
Toronto’s planning department is aiming to have its final report for City council done by the second quarter of 2016. Before that happens, staff will be hosting another drop-in session and four public meetings. There is also a working group made of reps from local residents’ associations and a discussion panel for stakeholders, Cressy noted.
What’s more, Westbank is hosting its own continuous consultation at Markham House (610 Markham Street) in Mirvish Village.
“There’s a lot to come,” said Cressy at the drop-in.