It’s a beach of an issue.
Signatures continue to be collected on an online petition against a proposed mixed-use building slated for Coxwell Avenue and Queen Street East as the two sides try to set the tone for the future development.
The change.org petition, started by the Beaches Residents Association of Toronto, calls for the development proposal at 1631 Queen Street East to be reduced from 18 to six storeys. The petition also wants the project turned into an affordable housing development (as opposed to its current mix of market-rate and affordable housing units).
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The online petition was launched in early July. At the time of publication, the petition has gathered more than 1,770 signatures out of it’s 2,500-signature goal.
“1631 Queen is public property; this development should be 100% affordable and not put through a ‘market offering process,’” reads the change.org petition. “Make it 6-stories to adhere to the Urban Design Guidelines and respect the years of community input it took to create them.”
Opposition to the project has left some real estate pros frustrated. Ara Mamourian, managing partner and broker of RE/MAX Hallmark Realty’s TheSpringTeam, said in an Instagram video that Queen Street East and Coxwell Avenue is not a part of The Beaches community and has been establishing itself as a distinct area for years.
“The fact is that this site is unique,” said Mamourian. “Queen and Coxwell is not the beach — it’s establishing its own identity as the downtown of the east, east side, and it does not have any unique character of the beach. Zero. It is not the beach.”
“I can’t stand these objections. Explain to me what ‘unique character of the beach’ will be disrupted by this development.”
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The 1631 Queen Street East location was recommended as one of six new sites under Phase Two of the City of Toronto’s Housing Now initiative in May 2020. The Housing Now program aims to activate City-owned sites for development in transit-oriented and mixed-income communities. The Queen Street East site is currently used as the Beaches Employment & Social Services Centre and the Coxwell Toronto Early Learning Childcare Centre, as well as a closed road allowance.
A collaboration between the City and CreateTO, the Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-Law Amendment application for 1631 Queen Street East includes the creation of 279 rental units, 33 per cent to 50 per cent of which would be designated as affordable housing.
The development would house childcare and retail space, plus a publicly-accessible outdoor space on Kishigo Lane that would include Indigenous place-keeping. Located on the southeast side of the Coxwell and Queen intersection, the new building would consist of a four-to-six-storey component fronting onto Queen Street East, stepping upwards in height to 18 storeys towards Eastern Avenue.
Concerns from locals over the proposed development started last year, according to past reporting from the Beach Metro Community News.
At the first Housing Now community consultation meeting in December 2020, residents expressed worry that the development would surpass six storeys and impact the childcare centre during construction. Feedback gathered from the second Housing Now meeting held in June 2021 detailed that several participants said that they were opposed to building heights over six storeys, particularly the project’s 18-storey portion fronting Eastern Avenue.
“Participants said that heights above six-storeys, despite maintaining a 45-degree angular, do not align with the Queen Street East Urban Design Guidelines (UDGs), which were established through an extensive and collaborative process with local residents and the former ward Councillor,” stated a report from Housing Now.
Other concerns have been voiced regarding the project’s impact on the local street network, the existing outdoor space at 1080 Eastern Avenue and that Kishigo Lane will be “inadequate for appropriate Indigenous place-keeping.”
Toronto City Councillor Brad Bradford, who presides over Ward 19 Beaches-East York where the development is located, recently addressed concerns about the 1631 Queen Street East project in an In My Opinion contribution to the Beach Metro Community News last month.
Councillor Bradford stated that the goal of the proposal is to “meet the objectives of the Queen Street East Urban Design Guidelines (UGD),” and that a mix of affordable and market housing should be provided “because the market housing helps to pay for the affordable units.”
“With a six-storey frontage on Queen Street and most of the density set back onto Eastern Avenue, the building is designed within the guidelines, avoiding shadow and maintaining the high-street village feel that Queen East is known for,” he said. “This proposal will not set a negative precedent for future developments.”
A follow-up In My Opinion contribution that addresses Bradford’s comments has since been published by Brian Graff, president of the Beaches Residents Association of Toronto.
“Approving higher density on lands the City owns in order to be able to sell that land to a developer for more money is a clear conflict,” it reads.