Intensification advocates said build the subway and development will come.
And has it ever.
There are currently more than 60 development applications for Sheppard Avenue being reviewed by the city. They range from daycare approvals, additions to existing office buildings and rezoning applications to permit new buildings of varying sizes.
Most of the proposals on Sheppard Avenue are for low or mid-rise commercial or mixed-use buildings, between four and eight storeys.
But not all of them are modest applications. At 90 Sheppard Ave. E., Minto Group proposes a 34-storey residential building.
At the former Canadian Tire site at 1001–1019 Sheppard Ave. E., Concord Adex has started construction on a massive development that could eventually include more than 20 towers. Four have been approved thus far.
At Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue, construction has started on the 44-storey Hullmark Corporate Centre and on the 30- and 40-storey Emerald Park towers. Drive along Sheppard Avenue east of Bathurst Street and the number of homes sold, for sale or proposed for development is significant.
But is North York ready for the inevitable surge in population?
The president of the West Lansing Homeowners Association, Frank Bruni, says the condo development near Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue has grown out of control.
“It’s basically made our neighbourhood a construction zone for the last several years,” he said. “Some days it’s hard to get around.”
Bruni, who lives just north of the Yonge Street and 401 intersection, said members of his association seem to share similar concerns. He said at least three homes near the Emerald Park development have been put up for sale due to the construction.
“I suspect more and more will go for sale as that development gets taller,” he said.
The city’s official plan calls for low-rise construction along Sheppard Avenue, between four and six storeys. Most of the high-rise buildings were built in the 1970s and 1980s before the official plan was amended.
When it comes to Sheppard Avenue, developers often get around the official plan by arguing their proposed site is along a major transit corridor.
One example is a 43-storey development approved for 2205 Sheppard Ave. E., because it’s close to the Don Mills subway station.
“We fought the 43 all the way above the [Ontario Municipal Board] to Provincial Divisional Court and they still got their 43 [storeys],” said Ward 33 councillor Shelley Carroll.
“And now I’ve got a developer asking for 47 [storeys],” she added. “It’s nuts.”
Ward 24 councillor David Shiner is facing similar challenges in his ward. Concord Adex is currently appealing to add approximately 10 percent more density to the former Canadian Tire site.
Another current subject of appeal is 1200–1220 Sheppard Ave. E., where the developer proposed six towers, all over 25 storeys.
The city refused that application.
“That’s to send a message, at least in the area I represent, that reasonable development along the densities and heights permitted in the official plan are what will go forward for community consultation,” Shiner said.
“If you’re going to be ridiculous in your application and put in densities and building heights that are completely inappropriate, we’ll do everything we can to stop you,” he added.
Ward 23 councillor John Filion said development has caused so much congestion, he constantly hears from residents who can’t turn onto the 401 from Yonge Street because of the gridlock.
He believes there’s way too much development occurring in North York as it is.
“The congestion is intolerable,” he said. “Either solutions need to be found to deal with the congestion, or there should be a hold put on development until there are some solutions.”
There’s also evidence local schools could struggle to deal with the population growth. A Toronto District School Board sign pinned to the Hullmark Corporate Centre warns parents local schools may not be able to accommodate their children.
Bruni said it would appear the city has dropped the ball on development, approving large numbers of condos without looking at the full picture of needed infrastructure such as transit, schools and roads.
He made it clear he’s not opposed to controlled development, considering where he lives. But he would like to see more green space in the area and more consideration for how towers will affect the shading and traffic congestion for existing residents.
“What I want is development consistent with the neighbourhood we moved into,” he said. “And from that perspective, that’s really not happening.”