The saying goes people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but in the case of 1844 Bloor St. West, residents say one shouldn’t be built in the first place.
Members of the High Park Residents Association are expressing opposition to a proposed 14-storey glass-walled building on Bloor Street West between Pacific Avenue and Oakmount Road because they say it wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the neighbourhood.
The property is owned by W.J. Holdings, who has hired Daniels Corporation as the developer to build the proposed condominium. The staggered building would have more than 375 residential units as well as about 1,500 metres of ground retail space.
But it’s the building’s ultra-modern aesthetic that really rankles the chair of the residents association, Jeff Derksen.
“The bigger issue here is that the official plan, which is how Toronto said it would actually do development going forward, mentions character and that no new development will ignore the context of the (nearby) buildings,” he said. “And there is no such thing as a glass-walled building (nearby), period.”
The building proposal has been a thorny issue with residents dating back to the last council term, when former councillor Bill Saundercook held a meeting for the developer and residents to discuss their vision for the property.
The city’s planning department conducted a study and forwarded the application to the design review panel. They voted for Daniels to refine the design and said, “Further design development … should more appropriately respond to the fine grained fabric and height of the existing buildings across.”
Daniels altered the design, including moving a mechanical penthouse for elevator shafts west to address shading issues with Oakmount Road, building a larger courtyard on Bloor Street, and revising the design of the east, west and north facades.
But Derksen believes the modifications have not resolved the fundamental issue, which is the perception the building’s overall design is incongruent with the rest of the neighbourhood.
“There’s far too much glass, we would like to see some brick and stone in the front that kind of speaks to the century-old subdivisions that make up the neighbourhood,” he said.
In terms of the height, Derksen said he would like to see an extension of the existing Bloor-Dundas Avenue Study, which ends at Keele Street and recommends a maximum allowable height of six storeys for properties fronting Bloor Street West.
He fears allowing one 14-storey building will set a precedent that could alter the whole neighbourhood.
“It’s going to be a case of leapfrogging the last one,” he said. “If we allow 14 here, it’ll be 18 next time, then 22, et cetera.”
Unfortunately for the resident’s association the building falls within the city’s current planning requirements.
“Right now, the development that is being proposed with Daniels comes in line with what the city is allowing,” said Ward 13 Councillor Sarah Doucette. “I would like it to be shorter, but it is allowed.”
One of the modifications Daniels did was stagger the building so that 14 floors now face a high rise behind it, located at 22 Oakmount Rd., rather than the sidewalk.
While this is helpful because it doesn’t create a giant tower in front of the park, it also eliminates the view of High Park for those who live in the building at 22 Oakmount Rd.
“Turning the building around is better for the park, but worse for 22 Oakmount,” Doucette said. “And my understanding is that a lot of the people complaining about the height of the building, live at 22 Oakmount.”
She also mentioned that the development falls within an area that the city actually plans for intensification because of the proximity to subway stations.
Construction has not yet commenced but several homes on the property are in the process of being demolished.