Everywhere we look in Leaside, we are never far from a building site. We live in the midst of a construction boom. Given the rapid pace of proposed building applications for our part of the city, it’s hard not to wonder how much of what we think of as “Leaside” can survive so much development pressure.
Our neighbourhood has character and history, tree-lined streets, great houses and shopping, convenient transit, and good schools. But it’s these very attributes that attract developers whose proposals for high-rise, high-density complexes would completely change the community for the worse.
Not all building applications are too large or intrusive. Some may enhance their intended locations. In the past month, we have seen examples of both types of proposals.
At the May meeting of the LPOA board, a presentation was made by MHBC Planning for the applicant Quaestus, which looks quite promising. The site in question is 33 Laird Dr., a triangular property just north of All Canadian Self-Storage.
On this 0.9 hectare space sits the former Levitt Company building, dating from the early 1940s. The proposed alteration would comprise a single storey at the front, a double storey at the back, with a restaurant and a patio to encourage pedestrians. Access would be off Canvarco, with 127 parking spaces in the rear. The original limestone panels would be retained for continuity of design, with a translucent panel in the rear. All in all, there might be five or six commercial businesses or services there.
This is an example of a development that fits the scale and nature of its location, perhaps even enhancing it.
Contrast this with the latest proposal by Stephen Diamond of DiamondCorp, to replace the shopping plaza at 939 Eglinton Avenue East (bounded by Eglinton, Brentcliffe, and Vanderhoof). This is the plaza currently occupied by Nando’s, Walking on a Cloud, the Urban Nature store, and Tim Hortons, among others.
Roughly two years ago, Diamond attended an LPOA board meeting to describe his then-proposal, which we regarded as much too large and too high. He has now submitted a revised proposal which appears to be even higher and denser than the original one.
The new application is for a mixed use development with 1,500 residential units; 2,950 square metres of retail space; and 9,690 square meters of office space.
There would be 1,639 parking spaces on four levels of underground parking. One has to wonder why so many parking spaces are needed for a development located directly on the new Eglinton Crosstown line.
That’s not all. There would be three ‘development blocks’: the north one with two residential towers of 19 and 24 storeys, connected by an eight-storey mixed use mid-rise building with frontage along Eglinton. The central block would have two residential towers of 31 and 34 storeys connected by an eight-storey mid-rise building along the north edge of a proposed public road. Finally, the south block would have a six-storey commercial building at the northwest corner of Brentcliffe and Vanderhoof, with a 0.22 hectare public park.
Unlike the 33 Laird proposal, which fits its site in scale and respects the Leaside community, the 939 Eglinton East proposal is virtually a city in itself. Development pressures and resultant traffic volumes would create major problems for residential Leaside as well as threaten the well-being of industries within the Leaside Industrial Park.
Is Leaside doomed? No. But working together with the LPOA, the neighbourhood must show developers, city planners, and city council that we are determined to protect Leaside. People power still works in this city! If you’re not already a member of the LPOA, please join. Check the LPOA’s website regularly for news and updates. Attend our monthly board meetings (7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month in the Trace Manes building).