Are Leaside’s gardens threatened by development?

Saving Old Leaside

Mid-June and it’s time for the annual Magical Gardens of Leaside tour, an opportunity to view and admire the most interesting, creative, and beautiful gardens in the community. But are we in danger of losing our gardens as homes get bigger footprints? A quick check of the recent Committee of Adjustment applications reveals that 30 out of 84 approvals involved an increase in lot coverage beyond the 35% bylaw limit.
The question was raised with the recent sale of a property flanking the corner at the intersection of Randolph and Kenrae, a triangular shaped lot with a modest bungalow in the centre which has had the “garden of distinction” certification for many years.

I regularly hear from neighbours of a pending demolition and reconstruction project that they are worried they will lose their beloved garden due to the shadow from an extended building wall at the rear. This should not affect the front yard though – we rarely see variances for front yard setbacks.

Need for an expanded vision for Leaside Centre
A vision as new civic hub for Leaside at Laird and Eglinton…a public place that celebrates its importance in the city, not just a “mixed use centre” that (laudably) includes a community centre.

Are we there yet? No, but RioCan heard loud and clear from the LPOA at the May 28 meeting called by RioCan to discuss the latest plans for their development.

With the developments on Eglinton, the centre of Leaside will shift north. Laird and Eglinton has an opportunity to become a hub, connecting north and south Leaside. While the elements of the RioCan plans would be much the same, the layout, and the scope and focus of public realm at Laird and Eglinton, would be different. The intersection should become open, anchored by a plaza, and visually connecting the two LRT station entrances and the community centre. The current plan misses this opportunity because it is too internally focused. The open space, though quite generous, will be perceived as private and fail to serve a larger role as plaza and meeting place.

Recall that this expansive civic vision for the property in this location was first raised at the Laird in Focus public meeting in December, 2017. Urban designer and Leaside resident Carlos Moreno recommended placement of the community centre adjacent to open space at the southeast corner of Laird and Eglinton in order to “create a civic node, a community piazza framed by the new transit pavilions, serving as a grand entrance to the new iconic Leaside community centre.”

Garden Court Apartments heritage appeal dropped
City Council recently passed a bylaw to revise the reasons for heritage designation of Garden Court Apartments, 1477 Bayview Ave., Leaside’s iconic Art Deco housing complex. The revised designation describes the property’s cultural heritage value and heritage attributes, including the buildings, the landscaped settings and views. It’s taken over 18 months, but don’t blame the City!

After City Council approved revised reasons for designation in October 2016, the owner appealed to the Conservation Review Board, a sister body to the Ontario Municipal Board. In March, 2017 the appellant was asked to explain the reasons for the objection, following which there were several cancelled hearing dates, until finally the owner withdrew the appeal in May, 2018. The property was originally designated in 1987 by the former Borough of East York.

About Geoff Kettel 98 Articles
Geoff Kettel is a community connector and advocate for “making places better”. He is currently Co-President of the Leaside Property Owners’ Association, Co-Chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents‘ Associations (FoNTRA), and Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. He writes a monthly column on heritage and planning in Leaside Life.