Capitulate or fight? Which is it to be?

Diamond Corp. proposal for 939 Eglinton Ave. East
Diamond Corp. proposal for 939 Eglinton Ave. East

Less than six months ago 2,200 Leasiders completed a survey questionnaire regarding the DiamondCorp development proposal for 939 Eglinton Ave. East, and an overwhelming majority of the respondents (92.7 per cent) didn’t think the massive development was appropriate for Leaside. They felt that buildings over 11 storeys were inappropriate for this site. Only 5.5 percent thought the development was appropriate.

The original design called for four towers of 19, 23, 31 and 35 storeys.

On October 13th, a smaller (but vocal) number of attendees, at a community meeting organized by Councillor Jon Burnside to present revised plans, seemed impressed by what they saw. The new design, calling for three towers of 19, 14 and 31 storeys, was reached in a series of meetings with a working group of 12 volunteers. The design is certainly an improvement, but is it enough?

Have Leasiders’ views changed since the survey? Is there a growing feeling of inevitability about these large developments proposed on the edges of Leaside?

We feel that the sense the project is improved cannot necessarily be construed as “support” for the revised proposal. Major concerns remain (and were expressed at the October 13th meeting) about massing, height, and density. There was still concern about other issues, including traffic, school capacity, infrastructure like hydro, sewer and water, and adequacy of parking. The main objection seemed to be the 31-storey height of the tallest building.

Our association positions are resident-led, based on assessing neighbourhood feeling. Does the working group really reflect neighbourhood feeling? Are there further concessions which could still be made to the scale of the development? The city’s planning staff have yet to take a position on the latest proposal.

Meanwhile, Mr. Diamond has appealed to the OMB on the basis of the original four-tower application. It is unclear which of his proposals will come to City Council. We do know that the planners will not support the original proposal, but it is unclear what they will say about the revised one, and whether or not the planners will push for more height reductions or other improvements.

There are those calling for the LPOA to work with the revised proposal, to see if we can get Mr. Diamond to take a floor or two off the tall tower, get more retail, and acquire as much Section 37 (community benefits) money as we can.

There are those who feel the development context is changing – that there is increasing realization about the irresponsibility of loading up Eglinton with density when (with no Yonge “relief line” in sight) there is simply not the transit capacity in the Yonge corridor to handle the additional riders coming from the Eglinton Crosstown.

And there are those who are worried that any further attempts at discussion or negotiation, by the LPOA or the City, will end with the OMB ruling in favour of the original, much larger, higher and denser development.

Mr. Diamond has shown himself open to compromise and responsiveness to the community by taking the time to cooperate with a working group and reduce his proposal by 30 per cent. But the community meeting also seemed to confirm his willingness to fight. He stated that LPOA board member and former president Brian Athey’s statements about the revised proposal at the final working group meeting prompted him to appeal his original application to the OMB. And when faced at the community meeting with further comments about the revised proposal, he suggested, “Maybe it’s time that this was settled by the (Ontario Municipal) Board.”

What does this mean for the LPOA? At this point we put on our LPOA hats! The first thing to note is that the LPOA has NOT taken a position on 939 yet, and neither have the planners.

We would be much happier with mid-rise at this location, which would be more in keeping with the City’s Official Plan, and meet the criteria set by April’s 2,200-response survey of Leaside residents. The only real gauges of community opinion we have are the comments received at public meetings and the survey results.

What happens next? According to City staff, DiamondCorp’s revised application has recently been received (but is not yet posted on the City website, which only shows the renderings shown to the working group). Staff from various departments will be reviewing the revised application. We will review and submit comments.

As stated earlier, the LPOA is resident-led. It is critical that you share your perspectives and suggestions with us. Write to us at , and attend our meetings. Our next board meeting is November 2nd, and our AGM takes place on November 22nd. As we learn more details about the City’s response to DiamondCorp’s proposals, we will share them with you on our website.

About Geoff Kettel 219 Articles
Geoff Kettel is a community connector and advocate for “making places better”. He is currently Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, Co-Chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents‘ Associations (FoNTRA), member of the Toronto Preservation Board and Past Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. He writes a monthly column on heritage and planning in Leaside Life.