‘I see it as positive change’

The other sideRecently I found myself walking along the east side of Bayview just south of ReMax. A young couple and their small kids were looking across the street at the big black and white billboard attached to one of the four small bungalows on the other side of the street.

The husband suddenly said to his wife in total exasperation, “The developer wants to build a nine-storey building on that property. It’s ridiculous.”

But is it?

The hodgepodge of buildings currently on the almost 43,000-square-foot property include a 29-unit apartment building, townhouses, bungalows and several residential houses. The new proposal looks to create one unified mixed-use residential building with 172 residential units including 35 rental units (six more than in the extremely dull 3.5 storey apartment building currently at the corner of Bayview and Hillsdale) and ground floor retail.

I live on Bayview almost directly across from the proposed development; it will be a fine day once these Bayview eyesores are replaced by something attractive that adds to the retail strip along Bayview while providing additional accommodation choices for residents and non-residents alike.

I see it as positive change, as I do for what’s proposed for Sunnybrook Plaza.

There is only one thing redeeming about the property at 660 Eglinton East and that is its history as Canada’s oldest strip-mall.

Have you been in the mall lately?

There’s a brick sidewalk the length of the property that looks, and worse, feels like it was laid by some shoddy contractor who’s built some of the monster homes in Leaside itself.

However, if that’s not enough, try parking in the mall on a weekend. It’s a miracle there aren’t more fender benders in what is a very narrow parking strip.

I think most would agree RioCan has the right to increase the density on the property. Forcing them to stick with this tired footprint is like the city forcing a Bridle Path landowner with an acre or more of property to only be permitted to build a 1,000-square-foot home.

It’s economically unfeasible over the long term to expect RioCan to be shackled with this white elephant. Even those against RioCan’s proposal will probably agree that something in between is a sensible compromise. Perhaps even a nine-storey mixed-use development like the one on Bayview?

Seriously, though, the issue here is about waste.

In March the TTC fired the two executives in charge of the six-stop extension from Downsview station for going 15 percent or $400 million over the $2.6 billion extension. While TTC CEO Andy Byford termed the dismissals as need for a change, the pressure to deliver value to taxpayers is intense and failure to do so means off with your heads in a figurative, if not literal sense.

It’s all about optics.

The Eglinton LRT budget is $6.6 billion when inflation?s included or 154 per cent higher than the cost of the Spadina fiasco. According to an Oxford University study, nine out of 10 transit projects worldwide go over budget so expect this number to be well over $7 billion by the time it opens sometime in 2020.

Who’s going to pay for this? That’s simple: We are.

Don Mills, which is itself experiencing potential hyper-growth just like Leaside, seems to have a more realistic view of development than us here.

In the January 9, 2015, issue of the Globe and Mail, the head of the Don Mills Residents Association, Terry West, said about the future development, “We expect a fair amount of increased density along the LRT; it’s only logical.”

Hear hear.

“It’s a matter of time,” says West, “until the [Don Mills and Eglinton] intersection alone becomes high density; we have been pushing for and expect that a future downtown relief line will come there.”

It’s hard to know given how slowly the city seems to move on transit projects what will and won’t be built in the next 20-40 years, yet Don Mills appears to be thinking ahead. Here, in Leaside, we are assured of the Crosstown LRT being built and yet many seem unprepared to welcome change.

Instead of fighting tooth and nail over the inevitable why doesn’t Leaside simply work as hard as it can to ensure that every new development that is built in the area – Sunnybrook Plaza being a major example – is done with flair, panache and an overall attractiveness?

Some of the condos that have been built in the Bayview/Eglinton corridor over the past decade can hardly be confused for architectural gems in the city of Toronto. We have an opportunity to work with developers to ensure what is built, whether it be 13 or 19 storeys, is done with care and consideration for the neighbours immediately adjacent to those proposed buildings.

The Toronto I imagine includes a Leaside others want to visit and live in. Without these new developments to add to the housing stock, this won’t be possible.

Do we really want to live in a gated community where only the truly wealthy can live?

I’m for RioCan’s development proposal because it adds diversity to the neighbourhood both in terms of the people who might live in the buildings and the types of housing available in Leaside. Healthy communities have housing available at different price points, not just a million-plus.

Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America. It’s unrealistic to expect Leaside to remain the same while the rest of the city undergoes significant change. What RioCan proposes is in keeping with the changes along Eglinton. I see nothing wrong with its development plans.

But then, I’m not afraid of change.

About Will Ashworth 51 Articles
Will Ashworth contributes to Leaside Life.