One year ago this column reported on RioCan’s “Leaside Centre” development as contained in its July 2018 resubmission to the City. There were concerns about the site layout lacking a civic plaza appropriate to its future as the new centre of Leaside. And, most controversially, the density had increased, not decreased, as is more typically the case in the course of the approval process for these types of development.
One year later, in July 2019, RioCan submitted another set of revised plans, with significant changes. Now there is a new civic plaza and a public connection from the Laird and Eglinton intersection to the interior space; the public park has moved to the corner of Laird and Vanderhoof and is now connected to the interior passage, and to the community space. The community space is relocated from the rear (SE corner) of the site to front onto the urban plaza and public park. The four-storey office building has been relocated to the SE portion of the site.
The heights of the residential towers remain the same at 18, 21, 36, and 38 storeys. RioCan argues that from an experiential perspective the building heights are not meaningful – the ground-related conditions are more important and have been significantly improved. This appears likely to be the biggest point of contention as the Laird in Focus plan proposes a lower number of storeys.
Of course one must remember that between last year and this year the context of planning in Toronto has dramatically changed with the Ontario government’s approval of Bill 108, an omnibus bill that changed numerous planning and other acts, including effectively restoring the OMB, by giving final decision-making powers to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).
Perhaps the major positive change in the past year is the change in planning dynamics; RioCan reached out to the LPOA to seek input in the spring and there are now regular meetings, which are felt to be constructive and beneficial. (And as well, the LPOA is having regular meetings with City Planning on this and other issues). There is no question that the plan has significantly improved in regard to public realm. LPOA reps continue to emphasize the need for excellence in urban design and architecture as the detailed design proceeds.
See attached chart for the Summary Application Chronology for Leaside Centre: here.
Laird in Focus
Laird in Focus, the City plan for the block from Laird to Aerodrome, Eglinton to Vanderhoof (Area A), and the west side of Laird (Area B) will release the Site and Area Specific Policies (SASP) amendment to the Official Plan just prior to the Public Open House on Tues., Sept. 17. According to City staff this will be a declarative statement of the City’s intent and direction for each of the areas. In addition, the City will issue design guidelines for each area.
The intended schedule is for the Laird in Focus SASP and the 815-845 development application to each go to North York Community Council and to City Council in October 2019.