The Leaside station overbuild – update

Saving old Leaside

1779-1787 Bayview. Rendering Urban Toronto.
1779-1787 Bayview. Rendering Urban Toronto.

It’s been almost a decade since the “overbuild” of the Leaside LRT station became a Leaside Life story, which began with rumours of extra below-ground infrastructure designed to enable a tower overbuild. Now we are approaching the end of the planning approval stage; you might say we are reaching the end of the beginning. But construction is likely still a way off. City Council recently approved the zoning bylaw amendment (subject to some conditions) and the Ontario Land Tribunal gave an interim decision on the developer’s appeal, for a 35-storey tower over the Leaside station with a podium extending south on the two adjoining properties.  

35 storeys? How did we get there? The City’s plan for development driven by the Eglinton Crosstown adopted by City Council in 2018 proposed eight storeys in lands at the Leaside station. However, a year later the Province overruled the City’s plan and designated the Bayview Focus Area at 20 to 35 storeys.

The Leaside Residents Association (full disclosure: Doug Obright and I are the LRA representatives), while having to accept the vastly more intensified planning context, has been trying to consider the interests of the community through the developer’s appeal proceedings and private mediation hearings.

If you compare the plans approved with those originally submitted, the key parameters have not changed much. In fact there is an increase in the density and the number of units.

Element Original application Approved application
# storeys 35 35
# units 373 436
# Rental 108 111
# Condo 256 325
Gross Floor Area (GFA) (sq. m.) 27,845.9 28,905.4
Density (FSI) 8.83 9.16

This appears disappointing, however it’s not the whole story. For one thing, developers are often able to squeeze more space and units at the detailed design stage, but in this case the changes were offset by the incorporation of significant improvements the LRA requested. 

The settlement agreement between the developer (Condor), the City, and the LRA lists the following improvements:

  • -Increased setback of the building to the Howard Talbot Park
  • -Removal of some balconies facing the park
  • -Increased public realm on Bayview by setting back the tower portion
  • -Mid-block connection from Bayview to Talbot Park (south end)
  • -Tenants from the two rental quads (1779-81 and 1783-85 Bayview) signed rental replacement agreements
  • -14% increase in rental GFA
  • -Reconstruction of the heritage façade (and more) of 1783-85 Bayview, and incorporation into the podium of the building
  • -Increase in the vertical separation between the Leaside station and the tower above by 3.5m.

Settlement notes

A concern raised originally was that the overbuild and its massive podium diminished the visual identity of the LRT station – which is, after all, an important public building. To address this, the developer has raised the height of the overbuild, increasing the separation distance, and thus exposing the station more.

Moving and reconstruction of one quad, with its Tudor Revival façade, while it’s technically considered demolition, nevertheless will tie the building to the rhythm of the other quads south of the station. Unfortunately, only 1783-85 Bayview had the “legal clout” arising from its designation under the Ontario Heritage Act. As an anticipatory move with respect to possible future development applications on Bayview, City Council passed a motion directing staff to assess the heritage value of the remaining eight quads by December 31, 2024. Of the eight, only 1755-57 Bayview is currently designated, though all 10 were nominated in 2011.

To preserve the operability of the Howard Talbot Park baseball diamonds, and the safety of players, Council signaled its intention to allocate community benefits charges revenue from the development to improvements, including baseball field netting and lighting systems. In addition to the removal of some balconies facing the park, in order to limit the liability of future residents, the developer agreed that purchasers and tenants will be required to sign an acknowledgement that there is a baseball diamond next to the building and that the City and the Leaside Baseball Association do not accept any responsibility for such nuisances as “errant balls.” The Leaside Baseball Association has indicated its satisfaction with these terms, and appreciated the support of Councillor Robinson in achieving these terms and Council decisions.

What’s next? Discussions are moving on to the site plan details. The LRA is continuing to seek improvements with regard to the midblock connection (south side), and on the east side. We have appreciated having Terry Mills, professional planner and architect, assisting with our advocacy. And the City has a number of conditions that need to be satisfied before the Zoning Bylaw Amendment will be finally approved. Onward

About Geoff Kettel 222 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.