Why Diamond proposal is good for Leaside

939 eglinton ave. Development proposal june 2016
939 Eglinton ave. Development proposal June 2016

“I think it’s too dense. I think it’s too tall. And I think it’s too much.”

Councillor Joe Cressy,
Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina

This comment by Councillor Cressy appeared in a September 12 article by Toronto Star City Hall reporter Jennifer Pagliaro discussing how Mizrahi Developments’ 80-storey condominium development, dubbed “The One,” got the thumbs-up from City Council.

But it just as easily could have been uttered by Leaside residents opposed to Diamond Corp’s 939 Eglinton Ave. East development that’s currently winding its way through the City’s lengthy application approval process.

Last October, Diamond Corp. CEO Steve Diamond made a presentation to Leaside residents in the William Lea Room at Leaside Memorial Gardens. After the presentation, Diamond took questions from those in attendance. Not all of Leaside stepped up to be heard, but it was close.

As a result of that meeting, a 12-person working group composed of community members was established. Their first meeting was in January. At that time they asked Diamond to put together a proposal that changed the height of the buildings in the plan as well as the density.

Diamond came back in May with a revised plan that substantially reduced 939 Eglinton East’s scope and size.

The Original Proposal

  • 1,130,644 sq. ft.
  • 1,500 residential condo units
  • ‑A density 5.2 times larger than the area of the property
  • ‑3 towers over 20 storeys: 24, 31 and 34 storeys
  • 14 townhouse units

The Revised Proposal

  • 797,676 sq. ft. = 29% reduction
  • ‑981 residential condo units = 35% reduction
  • ‑A density 3.7 times larger than the area of the property = 29% reduction
  • ‑1 tower over 20 storeys: 31 storeys = 67% reduction
  • ‑40 townhouse units = 186% increase

Yet, it seems the LPOA still has a problem with the proposed changes.

In a June 15 letter to City Planning regarding the revised proposal, the LPOA concluded that “the proposed massing of 1,000 units, and tower heights ranging from 14 to 31 storeys, is inappropriate for this property and contrary to Official Plan policies for Mixed Use areas,” wrote Geoff Kettel, LPOA co-president in his September column in Leaside Life. “A mid-rise form of development and density would be more appropriate for the subject property,” he added.

Kettel and the LPOA believe Diamond Corp. should continue to wait until the City completes its Laird Focus Area Study before its application is reviewed.

There’s one huge problem with this rationale: The study was originally supposed to be undertaken in 2013. After several delays here we sit no closer to its completion.

Hypothetically, if you bought a house today with the intention of tearing it down and building a new one, how would you feel if the City made you wait three years or longer before giving you the approval to go ahead with construction. Unless you’re a fool, your lawyer would be living at City Hall.

Somehow, those opposed to intensification have got it in their heads that it’s their God-given right to take whatever steps necessary to block any and all development other than low-rise and occasionally mid-rise.

I think they’re misguided. Here’s why:

  1. Negotiations on 939 Eglinton have produced meaningful reductions in the proposed intensification. Diamond Corp. has left millions in revenue sitting on the table. By that number alone I think it’s safe to say Diamond Corp. has tried to accommodate Leaside residents.
  2. Profit margins on condominiums aren’t as big as you’d imagine. Like those house flippers on HGTV, time is money. If Diamond has enough of these projects reduced in size and more importantly, delayed indefinitely, eventually their investors will go elsewhere. If that happens, say goodbye to a lot of construction jobs.
  3. 939 Eglinton Ave. East, as it’s currently configured, is both hideous in its appearance, footprint, and parking configuration. It’s a blight on the neighbourhood and that’s saying something in an area of the business park that’s still got an industrial vibe to it. I don’t know about you but I’ll take well designed towers over ugly stucco every day of the week. The revised Diamond proposal is a significant step-up in both form and function; we can thank the working group for their considerate efforts in this area.
  4. The traffic study done for the revised proposal shows that there won’t be an impact on traffic. In fact, it’s actually higher at the current site than what will exist once the revised proposal is fully built.
  5. Take a drive some Saturday all the way to Kitchener. By the time you make your way home to Leaside I guarantee you’ll have a serious case of road rage. I made that trip recently and the thought that kept popping into my head was, ‘This is only going to get worse if we don’t intensify the core of the city with affordable housing.’

Diamond Corp’s proposal will help alleviate this problem. You can’t keep stuffing cheap condos down by the Rogers Centre. If we do, our downtown will become an eyesore, if it isn’t already. Downtown Toronto is a lot of things — pretty it ain’t.

Leaside, in my opinion, should be a part of making Toronto more livable by providing a neighbourhood that’s mixed-use, mixed-income, mixed-employment.

That’s got 939 Eglinton’s name written all over it.

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