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Further to Rusty's and Simon's posts, some additional observations.
I thought the meeting was well attended by about 25-30 people - standing room only. Paula did a great job of organizing (and moderating). Paula led off the meeting, before introducing City Planner Denise Graham.
Denise walked everyone through the planning process for this development. It originated more than 10 years ago, in conjunction with the Natalie Place townhomes (which were completed in 2001), and got final OMB approval in 2003. This was a major sticking point with the crowd - with many people saying the neighbourhood has changed over the past 8 years, so how come we're stuck with a development approved in 2003?
There was some confusion about whether residents had been properly informed of public consultations before final approval was given by the city back then. I can confirm that there was at least one meeting, as I attended it at the Ralph Thorton. Additionally, there has been a planning notice affixed to the chain-link fence on the lot since the beginning, so if anyone wanted more information, all they needed to do was call the city...
A big question was whether there was a statue of limitations for developers upon receiving approval. It appears that there isn't; Denise explained that as long as any zoning hasn't changed, the developer can sit on their original approval for as long as they want.
There was also the question of the design, and whether residents had any avenues to follow if they were not supportive of the design. Denis explained that no, as long as the developer met all zoning and building codes, the city has no say. She gave the example that there is not much the city can do if you don't like the colour of your neighbour's house, as long as it meets all codes.
Simon is correct in that residents had a lot of different issues, including density, parking and height. There was a lot of NIMBYism going on and it seemed to me that the ideal neighbourhood some were describing was more consistent with the suburbs - no traffic, but lots of parking, and no "tall" buildings.
Paula introduced the architect, whose name I didn't catch. He was very defensive, and he stressed several times that he didn't "have" to be there. A resident, who is an architect himself, pointed out that it WAS his responsiblity to be there, as architecture needs to be representative of the community in which it exists.
With respect to the structural design and layout, the architect basically said that what was approved in 2003 is what will move forward. There was some concern from residents about garbage bays on the west side facing the park, but it was hard to tell from the renderings how this will actually be executed. The architect did say the west side would be the most desirable for residents as it faces the park.
There was also concern about there being no retail at grade on the east side on Carlaw. Denise pointed out that the lot is not zoned for retail; that the goal of the Dundas/Carlaw area is to push retail to Queen Street to create a vibrant retail community there, which seems to make sense. However, the building is zoned for live/work, which means that like elsewhere on Dundas and Carlaw, businesses could set up shop there. The architect explained that the slope of the property towards the east made it impossible to have these open right onto Carlaw, and that an elevated deck/balcony along Carlaw was required.
Then it came time to discuss the facade. As mentioned above, a new design has surfaced over the past few weeks that sees brick cladding on the bottom five stories, as well as canopies over the upper balconies. The architect said the brick only goes to five stories to lessen the impact of the height, and to make it blend in more with its neighbours north on Carla.The large weighting of the SE corner seems to have been lessened by the addition of more windows.
The architect took a lot of heat here. He could not say whether the most recent rendering was the final version. He said that the final product would end up being much more like the current brick version (which I swear was like the original 2003 version), than the ugly yellow one seen on all the promotional material.
Another architect made a strong argument that even the updated design remained suburban, and looked like an appartment building that could be plopped down anywhere, rather than a building incorporating the industrial look and heritage of the area. Many felt that the balconies were too small and add to the apartment-style look of the building. (I must say I worry that with the units all being less than 1300 sq ft I suspect a lot of "stuff" will be stored on those balconies).
The most ironic comment of the night was from the architect, who said he had been in Vancouver to meet with the developers. He said that the developer's buildings in Vancouver had "a lot more going on" and that the developer had asked him to revise the design, which resulted in the updated rendering. I wonder if this may actually be the result of some of the complaints and the sluggish sales.
I think the ship has sailed with respect to any changes to the structural design and layout, but we have hope in influencing changes with the facade. I think we are headed in the right directon with the brick, and that if people e-mail the developer directly (I think there is a list of contacts somewhere on this post), we might actually get somewhere.
Hope this helps.
P.S. Christopher Hume was in attendance, so I wouldn't be surprised if there is a more professional accounting of this meeting in the Star sometime soon. :)
Thank you ScottyASAP for the detailed rundown, that was awesome. Thanks Andrew JM for posting the most recent rendering. I think it looks miles better than it did before, at least. And there is the option for people to purchase storage units, so hopefully that'll cut down on balcony clutter. Honestly, the balconies don't really look big enough to store much on them!
The site is going to be developed one way or another. In my opinion, this is better than other things that could be dumped there - i.e. a Walmart or a parking lot or what have you. Heh. I personally am not opposed to density... Leslieville is still waaaaay less dense than other parts of the city, and more people moving into the neighborhood can only be good for local businesses, etc. I mean, we live in downtown Toronto after all.
Anyway, that's just my two cents. I know other people's opinions may differ.
Having said that though...jeez, it's too bad that they didn't go ahead with Denise Graham's "Meditation Walk" plan for the site back in 1998 or whenver. That would have been cool.
I am really impressed by the determination and interest that people showed in response to this building proposal. As Scotty summed up with comments from Denise Graham, the developer didn't really have to do anything but did choose to. Whether this was a response to poor sales, customer feedback or community concerns we will likely never know.
The revised design is a lot better, friendlier, and more in keeping with the neighbourhood than the old one was. There are still a few odd things happening (What is that slope down to the sidewalk? Are those tiles on the upper floors?) The design, however, has been transformed from mini-storage warehouse to cheap Mexican resort. As has been said before, it could have been a lot worse (although a Meditation Walk would have been really cool!)
As my neighbour Jan said at the meeting, (paraphrased) they have an opportunity to do something award-winning and in keeping with the neighbourhood. But, so far, they're not.
The neighbourhood has evolved to include more design-savvy residents around it, and I think it's not just about the aesthetics being cluttery and unattractive and suburban - it's that despite the architect's assertions that there's no problems with sales, it's not yet a place for anyone to be proud of.
I would argue the revised design changes are only better, not a lot better. Regeant Park is getting better designs then this. The architects reasoning for no retail on the Carlaw side is pure BS. The slope in the grade is no different then any other section of Carlaw. Did anybody catch his name? I'd be interested to see if he's actually designed anything nice looking.
Here are some buildings in the area we are getting or already have and how to design well. Showcase architect take note.
There are three dog parks in the area:
1. Carlaw & Gerrard - the whole park was converted to a dog park
2. Beaches - they have a huge swath of a beach dedicated to this
3. Greenwood Park - SW corner, there is a big chunk given to dog owners
As for community garden, this is one at the foot of Leslie Street by Tommy Thompson Park.
As for Leslieville growth, I can only say that this is the City. People who move here expect this place to be developed. All within reason of course. Yes it means more people. The increase in the number of people is what drives markets. They don't build restaurants expecting people to move into the neighbourhood. It's the other way around. If there are hungry people, then things like the pawn shop will be bought up and turned into something reasonable.
Increased density and population in LV doesn't mean we're going to have big box stores. No more than downtown-West.
Devan Hambrock said:
A community garden/dog park would be so great....alas it won't happen. We have a rooftop patio in the Printing Factory Lofts that looks right onto that spot, and has a great view of the city. Once the buiding goes up, no more view! (we're only renting though out of fear that something like this would happen to that site, and we were right).
I have never seen density bring in Big Box stores ever. Also if it's hard ot get a table that means the area is doing well and more stores, cafes, and restaurants will follow. As for losing your view, that's part of city life and anybody that bought in the Printing Factory should have known this day would come.
Density is a good thing and should be encouraged.
Devan Hambrock said:
The amount of new buidlings going up in Leslieville concerns me because it increases the population density (and hey, lets face it, it's already hard enough to get a table at most of the best cafes/pubs and restos in the neighborhood) and creates a demand for more services. This in my experience has always led to the development of larger, big box stores which I would hate to see happen.
I'm not saying I don't want people moving to Leslieville, it just scares me that so many new developments seem to be slated for opening all at once.
I think that the work put into voicing concerns about the style of the building has helped. The new rendering is much better and while it may not be what everyone is looking for in terms of design, at the end of the day I think it is way better than the hideous empty lot that has been there for far too long. I am glad to see something go up - I think it just needed a bit of tweeking. It's not perfect but could have been far worse.I would rather wait a few more years for a good design.