West Queen West / A&D District

Discussion in 'Neighbourhood Node' started by AlvinofDiaspar, Mar 17, 2006.

  1. From the Globe:


    The next step in remaking Queen West
    Activists, architects and developers need to start a conversation


    What's happening on Queen Street West between Trinity-Bellwoods Park and Parkdale is one of the most interesting stories to come out of Toronto's current upsurge of people wanting to live downtown.

    Until recently a dilapidated industrial neighbourhood with few prospects and no profile in the city at large, this stretch of Queen has become a vivid gallery district and home to a sizable population of designers and artists.

    A couple of flop houses have been taken over by ambitious entrepreneurs and renovated into the Drake and Gladstone hotels -- watering holes for chic urban crowds and meeting places for the local creative tribe. And like the hotels, which are community centres as well as places to sleep, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art is both an exciting art showcase and a gathering spot for the people who make smart urban culture click.

    But among the best fallouts from recent changes along Queen West is surely the emergence of the citizens' group that calls itself Active 18. Though galvanized into existence by developers wanting to put up high-density condominium buildings south of Queen between Dovercourt Road and Gladstone Avenue, Active 18 is more than just another anti-skyscraper movement.

    Helped along by well-known urban designer and thinker Ken Greenberg, friendly developer Margie Zeidler and other experts, the group is working on serious alternative proposals for the residential growth of their district.

    They have an important point to make. Queen Street is, after Yonge Street, Toronto's most richly historic thoroughfare, and has a character that deserves mindful preservation: low-rise, mixed residential and commercial, rarely deluxe, usually rough and ready, and well rubbed-down by two centuries of inhabitation and hard use. Spiffiness does not belong to the culture of the place. Neither does building too tall.

    The small area south of Queen now caught between the competing ambitions of Active 18 and the residential developers is not an easy area to design for. Because a railway corridor slants at a rakish angle across the site between Queen and King Street West, chopping the large block into two wedges, building lots south of Queen are irregular in shape, and streets are short and dead-ended. Whatever Active 18 comes up with may be useful to community groups, developers and planners working with similarly difficult places elsewhere in the city. I look forward to seeing this civic-minded group's plans as they evolve over the next weeks and months.

    Meanwhile, of course, things aren't standing still in the zone. Later this month, Landmark Building Group (a label of Urbancorp, the important residential developer) will open its Westside Lofts sales centre, across the street from the Drake Hotel.

    Designed by British architect Will Alsop, who recently established an office in Toronto, this exuberantly decorated box-within-a-box will be used to market a project that has gone through several renditions in the last few months.

    It was originally a townhouse scheme. In its current version, it is to be a two-tower arrangement (nine and 13 storeys), designed by Nima Javidi of the Toronto firm Baird Sampson Neuert. In an interview last week at his Toronto studio, Mr. Alsop said that the unusual sales centre will be turned over to art-supplies dealer Ben Woolfitt (on whose property it stands) when its work of marketing is done, for possible use as a private gallery.

    Mr. Alsop's involvement in this little patch of Toronto is more than a sales centre. The architect, Urbancorp and city planners are now conducting informal talks about throwing a pedestrian bridge across the railway at the foot of Abell or Lisgar streets. This excellent move would link the large Urbancorp townhouse scheme on King Street West with the various developments taking shape, to the dismay of Active 18, south of Queen. It also will create the first new link between King and Queen since the 19th century.

    As explained to me, Mr. Alsop's vision for the site includes residential development between Queen and the railway tracks, though not necessarily the bulky clump of skyscrapers currently proposed. The Westside Lofts sales centre building would no longer be an isolated architectural phenomenon, but the monumental "beginning of a route" extending from Queen to King across the railway tracks. Meanwhile, the Drake and the future gallery and other enterprises around the intersection of Abell and Queen might together form a new centre of social gravity on Queen West, and a significant hook-up of cultural energies for current residents and the hundreds of new people who will be attracted to the area by its residential development.

    What Mr. Alsop says makes good sense. It is high time that he and Active 18 started talking, and time that both the architect and the activists engaged the developers in new conversations about what's possible and desirable. The future of an important part of Queen Street, and a part of Toronto's heritage, depends on what these people decide.


  2. Star: Queen West Failure Shows City's Fault (Hume)

    From the Star:

    Queen West failure shows city's faults
    Nov. 11, 2006. 01:00 AM

    In any part of the city, the loss of a building like 48 Abell would be sad. But when it's in a neighbourhood that has declared itself open to development, it's doubly so.

    The three-storey warehouse across from the Gladstone Hotel may not be an architectural landmark, but it is a local icon, a cultural institution and a centre of art, design, photography and all-round creativity. Its vitality demonstrates the validity of Jane Jacobs's famous observation that new ideas need old buildings  that is, innovation and cheap space are directly linked.

    That didn't bother city council last September when it voted to allow the demolition of 48 Abell to make way for  what else?  a condo. It was an all-too-familiar act of self-destruction in a city that seems bent on its own demise.

    To add insult to injury, earlier this year local residents sat down with some of the best architects and planners in town to devise a blueprint for growth in the area known as West Queen West.

    These enlightened Torontonians, who call themselves Active 18, released a report last summer that spelled out exactly where the development opportunities are and are not. They even took the plan to Mayor David Miller and the city planning department, who seemed to like what they saw.

    So far, the bulk of development  three schemes are being proposed  will be in the area bounded by Queen St. on the north, the railway tracks to the south and Abell and Sudbury on the east and west. This area, part of the Queen West Triangle, is ripe for revitalization and Active 18 recognized that. It assembled a team whose members include internationally respected planners and architects Ken Greenberg, Don Schmitt, Siamak Hariri and others. It addressed specific issues such as the creation of public spaces, pedestrian connectivity and how to retain the character of Queen St.

    Despite these efforts, the result is a classic illustration of why the development process in Toronto doesn't work. Even those who support intensification, i.e., building highrise condos downtown, would have to agree this isn't the way to build a city. If anything, it is the way to destroy a city.

    The point isn't to stop growth but to control it; in this regard the city has a record of abject failure.

    The proposed towers are of the generic sort that could be anywhere. One plan would have 10-storey mixed-use buildings on Queen.

    As with all such failures, the matter now rests with the Ontario Municipal Board, that unaccountable, quasi-judicial body that has final say over all development in this province. The board must decide the fate of three applications to build condo towers of various sizes up to 19 storeys. All in an area where height limits are much lower.

    "Everyone knew development was going to occur in the triangle," Greenberg says. "What was stunning was that we had a neighbourhood that welcomed it."

    A preliminary plan was drawn up last summer and Greenberg and activist Margie Zeidler took it to Miller. He instructed an assistant, Chris Phibbs, to help the group. But as Zeidler says, nothing happened.

    City planners also responded with apparent enthusiasm but, again, it fell into the abyss.

    In the meantime, the developers had grown tired of waiting for city hall, which had failed to respond to their applications within the 180-day limit.

    The owners of 48 Abell, initially interested in converting the property into a live/work space and adding a fourth floor, approached the city for approval two years ago. They were told there were doubts it could be brought up to building code standards and that underground parking would have to be added. That's when development plans for 48 Abell were hatched. It was only a matter of time before the OMB got involved.

    But as Greenberg points out: "Once you get to the OMB, it's already too late. It's going to be a second-rate outcome at best. But if the city spent a fraction of what's being spent on lawyers, maybe $1 million, the results would be infinitely better. The city is locked into an adversarial role and didn't even attempt to deal with the fact you have a number of different owners all developing at once. And I'm frankly disappointed the mayor's office didn't get more involved."

    The terrible irony, of course, is that if the city  make that, the mayor  had demanded the players  planners, residents, developers  sit down and work out a deal, all would have come out ahead. Instead of consultation, however, the city reacted with hesitation then confrontation.

    That's how a win-win turns into a lose-lose.

  3. valves007

    valves007 Guest

    Queen West Triangle Update

    OMB gives green light to condos on Queen West
    Critics say local artists are being pushed out
    Greg Macdonald, National Post
    Published: Saturday, January 13, 2007

    The Ontario Municipal Board approved the development of five high-rise condominium towers in a small area on Queen Street West near Dovercourt Road known as the "Triangle" yesterday.

    The towers will be part of three main structures at 150 Sudbury St., 1171 Queen St. W. and 48 Abell St. that will form a triangle of residential units in what the OMB calls "one of the remaining opportunities for new development along Queen Street West." Combined, the buildings could bring more than 2,000 new residents to the area.

    The biggest structure will be built on Abell Street. It will consist of two large towers -- one 18 storeys and the other 14 storeys. They will both connect to a fourstorey, brick-facade base, which will contain both residences and artists' workshops. The base will surround mews that will contain cafes and galleries.

    "We envision this as the cornerstone of the community," said lawyer David Bronskill, who represents Verdiroc Development Corporation.

    The plans also include as many as 190 affordable housing units in the Abell Street location's southwest tower, pending funding approval.

    There has been controversy over the area's development. Local artists and residents are opposed to the destruction of the 48 Abell St. location, an industrial building built in the 1800s that has been converted into residences. It houses a variety of artists who create an energy and entity that drives the creative community in Toronto, said Councillor Adam Giambrone.

    "We won't be able to recreate that, no matter how much we try," he said. "It wasn't just their presence that was important, it was their dynamic."

    The area's creative heritage will not be forgotten, Mr. Bronskill said. Some of the potential affordable housing units will be live-work studios for artists, and the brick facade will "recall" the original structure, he said.

    But it won't necessarily be as good as the spaces they have now, Mr. Giambrone said.

    "It can't just be affordable housing. The condos will have to have higher ceilings, natural light and big windows to replicate what they have now. It's hard to put a kiln in a standard condo."

    Residents of the historic building -- although not historic enough to be considered a heritage site by city council--agree that 48 Abell will be hard to replace.

    Jessica Rose, who has been protesting the development, said she felt "very sad" when she heard the news.

    "It was the perfect combination of community and physical attributes of the building. It's the perfect place for an artist's studio," she said.

    Others feel that their credibility and work are being exploited to market the new condos.

    "The condos are selling on the merit of the artists in the area," said Sabrina Saccoccio, who has lived in the building for about a year.

    "Most of the artists won't be able to afford these condos, and they're effectively driving the creative community away."

    Mr. Giambrone said some good did come out of the OMB ruling.

    "We have plans for a new park. Not a small park, either. The residents have never had access to something like this before. It will be good for the community," he said.

    © National Post 2007
  4. mark simpson

    mark simpson Guest

    can't beleive how many units were sold in these developments while the re-zoning was in question

    the plan looks promising and so do the buildings
  5. Citywriter

    Citywriter Guest

    From Lisa Rochon in the Globe
    25 November 2006:

    The development proposal calls for the cultural crucible to be demolished to make way for 17-storey and 18-storey towers (one of which will contain some subsidized units), with a 9-storey building at their base, designed by Climans Green Liang, a firm with a large portfolio of shopping malls and racetrack-casino combos called racinos. A short walk along Queen Street West is the pulsating red showroom of Bohemian Embassy flats and lofts — justifiably renamed by bona fide artists of the area as the Bohemian Embarrassment. Designed by the buttoned-down firm of Page + Steele with Baywood Homes as its developer, the plan is for a prosaic eight-storey building at 1171 Queen St. W., with a bulky tower of 19 storeys rising up behind it. The saving grace is meant to be the gap-tooth tunnel in the middle of the proposed Queen Street elevation, which, architect Brian Sickle indicated during a recent OMB hearing, is actually intended as a passage in the Parisian tradition and should be pronounced with a French accent, as in passage. A lovely touch. During cross-examination at the OMB, Sickle was asked whether he was aware of the context of the Queen West neighbourhood during the design of his towers? Sickle declared: “I was instructed by my client to do a scheme that showed highest and best use†— this, in an area where the typical building along Queen West rises three storeys high.[/b]
  6. mark simpson

    mark simpson Guest

    Lisa Rochon?
  7. dob467

    dob467 Guest

    How does the plan look promising?
  8. valves007

    valves007 Guest

    OMB lets Queen Street West condo-plan proceed


    Globe and Mail Update

    The Ontario Municipal Board will clear the way for high-rise residential construction in the Queen West Triangle when its decision on three appeals that attempted to block the plans is posted on Monday.

    For those who have defended the area (bordered by Queen and Sudbury Streets and the train tracks just west of the downtown core) known for its distinctive mix of low-rise Victorian architecture, affordable housing, art galleries and small businesses, the decision (released Friday afternoon to the OMB, city and neighbourhood lawyers) comes as bad news.

    "This is a lynchpin decision," said urban activist David Pecaut, chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance. "It could affect land adjacent to the train tracks from Queen West all the way to Bloor." Because it will displace small creative industries, the closely-watched decision could also tarnish Toronto's image as a creative, arts-friendly city.

    Under OMB vice-chair Donald Granger, Monday's decision will open the way for a 19-story condo building (part of the two-building Bohemian Embassy complex); an 18-story building at 48 Abell St., which developers have said will offer affordable housing, pending their application for government grants; one 15-story condo; one 14-story condo; and three eight-story buildings. In all, around 1,500 new units will bring at least 2,000 new people into the area.

    In an e-mail sent Friday evening to neighbourhood preservation groups, including the Active 18 coalition, activist Margie Zeidler, wrote: "Queen Street West will now become a bunch of condo towers ... even if artists could afford to stay [in the neighbourhood] they will not — because it will be soon become a crummy mono-culture. ... Basically the developers got everything they wanted. I am truly shocked."

    In effect, the OMB, a quasi-judicial agency, has final say over controversial Ontario developments. "In theory you can appeal," the Active 18 coalition's lawyer, Charles Campbell, told The Globe and Mail. "In practice the courts won't listen unless there has been a clear legal error."

    Active 18 will hold a press conference on Tuesday. There are still avenues the group hopes to explore, according to Zeidler. "I'd hope Mayor David Miller can step in, like David Crombie did when he imposed a height freeze on development until there was an official plan. I'd hope the provincial government could step in — after all, they've said they want the OMB to uphold Toronto's official plan."

    It's not over yet, according to Don Wanagas, director of communications for Mayor David Miller. Reached at his home, he said, "We're concerned about the decision and we're having everyone, our planning and our legal people — look at it. There's still room for negotiations."

    But Ken Greenberg, the noted international urban designer, observed, "Once the OMB has ruled, there's nothing for the developers to do but savour their victory."

    When first elected, the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty promised to reform the OMB, and it claimed that the 2005 City of Toronto Act was a strong first step. But the Queen West Triangle decision, the OMB has overridden what city planners said they wanted for this neighbourhood. "We've spent a lot of time on this at the OMB hearings. We're really worried about displacing the artists," Lynda Macdonald, area planner for the city, told The Globe and Mail on Thursday, the day before the OMB decision. At that time, Macdonald also spoke of the need to preserve the special characteristics of the old Queen West streetscape.

    The decision also appears to contradict the urgings of a $600,000 report unveiled in July by the mayor and Ontario tourism minister Jim Bradley. "Imagine a Toronto. . . Strategies for a Creative City" argued that cities needs need affordable neighbourhoods as incubation spaces for culture and entrepreneurship. One oft-cited example, the warehouse at 48 Abell Street, which for years has housed software and fashion design businesses as well as artists' studios and living spaces, will now be razed to make way for the new condos.

    University of Toronto Professor Meric Gertler, one of the authors of the Creative Cities report, and a witness at the OMB hearings, commented: "This Queen West Triangle case was of huge symbolic importance. It sends a pretty visible signal that despite the friendly rhetoric from different levels of government, their ability to deliver falls short. The chance for Toronto to be a real alternative seems to be squandered."

    Said Margie Zeidler: "I would say that this decision could not make a more powerful argument for the abolition of the OMB. And if the province won't give us that — I say we secede from Ontario."
  9. Mike in TO

    Mike in TO Guest

    The reporting and comments in the article skew some facts about the OMB. The province delivered on promises to reform the OMB. Those changes came into effect on January 1st. However they were not retroactive - so that rules in place when the appeal to the OMB was made were the rules that were followed.

    The decision does not reflect the new OMB model (that's not the say the reformed OMB may not have come up with the same decision). This decision was made based on the rules that were in place prior to Bill 51 being proclaimed.
  10. valves007

    valves007 Guest

    Mayor condemns OMB ruling
    Miller, opponents of Queen West project mobilize for more battles over planning


    A provincial tribunal's green light for a high-rise project on Queen Street West -- over objections from city planners and local residents -- was roundly denounced yesterday by Mayor David Miller.

    "The decision is absolutely unacceptable," Mr. Miller said, pledging to "fight hard" for provincial government changes that would put the city clearly in charge of planning matters.

    His comments in yesterday's interview follow last week's ruling by the Ontario Municipal Board approving several residential towers (between 14 and 19 storeys) in a Victorian-era neighbourhood known for art galleries, low-rent studios and retail stores.

    Despite provincial changes to the OMB last year, the mayor said, the decision on the Queen West Triangle shows "we need more."

    He and area residents believe the OMB's decision flies in the face of shared city and provincial goals to promote Toronto as a magnet for the creative sector, including artists, entrepreneurs and others whose activities lend the city a sense of energy and creativity.

    These policy goals, the mayor said, "have to be made by a government, not an unelected tribunal."

    His comments came as a coalition of artists and others opposed to the development held a press conference at City Hall.

    "The OMB decision is a wake-up call for other neighbourhoods battling the same problem," said Jessica Wyman of Active 18, an association of residents and business owners advocating "sustainable development" on Queen Street West.

    "Resident associations need to be aware that in order to be heard in process of decision-making about planning, they have to be organized so that they can have party status at OMB," Ms. Wyman said.

    "The procedure is long and complicated -- community groups have to act early. We were slow in replying," she said.

    With this ruling, the area will see three condominium projects rise near Queen and Dufferin Streets. An estimated 1,500 new units will bring at least 2,000 new people to the area.

    The developers involved -- Verdiroc Development Corp. and Bohemian Embassy Residences Inc. -- did not respond to repeated phone messages yesterday.

    Another critical of the plan was Councillor Adam Giambrone, whose ward includes the Queen West Triangle. "Without meaningful reform of the OMB process, the Queen West Triangle decision will be replicated in other areas across the city," he said.
  11. adma

    adma Guest


    Reading Toronto contributor Ken Greenberg provided this image illustrating what kind of development the OMB's decision allows.

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007 (Toronto): At a press conference today at Toronto City Hall, members of the local residents’ group Active 18, Councilor Adam Giambrone, and architect and urban designer Ken Greenberg condemned the recent decision of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) to approve a “condo jungle†of developments on Queen St. West. The Queen West Triangle, as it is colloquially known, is a mixed use area in Toronto’s growing gallery district that currently contains the fifth largest concentration of artists in Canada (by postal code). Many of those artists live at 48 Abell Street, in a warehouse building now fated for demolition.

    Both the OMB and the City came under fire at the press conference. Active 18 member Charles Campbell, who represented the coalition before the OMB, noted “the unfortunate decision of the OMB should not be set up as an excuse by the City for its overall poor performance in this matter.†He pointed out that understaffing at the City Planning Department, delays in putting crucial planning documents in place, the failure to designate 48 Abell as a heritage building and the lateness of the City’s attempts to acquire parkland meant while the City had been effective in presenting planning evidence at the OMB, it was simply too late.

    “Something is broken here. Who’s in charge of city planning?†asked Ken Greenberg. “This decision could not make a more powerful argument for the abolition of the OMB and the creation of a more workable City Planning structure.†Greenberg noted that the OMB is a unique institution that distorts the entire planning process in Toronto - misallocating resources, sapping energy and producing consistently poor outcomes for Toronto citizens. He also stated that it was “hard to imagine that anything more could have been done by Active 18,†pointing out that the community had understood the need and opportunity for growth, consistently supported reasonable development in the Triangle area, and had spent hundreds of hours of volunteer time consulting with the community, noted professionals, and attempting to work with the developers and the City.

    Councilor Giambrone stated that the City has asked staff to prepare a report outlining any options for an appeal or next steps.

    The following prominent Toronto citizens join Active 18 and the City in expressing their dismay at the OMB decision and its ramifications for good planning and development:

    Alan Broadbent, Chairman and CEO, Avana Capital Corporation
    Stephen Bulger, Stephen Bulger Gallery
    Helen Burstyn, Chair, Ontario Trillium Foundation
    David Crombie, President and CEO, Canadian Urban Institute
    Diana Crosbie, President, Crosbie Communications
    Vera Frenkel, artist
    Jane Glassco, Trustee of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation
    Dean Goodman, Levitt-Goodman Architects
    Siamak Hariri, Hariri Pontarini Architects
    Janna Levitt, Levitt-Goodman Architects
    Catherine Nasmith, Architect, President - Architectural Conservancy of Ontario
    Paulette Phillips, Artist and Professor of Art at the Ontario College of Art and Design
    Jessica Rose, artist
    Sandra Shaul, Annex Residents’ Association
    Alex Spiegel, greendoors development inc
    Deanne Taylor, VideoCabaret
    Christina Zeidler, Gladstone Hotel
    Eberhard Zeidler, Zeidler Partnership Architects

    This list of names is growing and will be regularly updated on the Active 18 website.

    For more information, please see www.Active18.org or email press@active18.org
  12. EnviroTO

    EnviroTO Guest

    What ended up being approved on the other side of the tracks? At one point it was a couple of condos called Hi-Res.
  13. mark simpson

    mark simpson Guest

    not sure if it is approved just yet but one at 19 storeys and two at 9 storeys (with another midrise planned for the strip plaza on the NE corner of King & Dufferin)
  14. Query whether any of these worthies are willing to let "artists" live in their properties at less than market rents, or if they are only interested in requiring that others do so...
  15. Citywriter

    Citywriter Guest

    Oh, please. Every city that's worth living in has no trouble legislating a place for affordable housing -- including, specifically, for cultural workers.

    Besides, if you want to get all snippy about property rights, these new developments make a joke of the city zoning on those sites, past and present. The OMB decision represents a huge windfall into a few private hands. This is the glory of the free market?

    PS: In the case of the Zeidler family, the answer to that question is absolutely yes. And you don't suppose the presence of 401 Richmond has helped change Spadina and Queen a little bit?

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