Labour Day and summer vacations have passed for another year and workers are returning to their desks at development firms across the GTA. At many of those firms, a brighter glow will be filling the space as a long list of projects were green-lighted by Toronto City Council last week.

In the last meeting of this term of Toronto City Council, many development applications from across the city were considered and approved, while others were rejected. The rush was on to clear as many projects as possible before the long wait for January 2015—the first City Council meeting of the new term—and the next chance for approvals.

156 Front West is the tallest of the projects approved by Toronto City Council156 Front West is the tallest of the projects approved at Toronto City Council's August meeting, image courtesy of Cadillac Fairview

Reports in the media have variously referred to 18 buildings approved in central Toronto representing 755 new storeys, 7,000 new condominium units, and $21 billion worth of development that will be going into the air, including three new office towers. It has been difficult to know who is counting which projects to compile the stats for each story, so here is as thorough a list as we have been able to put together, ignoring new townhouse developments.

The newly approved office, condo, or mixed-use buildings—from tallest to shortest—are:

  1. 156 Front St W, Cadillac Fairview, 54s, 265m, 869ft, commercial
  2. Union Centre, Allied REIT, 48s, 238m, 782ft, commercial + Skywalk to be replaced
  3. 50 Bloor St W, Morguard, 71s, 230m, 755ft, retail, residential
  4. 27-37 Yorkville, Minto, 62 + 40s, 215 + 142.5m, 706 + 468ft, residential above a commercial podium
  5. Wellesley on the Park, Lanterra, 60s, 194.1m, 637ft, residential + commercial base
  6. 481 University Ave, Davpart, 55s, 184.5m, 605ft, commercial podium with residential tower above
  7. Casa III, Cresford, 55s, 179m, 589ft, residential with commercial podium on Hayden St
  8. Yonge + Rich, Great Gulf, 45s, 154m, 505ft, residential, to be ratified by the OMB
  9. IQ Condos Phase 3, Remington, 19 + 27 + 42s, 70 + 95.2 + 140.2m, 230 + 313 + 460ft, residential
  10. 70 St. Mary St, Loretto Sisters, 40s, 132.5m, 435ft, residential
  11. 57 Spadina Ave, Diamondcorp, 36s, 123.25m, 404ft, residential, commercial on lowest floors
  12. 155 Redpath Ave, Freed/CD, 34s, 120.5m, 395 ft, residential
  13. Ryerson Residence at 186-188 Jarvis St, 30s, 97.6m, 320ft, residential
  14. Gloss Condos (324-328 Richmond St W), Greenpark, 25s, 85.8m, 281ft, residential
  15. Montgomery Square (2384 Yonge St), Rockport, 27s, 79.9m, 262ft, residential with retail base, parkette
  16. 1465 Lawrence Ave W, 19s, 60m, 197ft, residential
  17. The 228 Condos (228 Wilson Ave), Kartelle, 17s, 57m, 187ft, residential
  18. 1340-1360 Danforth Rd, 18s, 52m, 171 ft, new residential condo added amongst 3 rental towers 
  19. 231-237 College, ShiuPong, 17s, 52m, 171ft, residential
  20. 489-499 King St W, Allied REIT, 12s, 48m, 157ft, commercial offices
  21. 89-109 Niagara St, Jerudan, 14 + 12s, 45.3 + 39.3m, 149 + 129ft, residential live-work
  22. 57-63 Finch Av West, 4s, 13m, 42ft, residential

The City's green light for these projects does not mean that shovels will be going in the ground tomorrow, or that these buildings will be going up for certain: it means that the zoning for the site has been changed to allow for a project of its particular scope to proceed. To fulfill City requirements, most proposals still lack Site Plan Approval, and all will need their building permits. Before developers seek the permits however, in most cases they must still 'sell' their building, whether it be to buyers of individual condominiums units, or to lead tenants for new office towers. In some cases, the condo units sales are already under way, while for others the marketing has not even started.

Projects were approved across Toronto, like The Remington Group's IQ Condos Ph 3Projects were approved across Toronto, like The Remington Group's IQ Condos Phase 3 in Etobicoke

Besides the zoning approvals noted above, there was another possible response to applications, and for many of these that the City has or has had issues with, the City will be attending hearings at the Ontario Municipal Board, a provincial body which adjudicates disputes over whether development proposals represent good planning or not. For several projects, the City will send representatives to the OMB, sometimes to support, but more often to oppose proposals in their current form.

Where the City is supporting a project at the OMB, a deal between the City and the developer has been worked out, in part or in full, in the time since the hearing was first scheduled. The chief example of this is—pending final details being worked out—the City now supports a three-tower and mall project for 2135 Sheppard Avenue East at Consumers Road called Imperial Square. The floor count of the towers here have come down to 43, 34, and 26 storeys from slightly higher original counts. With shorter shadows now, people living in the low-rise neighbourhoods to the north of Imperial Square will be less impacted by the new development.

In another case which the City will support at the OMB, a 9-storey residential project at 719 Sheppard Avenue West will only get the City blessing once sanitary sewer capacity in the area has been expanded. We do see questions on UrbanToronto's Forum threads whether or not the City takes all the servicing impacts into account when the new projects go up, and this is a tangible 'yes' to answer that question.

Montgomery Square will preserve a heritage building and improve a park, TorontoMontgomery Square will preserve a heritage building and improve a public meeting place, image courtesy of the Rockport Group

Of course, more often than not when the City appears at the OMB, it is to oppose projects. This happens for a number of reasons.

For a few projects presented at August's City Council, the City's rejection stems from a policy to not rezone employment areas to residential. This includes a proposal to redevelop a site at 440 Dufferin Street north of Queen which would add condominiums to a property is currently zoned only for employment uses. Similarly, proposals at 743 Warden Avenue and 1001 Ellesmere Avenue are being opposed because they would deplete the City's zoned employment lands somewhat.

'Overdevelopment' is another reason the City goes to the OMB, the term meaning that the City considers the proposed densities and/or height of the new development to be excessive for the site, and likely to negatively impact adjacent properties. A project at 604 through 618 Richmond Street, marketed as The Harlowe, is heading to the OMB because the City feels that its 14-storey plan represents an overdevelopment of this site. A plan for a 9-storey Avenues style building is also being opposed at 2265 Bloor Street West as is a 12-storey condo dubbed Lotus at 577 Sheppard West and a 10-storey condo at 591-593 Sheppard Avenue East, all for similar reasons. As is obvious from that list, there is no one number of storeys at which the City objects. Once at the OMB, it is up to the City to prove that its concerns are justifiable, and up to the developer to convince that the proposal actually does constitute good planning.

The City will also go to the OMB to oppose the conversion of rental units to condominiums, as the City has a policy to maintain and grow Toronto's stock of rental units. Another reason to go can also be to protect important examples of Toronto's architectural heritage when officially recognized buildings are threatened. One case includes both of those concerns, and The City will oppose at the OMB the conversion of the Heritage designated Garden Court Apartments at 1477 Bayview Avenue into a condo complex. While the developer does not plan to tear down the buildings, the City has a list of issues with the proposal.

A new park on Wellesley west of Yonge will be built as part of Lanterra projectsA new park on Wellesley west of Yonge will be built as part of Lanterra projects in the area, image courtesy of Lanterra Developments

Beyond the larger projects considered above, many more townhouse projects were considered, some passing, some being rejected. Few new rezoning applications were presented for single family homes, although detached homes do not typically require zoning amendments to be built.

Projects that don't fit into the office, condo, or a mixed of those categories were also cleared.

As was already reported on UrbanToronto, the first of the development proposals to pass at this Council meeting was that for the new High Performance Basketball Development and Training Centre at the west end of Exhibition Place. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will build a $30 Million new facility for the use of the Toronto Raptors basketball team as well as for the public.

Council, at the urging of TTC brass, approved the construction of the McNicoll Bus Garage in northern Scarborough. While a number of councillors and locals opposed the project—mostly for it being close to residential which had been approved in an area otherwise zoned as heavy industrial—it was made clear to enough of council that the TTC's growing bus fleet had a dire need for the new facility, and that time had run out to identify any other sites. This was a big win for transit.

Besides new places to live and work, new places to play were also considered.

A decision to buy parkland was made as part of the new park to go in beside Lanterra's Wellesley on the Park. The assmebly of land there was a complicated one, with three portions of the land representing the park space required for three Lanterra condo projects—The Britt, Wellesley on the Park, and 501 Yonge—all within a block of the site. The City is using money collected from the cash-in-lieu fund which other local developments have paid into, a requirement of the City to developers when they do not allocate new park space on their own site.

Other parks or park expansions are coming together at a number of other projects progressing through the development application review process.

Finally, there remain other development related decisions which are not entirely clear from a reading of the Council material online at this time. Of course, UrbanToronto will report on any further significant news when the outcome is made clearer.