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AlvinofDiaspar

Guest
From the Star:

A myopic fixation on height
Feb. 27, 2006. 07:53 AM
CHRISTOPHER HUME


The sun will shine on Toronto the day someone designs a tower that doesn't cast a shadow.

Until then, the good citizens of this city can be counted on to rise to the occasion whenever some hapless developer comes along with skyscrapers in mind.

Yes, there are places where tall buildings don't belong, but if the city is to grow, prosper and halt its painful slide into irrelevance, the only way to go is up. It's either that or continue to sprawl, a certain route to oblivion.

Not that any of this means a thing. Tomorrow at 7 p.m., Torontonians will take up the battle against development at Rosedale United Church, 159 Roxborough Dr.

On one side will be the local residents, many of them worked up into full lather, ready to do whatever's necessary to keep the area just as it is.

On the other side will be the developer, Woodcliffe Corp., which is proposing a 38-storey condo for the north side of Price St., steps east of Yonge, south of the old North Toronto train station, now the city's most popular and elegant LCBO.

In the middle will be a small army of city planners, nervously waiting to see who's left when the dust settles and where to take their cues.

Let's make it clear right now that a proposal isn't worthwhile simply because it's tall. At the same time, neither is it bad just because it's tall.

But this scheme makes sense, as much as anything, because of its height. What Woodcliffe is proposing is a complex that includes a new public square, restored heritage buildings and a tall, thin, tower sitting on top of a four-storey podium.

The plan's logic is by building high, space at grade is freed up for a public piazza. The new space would extend Scrivener Square south of the old station and out to Yonge St. It would also include the restoration of the "five thieves," the row of 19th-century red-brick buildings now occupied by food shops.

It's worth noting that Woodcliffe has gained an enviable reputation for its commitment to architectural excellence and heritage preservation, largely on the basis of its restoration of the 1916 station, a beaux-arts beauty that was neglected for decades.

In addition to its meticulous, award-winning renewal of the station, the firm also transformed the former parking lot in front of it into Scrivener Square, which has improved the area hugely.

But the truth is that the tower will cast a shadow over the neighbourhood. That can't be denied.

(Good thing no one worried about that when the CN Tower was built.)

On the other hand, one should remember that Woodcliffe could construct a seven-storey slab as of right. That would eliminate any possibility of new public space and would contribute less at street level.

Most important, perhaps, is that the scheme is in keeping with the intentions of Toronto's official plan, which envisions highrise development along the city's main arteries and transportation routes. Price St., just blocks from two subway stations, is the sort of location the creators of the plan had in mind.

But if tomorrow's meeting goes according to form, the focus will be almost entirely on height — only one factor among many. Surely the more important questions are how the proposed building meets the street, what it brings to the urban realm and the quality of its design.

Too bad Torontonians aren't as fixated on the city as they are on their small part of it.

We'd all profit enormously.

Instead we have a stop-growth-at-any-cost mentality that leads to struggles like the one over the dedicated streetcar lane on St. Clair Ave. W., a nasty and expensive example of a city barely in control.

At some point, Toronto will have to grow up, in more ways than one.

AoD
 
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alklay

Guest
I don't buy that Toronto has a ways before it "grows up." Even New York city has groups come out against height with almost every development....and that city is a forest of skyscrapers. I think NIMBYism is just a natural occurance with most homeowners and is not unique to Toronto or a reflection of our provincialism.
 
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fiendishlibrarian

Guest
I don't know, 38 stories is a bit tall for that area. If it was closer to either Bloor or St. Clair, I'd agree that it wouldn't be a problem. Sounds like the developer is deliberately highballing the city, probably to get something in the 15-25 storey range.
 
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Antiloop33rpm

Guest
Just another standard NIMBY story. Developer proposes tall building. Local community cries bear. Meetings take place. Voices are raised. Articles are written. Hyperbole becomes standard. A middle ground is reached. The tower is built. Life goes on. Nobody learns anything.

Ill agree with Alkay that NIMBYism is not just a Toronto phenomenom. Every city has NIMBY's in all parts of North America and Europe. Nor are they a bad thing in many cases. They do offer a chance to engage the public in debate about how a city grows and the issues that surround it and concerns over shadows and impacts a new tower may have on a neighborhood are valid and worth debating. It might be frustrating to see the same lame voices project after project however you could also see a day where developers buildings that are more suitable to the context in which they are being built and community groups with a broadened view of the city as a whole.
 
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alklay

Guest
And yes, I agree with both of you, namely that 38 stories does seem high for the area (this should really be intensification in the 'avenues' mode, not the 'transportation hub' mode, which is really where a 38 story building is appropriate) and that NIMBY's sometimes serve a very useful purpose (heck, they killed the ROM project and probably made One Bedford a better project).

Its just too bad that the article forcused on a black and white battle, when in fact the issues are a little more complex (but I guess we are talking about the Toronto Star here, so my expectations should be lower ;) ).
 
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interchange42

Guest
Hume did not state whether they are going after the same total space that they are already allowed to build on 7 floors spread more thinly over 38 (less than a fifth of the area required) or whether they are looking for more of that too.

And yes, it does seem like a crazy high number of floors, and yes it looks like they're angling for a still high compromise. They can go to the neighbourhood in a bit and say - give us 25 floors and we'll still give you a better square, restored heritage buildings, and they'll look like local heroes (to some).

We haven't seen any line drawings, let alone renderings for this one yet, have we, and neither do we know he architects hired? I'm wondering if in the middle of this tony area they'll go big-name to try to impress the locals...

I'll be impressed if they do.

This one should be fun to watch.

42
 
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Observer Walt

Guest
^ "painful slide" ...
Hume is always worth reading, and he cares about the city. Too bad his excesive hyperbole and almost-panicked style often detracts from the valid points he has.
 
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unimaginative2

Guest
Actually, I think NIMBYism is a sign of a grown-up city. New York, Paris, and London among other great cities are rife with them.

While they did an amazing job on the old train station, some of the buildings around it are precast-o-ramas. Will the new condo keep the five thieves, or just their buildings? They'd be crazy to let them go...
 
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WhistlerinToronto

Guest
There will be a point when even low rise neighbourhoods will have to be willing to change to keep up with the growth of the city. I think we've reached that point already where many others still feel we have room to move. This may be a tall tower in a low rise area, but it's on our cities busiest urban artery. This is smart growth, and though it may piss off some it is for the better. The way I see it is everytime we get another highrise in the city we save 25 acres of rich farmland. Not to mention infusing more tax dollars into the core, and hopefully removing a few cars from our congested streets. I just don't get these people who live downtown but expect to have highrise developments spring up around them.

For once I agree fully with Hume.
 
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mark simpson

Guest
I don't see how building a 38 storey tower in a low-rise neighbourhood (not that this one necessarily is) is all that smart or necessary. I'd oppose it in my low-rise neighbourhood which is currently undergoing intensification without the aid of highrises
 
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The Burgher of TO

Guest
i'd actually rather see midrise at that location. something with a solid wall, no setbacks, to give the southern edge of scrivener square some real definitionn
 
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WhistlerinToronto

Guest
One day the CBD will be considered a low rise historical neighbourhood and the residents in Sapphire will be complaining about shadows. You never know. Just my stupid two cents.
 
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Mike in TO

Guest
CFTO News last night ran a segment on the project. It mostly included comments from neighbourhood residents and clips from the public meeting - it sounded like a very hostile meeting.

The developer complained to the reporter that everyone was focused exclussively on height and height alone and the developer was unable to discuss or present other aspects of the proposal such as the public square, heritage restoration and other amenities.

There was also a rendering shown... it's hard to describe, but it had a tapered look to it as the height increased. Seemed rather ho-hum to me, but as I said it wasn't a very clear image and the camera's weren't focused on it behind people speaking with reporters.

While I agree that the height is out of context with the area, having been to a couple of public meetings like this I think it is terribly unfortunate that the focus is always 98% on the height and that very vocal residents usually don't let the proponent speak without heckling them constantly. It is terribly rude and unprofessional and there is not really an opportunity to understand any aspects of what is actually being proposed when the focus is entirely on the hieght of the proposal with people yelling at the developer when they are trying to speak.
 
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urbanboyto

Guest
The tower doesn't look too bad. and this is right near downtown correct?

I understand this is a lower rise neighbourhood but they ARE near yonge and the subway. Also would they prefer a 15 storey thick imposing slab so they don't have to deal with the illusory evils of height? That would cause far worse shadows.

I saw the report on the meeting on CFTO news last night and I thought it was funny that the reported kept calling the development a "MEGA-tower". They never refered to it as anything else. So much for balanced reporting. Since when is 38 storeys a "mega" tower?
 

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