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2150 Lake Shore – inside a City of Toronto Community Planning Meeting

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2150 Lake Shore – inside a City of Toronto Community Planning Meeting

Surely you’ve seen the signs, both literal and figurative: Dormant land sites, hoarding (those often drab and unattractive boards that go up to surround a property), and the most obvious sign of all – a placard from the City of Toronto alerting the public that a development proposal has been submitted to the planning department.

If you live in the affected area, used to frequent a now-shuttered business or otherwise take a particular interest in such possible developments, you may wonder: What’s happening? What are they building here? Who’s behind it? How will it impact the neighbourhood?

Well, do yourself a favour and attend one of these Community Planning Meetings. They’re open to the public, and if you live in or near the affected area, you’re likely to receive an official invitation from the City.

These are the meetings where the public has the opportunity voice their concern or opposition, ask questions, view development plans and actually see what the plan is, who’s behind it and how it will change the area.

In short, it’s democracy and process on display. Literally, city planning in the works, that residents can be a part of.

It’s also a reminder of why this part of the approval process can take time. A lot of time.

Christie’s bakery site

We recently attended one such meeting for the former Christie’s bakery site at Lake Shore and Park Lawn in South Etobicoke. It’s a high-profile parcel of land for many reasons:

  • Its size – 28 acres (in other words, massive).
  • Its history – the former site of the famous Christie’s bread factory, which operated from 1948 to 2013, employing hundreds of workers.
  • The location – the land to the immediate south, the former Lake Shore motel strip, has been under development for years, with about two dozen condos, shops and other amenities going up, revitalizing the Humber Bay Shores community.
  • The plan – an earlier development proposal submitted to the City, which called for dozens more condominiums, raising some concern from residents for over development, worsening already-difficult traffic and transit issues, and generally that it’s all too much, too big, too fast.

2150 Lake Shore

All of this leads us to today, and land owner First Capital Realty’s latest proposal to develop the site, now known, at least temporarily, as 2150 Lake Shore.

First Capital Realty purchased the site at in 2016 from previous owner, Mondelez, and inherited an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board around employment use of the site.

First Capital envisions a thriving, connected mixed-use community, with high-quality urban design that considers present and future community needs, including the potential for a new transit hub.

First Capital Realty initiated formal engagement with the City in January 2017, resulting in a settlement in July 2019, to convert the majority of the site to a Regeneration Area. This would allow for a mix of uses, such as retail, residential and employment through the City’s Secondary Plan process. The settlement allowed First Capital Realty to begin the planning process on the vision for a mixed-use development.

Meanwhile, in 2018 First Capital Realty hosted “idea fairs” to discuss its vision with the community, and “allow attendees to share ideas around re-imagining 2150 Lake Shore as the new dynamic heart of Humber Bay Shores.”

A long-term Secondary Plan process has begun, led by the City, including a number of community engagement sessions – including the one in mid-November we attended, and in October – that is expected to take three to five years.

On Oct. 21, 2019, First Capital officially submitted an Official Plan Application to the City, and says it is committed to ensuring “high stakeholder engagement with more community initiatives to follow in the coming months.’

Ambitious development

The company’s proposal includes seven million sq. ft. of density comprised of one million sq. ft. of retail, office and service-based uses and six million sq. ft. of residential. More than 25 per cent of the site has been dedicated to parks and open community gathering areas. The proposal also includes a new GO Station, TTC bus and streetcar service on-site and a significant investment in road infrastructure, together forming a much-needed transit hub.

“The conversion of the development site to allow for a mixed-use, transit-oriented development represents a critical milestone for our vision of revitalizing this significant property,” says Adam Paul, president and CEO of First Capital.

Humber Bay Shores has experienced above average growth in population density and household income, highlighted by a 65-per-cent increase in the local population since 2011 with above average growth expected over the foreseeable future, according to the company. Currently, there are approximately 270,000 people within five kms of the site, with an estimated average household income of $114,000.

Proposed preliminary plans include:

  • Integrated Park Lawn GO/TTC station
  • Improved road, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to mitigate traffic concerns and create greater connectivity
  • One million sq. ft. of new retail, restaurants, neighbourhood services, office and commercial opportunities
  • Six million sq. ft. of residential, offering a range of housing options
  • More than 25 per cent of the site dedicated to parks and open spaces
  • A Market Hall and covered retail Galleria – a primary gathering space connecting people to places
  • Up to 3,500 new jobs, creating new opportunities for residents to work closer to home

Attending a Community Planning Meeting is an eye-opener. Regardless of whether you have a vested interest, this is where city planning plays out before your very eyes.

In the mid-November meeting for 2150 Lake Shore, hundreds of people packed the room, and you could feel some nervous tension. Moving about the various stations set up to explain First Capital’s plan during the open house portion, more than a dozen City planning staff were on hand to answer questions.

No matter what local residents may have read or heard, these meetings are where they can see the plans, visually understand how the community could change, what it might look like, envision where the new public spaces and amenities will be, and imagine where traffic bottlenecks might result.

When they see that First Capital proposes to build 15 new residential and office towers, from 22 to 71 storeys – yes, with new parks and public spaces and employment, but also as many as 13,000 new residents to the area – people tend to react emotionally.

The conversations were often tense, testing the planners’ patience.

“There’s never enough public parking,” was a common concern. “Make sure they include enough visitor parking for these buildings so street parking doesn’t become a nightmare.”

“And traffic,” was another. “This road here needs to be widened so it doesn’t become a bottleneck.”

Others, more quietly – prospective buyers, investors and realtors – absorb the information for their own purposes.

Through it all, to their credit, City planning staff (outside of the occasional deep breath and slight smile) barely skip a beat, focusing on the project, noting the feedback, making sure people were heard.

Following brief comments from Mark Grimes, City Councillor for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and presentations from City Planner Sabrina Salatino and representatives from First Capital and others, it was back to the open house. More questions, more dialogue, more feedback – with which the City or First Capital may amend the proposal.

That’s city planning, and watching it all unfold is fascinating. We’re going to keep our eye on this one.

2150lakeshore.com

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