Just a few months after they were first proposed, plans to bring a 17-storey condo and rental building to a site directly across from Toronto’s High Park have been put on ice. This is following the latest City Council deliberations, which wrapped up last week and saw Council issued a formal refusal barring the development from moving forward at 1930-1938 Bloor Street West, and 3, 5, and 21 Quebec Avenue based on a recommendation provided by Toronto and East York community planning staff.

A decision report dated April 19, 2024, and prepared by the Director of Community Planning for Toronto and East York, Carly Bowman, explained that “the application in its current form is not supportable” and “does not meet Official Plan policies in terms of public realm and built form.”

Bowman’s recommendation for refusal was considered by the Toronto and East York Community Council on May 7, 2024, and was thereafter adopted — a move that ensured that City Council would be considering it at their May meeting. Before Council, the refusal was adopted “without amendments and without debate.”

high park torontoDepiction of the subject site at 1930-1938 Bloor Street West, and 3, 5, and 21 Quebec Avenue. (WND Associates)

Backlash From The Start

The proposal in question comes from Clifton Blake: a Toronto-based real estate asset management firm that, on another note, announced an integration with Wilkinson Construction to form CB Wilkinson on Tuesday.

Clifton Blake’s plans — filed with the City at the end of February — involved bringing a 17-storey, 62-metre mixed-use high-rise with 144 residential units to the site. That latter figure was broken down into 132 new condo units and 12 replacement rental units.

It wasn’t long after the development plans became public that members of the community began to vocalize their concerns. The High Park Tenants’ Association (HPTA), for one, published an update on April 18, 2024, underlining that the proposed development goes against guidelines of the Bloor West Village Avenue Study, which limits heights on Bloor to a maximum of eight storeys, from Clendenan Avenue to Keele Street.

This was one of the main concerns aired at a virtual community consultation that was held on April 30, 2024, and attended by Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks, who is also the current chair of the Planning and Housing Committee, City Planner Kishmita Arora, other City representatives, Clifton Blake, and the planning firm that prepared Clifton Blake’s proposal: WND Associates.

During that meeting, and also in an interview with STOREYS on May 16, 2024, Councillor Perks expressed that the HPTA did in fact have a point. In addition to the fact that the proposed development exceeded the maximum height from the Bloor West Village Avenue Study, the building was planned to be setback six or six-and-a-half metres, when the recommendation is nine metres to maintain the “generous” sidewalks along Bloor.

“And the other [guideline] is, and this is particular to the area near High Park, to maintain when buildings get taller to make them narrower, so we maintain views into the park,” Perk added.

But even beyond that, Perks emphasized what Bowman did in her April 19 report, noting that the proposal disagreed with broader city planning rules for mid- versus high-rise typology. “[The developer wants] mid-rise width, tall building height,” he said. “And the thing about planning, you know, the reason that we don't just let people build anything anywhere, is buildings have impacts on each other and on the larger community. And what we try to do is encourage growth in a way that those impacts are positive. The proposal would have negative impacts.”

City Staff Open To Resubmission

Despite the plethora of concerns about how the proposed development would affect the character of the neighbourhood, traffic, pedestrian safety, and the ecology of High Park — which is recognized as “one of the most environmentally significant areas” in the city, with approximately two-thirds currently “in a natural state” — WND President Andrew Ferancik raised what many would regard as a valid point at the April 30 community consultation.

“The amount of housing that [the proposed] can deliver... is more than a lower building. And I think that needs to be said, just given the focus that there is in the media these days, and the city wants to build 1.5 million new homes in seven years,” Ferancik said. “If it can’t be right next to a subway station, to some degree, I think we have to reevaluate the policy.”

Although that point alone clearly wasn’t enough for city staff to disregard area-specific and city-wide planning policies, it’s one that certainly hasn’t been lost on Councillor Perks, who told STOREYS that he would be on board with a resubmission from Clifton Blake in the future.

“I think that there's a perfectly good case to be made for a new building going there. I think it's a great site for a new building,” he said. “It just requires that the developers... follow the rules of good planning.”

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