With fewer parking lots and other easier-to-develop sites available in Toronto, developers are increasingly proposing tearing down smaller existing rental buildings to replace them with much denser types of housing — and that’s exactly what Pinedale Properties is vying to do at 137 and 141 Isabella St., in the St. James Town neighbourhood.

In an application submitted to the City last month, the developer proposes demolishing the Mid-Town Apartments, a seven-storey, 61-unit purpose-built apartment building at 137 Isabella, and a neighbouring detached home and putting up a single 69-storey tower with 823 dwellings at the site. If the proposal gets the go-ahead, the existing rental units would be replaced, as per city policy. These units would be located between the fourth and sixth floors of the podium as well as on the eighth and ninth levels above. A project data form filed with the application identifies the remaining 762 units as condos. “All existing tenants will be fairly compensated and will be allowed the right of return into the new building,” reads a statement from the Pinedale. “While the development is in its early stages, Pinedale is excited to bring new, livable spaces to a Major Transit Station Area of our growing city.”

Of the units labeled as condos, the lion’s share are one-bedroom suites (411), followed by bachelor units (150), two-bedrooms (120), and three-bedrooms (81). Some 2,337 sq. m of space has been set aside for indoor amenities, with an additional 936 sq. m for outdoor features.

Being located less than 800 m from three subway stations (Sherbourne, Wellesley, and Yonge-Bloor) and several bus routes, the project has limited car parking (23 spots) and heavily favours bicycle parking (918 spots). “The area is very well-served with rapid public transportation routes,” reads the planning rationale report submitted with the application. The document also notes that high-rise towers are already present nearby, suggesting the building wouldn’t be out of place. “The subject site is within walking distance to existing surface and rapid transit and is located in a part of the City where tall, dense buildings exist, are approved, and where additional significant growth is expected.”

One need not look far to find a similar rental-demolition proposal. Immediately to the west of the Pinedale site, at 135 Isabella, developer KingSett Capital submitted a revised application last month to construct another 69-storey tower with 814 units, replacing an 80-unit nine-storey rental building (all rentals would also be replaced on-site). The original proposal, submitted last year, was for 770 residences at the same height.

The infill trend of knocking down older rentals for glossy new condos extends far beyond the immediate neighbourhood. From Jan. 31, 2017, to Oct. 11, 2023, a total of 4,392 units across 100 existing buildings in Toronto were greenlit for demolition, according to Investigative Journalism Foundation analysis of City data. Some tenant advocates warn that these projects result in demovictions — or demolition-driven evictions — although they do undeniably add to the city’s housing supply.

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