BWVRA Presentation to Community Council

To: Etobicoke York Community Council
From: Bloor West Village Residents Association (BWVRA)
Steve McNally
Date: April 4, 2006

RE: 2442 Bloor Street West – File: 03 198594 WHY 13 OZ

Mr/Madam Chair and Members of Council:

I appear tonight on behalf of the Executive of the Bloor West Village Residents Association, several of whom are here this evening.

The BWVRA has been deeply involved in the Humber Odeon proposal since our group was officially formed just over a year ago.

Ours is not a protest group, but individuals who have sought from the beginning to engage constructively in the planning process.

We recognize the site as a landmark location being a terminal viewpoint and anchor within the “Village”. As a result, we have great concern about the built form to ensure it is a structure that befits the prominent place it will have.

We attended all four public information meetings, making presentation at two. We initiated our own meetings with Councillor Saundercook, and met with the developer and his architect. We met with Planner Ed Murphy and members of the Urban Design team from his department.

We also consulted the Office for Urbanism, a private urban design firm. The firm developed several design proposals aimed at making this building more acceptable to the community – work the firm carried out without charge.

Changes we have advocated include:

1. Stepping the building further back from Bloor Street to soften its presence on the street.
2. Stepping the building back from the side lot lines in order to permit windows, decks or balconies to replace the blank side walls that will be visible for hundreds of meters in both directions on Bloor.
3. Creating architectural elements on the roof, or landmark rooftop landscaping, to provide a distinguishing feature.

Our goal was to uphold the principles of the Bloor West Village Urban Design Study, which is referred to by the Planning Department in its report to you.

What Planning does not mention is that the Study was commissioned, and largely funded by, the City. It was a direct response to the initial application to build this site up well beyond the zoning allowance. The Study clearly identifies this as a landmark location on Bloor Street, and one that dominates the sight lines through the Bloor West Village. In recognition of that, it sets out criteria for the height and stature of future development of the property.

At public information meetings the developer was asked to refer to these guidelines while revising his plans. At one meeting Councillor asked him to respond to the Study and deal with how his proposals were or were not in compliance with its guidelines. To our knowledge this has never been done.

Despite the near unanimous dissatisfaction expressed by residents at all four public meetings, the developer has not made, nor been compelled by the City to make, fundamental changes related to height, massing and design.

Lip service has been paid to the Study’s clear recommendation that this site merits a landmark development that acts as a gateway to the Village avenue.

Though the Planners and the Councillor point to what they consider to be “concessions” by the developer, this has been a process of tinkering.

Materials have been changed, as have some aspects of the upper floors and side walls.

But, the project before you remains a block building, built lot line to lot line, dominating Bloor Street with large blank side walls that will inspire nobody, save for those whose job is to find space for billboards.

The tinkering process has eaten up precious time, so regrettably we are not here raising the bar and helping to secure the future of Bloor West Village. We’re here trying to avoid having the developer go to the OMB.

We urge you to take up the challenge of preventing this building from becoming a “despised landmark” that memorializes the dying days of our flawed development process.

The Bloor West Village Residents Association asks that you:

1. Require the developer to increase side wall elements, by using either false glass, mosaics, murals, or some other method of articulation to provide relief from the blank walls.

2. Attach to the title of the building, through whatever means, a prohibition on the carrying of advertising on the side walls.

3. Require the applicant to provide Section 37 funds for street level community space, such as improved street trees, plantings and upgraded boulevard treatment at this site; provide improvements to the TTC facilities at Jane and Bloor; provide TTC passes to the building’s unit buyers (transferable with ownership).

4. Attach a restriction to the title that prevents the building being converted from condominium to rental accommodation.

5, Require the applicant to consult with the Arbor Memorial Society, owners of the adjacent building to the northeast, on integrating the designs of the two buildings when Arbor Memorial undertakes roof repair and enhancement work, in the near future.

6. In the absence of an Avenue Study for Bloor West, that you require City Planning to adopt the Bloor West Village Urban Design Study, with a view to granting its principals official status in the consideration of future applications.

In closing, we have been badly disappointed with this process. However, we would be remiss if we failed to recognize that Councillor Saundercook’s door has always been open to us and others from the community, and to acknowledge that Planner Ed Murphy and other Planning staff have been generous with their time. For that we thank them.