There’s quite a fun piece in the Globe and Mail on three couples who have moved into the city from the suburbs: Turning their backs on suburbia (it will vanish behind the Globe’s paywall after a week or two, so read now!).

The O’Haras, who gave up their big house, big commute, pool and yard in suburban Caledon, Ont., for a more compact house and lifestyle in Bloor West Village, admit to being astonished by the congeniality of city neighbours compared with those they left behind.

“I thought people in the city would be more into their own thing,” says Mr. O’Hara. “It’s the very opposite to what I thought it would be.”

“You buy the lifestyle here,” says Ms. O’Hara. “This neighbourhood has a huge sense of community that we were unable to find in suburbia.”

A big welcome to all the families in the story: the O’Haras; Diana Hatzepetros, David Middleton and family, also in Bloor West Village; and Tom Poldre, Jane Lawton and family in Baby Point.

Below is an article based on a CBC Toronto radio report from December 2007. It refers to a type of neighbourhood planning that is aimed at protecting residents from nasty surprises from developers. The report, and the actions of the Annex residents, should remind us that the Bloor West Village already has such a plan. It is called the BWV Urban Design Study 2005. It was carried out by the same authors quoted in the story below.

You can view a copy under “Links” on our homepage.

What is important to note is that this document has not been adopted by the City Planning Department. So, it does not have the force of law and would have limited value before the Ontario Municipal Board, which tends to be highly sympathetic to developers.

It is the goal of the BWVRA to press the City to adopt the Urban Design Study so that it can do what it was designed to do: provide a balanced plan and guidelines for any proposed development in the Bloor West Village.


Developers in Toronto are eyeing one of the great avenues of the city, which they say is ripe for change.  But before the construction crews can move in, residents want to have their say on how the street will be redeveloped.
The stretch of Bloor Street West, from the Royal Ontario Museum at the corner of Avenue Road, west to Bathurst Street, is poised for change — and residents know it. 
Small, low density buildings, street-front stores and lots of pedestrian traffic mark the area right now.
Residents understand that the area will change, but they want to make sure any changes keep the feel of the neighbourhood.
At a public meeting this week, residents, urban planners and city officials presented a vision for the future of Bloor Street, before any developers start making their own proposals.
Jennifer Keesmaat, an urban planner who was hired by city hall to help the residents, says she wants to attempt to define what people want before a developer walks in and shocks the neighbourhood with a proposal for a 50-storey tower.
Keesmaat says developers she’s spoken with actually like the plan. 
“They, in fact, are very excited about the clarity that has emerged because they know they can now come forward with a proposal, and they have a sense of whether there’s going to be support, or what the response is going to be,” she said.
The vision that emerged for Bloor Street is to reject very tall condo towers, but to allow buildings that are six to eight storeys.
Mimi Fullerton, with the Annex Residents Association, says it’s about sensible development.
“It’s a change, perhaps a shift, in the way we will be planning in the future, and I think a welcome shift. It’s been too much done on a remote basis, the neighbourhoods are an afterthought,” she said.
The plan would also put an emphasis on pedestrians.
It proposes to take out a lane of traffic on Bloor, along with some parking, in order to widen sidewalks. The plan calls for trees and a public square.
Annex resident Robert Brown says the plan will help prevent conflict.
“It adds a degree of certainty to the developers in that they know what the expectations of the neighbourhood are,” he said.
The hope is that developers will embrace the clear vision of the street and will tailor their proposals to it, instead of shocking the neighbourhood with a proposal for a giant tower.
The attempt by the community to guide development is new and it’s not known whether it will actually work. But if it does, many predict it will be copied by neighbourhoods all over Toronto. CBC News Toronto

The view from your Bloor West Village Residents Association

By Gregory Hamara, Chair, and Steve McNally, Communications Coordinator, on behalf of the Executive of the BWVRA

The Bloor West Village community is getting a building almost nobody wanted on the site of the old Humber Odeon theatre.

How is this possible after two years of thoughtful and restrained opposition by residents west of Jane Street and the BWVRA representing residents east of Jane, four community meetings and a clutch of private ones – including face-to-face meetings with the developer, architects, bureaucrats, and elected officials?

Read More

As you may know on April 4, 2006 the Etobicoke-York Community Council rejected a re-zoning request for construction of a 10-storey condo tower at Jane and Bloor on the site of the old Humber Odeon theatre. (see our previous posts & Villager April 7th)

This is not a final and binding decision and the developer may try to have it overturned by the full Toronto City Council on April 25th, arguing that the Ontario Municipal Board will eventually reverse the decision of Community Council.

The fate of the Humber Odeon site could be very important to the future development of Bloor West Village in ways that may not be readily apparent, especially to those who do not live near the property.

What is the big deal?

There are no 10-storey buildings in the Bloor West Village. This would set a precedent. Current zoning, and the Official Plan, say the limit should be 5-storeys. This height limit is designed to help retain the human scale of the Village.

If this exception is allowed, the precedent poses a risk. If 10-storeys is okay on a narrow site with houses close behind it, why not 20 storeys on a big open site like the No Frills grocery store site? There are several other sites in the Village that could be targeted for similar over-development.

Isn’t there a plan for future growth?

Yes — and no. There is the Toronto Official Plan, but it is very general and is constantly amended for specific projects like this one. Hence the significance of precedents.

Plans that are specific to a neighbourhood (and less readily changed) are called “Avenue Studies” – and none has been done for the Bloor West Village, yet. We need an Avenue Study to avoid the hodge-podge development that has plagued much of Toronto.

What’s wrong with this proposal?

Criticism has been broad but it boils down to this:

The community (and several Etobicoke York Community Councillors) says it’s a mundane and unattractive block tower with blank side walls that will dominate the view of Bloor West Village from all directions. You can see the big yellow billboard on it now from High Park. There’s also the issue of precedent and what this proposed development might mean to the future of our Village.

Residents near the site say 10 storeys is too high and, at three levels of retail and seven levels of condos, the proposed development would make the Jane and Bloor traffic problems worse.

What should residents do?

The City will likely be hearing from the developer, who might offer to tinker further with the design to provide the City with a way to avoid a costly battle at the OMB, where it would have argue against its own Planning Department report. The City no doubt will be tempted.

You should write a note to Councillor Saundercook supporting his position at last week’s Community Council meeting to reject the development proposal. Include the others on the list below (and the City Clerk), who will vote on this issue at City Council. If you want them to kill the proposal, tell them so. But, alternatively, tell them that any further negotiations should result in significant changes to the design, height and impact of the building. Tell them than an “Avenue Study” must be ordered for the BWV to offset the damage if Council allows this precedent-setting proposal to go ahead.

For your convenience, we have included a sample letter that you could cut&paste with your own modifications. Please CC the City Clerk –

Below is a list of people who should know your views and concerns. Please contact them as soon as possible. A final decision on the site will be made April 25th.

Local Council Members

Councillor Bill Saundercook

Mayor David Miller (lives in Bloor West Village)

Sylvia Watson (represents neighboring ward 14)

City Clerk (will put it in Council’s agenda package)

Community Council Members

Rob Ford (voted against the proposal)

Georgio Mammoliti (voted for it to avoid OMB)

Peter Milcyn

Frances Nunziata

Doug Holyday (voted against)

Gloria Lindsay Luby (voted against)

Frank Di Giorgio

Suzan Hall

Cesar Palacio

All Council member E-mails

Sample letter

Sample letter text to copy & paste into your own email or document (text-only format)

Sample letter text to copy & paste into your own email or document (Word format)

Victory for Bloor West Residents!
Humber Odeon Re-Development Loses First Round Vote

Etobicoke Community Council voted against the application to re-zone the old Humber Odeon theatre at Jane and Bloor to allow for a 10-storey condo tower. The vote was cheered by the crowd of residents who had packed the hearing room Tuesday night for three hours of passionate presentations and debate.

Though the lawyer for the developer and City’s Planner spoke in favour of the project, it was impassioned opposition from Bloor West residents that swayed the vote.

“There are lots of bad buildings” said resident John Foden, who implored Councillors to “stop the decline and choose to build good buildings.”

More than 10 individuals echoed those sentiments, as did spokesmen for the Swansea Area Ratepayers Association and the Bloor West Village Residents Association.

Most criticized the proposed building as excessively high and too poorly designed to be worthy of the prominent site, which is visible from several kilometers along Bloor Street.

In its submission the BWVRA Executive urged Community Council to prevent “this building from becoming a ‘despised landmark” that memorializes the dying days or our flawed development process.”

Saundercook votes “NO”

The motion to turn down the re-zoning application was put by Ward 13 Councillor Bill Saundercook who had earlier said he was ready to support it “with conditions”.

But, he reconsidered over the course of the evening. Saundercook said the developer had “failed to convince the community this would be a beautiful building.” That, he said, was “a critical piece of the puzzle.”

It’s not over yet

Several Councillors expressed support for the residents but voted against them saying this is the kind of decision that often gets overturned by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). They warned that the developer could get a higher building from the OMB, and the City would not get the community benefits payments it can still extract from him at this stage.

Tuesday’s vote was not the final one by the City. The Community Council’s decision goes to the full Toronto City Council at the end of April for ratification. A Councillor who wants to re-open the debate at that time could still do so. That could result in the project getting the green light, especially if the majority is convinced the case would be lost on an appeal to the OMB. At that time, Councillor Saundercook’s pre-conditions, and those demanded by the Community, would come back into play.

Steve McNally – BWVRA Communications.

June 28, 2005

Bill Saundercook
Councillor, City of Toronto
100 Queen St. W., Suite C46
Toronto, ON
M5H 2N2

Dear Councillor Saundercook:

On behalf of the membership of the Bloor West Village Residents Association (BWVRA) I wish to thank you for your role in facilitating the organization of community meetings to review the proposed redevelopment of the former Odeon Humber theatre property at 2442 Bloor Street West.

I also wish to thank you for your energetic support of the Bloor West Village Urban Design Study, commonly referred to as the Bloor West visioning study, and your public endorsement of the recommendations of the report. I mention this important document because by dint of its location the Odeon site warrants a specific reference (see pgs 31-33 of the report) as being a “critical view terminus (which) demands architectural excellence.”

Under the title Design Principles/Initiatives for this key location the report further recommends that gateway treatments on key buildings remain in character with existing structures.

Regarding height, the report identifies the Odeon site as one for which “development may be considered that exceed(s) the permitted building heights in the zoning by-law,” i.e. five stories, but only “up to a maximum of eight stories …” But only even then with the significant caveat that “the development will be expected to demonstrate that it will (1) have no adverse impacts; (2) result in a benefit to the local community; and (3) exemplify the highest possible quality and design.”

On June 21 the executive of the BWVRA met to review site plans and images of the proposed redevelopment. I thank you for providing us with these important documents. After considerable discussion the executive reached several conclusions which we intend to communicate to the membership of our association.

In respect to the redevelopment of the Odeon Humber site the executive is concerned principally with the proposed design and height of the development. As currently proposed the development features blank, concrete walls on its east and west frontages. In our view this does nothing to enhance the “terminus / gateway” features of Bloor West Village. This type of vacant exterior design also invites the possibility of garish advertising on the facades and the real possibility of adjoining buildings at comparable heights and questionable design.

It is the view of the BWVRA executive that whatever final development occurs on the site must restrict advertising to storefronts and prohibit roof-top and wall advertising, as recommended in the visioning study.

At the currently-proposed 10-storey height, the development exceeds the recommendation contained in the visioning study which you have publicly endorsed. The majority view of the
executive is that the height of the proposed development be restricted to no more than eight stories if all other conditions are met as described in Appendix A of the visioning study.

The BWVRA welcomes the opportunity to meet with the property developer in advance of further municipal approvals to discuss our concerns. I believe that you, as our city councillor, can play an important role in facilitating this meeting. I invite you to contact me at your earliest convenience to confirm this meeting.


Gregory Hamara