Midtowners battle the rise of the midrise
New alliance created amid fears about property values.
May 25, 2015
By Manisha Krishnan
A group of midtown Toronto residents has banded together to fight what it’s dubbed “density creep,” amid a push for midrise development citywide that shows no signs of abating.
The Density Creep Neighborhood Alliance formed in response to a proposed townhouse development on Keewatin Ave. near Mt. Pleasant Rd., north of Eglinton Ave. E.
The group of about 50 neighbours claims the project - a four-storey, 80-unit building that will replace eight properties from 200-214 Keewatin Ave. - will ruin their stretch of million-dollar homes set on deep, private lots.
“I’m really concerned about my property value going down,” says Lisa Goodwin, 49, a stay-at-home mother of two who has lived in a four-bedroom dwelling on Keewatin Ave. for 19 years.
“Right now all the houses are $1.1 to, say, $2.2 (million) but they’re looking at putting in places that are only $500,000.”
Developer Trolleybus Urban Development, which needs city approval for rezoning to proceed, told the Star it is committed to having a dialogue with the community, but that its proposal “provides much needed housing options in Sherwood Park that would otherwise be unattainable for today’s home buyer.”
That rationale could be the driving force behind other midrise construction taking place around the city.
“The simple fact of the matter is that the creation of a more sustainable, equitable, and affordable city requires the development of midrise and other more dense housing options along major roads, subways, and streetcar lines in already built up areas,” says Christopher De Sousa, director of the School of Urban Planning and Regional Planning at Ryerson University.
“This is a typical story in Toronto and communities just have to know it’s coming.”
Ideally, De Sousa says resident groups and developers would work together to find a middle ground, but in reality the former often wants the status quo to remain intact while the latter asks for too much.
To defend their turf, the Density Creep Neighborhood Alliance has started a Save Our Streets campaign, with more than 70 signs posted in the area’s lush, tree-lined yards. It’s as if they’ve erected Keewatin’s Wall, says Goodwin, a nod to the icy Wall in the HBO series Game of Thrones that protects the Seven Kingdoms from the zombie-like creatures that live beyond it.
Though there are highrise apartment buildings south of the street, “the buck stops here,” Goodwin says. “If they get to do this one development there, it’s like there’s a crack in the wall.”
“We’re not against development,” adds Marcia Visser, founder of the Density Creep Neighborhood Alliance, who is concerned about privacy, traffic and an influx of transient people. “We’re just for planned development that enriches our neighbourhood and maintains and reinforces the physical character of our neighbourhood.”
The South Eglinton Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association share similar concerns about a proposed nine-storey condominium on Bayview Ave. between Soudan and Hillsdale Aves. Meanwhile, Leslieville residents are gearing up to challenge a proposed eight-storey building at 1327-1339 Queen St. E., near Greenwood Ave, which is subject to an upcoming Ontario Municipal Board hearing.
That area is currently occupied by six two-storey residential buildings. Neighbours say the proposed project is too tall and will create traffic congestion.
“It’s incredibly important that they get it right because it will be cited verbatim for other upcoming developments,” says Victoria Dinnick, co-chair of the Leslieville Community Coalition.
A public consultation for the Keewatin townhome project will be held June 2.