A developer's plans for the former site of an auto-repair shop have residents worried about the future of the neighbourhood.
Ossington Avenue, centrepiece of one of the city’s hottest neighbourhoods, is the focus of a new development project—and the inevitable related controversy.
The rebirth and renaissance of Ossington over the past few years has been tied, inextricably, to what some might call gentrification. Regardless, the strip is now home to numerous trendy restaurants, bars, coffee shops, galleries, theatre spaces, retailers, and nightspots. These businesses have opened up alongside more traditional operations, including a drug store, a fishmonger, a pho place, a churrasqueira and bakery/deli (reflecting the area’s Portuguese community), an established hardware/building-supply outlet, and, until recently, Mundial Auto, an active auto-repair centre.
Now, developer Reserve Properties wants to take advantage of Ossington’s neighborhood vibe with a new condominium project at 109 Ossington, the Mundial Auto site. The property, midway between Queen and Dundas Streets, has been made over into a sales centre.
Reserve’s marketing material describes the proposed building as “inspired loft living amid the vibrant spirit of Ossington.” The project has been written up in NOW, the Sun, and Condo Life.
As planned, the building would have 86 units (mostly one-bedroom or one-bedroom-plus-den), parking for 70 vehicles, and street-level retail space. The plans also call for the widening of the Argyle Place laneway, which runs north and south between Argyle and Bruce Streets.
Before construction can get underway, the developer will need an amendment to the zoning bylaw—a routine piece of business that almost all significant new construction has to go through.
Currently, the area is zoned Commercial Residential, which provides for a maximum height of 14 metres, and a maximum total density of 2.5 times the lot area. The 109OZ project envisions a height of 21.5 metres and a total density of 3.9 times the lot area. In plain English, that means the proposed condominium building will be much larger than the current zoning allows.
An ad hoc coalition of local residents has raised several concerns about the project. They argue that it is too large for the neighbourhood. They also object to potential impacts on traffic, noise, and the commercial strip along Ossington between Queen and Dundas. Their website describes some of their issues in more detail.
The group particularly objects to the building’s height, which, as proposed, would be six storeys. The structure would be more than twice as high as anything else on the block, which some residents think brings it into conflict with the street’s current low-rise character. Also, the building’s balconies have raised privacy concerns among residents along adjacent streets, including Argyle, Givins, and Brookfield.
Residents have also objected to the number of parking spaces proposed by the developer. They argue that the plan is at odds with initiatives aimed at encouraging public-transit use and increasing foot traffic. The thinking is that concentrating so many private cars in a single block would have a negative impact on neighbourhood traffic, and might pose a safety hazard to kids who walk along local streets to attend Givins Shaw Public School and Senhor Santo Cristo Catholic School.
And questions are being raised about the proposed retail space on the ground floor. It isn’t clear yet who the tenant would be, but the perception is that the space is designed to house a single retailer in an area that measures more than 1,000 square metres. This has clear implications for the building’s economic impact. Whether the strip will be able to retain its mixture of independent, small-scale retailers is an open question.
This is just an overview, of course. A community meeting is set for tonight (Monday, June 25) at the Trinity-Bellwoods community centre. The developer and the city planner are scheduled to make formal presentations, which will be followed by questions and comments from the public.
Images by Reserve Properties.