Is a six-storey building too much for the Beach?
When the flagship Lick’s Restaurant at Queen and Kenilworth announced it would be closing for good after 32 years slinging burgers, to make way for a condo development, some Beach residents balked. The proposed new six story building does not fit in with their sense of neighbourhood, and they’ve been rallying to try to stop its construction.
It’s one in a long list of examples of friction in the east-end community, which has resisted a great many development proposals in recent years. A new set of principles has been proposed to try to improve matters: the Queen Street East Urban Development Guidelines [PDF]. The guidelines, explains the City report on the subject, are intended to balance new development in the area with “the desire of the local community to maintain its existing character.”
Those guidelines will be discussed at City Hall later today and have the backing of area councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32, Beaches-East York), but local residents are far from united in supporting it.
The guidelines are the culmination of a visioning study commissioned by the City at McMahon’s request, and carried out over this past summer. Beach residents and urban designers, worried about over-development, held six meetings over five months; more than 250 people and several community organizations participated. “We had more members on our stakeholder advisory committee than Waterfront Toronto had on theirs. We had more community consultation than these new studies require, and every deadline was extended. It was intense, and we needed it to be intense,” McMahon says of the process.
The plan imposes limits on building height on Queen East between Coxwell and Victoria Park: between four and six storeys, depending on the site and the design (the top two floors of a six storey building would need to be set back so they don’t overshadow the street). Its goal is to preserve the current look and feel of the neighbourhood while allowing for some incremental growth and increase in density.
The Beaches Residents’ Association of Toronto (BRAT) isn’t so keen on the idea, however, and they’ve launched a campaign called Save Queen Street in response to the new plan. They’ve been imploring residents to contact McMahon and tell her the guidelines “are unacceptable and should not be passed until the OMB Appeal for Lick’s (1960 Queen) has been heard.” They have also been canvassing, planting lawn sign, and sending email blasts to spread the word.
BRAT has a long list of problems with the visioning study. In addition to numerous procedural concerns, they also worry about balance, and maintain the study should have been conducted by a third party. “Many local participants felt the process was very rushed, poorly advertized, and that the resulting guidelines contradict City and Provincial policy—promoting population growth without including any studies of infrastructure impacts such as traffic, transit, parking, sanitary and storm sewer capacity, schools, daycares, etc.,” they wrote in a media release late last month. McMahon, for her part, is determined to persevere, and hopes to address these concerns at community and stakeholder meetings starting at the end of this month.
The Queen Street East Visioning Study will be discussed at the Toronto and East York Community Council meeting today at City Hall. Debate is scheduled to start at 3 p.m., but it may be delayed if previous items take longer than expected.