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City Council Passes a Surprise Freeze on Bathurst Street Retail and Services

The proposed Kensington Market Walmart will be affected, along with other properties.

An unexpected move by Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) has put the brakes on a proposed Kensington Market Walmart—and likely a number of other development sites along Bathurst Street.

Bathurst has been the focal point of a lot of development-related news lately, from the previously mentioned Walmart, to Bloor Street, where Honest Ed’s is now up for sale. Today, city council unexpectedly paused all of that by passing a motion by Layton that will outlaw new retail and services between Queen and Dupont streets for one year.

It’s not clear whether the moratorium bans all new retail and services on that stretch of Bathurst, or only new retail and services that exceed the existing allowed square footage. Numerous calls to planning officials were not returned. It’s also unclear precisely when the moratorium goes into effect, but it will likely happen at the conclusion of this week’s city council meeting—in which case it would expire a year from then.

The clampdown will affect a number of properties, but most notably the lots surrounding 420 Bathurst Street, on Kensington Market’s western border, where RioCan, a real-estate developer, has been trying to win permission to build a three-storey shopping centre with a Walmart as its anchor tenant.

Councillor Layton maintains that the moratorium isn’t intended to target RioCan specifically. “We’ve seen a bunch of development applications all along Bathurst Street come up over the last couple years, and we know that there are sites that are prime for development that aren’t the highest value use,” he said.

“It’s been a recurring theme that we need to protect the surrounding retail uses.”

Layton said the intent of the moratorium is to hold off developers until City staff can finish a planning study on land use along Bathurst Street. The study is already underway.

Other councillors have tried similarly drastic measures, in recent years, with mixed results. In 2009, Joe Pantalone, Layton’s predecessor in Ward 19, used an interim control bylaw to prevent new bars and restaurants from opening on the Ossington Avenue strip. Opinion on the move was split, but it had the intended outcome: restaurant openings stopped for a while, and eventually, after some legal wrangling with business owners, the City was able to pass new zoning restrictions. In 2012, Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) instituted a similar moratorium on a stretch of Queen Street West.

Layton isn’t expecting a fight. “I don’t suspect there will be a lot of opposition, beyond those large-scale retailers that may or may not be looking at sites,” he said.


  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Layton’s email to his constituents this afternoon makes specific mention of the retail lots along Bathurst primarily being small, and the retailers similarly small-scale; whether the moratorium mentions that specifically I can’t say, but that seems to be the motive.

  • HotDang

    There used to be a nice little diner in the steam bath on bathhurst just north of Queen. It was a pretty cool spot. Sadly the chef died of cancer and it closed up. Back then there was still a Queen’s head and Johnny Banana was still in business and hadn’t converted to a crappy burrito place yet. Those were better times on Bathurst.

  • K@

    A sad (but entirely unsurprising) MIS-use of process by a consistently
    anti-progress councillor. I live in his downtown constituency, and while he
    seems to be a well-intentioned fellow, in my experience he also seems rabidly
    anti-ANYTHING-larger-than-small business — and isn’t business primarily what
    “downtowns” are specifically for??? It often feels that if Mr. Layton had his
    way, downtown in its entirety would simply be a great big park — one
    hilariously mis-designed by years and years of group-hug/consensus-management
    charettes and public meetings that ultimately cost the taxpayers triple
    what it ought to have.

    there not, anywhere in this city, some long term, oh I don’t know…PLAN
    somewhere? Something actually all written down and everything that actually
    provides some long-term guidelines for sensible, managed growth of every type
    (business, infrastructure, residential) throughout the city? Such a thing might
    keep grandstanding/pandering-for-votes councillors from randomly hijacking the efforts of investors-in-growth this — and every city — very much need, both now and well
    into the future.

    Ah, but then, this is Toronto, Land of the Kneejerk “No!” And on
    it goes…

    • Peter

      “Anti-progress Councillor?” What is progressive? bending over and letting huge American corporations give it to us with crappy discount stores offering shitty wages and not buying any product from local producers. I feel this effort by Layton to slow or halt large scale changes is very progressive and admirable. You folks from the burbs expect the Downtown to resemble your mall?big box world, well Toronto was always a series of small villages and it’s what made the downtown such a pleasant place to live. Let’s work together to halt all multinational corporations from invading our dutiful neighborhoods.

      • ibivi

        I agree in principle, but isn’t a little too late. Development has been given free range in many neighbourhoods without any consideration of the impact. Unless the residents put up a fuss it goes ahead. It’s happening in my neighbourhood and it will be a very different place within the next 5 years.

    • dsmithhfx

      You pasted that. Badly.

      • K@


    • forwardconcern

      There is nothing progressive about repeating the planning mistakes of the 70′s/80′s. The proposed development wasn’t sensible growth it depended on steeling the future market place from the independent old timers and current entrepreneurs and future start ups in the area. I don’t see why good hard working Canadian business owners should be forced out and mediocre big boxes replace them. The independent retailers will grow and expand with the population growth, they are not all little specialty shops as the “independent” economic study states. Big box mall retailers are not progress they are digression. They are not improvement they may look nice but truth is that they are turds painted gold.

    • maybeitsrapture

      A Wal-Mart is the epitome of suburban, not independent businesses.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      Here’s a question for you: does the “PLAN somewhere” differentiate between independent locally owned businesses and foreign corporations, between block-sized buildings designated for retail and single block-sized retail spaces, between serving the community and oversaturating it? Because I don’t think it does.

  • Suicide Boi

    One year seems excessive to me.

    • VincentClement

      Planning Act allows a maximum of one year with an additional one year extension. An interim control by-law can be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, but they are rarely overturned by the OMB.

  • OgtheDim

    One year gives it just long enough to become an election issue.

    • K@

      Ab. So. Lutely. Coincidence? I think not…

      • atorontoguy

        Nothing wrong with that. Let’s see where candidates stand on the issue of development on Bathurst. I myself feel like riocan is trying to shoe-horn in a development that is just going to clog up that stretch of street. It’s a crappy location for a department store. There’s a wal-mart over on dufferin, hardly seems necessary to have one on bathurst too. I’d rather see some medical-related building as it’s so close to the hospital.

  • Ron

    This is the type of stuff that drove me (a downtown resident) to vote for Rob Ford last election. Please don’t make me do that again.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      Nobody made you do anything. You voted for Ford because you don’t give a crap about the city, you just like the idea of someone saving you money. (He didn’t, by the way, save you any money.)

      • dsmithhfx

        Probably just a thoughtless and aimless ‘protest’ vote over garbage strike. Cf. cutting off nose to spite face.

  • fanxin