A New Vision for Mirvish Village

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A New Vision for Mirvish Village

The latest proposed design includes the retention of the Honest Ed’s laneway, rental housing units, and more heritage buildings.

View of the proposal facing Bloor Street. Photo courtesy of Westbank.

View of the proposal facing Bloor Street. Photo courtesy of Mirvish Village.

On March 2, residents got a chance to see the latest, and likely final, development proposal for the Bloor and Bathurst corner that was once home to Honest Ed’s. The latest proposal—the third in as many years—offers up a more open, pared-down development plan that preserves more heritage buildings than previous iterations, while offering more park space, less car traffic, and a reduction in the height of many of the buildings.

Notable additions to the proposal include the retention of the Honest Ed’s laneway (partially eliminated in previous versions) and 23 heritage buildings, as well as the decision to bury all parking, service, and loading access below the project.

This proposal is the product of an extensive and lengthy consultation process with the public. “This is the 750th meeting we’ve had,” joked Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina). While the public consultation process has been prolonged (and painful, to many who were sad to see the iconic retail store close), it has also been an important one. “This is such a unique site,” said Layton, such a unique part of our city, that it deserves a unique planning process. […] Normally submissions are measured in months. Ours, we measure in years.”

The design is an ambitious one that will radically transform the Bloor and Bathurst intersection. “Bathurst Street is a really important street, because it’s suffering a little bit in terms of its streetscape,” said lead architect Gregory Henriquez. There is a sense among designers, planners, and politicians that what’s at stake is the definition of one of Toronto’s most important intersections. “What happens at this corner will impact the neighbourhood for the next hundred years,” said Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina). “Are we building a neighbourhood, or are we building buildings?”

Photo courtesy of Westbank.

Photo courtesy of Mirvish Village.

Broadly speaking, the process of public consultation has helped to allay some of the residents’ concerns. Many community members spoke in support of the revisions to the design (some noting that they were hesitant to do so before), and many were happy to see that more heritage buildings were being retained.

With that said, many were vocal about their concerns. Affordability was a recurring theme, and many spoke about being priced out of the neighbourhood in recent years. A number of residents pressed developer Westbank for cost details for the units, all 800 or so of which are designated as rental units. (Westbank was unable to provide any rental price details, saying it would depend on market rates at the time of the building’s opening.)

It wouldn’t be a public consultation on a development project without some good old fashioned NIMBYism, of course. “This development will make this neighbourhood worse,” said one resident, with unspecific concerns. “Our neighbourhood is already a vibrant one without the Westbank development.” One woman, who said she had lived in the neighbourhood for 25 years, attempted to point out design flaws on a sheet of paper (that few people were close enough to see), before resigning to simply calling the development a “big monster.” One man shouted “that’s not good enough!” back at developers, after they told him they were working on a construction management plan that would be minimally invasive for residents of the neighbourhood. Most harsh, though, was a woman who said, “we do not want to end up like a mini St. James Town development.” (The crowd loved this. Councillors Cressy and Layton did not.)

Some concerns with the proposal are more specific. For instance, the desire for less car traffic means that all parking, service, and loading is underground, concentrated on a single access point on Lennox Street—a street which, as it stands now, will unlikely be able to handle that sort of volume easily.

With that said, this proposal brings the project within striking distance of approval; Graig Uens from the city planning department said that they are recommending that this latest proposal be approved. This is a good thing: if you can accept the simple fact that Honest Ed’s is no longer, this plan is a good one—it includes provisions for park space, micro retail, and an open-air market, in addition to residential towers. Developers will never be able to please everyone, and the pushback from residents will never disappear completely. However, in this case, the long consultation process appears to have been successful and has resulted in a proposal that will transform Bloor and Bathurst for the better.

More information about the plan is available at www.mirvish-village.com

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