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Girding for change to Church St


Girding for change to Church St

Residents worry that the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood could be drastically altered by announced and rumoured condo projects and the arrival of Loblaws. IMAGE 1 OF 1
Tax hikes, condo development, mega-retailers threaten Church St Village
Neighbourhood organizations are bracing for changes that are sweeping through the downtown core and threatening to alter completely the dynamic of the Church-Wellesley Village. Meetings of the Church-Wellesley BIA and the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association at the 519 Community Centre Dec 12 were focused on addressing these alarming trends.
With several condo tower projects proposed along the now mostly low-rise stretch of Yonge St between College and Charles streets, and more at the north and south ends of the village, some say it’s only a matter of time before the condo projects start appearing in the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village.
Seven new towers are proposed or under construction on that stretch of Yonge St, with four more recent high-profile land sales suggesting that even more towers could be proposed, says John Anderson, who owns the Morningstar furniture store. Lot sales that are fetching three to five times the assessed property value will spark massive reassessments and automatic property tax hikes in 2012, he predicts.
“All our taxes could go up 300 to 500 percent,” Anderson says. “None of us small business guys will still be here.”
Similar pressures could soon exist on Church St. A tower is proposed at the corner of Isabella St and many suspect it will be approved either by city council or by the Ontario Municipal Board.
However, another proposal that would have levelled several heritage properties between Gloucester and Dundonald streets was shot down by city staff and the developer has since put the properties back on the market.
The recent opening of Loblaws in the former Maple Leaf Gardens could have a more immediate impact on the nature of the Church-Wellesley Village. The huge retail location duplicates services that are provided by many other retailers on the strip, including an LCBO, pharmacy, groceries, high-end cheese shop and butcher, as well as a café and bakery. Its ready-made meals could also bite into restaurant sales.
Church St retailers are fighting back by attempting to offer better service and more opening hours.
But when the Ryerson athletic centre opens in the space above the store, it could become a source of significant additional pedestrian traffic through the Village, which could attract more destination shoppers.
James Robinson, executive director of the Downtown Yonge BIA, which includes Maple Leaf Gardens, suggests that Church St businesses do more to attract Ryerson students to their stores.
“They may need a bit of a welcome,” he says. “You could find ways to establish a straight-friendly environment.”
Village residents seem as concerned with the fate of the retail neighbourhoods along Church and Yonge as business owners are. They’re trying to slow down development in the neighbourhood by having those streets designated as heritage districts that would restrict development. They’re also working with the city on the North Downtown Yonge St Planning Framework, which will amend the city’s official plan to protect the neighbourhood from development.
Residents are concerned that the development could encroach on Norman Jewison Park and George Hislop Park, both of which are owned by the Toronto Parking Authority. City council has indicated that it is interested in selling TPA properties that could be developed into towers.
Residents are also worried about the possibility of a perfect storm of conditions favouring developers. If the city planners are locked out as part of contract negotiations in 2012, residents worry that developers will take their applications directly to the Ontario Municipal Board, where there would be no one to defend the city’s or residents’ interests. It is unclear at this point if the OMB would allow such an appeal to go forward during a labour action.
To that end, the CWNA is scrambling to get organized as quickly as possible to present a united and legally recognized voice in opposition to the scramble for Church St. It’s already legally incorporated and will be holding its first annual general meeting in January to elect a board.
Once in place, the CWNA board will attempt to draft a long-term vision for the neighbourhood that incorporates appropriate development and the characteristics of the retail environment and public realm that they want to protect and enhance.
The CWNA will also take positions on neighbourhood safety and beautification. Many present at the Dec 12 meeting expressed disappointment with the recent removal of benches from the corner of Church and Alexander over concerns of violence and drug dealing at that corner.
But one resident of the Alexus condo at that corner who refused to give his name to Xtra says that the corner has become much safer since the benches were removed.
“We want to see that corner remain vibrant, but we had no choice,” he says.
Some residents indicated that they wanted the CWNA to stand against city council’s plan to eliminate the Jarvis St bike lanes next year.
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Furniture Store Toronto
Nice post I Like your site very well and continue to do so.
Furniture Store Toronto
Uninteresting and Ugly
Face it, Gay Village is one of most uninteresting, ugly downtown neighbourhoods. Toronto itself is becoming marginally more interesting and attractive elsewhere downtown. Sometimes I almost get a buzz, a glint of New York or Montreal. But never in the Gay Village. Speaking as a visitor, of course; like most Canadians I would never want to live in Toronto.
It's called the GAY ViLLAGE. Why tone down the GAY
It's called the GAY ViLLAGE. Why tone down the GAY?! DUH! I don't feel comfortable by being crowed out by Straights who have a low tolerance of Gay behaviour. They accept Gay Marriage only symbolically but don't want to know what happens in the marriage bed. Too much information. I want to be comfortable in my neighbourhood and for me that means less straights --they are so judgemental.
I am a straight male with many gay friends, and I still do not feel comfortable in the village. That being said, a more community feeling including less clearly advertised gay oriented bars and more bistros/coffee shops would go along way to make the area more welcoming. It's a bit overwhelming when you pass by signs that say "Big Pumpin All Humpin" and "Big Daddy".
AH, Fabarnak at the 519...
Now THAT is a perfect representation of our village! I hope CWNA and CWBIA get that.
Keep it simple and personal for me.
At the risk of posting the only comment here that is NOT steeped in sarcasm, I would offer the observation that the current charm of the village is worth preserving. I work in the area, and patronize its shops and restaurants. I do not find them over-priced. The goods and services are unique, and I experience a unique pleasure by accessing them. I, for one, will NOT be shopping at Loblaws, nor do I see any need for a superstore of any kind. Some change and innovation is good but the nature of our little corner of the city responds best to small doses of it and is best served by innovations that put the community first. (Fabarnak at the 519 is an excellent example of this) In this regard, I have never yet seen a condo developer that gave a hoot about where they were plunking down their glass tower - except insofar as it be profitable - the existing neighbourhood be damned. As for local businesses being advised to 'court the straight consumer': My loyalty to the local shop keepers is based on the fact that they recognise me, welcome me back, know my name, draw my attention to new product that they KNOW I will like, etc. In short, they court me by being authenticly helpful, friendly, and attentive. Any straight consumer who is not desirous of that kind of service DESERVES to shop at Loblaws/Walmart.
A Wal-mart is
badly needed in the area. I hope they do that soon. Screw the bike lanes, just create more parking. As to straight friendly! YES!!!!!!!!!! More, more straights please, they got tons of money.
Change Is Sometimes Scary
But it can also be just what the doctor ordered. I think many business in the area have taken the residents for granted for quite some time. Bars are lackluster,
restaurants are dreary and serve boring, over-priced food. Maybe this is what the businesses need. A kick-start to get them excited again.
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