Friday, November 14, 2014

The Last Working Group Meeting - Report on WG Meeting #4

The last Working Group meeting regarding the proposed development at 1327-1339 Queen East took place on Wednesday November 5 at the S.H Armstrong Community Centre. We were advised by City Planning that an Area study to determine appropriate building development guidelines will be starting and introduced to Kelly Jones. She’ll be leading the study and has been asked to look at whether the Beaches guidelines or the Leslieville guidelines would apply for this area. (The answer will more than likely be no and then the real study will begin).

The group questioned the fact that, once again, - we were not seeing any changes to the development design, that we were being placed into smaller table groups when the Working Group was already quite small and manageable, and that our concerns regarding depth, density and height were still not being addressed by the city.

The format for the meeting was changed and rather than being read a series of reports and asked to comment, we were asked for our thoughts on the development. There were four questions: that were posed by planning
  1. Ground floor design and use: How could a building on this site contribute to the vibrancy of the street.Could certain uses of this site contribute to the vibrancy of Queen St. East? What design elements would fit the character of this part of Queen St. East
  2. The Streetscape – Could the streetscape be improved in this location? What elements are needed here – wider sidewalks, lighting, street furniture, others?
  3. General Built Form – You have been provided the comments by the City’s Urban Designer to the applicant. What do you think about the sidewalk width, the base building height, the overall height, the stepbacks, the relationship to Memory Lane…?
  4. Memory Lane – The proposal identifies low-rise buildings and vehicular access on Memory Lane. How could the existing and/or proposed conditions for Memory Lane be improved?

Before we list the input from the working group, it should be mentioned that anyone can copy these questions and send their suggestions to the Planning department. The dialogue is continuing.

1. Ground floor design and use:

First reactions were: set the building back so that there is more space for the community to use i.e. patios, protective weather canopy. Create setbacks and angles to make people engage with the street. Also make sure that the trees are allowed to have enough room and light to grow. Let people be able to walk side-by-side and not single file.

It was suggested that the building not present a flat façade to the street but engage the passerby and perhaps draw them in to the building. Smaller retail spaces were suggested and maybe a mix of retail and office; fruit and vegetable markets, things that can service the local neighbourhood. The worry was expressed that there are many vacant locations now that aren’t renting and that this increased retail won’t help matters.

Mention was made that the retail connections on Queen are broken up so that pedestrians only walk so far and then they turn around because of dead zones. Mention was made that the retail environment is a work in progress because Leslieville doesn’t have the density to support it yet.

Mention was made that the Queen St frontage could be animated via a north-south greenway promenade through the property that would also help animate Memory Lane - and that a more-than-the-Green-Standard-required number of at-grade bicycle parking spots, plus a well lit, natural light, at-grade bicycle maintenance space could be an element to help that animation - while at the same time encouraging the adoption of active modes of transportation that densification and sedentary urban lifestyles demand.

2. The Streetscape:

Mention was made that a two level commercial office space might be considered with a “grander” anchor tenant.

Mention was made that the retail spaces at Woodbine and Queen and Carlaw and Dundas are also retail spaces that don’t work. Retail at grade only animates the street and adds value to the area if in fact it’s finely “grained” enough, both in terms of its aesthetic and its function otherwise it’s a very dead end and it can actually hinder animation on the street. King East example sited where it hits the Don Valley.We are replete with examples of retail areas that don’t work.

Mention was made that Roncesvalles streetscape works.

Mention was made that the acoustic environment on Queen needs to be broken up using different façade materials.

3. Built Form discussion:

Suggested that the development be reorganized on site to put the town house units into a T shape at the back so that their “fronts” would face east and west- providing setbacks to the yards on either side - with planting/green areas in front of each.

- on the south side as a result there would be much reduced over-look onto neighbouring back yards…
these rear units would mostly look west and east - the balconies would be solid facing east and west - only the balcony face to the south would be glass to provide neighbours with more privacy… these units aren’t on the lane. The building would mesh better with the neighbourhood at the back and be less invasive. There would be no windows overlooking memory Lane. The back should be heterogeneous with what is already there.

The service area could be moved to in the centre of the complex and the building would wrap around this area reducing visual pollution. The parking ramp could be covered by a green roof which would afford the neighbours with a better visual environment.

Suggestion that the number of three bedroom units should be increased and the number of two bedroom to attract more families. Developer says it will depend on the demand.

Mention that the area is losing affordable housing.

4. Memory Lane

Mention was made of the need to make allowances for the pedestrian traffic, need “safe areas” for people to stand in while traffic is passing. Mention was made that other developments are in the works that will also stress the capacity of Memory Lane and Sears.

Summing Up

It was a very animated evening. As a result of the last Working Group meeting the ETCC sent the following email to Planning:

After the last Working Group meeting there were a few items that remain up in the air for us. If we could get any feedback on the following it would be appreciated:

1. In order for the developer to understand what changes to his overall design need to be made as of right, he needs to receive the comments from the Planning department. Can you advise when you’d be providing the next round to the developer?

2. We have heard many times that the development will be serviced from Queen and that this is why the laneway construction is being allowed. There is some confusion on our part as to how emergency services will be accessing the rear construction off of Queen as there is no vehicular access from Queen.

3. At the last meeting on Wednesday evening, a question was raised as to whether the Co-op at 1327 Queen East was subject to a residential or commercial taxation rate. We would like clarity on that matter as it possibly could impact rental replacement unit count.

4. After the Working Group meeting on September 22 we submitted a number of concerns that also need to be answered:

a) The building remains incompatible with the city’s own guidelines, how is this going to be addressed.

b) The height at 25.8 metres is still over the maximum allowed of 14m for this area and is also well over the 20 metres for both the Beach area and the Leslieville and Mid-Rise guidelines (which do not apply for this area). Does the city intend to enforce its height restrictions with regard to this precedent setting development.

c) What is the city’s stance on the requested density for this project which is more than twice that allowed.

We would also like to iterate the feeling that an additional public meeting for the community is essential so that they can have the opportunity to see the revised drawings of the development well before the obligatory TEYCC meeting.

They have acknowledged this email and have said that they will be getting back to us on these matters.

This process feels long and frustrating but none-the-less it is a process and it will eventually help make a difference with this development and ultimately for this community. We will post any replies received as soon as available and any other information that we glean.

Victoria Dinnick -
for the ETCC Steering Committee


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