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Our growth spurt like mid-war boom

Diamond proposal for Eglinton & Brentcliffe

THE first Diamond proposal for Eglinton and Brentcliffe.

Leaside Life has run a large number of stories related to the neighbourhood’s growing pains in 2013. I think it’s fair to say it wouldn’t have done so if there weren’t so much happening on Bayview, Laird and along Eglinton.

With the exception of the go-go years between the two World Wars, the area’s current growth spurt appears to be like no other in its 100-year history.

As a reminder of just how much change is taking place (some of it good, some not so great) my last column of the year will recap the major business developments over the past 12 months. 

Whole Foods

Proposed Whole Foods building at Bayview and Broadway.

First, in July’s issue I discussed my reasons for being optimistic about the change taking place here. In it I highlighted some of the viewpoints regarding intensification from city planners like Lorna Day, who is the project manager for the Eglinton Crosstown Planning Study.

When I asked Day this lengthy question: “With so much being spent on the Crosstown LRT, clearly the city and province have a vested interest in getting a return on that spending. Not just from ridership revenue, but from taxes, economic development, etc. This would suggest intensification, especially along the LRT, is a must if all the stakeholders, including Leaside residents, are to benefit from the LRT investment. Is this conceptually accurate?

Day’s response: “This is conceptually accurate and that is why the city is conducting this study, in order to ensure that the growth and intensification that will inevitably come as a result of the transit investment is well managed, incremental and contextually sensitive.”

So, to recap:

Developer Steve Diamond and architect Sol Wassermuhl met with the Leaside Property Owners’ Association in March to present their re-development ideas, in conjunction with 50-50 partner Dawsco Property Corp., for 939 Eglinton East. Included were plans for as many as 1,280 condos, 107,000 square feet of office space and 70,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The developers intend to file a rezoning application for a mixed use project early in the new year that will respect the policies in the city’s official plan.

Leaside Life reported in April that RioCan purchased the former Brennan Pontiac Buick site at Broadway and Bayview that will house a 50,200 square-foot Whole Foods along with an additional 24,000 square feet of retail. RioCan paid a whopping $58 million for the property.

Expected in early 2015, it will be the seventh grocery store in the Leaside area.

Once expected to be a 200,000 square-foot project, Rockport Group’s 19.2 hectare project on Wicksteed has shrunk to 40,000 with an additional 80,000 square feet of space for self-storage. In addition, Canada Post is building a distribution facility on the southern portion of the 19.2 hectare property. Despite the significant reduction in the scope of the project, Dag Enhorning, president of the Leaside Business Park, called it “a death blow to the Park”.

Speaking of Canada Post, the seven-storey condo development proposed by Knightstone Capital Management on the grounds of former Postal Station R, which Councillor Parker and the Leaside Property Owners’ Association have vehemently opposed due to its size, is at the OMB. According to the South Bayview Bulldog, Knightstone paid $3.05 million for the property in 2011, significantly more than the $115,000 paid by the federal government in 1959.

Leaside Village, anchored by a wonderfully renovated Longo’s, has become a big winner. One of the last tenants to occupy the mall was the self-described “urban tavern” Against the Grain, who opened their second Toronto location April 8 to much fanfare. Rick Green, First Capital’s Central Canada director of leasing, recently mentioned to me how happy he was with Against the Grain during a telephone conversation we had to discuss First Capital’s two-storey restaurant plans for the old CIBC building at 180 Laird. The food choices in Leaside keep getting better every day.

There have been a number of other prominent retail businesses opening their doors this past year in the area. One of the biggest would have to be Gyro Hyundai, which opened in October, right across Laird from its sister dealership, Gyro Mazda. Other openings in 2013 worth mentioning include Dollarama, Sports Clips, and Hero Burger – all on Bayview – and the enlarged 18,000 square-foot LCBO across the SmartCentre parking lot at 65 Wicksteed.

The consensus bet for 2014 is that Walmart moves into the largest portion (approximately 70,000 square feet) of the SmartCentre expansion at 70 Wicksteed. Leaside Unite, now a part of the LPOA, tried unsuccessfully to alter SmartCentre’s plans but was able to negotiate a settlement for $110,000 to cover legal costs, traffic studies, etc.

Apparently next on the agenda is Costco, who are looking to open a warehouse store on the old Coca-Cola property on Overlea Blvd. While it’s not technically Leaside now, which it once was, the opening will bring a city with 7.9 percent unemployment some much needed jobs and probably add to Leaside traffic.

Councillor Parker reminded us in his October column about three ongoing housing issues in Leaside: Garden Court, the Talbot apartments and the third tower at Scenic on Eglinton. All three affect the affordable rental housing stock that exists in the neighbourhood. Talbot is undergoing a complete overhaul that will most definitely see increased rents. Garden Court’s proposed condo conversion is less of a slam dunk for the property’s owners. Possessing some of the nicest residential buildings in the area, it would be a shame to see them converted to condos.

Finally, Aspen Ridge is looking to increase the number of units in its third condo tower at Scenic and will go before an Ontario Municipal Board hearing sometime in the new year to appeal the North York Committee of Adjustment’s rejection of its proposal. The councillor and the Leaside Property Owners’ Association are both in favour of this ruling. I, however, feel the issue of increased traffic is a bit of a red herring in this instance because most of the 98 additional units would likely be occupied by those intending to take public transportation.

Lastly, a very well organized group (Save Our Bennington) has come together to stop unwanted densification in the area south of Moore. While I can understand having reservations about a proposed six-storey condo being built right next door to an existing apartment building at Bayview and Moore, I’m much less convinced the severance of a 95-foot lot at 21 Evergreen deserves an equal amount of angst. We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks but you can be sure the fireworks will be plentiful.

I look forward to 2014 and the ongoing changes taking place in Leaside.

Happy Holidays!