Earlier this month the proposed new SmartCentre on the north side of Wicksteed Ave. was approved by unanimous vote of North York Community Council.
After all the controversy, innuendo, name calling, etc. attached to this proposal over the past year or so I was pleased that the Leaside Property Owners’ Association and Leaside Unite appeared at community council and announced that they were withdrawing any opposition to it. I was somewhat less happy when, the following day, they put into circulation the word that they had done so under a state of some duress and somehow it was all my fault. Oh well.
By now I hope it is well understood that the development proposal conforms to the provisions of the Official Plan (OP) that was adopted by city council in 2002. The relevant provisions of the OP support large scale (big box) retail on the edges of “employment zones,” which describes the site of this proposal and the other large format retail sites on the east side of Laird.
The developer was not about to be chased away.
When it is built out, I hope it is also understood that the attractive design features of this project – in common with the one with the Longo’s store at the south end of Laird – are the result of hours of meetings and negotiations involving the developer, city staff, and me in which I held out for the best possible result for our community. Most visible amongst these influences will be the emphasis on architectural merit and generous landscaping and the absence of the massive asphalt parking lot that is the dominant feature of the shopping centres that preceded them.
Another significant community benefit that I have held out for on each Laird Dr. development project in which I have been engaged is the contribution of a length of landscaped median on Laird Dr. itself. It has long troubled me that Laird, originally Leaside’s main street, had been allowed to become a shabby back alley that served only to move cars.
By implementing a landscaped median I aim to help beautify the street and restore some of its original respectability. I also aim to moderate traffic flows and make the area more amenable to pedestrian activity, as Bayview is.
In the case of the project approved this month the median will protect the homes on Parkhurst Blvd. from through traffic and put an end to the chronic illegal left turns made from Parkhurst onto Laird.
We now move on to our next local challenge: the proposed Garden Court apartment condominium conversion, concerning which I make just two points for now:
- at this month’s community council meeting I sent the application back to the drawing board, and
- the term “demolition” on the notice on the grounds does NOT mean demolition in the conventional sense; it is the technical term used in cases of this sort to describe a proposal to convert an existing rental dwelling into a condominium.