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City

Controversial student residence coming to College St.

Posted by Chris Bateman / June 24, 2014

toronto college residenceThe Ontario Municipal Board has made another controversial decision in favour of a Toronto developer. A proposal for a substantial student residence at College and Spadina is getting the go-ahead despite vocal opposition from local residents and city staff.

The 25-storey building will be built at 245-251 College, a few buildings west of Lillian H. Smith Library on the south side of the street. The original proposal called for a 45-storey block but, through the course of negotiations, the height was reduced by close to half.

As it stands, the student residence will stand about 80 metres with 230 units and 759 beds. The developers do not plan to include any vehicle parking and instead plan to install some 300 bike parking spaces.

The current density restrictions for College, east of Spadina, limits buildings to 2.5 times the square footage of the lot. The building plans approved by the OMB green light 12.1 times density, significantly more than the recommended limit.

"The proposed density would result in a development that does not respect and reinforce the existing physical character of the neighbourhood," a City of Toronto report said prior to the decision. "The proposed density of 12.1 times the lot area represents an overdevelopment of the site ... the proposed density is not appropriate for this site."

Last week, the board, which has authority over the City of Toronto's own planning department, approved 109OZ, a controversial mid-rise Ossington Ave. condo locals feared would give big box retailers a foothold on the strip. The OMB cut the height and divided up the ground floor retail space into sections no larger than 500 square metres, but the decision still left a bad taste for some Ossington area residents.

The College Street decision could also have an effect on other student buildings currently in the planning stage. A proposal to demolish the Hotel Waverly and relocate the Silver Dollar on Spadina Ave. for a 22-storey tower is currently the subject of an OMB hearing.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Diamond Schmitt Architects

Discussion

30 Comments

Spike / June 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm
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And so the condofication of Toronto continues.
toomuchdevelopment / June 24, 2014 at 12:25 pm
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how does the OMG get to overrule decisions all the time, they're too far removed and its MUNICIPAL who should be making decisions that affect the city. grrrr Developers probably pay them well on the side.....At this rate, the whole city will literally be made of glass (throwaway buildings), in the not too distant future. Whatever happened to using brick? I'm sure its more $$$ but it lasts longer and looks better! grrrr
Chester / June 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm
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Controversial?.... Oh please get over yourself. I truly despise the nimbyism in this city.
iSkyscraper / June 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm
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This process of going around the local planners sucks with this whining to the OMB, but the underlying logic is not terrible.

College and Spadina are major transit routes served by much investment in streetcars. Having more density here makes sense.

Oh, and it's not condos, it's a student dorm. These sorts of for-profit dorms have been popping up for years now in the US, typically near popular universities that have overdemand for housing.

The fact that they are made of glass and not brick has to do with cost. Brick is labour-intensive and a pain to maintain (repointing, water issues). The way they do these glass "window walls" these days, they make the whole thing in China, ship it over on a boat, and you pop it in. Sure, it may not last, but when focused on short-term gain the developers do not care.
jameson / June 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm
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Tough to be against this honestly...

Renting as a student in this city is pretty awful. With so few options on campus, and many desired amenities in a new build such as security and food options, it's a no brainer someone is going to want to develop something that appeals to students and their rich parents

huge money maker honestly - especially with no parking
iSkyScrapper / June 24, 2014 at 12:53 pm
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Another good decision by the OMB!.. This area has the capacity for increased density.
Patrick Smyth (@MisterSafetytoe) / June 24, 2014 at 12:56 pm
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The Ontario Liberal Party has turned the light a shade greener for the Toronto condo-condensers. This has caught even the obedient Toronto NDP councillors by surprise. For the longest time, Toronto councillors have kept zoning bylaws unrealistically low. This was so they could 'lord it over' property owners and extract the maximum in exchange for additional heights and densities. The OMB is only been doing the bidding of the OLP and the scam is up. All hell is breaking loose. The City is now proposing to condo-condense all Main Streets where there is public transit. That will displace many Toronto residents from existing complete streets. Like Eglinton Avenue, where the Chief Planner is advocating the removal of homes to erect taller buildings and parking lots. All those small businesses and affordable rental units will be sacrificed at the altar of developer profits. Careers will be made, egos satisfied and multi-generational neighbourhoods will be razed. I'd suggest a closer look at ALL the actors in this drama before blaming everything on the OMB.
MSigs replying to a comment from Chester / June 24, 2014 at 01:00 pm
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Agreed
Suicide_Boi replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / June 24, 2014 at 01:12 pm
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It's College & Spadina. Where else should a student dorm go but there?
Toronto Guy / June 24, 2014 at 01:17 pm
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The OMB is an adversarial kangaroo court where the party with the deepest pockets wins.

The OMD is a major reason why our waterfront looks like it does today, instead of, for example, Chicago.

Best comment from a visiting colleague after walking past the wall-to-wall condos to Queens Quay, "I knew that Toronto had a waterfront, I was wondering where it was."
Henry / June 24, 2014 at 01:20 pm
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The Star claims that neighbours are "horrified" with this project but I can't figure out why.

Take a peek down the highway into London and what absentee landlords and students have done to beautiful neighbourhoods around Western University. Investors buy up big, beautiful, near-heritage homes and stuff as many kids as possible into them. Streets look like refugee camps with bottles, garbage, shopping carts, mattresses and whatever else they've dragged home from the bar strewn across lawns and sidewalks year-round.

I think neighbours should instead be "thrilled" that fewer students will be occupying converted family homes in the area.
Dogma / June 24, 2014 at 01:28 pm
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And the developer looking at a project a half a block over will lick his chops and say, "All right, I should be able to push through a 30-story building. Maybe that's not a bad thing? I dunno.

But it seems like Toronto is the wild west when it comes to zoning and planning. The city is vastly under zoned, so every project comes in higher than the zoning allows and a round of negotiation ensues that inevitably gets appealed to the OMB, which has become Toronto's defacto planning body.

So is a 25 story building a good fit for that area of the city. Well, the developer thinks it is and the OMB is siding with him and it doesn't really matter what the neighbours or the city thinks.
Steve replying to a comment from Chester / June 24, 2014 at 01:39 pm
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There are those in Toronto, and they are a small group with loud voices, who think Toronto is in a bubble. Never looking outside to see how the rest of the world builds its cities. A modern city adjusting to the needs of a growing population makes their heads spin. It all has to look like it did when they last had fun, since then their lives have been miserable.
v79 / June 24, 2014 at 01:53 pm
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The developers more than took concerns into consideration and cut the original building in half. This is no higher than other buildings in the area, including a relatively new alumni residence just a few blocks north. Putting the thing across the street from the campus simply makes sense. The density added by student residences isn't an issue at Bloor or Harbord, so why would it be a few blocks south at a major intersection well serviced by transit? A lively, useful residence is certainly better for the area than the ugly brick self storage facility that was there up until now.
Exstudent / June 24, 2014 at 01:59 pm
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U of T definitely needs more student residences, why can't they rip down buildings that are ugly to do that? These ones look pretty good.

The OMB seems to overrule ever decision made in Toronto. Is there a single case where they didn't?

Anyway, we can't justify getting all this extra transit like the DRL and not allow greater density.
Patrick Smyth (@MisterSafetytoe) replying to a comment from Steve / June 24, 2014 at 02:00 pm
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Does anybody really believe Toronto "planned" to stick a huge bulls eye on Downtown and allow massive over-intensification? No, what Toronto Council did was feast at the density and height tables set up by the Ontario Liberal Party with no thought given to infrastructure or public realm. Density can be good and density can be bad. Density that is not planned for adequately is destined to be bad. That's why the city is ugly and in a terrible traffic mess - because nobody is doing any meaningful planning other than the developers themselves. If there's a group in the city that is calling for good planning that suggests we step back from the brink of a disaster I hope they are heard.
Gary / June 24, 2014 at 02:19 pm
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This is downtown Toronto, we are talking about, not the far out suburbs. This whole area is full of dumpy, dilapidated houses in Chinatown, as well as decaying buildings along Spadina. Who wants to preserve that ugliness in downtown Toronto? Are the neighbours nuts? They are probably the landlords of those dilapidated rooming houses in the area.

I can't wait for new buildings to go up and see that neighbourhood cleaned up. There are just way too many ugly buildings, badly in need of a renovation. Our city is growing quickly and high density is the way to go. We just need to make sure that we get beautiful buildings that use the land well and contribute to building a beautiful, vibrant, animated downtown core.

Toronto is not the backward, small town that some people wish for. We are Canada's largest and greatest city, so get with the program, people. Let's see some great works of architecture!
Steve replying to a comment from Patrick Smyth (@MisterSafetytoe) / June 24, 2014 at 02:34 pm
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Downtown Toronto is hardly massively over intensified and defiantly not ugly. Infrastructure problems happened many years before the downtown parking lots were finally being rebuilt. The city has never been more alive and liveable.
The do nothing attitude of the NIMBYs and the lack of courage from the city to deal with them is what keeps the OMB alive.
Patrick Smyth (@MisterSafetytoe) replying to a comment from Steve / June 24, 2014 at 02:49 pm
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Infrastructure problems were evident years ago but the Toronto Planning Department has been incapable of planning for the massive intensification that has been occurring in Downtown and Midtown. (It's too late now.) Anyway, watch how the Chief Planner will chart a course to deflect criticism and provide cover for councillors who have caused more harm in ugly Toronto than any NIMBY ever did.
kn / June 24, 2014 at 03:18 pm
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Interestingly enough, Adam Vaughan has campaigned endlessly against this building and the building proposed for the Waverly property, going so far as to suggest the Waverly was a heritage site. Yet, he championed this kind of density increase down in Alexandra park... and everybody wonders why developers appeal to the OMB?
Christopher King / June 24, 2014 at 04:18 pm
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Controversial? Dubious statement at best.
As long as this building is zoned strictly as a student's residence then I see no reason why people should take umbrage with it. They can't all live in frat-houses
Grant / June 24, 2014 at 04:53 pm
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Give me a break.
This is a student residence, across the street from campus, at a major intersection.

Where else were the students supposed to go? Are the complainers so naive that they didn't think that density was going to increase?

As for the "physical character of the neighborhood", the whole point of development is to change that character to better suit the needs of residents.

There are a lot of students, and they mostly don't have cars. Building high-density housing near campus is a no-brainer.
M L R / June 24, 2014 at 07:12 pm
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Student Housing - affordable housing with bike space - great idea. As for the location - Old & Seedy doesn't mean Historic or worth preserving.
Student / June 24, 2014 at 10:13 pm
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Students suck.
Dave P. / June 24, 2014 at 11:05 pm
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I was hoping for the original plan on Spadina if only because it would have forced the Comfort Zone to move out of the neighbourhood. To be honest, I think of everything east of Spadina as part of UofT anyway, so why not? Not thrilled with the idea of more stupid kids running around, but that's progress(?).
When will we rise up against the OMB? / June 25, 2014 at 08:10 am
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Seriously....12 years into this condo craze and we're still letting the province dictate what buildings go up.
concerned replying to a comment from Gary / June 25, 2014 at 02:56 pm
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I wonder, Gary, where the displaced citizens should live once their dilapidated and crumbling housing is demolished to make way for newer and nicer ones that are clearly only meant for students of U of T?
Spike replying to a comment from concerned / June 25, 2014 at 03:13 pm
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Oh Gary doesn't care, as long as they're removed out of sight and out of mind to places like these (http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Sanctuary_District)-isn't that right, Gary?
noel / June 25, 2014 at 10:34 pm
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anything's better than the hideous mish-mash that's there now..

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