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Ossington to get the condo it doesn't want

Posted by Derek Flack / June 19, 2014

109 Ossington109OZ, a condo project that's proved the source of much tension between the developer and Ossington area residents, has been approved by the Ontario Municipal Board. When first proposed, 109OZ seemed to serve immediately as the focal point for a series of hard questions related to gentrification on Ossington. While development along the strip (and certainly the restaurant boom) was already well underway, the neighbourhood was very concerned about the proposed condo project, mostly on account of its height, the added traffic it would bring to the lower end of the street, and the possibility of corporate retail at ground level.

Thanks to the fact that the developer needed a zoning amendment to build anything higher than 14 metres, a heated community consultation process ensued, the result of which was that the project was ultimately sent to the OMB for a final decision. Neighbourhood residents didn't lose out entirely here. Although the building will remain at six storeys, the height has been reduced slightly from 21.5 to 20 metres (not a big deal) and the ground level retail space has been restricted to 500 square metres (a bigger deal). The initial concern was that a single retailer might occupy roughly 1000 square metres of space, but at half that size, the tenant won't be able to realize any big box-type plans.

One imagines that much of the concern over 109OZ has to do with precedence. As the first condo to be planned mid street (rather than at Queen as you have with 2 Ossington Lofts), neighbourhood residents rightly wanted to voice their concerns over a building that despite its modest six storey height is also twice as tall as anything else along the stretch. On the other hand, mid-rise condos like this on streets like Ossington are a great way to reduce sprawl. It remains to be seen what retailer occupies the ground floor, but the street's character is already in flux (goodbye galleries, hello high end fashion), so it's hard to speak of Ossington as a place that has a fixed identity.

What do you think? Will 109OZ prove a good or bad thing for the neighbourhood?



iSkyscraper / June 19, 2014 at 10:49 am
Toronto needs more midrise. This is hardly a giant tower, and even 1,000 square meters would not fit any kind of "big box". OMB got it right for once.
Sammy / June 19, 2014 at 10:57 am
There were more changes than that. The mechanical penthouse was sunken (effectively reducing the height from 25m to 20m), the angular plane was adjusted to a sane degree, a sidewalk will be put along Argyle Place, and amenity space was increased. All in all, I think this is a fair decision that everyone needs to live with. The most important outcome of this whole thing was an OPA that protects the strip from over-development. Again - fair decision for both sides.
S / June 19, 2014 at 10:58 am
> Complain when housing prices are too high because of supply and demand.............> Complain when high-density housing is built...........> Complain when a large retailer attempts to open up because you and the whole neighbourhood dislike the place so much yet the small businesses will go out of business because everyone who hates the big-box retailers will shop at the big box retailers. I seriously do not understand the last point; if your neighbourhood truly hates WalMart and think it will destroy small business, then let them open and watch THEM go out of business because the neighbourhood won't go there and keep buying from local retailers, right?
Sammy replying to a comment from S / June 19, 2014 at 11:14 am
Speaking specifically to this situation, there are many factors to consider with the big-box store issue that aren't so rudimentary. Consider access for trunk deliveries in the rear lane (maneuvering, proximity to garages), traffic on Argyle (close to the school), parking, and finally character elements (facade, rhythm of the street, etc). Planners don't treat it as a simple problem.
Perry Como / June 19, 2014 at 11:15 am
I'm going to Honest Eds for lunch
Rich / June 19, 2014 at 11:16 am
What do you mean the OMB did whatever the hell it felt like!? And you're saying a large portion of its members come from builder / developer backgrounds? No conflict of interest? Board members receive kickbacks to approve their peer's projects? No.... I don't want to believe it..... it CAN'T be true...
IHrtBldrs / June 19, 2014 at 11:23 am
Can't wait for the OMB to approve this - DEVELOPER FANGASM!
bill replying to a comment from IHrtBldrs / June 19, 2014 at 01:01 pm
Do not understand how a 26 floor residential tower is whopping.
Sarah / June 19, 2014 at 01:09 pm
You're talking about the "current" Ossington right? Many of us that live in the area did not want all of the restaurants and bars along in our neighborhood either. But we got them anyway.

Funny how people that have been visiting the Ossington area for only the past 5 years or so think it should now be placed in a time capsule from any further progress. Again, the current state of Ossington is not what it used to be and progress should be welcomed so we can get it back to a livable community for its residents and not just for those that want an afternoon/evening out on a patio.
KLang replying to a comment from Sarah / June 19, 2014 at 01:31 pm
How do condo's packed with 1-bedroom units make the community more liveable? You think families live in those? If anything, the strip will get MORE bars and restaurants. I know people that were screaming about this development - the real issue they had was not the height/storey's, it was the unit spread. It's a mini-LV development.
matt / June 19, 2014 at 03:09 pm
Walking down Ossington last Thursday night I felt like I was walking down King West. Guess I was proven right.
Sarah replying to a comment from KLang / June 19, 2014 at 03:16 pm
Who said anything about families? You don't have to be in a relationship to be part of a community. There are already townhouses on the east side of Ossington if you haven't noticed.

I'd rather have people move in the area that care about the area.
Jessica Wilson / June 19, 2014 at 04:17 pm
Here's the general take from the Ossington Community Association...

The revised proposal is still 6 storeys, which is obviously disappointing. But it was nonetheless very good that the OCA was a party to the appeal, for 3 reasons. Moreover, the story of the appeal isn't over yet.

First and most importantly, our detailed involvement in this case, and the historically and culturally sensitive "Ossington Avenue High Street Development Review" written by our planner, Terry Mills, had a concrete positive impact on the final draft of the Ossington Official Plan Amendment (OPA). The Ossington OPA is the first low-scale OPA on the entire West side: 4 storey max on all of Ossington between Queen and Dundas, with a 5 storey max in "Area 2" (East side of Ossington, between Argyle and Bruce). This OPA is huge: it means that we are very unlikely to have to fight this kind of time-consuming and expensive battle again, and more generally, that the character and culture of the Ossington strip and surrounding neighbourhood will be preserved for the foreseeable future.

Second, as a result of going to the OMB, Reserve produced a better proposal in several respects---this was the "surprise" 6-storey revision submitted at the end of the first week of the hearing, which led the City's team (which by intent of Council direction was supposed to fight any 6-storey proposal) to cave, leaving the OCA to fight on our own. The height now is reduced from 21.5m to 20m, the mechanical penthouse is moved and the rear angular planes adjusted to improve shadow impact on rear houses, and---very importantly---the one very large retail space is broken up to 3 smaller spaces, with a max retail floor size of 500sq m. Board member Jason Chee-Hing also added as a condition of approval that a 1.5m pedestrian walkway be placed behind the building, for the safety of those walking down the alley (he also recommends that the City explore extending this the entire length of the alley).

Third, fighting this proposal was the right thing to do, for the sake of the character and culture of Ossington, and in hopes of improving the serious impacts on our neighbours and friends. It was also the right thing to do in hopes of getting the City and the Province to uphold the Official Plan, whose motto is "Grow but Protect", and which explicitly directs mid-rise intensification to broad, long, transit-thoroughfare "Avenues" in need of "reurbanization", as opposed to narrow, flourishing, culturally significant main streets like Ossington.

Having read the decision, I remain convinced that our Official Plan-based reasoning is correct. We are clearly correct that Ossington is (notwithstanding the testimony of for-hire "expert" Anne McIllroy) nothing like an Avenue (and thanks to our OPA will never be like an Avenue), in which case there is no good reason for treating it like one. And we are also correct in rejecting the claim that Ossington is (or was, prior to the OPA) designated for mid-rise intensification just in virtue of being a mixed-use area. We originally heard this "mixed use" justification from City Planner Francis Kwashie, who was unable to point us to any passages in the Official Plan substantiating it, rather saying that it follows from reading the Official Plan "as a whole". Chee-Hing reproduces the "mixed-use" justification and its fuzzy "overall" location in the Official Plan. Such vague and unsubstantiated reasoning is uncompelling. At the end of the day, then, there remains no clear reason for allowing this proposal to be built.

Issues of Official Plan law aside, Chee-Hing's decision appears to contain two errors of fact, which may serve as the basis for an application to review the decision. We are looking into this, and will keep you posted.

One last word of thanks to the very large number of people who have invested time, energy, money, and psychological support throughout this long, yet informative and exciting, process. We won what really mattered---that is, the West side's first low-scale protective OPA. We have a Heritage Conservation District application in progress. Perhaps even more importantly: as a result of this proposal, we came together as never before as a community.
toronto dude / June 19, 2014 at 08:45 pm
for once the OMB got it right
run on sentence / June 19, 2014 at 09:23 pm
run on sentence
Mike replying to a comment from Jessica Wilson / June 20, 2014 at 11:05 am
If the Ossington Community Association truly "won what really mattered" in getting the OPA, as Jessica Wilson suggests above, why are they considering options to ask for a review of the decision? Further, they're also proposing that resident's associations boycott the OMB. Not sure what that is going to accomplish, but ok.
Jessica Wilson replying to a comment from Mike / June 20, 2014 at 11:54 am
The reason we are considering requesting a review is that the Decision contains factual errors that may well have impacted the decision.

Most importantly, what City Planner Thomas Rees (in charge of the Ossington Area Study) said was, "to have a six-storey building next to a whole area of two-three storey buildings, it will hurt the character of the street, especially if it is a whole block of six-storey buildings." What the Board member (who partly based their decision on Rees's testimony) said Rees said was "Mr. Rees stated that he had no concerns with the proposal at six-storeys and that his concern is with the entire block of area 2 being six-storeys".

As for a community association boycott of the OMB: we have not yet called for this; at this point, again, we are considering our options.

Another option will be to join with other community associations in filing a complaint with the Ontario (and perhaps also Toronto) ombudsman; I am already in discussions with others about this. Here the issue goes far beyond errors of fact, and rather reflects the incredible superficiality of the decision, which fails to provide any legal basis (in the Official Plan or elsewhere) for the Board member's opinions (which mainly consist in reciting and endorsing the developer's also unsubstantiated claims), and in particular fails to engage at all with the extensive legal arguments (24 pages worth in our lawyer's written submission alone) against the problematic planning rationales offered by the appellant.

As I was quoted as saying in Novus Rea Urbis, the Toronto planning journal, yesterday: “[It] is now clear that continued participation [in the OMB] legitimates an elaborate show of juridical impartiality that in fact camouflages a policy instrument with neither inclination nor interest in interpreting the law.”

The larger moral: serious reform in Ontario planning law is needed.
kn / June 21, 2014 at 09:12 am
Another example of the city planning department and councillors who can't adhere to any consistent or coherent Official city plan.

The height of a 5-6 story, on any major thoroughfare, shouldn't ever be a point of discussion. We need this kind of development everywhere in the city. Having lived in the area for over a decade, I know this part of Ossington, very well. I always laugh when someone refers to the "character" of Ossington Ave. Spare me. Not too long ago there was nothing but a hodgepodge collection of parking lots, tire/repair shops, and "day patients" from CAMH wondering aimlessly up and down the street all day long. I suppose you could call this character....

With respect to the gentrification/development of the street, you only need to look at that Townhouse complex built across from the hardware store to realize the light is completely off at the planning dept at city hall. Everything about that proposal is wrong yet somehow it got approved.

It's sad when residents have to resort to "clever" manipulation of the legal details of a development application instead of actually accepting or discussing the merits of the project. This case represents a reasonable density increase. Period. Unfortunately, residents cannot rely on city hall to represent us as citizens. Hearing Adam Vaughan talk about the OMB as the main problem makes me cringe. No Adam and Mike, it is the councillors and city planning constantly applying different rules to different communities is the problem. Now everybody sees the process as a chance to get their way.

This is where the development process collapses. No clear rules, no consistent interpretation, no robust analysis that places reasonable densification as paramount, not self interest of the local residents or councillors. Interpretation: I paid a lot of money for my row house and I don't want any more density. Not in my backyard.

Just thank your lucky stars you don't live in Alexandra park where city planning and Adam Vaughan thought 15-20 story building was reasonable solution to solve the ills of public housing.
Stephane d. / June 21, 2014 at 10:25 am
It's embarrassing to think that as a city we spent any resources fighting something like this? How on earth are we going to create more homes for people - traditional families or not - when there are these simple minded nimby types who think they have the sold jurisdiction over their prized neighbourhood.

Ossington belongs to everyone in this city - and perhaps especially so to the people who want to make it their own. How some tiny neighbourhood group can hold up good, sensible development - and not be stopped even before they start - is entirely lost on me.

Spend time building your city, not criticizing it. And no jane Jacobs references please, your so called 'ambitions' aren't worthy of any comparison.

Jessica Wilson replying to a comment from Stephane d. / June 21, 2014 at 03:21 pm
The Official Plan wisely directs growth to areas that can handle it and that can use it---e.g., the underdeveloped strip-mall-y portions of broad, long, transit thoroughfare "Avenues", such as Kingston, the Danforth, King, Dundas, etc. The Official Plan also explicitly says that areas like Ossington---flourishing narrow low-scale main-streets---are not the target of intensification; such areas, it says, have zoning that 'fits'. We fought to get the City to obey its own Official Plan. And far from being protective homeowners, we are in favor of condo and other development that 'fits', as the Official Plan directs.

As for creating more homes for families: as Chief Planner Keesmaat has repeatedly said, there is more than enough room for us to meet growth targets on the designated Avenues. In fact, existing growth targets through 2031 have already been met by condo and other buildings that have already been approved.
Jessica Wilson replying to a comment from kn / June 21, 2014 at 03:39 pm
A friendly suggestion before assuming that we are cuckoo to have opposed 6 storeys (well, really, it's the height of a 7-8-storey building, but who's counting?): read Toronto's Official Plan (google it).

It's a great read, and really enlightening about how its authors conceived of the distribution of density in the City. The motto is 'Grow, but Protect', and in order to accomplish this aim the growth strategy in Chapter 2 directs growth to certain designated areas---Downtown, the designated (broad, long, transit-thoroughfare) 'Avenues', the Centres (like Scarborough Town Centre), and Employment Districts. Neighbourhoods are supposed to remain stable, and narrow main streets like Ossington (which is not a "major thoroughfare"---it carries hardly any N-S traffic) are not supposed to be a focus of intensification---City Planner Thomas Rees was clear about this in his OMB testimony. Indeed, we calculated that there is room to triple the density on Ossington (via 4-storey walkup rentals or condos) while keeping to its existing zoning.

And while it's true that Ossington hasn't always been the eclectic destination district it presently is, it turns out to be a historically and culturally important street. Check out the 'Ossington High Street Development Review' (google to get it) to see what I mean---Ossington was the first street out of Toronto!

One last thing: google "Older, Smaller, Better" to see a recent study which shows that lowrise older districts perform better than areas with newer, larger, buildings along almost every interesting dimension.
BB / June 21, 2014 at 07:04 pm
focusing exclusively on height and story's is extremely reductionist. this was a nuanced debate about far more than height. i give major props to the city and the CA for fighting. without their efforts we wouldn't have the current revision. the original proposal was awful. bravo.
Toronto Guy / June 21, 2014 at 11:30 pm
The OMB is a kangaroo court.

It is adversarial with lawyers representing both parties.

So the party with the deepest pockets prevails.

No surprise as to who that is.

It's the worst thing for Toronto and had been for decades.
Yvonne / June 21, 2014 at 11:48 pm
It will be a fantastic project. The condo will look so amazing and fit perfectly in the neighbourhood!!!! HOORAY!!!!! No one wants to see anymore hipsters in that hood. NO ONE!!! So sick of hipsters!!!!!
Jack B Nimby / June 22, 2014 at 02:07 am
Years ago when what is now the community group first began its opposition to the development, it was easy to dismiss them as a couple of hysterical people who live adjacent to the proposed development. I agree with many of the posters here that the plans have improved, and the revised building will be better. So job well done, n i m b y s !
Questionable / June 22, 2014 at 02:15 am
"Ossington to get the condo that 2% of ossington area residents don't want"
BB replying to a comment from Jack B Nimby / June 22, 2014 at 07:49 am
Seriously - this. They fought tooth and nail in a shitty system while developer fanboys and a variety of trolls heralded a constant barrage of insults at them, and in the end the proposal is better. Fuck the nay-sayers and other lazy sorts that are perfectly content with the $$$ steam-rolling communities.
AB / June 22, 2014 at 02:24 pm
RE; TOWNHOME DEVELOPMENT AT HALTON STREET...This was built ten years ago as affordable housing. Ossington was donut shops, sketchy karaoke bars, and light industry. There was no objection, cause no one cared. And, with only two and three-bedroom units, some families could afford to stay downtown when they bought in. They've brought up there kids here, there's empty nesters and singles and new young families who could never afford a house in this neighbourhood.
Kn / June 22, 2014 at 09:26 pm
Re: those townhouses on Ossington across from the hardware store. They are devoid of any architectural merit whatsoever. They are awful regurgitation of a design language from over 200 years ago. They are also have somehow completely turned their back, not only physically but on the idea that this part of Ossington was, and still is set up to be a little commercial area or village centre for the local community.

As far as the city plan goes, they have never followed it. On Dundas, across from the 7-11 just west of Bathurst, they approved 8 stories, no problem. On the east side of Bathurst Adam Vaughan personally championed the demolition of that same city plan to approve 15-20 story buildings. Yes that's right buildings as in Many of them. The increase in density brought by a single 6 story building is negligible. The opposition to this was all about nimbyism not good urban planning at all.
BB replying to a comment from Kn / June 22, 2014 at 10:57 pm
i find the whole "they build monster towers everywhere, so you should be happy with 6-stories" argument tired and lazy. fuck that. this was a fight about a community getting crushed with development from all sides finally taking a stand about a very specific sensitive site. fly the height banner all you want, but this about so much more than that. read the details in the omb ruling. in the end, we have a fair revision that everybody should be happy with. i'm honestly disgusted how some people fault the community for exercising their civic rights. i only wish i lived in a ward with such engaged residents/councilors/planners. good on them.
BrianO / June 22, 2014 at 11:00 pm
The best of this is that the Oz "cool factor" the developer used to sell this Yuppie-magnet will be long dead by the time it's actually built. Don't even bother growing those beards in.
kn replying to a comment from BB / June 23, 2014 at 12:10 pm
BB, you need to educate yourself on the details of the plan Adam Vaughan rammed down the throat of homeowners of Alexandra park, a community not unlike the community surrounding Ossington in density. Quite frankly, the only difference is income levels. So you are telling me that this should be the determining factor instead of a consistent rule for every community?

6 stories is completely reasonable height on Ossington. The fight should be for creating a supply of housing for families who want more than 750 sq ft and can no longer afford to buy a 750k dollar semi.

If you want to look at a community being "crushed" by overdevelopment take a look at the development for Atkinson coop. This property is going to see an increase of more than 5000 new residents, all of whom will be living in building well beyond this Ossington proposal.

It was Adam Vaughan who made this happen. He never consulted the Alexandra homeowners. He snuck it by the Alexandra homeowners.

If you want to hire a clown as your representative in Ottawa, vote for Adam.
BB replying to a comment from kn / June 23, 2014 at 05:00 pm
6 stories IS reasonable for Ossington, i agree - the original proposal was for 25m - which are loft size story's. that's been knocked down.

but that's beside the point. this fight was about so much more than height. it was about family units, amenity space, traffic, and most importantly retail. without a fight from the community, there would be one bigbox retail space. that's been split into 3 units. that makes the fight worthwhile right there.

i'm actually super interested in the alexandra park development - but it's flat-out wrong to cite income as some sort of driver here. this was an engaged and active community that fund-raised like hell to fight a building they felt impacted the greater community. this was their civic right, and they deserved to exercise it. good on them.
kn / June 24, 2014 at 02:30 pm
BB, The problem is the lack of concise vision from the city. If they had one, the Ossington community wouldn't have had to battle as they did. Maybe the local opposition's intentions were true to good design, maybe it wasn't.

All of the elements you have pointed out should apply to all communities. For these smaller buildings, I agree, the focus should be on families. Larger, more full service condos quickly become unaffordable when your living space exceeds 1200 sq ft. Even if they lined Ossington with these types of buildings, it wouldn't come close to the impact on density of the Atkinson coop redevelopment will bring.

The Atkinson coop "revitalization" is a travesty. Atkinson coop, has been the centre of serious social and criminal problems ever since it's inception. Instead of recognizing this area as a ghetto, the TCHC and Adam have turned the issues of housing thousands of social housing in one area into a architectural, planning one. They blamed the buildings. This isn't just a physical segregation, it is also a social one. Atkinson has created it's own insular community that has lost touch with reality. It's developed a highly organized gang culture that has been involved in multiple shootings throughout the GTA every year for decades.

Instead of engaging the whole community and examining the issue from academic standpoint, Adam Vaughan asked the TCHC residents what they wanted - and that was it. Effectively he was asking if they wanted their town homes rebuilt not thinking that maybe this didn't work in a world were most people can't afford even a condo in Toronto. This isn't a dozen town homes. It's over 350!!! To pay for this, Adam promised Zero displacement to the residents and later made a deal with the developer. The developer stated the obvious. That is, the only way we can pay for this is to more than double the local height restrictions. So now Dundas and Cameron will be a wall of condos over 15 stories high.

It wasn't until Adam had made all of these promises did he bring it to the public. Nothing anybody was going to say would change this plan. So, on one hand we have a community like Ossington with money, and Alexandra park with none. Ossington won, and Alexandra park got pummelled into oblivion by the self interest and political agendas of Adam Vaughan and the residents of Atkinson coop.

So I am not wrong at all in saying that these development issues are about the haves and the have nots. It is about how one community who has education and money and one that doesn't.
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