Community mobilizes against Eastern Avenue development

Recently there has been a lot of noise about the proposed development by Smart!Centres on Eastern Avenue – a development suspected to be a Big Box store, possibly a Wal Mart. The City has stated the development does not belong there – as have former mayor David Crombie and ROM architect Daniel Libeskind, among other high-profilers – but currently the Ontario Municipal Board has the final say. While debate rages on about whether this kind of Big Box development is good for the city or not (see blogTO for a spirited discussion), it has called into question the degree to which the City and the public are involved in developing their own communities.

To that end, the East Toronto Community Coalition has mobilized to bring the matter to wider public attention by asking citizens to sign a letter to Jim Watson, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, asking him to declare Provincial Interest. Such a declaration would stop the matter from going before the OMB, which is understandable given the quasi-judicial body’s spotty record in supporting the City’s planning department. Here is an excerpt from the pre-written letter:

Your government’s policies have correctly identified the necessity of having sound planning which balances the need for strong communities, good jobs and environmental responsibility. The Places to Grow Plan gives municipalities greater control over the destiny of their employment lands. Policy 2.2.6 of the Places to Grow Plan specifically states that major retail uses are considered non-employment uses. It is in the best interest for the community and city that the employment be varied and not limited to essentially one skill set level, as the current appeal before the OMB dictates.

The proposed application seeks to rezone the last piece of employment district in the old City of Toronto. The City of Toronto has followed your policies and has listened to the community, refusing the application to rezone.

The decision on the future of this vital piece of property is now before the Ontario Municipal Board, a matter which concerns the community deeply. Due to legal reasons which we quite frankly do not understand, the applicant does not have to be consistent with neither the Provincial Policy Statement 2005, nor the Provincial Places to Grow Plan, nor Bill 51. If this application was made today, Smart Centres would have to comply with all of these Provincial policies.

The OMB hearing is scheduled to begin May 20. To read the full letter and / or to sign it, head over the the East Toronto Community Coalition’s website.

On a related topic, I ran across an interesting video detailing Wal Mart’s spread throughout the United States since 1962. It’s pretty impressive watching just how quickly and far its development has reached.

Image from the No Big Box in Leslieville website.

13 comments

  1. Great work!

    Hopefully there is a similar group organising against the rumoured Home Depot going in at Queen & Portland.

    Otherwise you can say goodbye to Jacob’s, and every other small hardware store and paint store for miles around…

  2. The fight in Leslieville is great to see. And much needed. But the Bathurst abnd Queen store is in a very different context. Its very similar to the Cdn Tire at Bay and Dundas. While not particularly atttractive, its not killed local stores around it.

    Home Depot is not a rumour in the Bathurst and Queen ‘hood, its a fact (or at least a bix box hardware store of Lowe’s or Rona).

    It won’t be the end of the those local stores if that happens I believe, since Home Depot is more about wood and sinks and big ass tools. Its directed at the person who needs to drive a car to the hardware store, whereas the local stores are much more about small items.

    I’d like to not have Home Depot-type store there, but I don’t think it will as bad as predicted.

    That’s my humble opinion.

  3. I remember when the Chapters opened at John and Richmond there were fears that Pages would be adversely affected, but such has not happened. For one big thing, Pages has all the alternative media sources be they books or magazines while Chapters is more corporate.

    ~ Jordan

  4. With all respect to Dave and Jordan, the cases cited (Home Depot on Queen, Canadian Tire on Bay and Chapters on Richmond) are each moderately-sized chain stores plopped into an otherwise established and pedestrian friendly neighbourhood. They work out OK because they aren’t massively disruptive to their surroundings.

    The Eastern Ave. big box model is a massive disruption–rather than one store with a certain amount of frontage in an established area, Eastern is a massive reworking of a neighbourhood into something completely hostile to pedestrians and the surrounding community.

    To that end, we should be opposing it with much more fervor, and it’s great to see people in the community taking this seriously.

  5. Big difference between the Home Depot store at Portland and this development. The Home Depot at least went through the community to find a building that was suitable for its location. The problem with Smart Centre is that they completely ignored the community and its proposal is a slap in the face to community planning. Frankly if Walmart was to build an urban friendly store integrated with some mixed use development, I think everyone would be a lot more sympathetic.

  6. I am against the box box stores such as what happened on St. Clair West between Keele and Jane Streets. They built them so that their backs are against the main streets, so if you come or leave via public transit it ends up an expedition. They cater to the automobile. You drive from one store to another, even if it is next door.
    I would prefer to see multi-use, low-rise buildings that front right on the main streets. Any parking is in back and in a garage, out of sight.

  7. We all seem to know the decision the OMB will likely make… based on the past record. Is there not a plan to re-vamp or eliminate the OMB? What does the Premier say? What happens after the OMB says “OK”?

    Tired of this.

  8. It’s worth adding to the post that the Minister has to declare that the case impacts a matter of Provincial Interest at least 30 days before the hearing, meaning it would need to happen by April 20th.

    And yeah Dave, Home Depot at Portland and Queen is not the same thing at all. That will be integrated into a mixed use building with a frontage on Queen St. for smaller stores that relate in scale to the street. Not just a box surrounded by parking. A Home Depot isn’t, in and of itself, bad.

  9. How does the Wal-Mart differ from the Canadian Tire big box at Leslie & Lakeshore? Isn’t the “big box” already in Leslieville with that? Or the original “Big” Loblaws that’s been there for 20-some years? Thoughts??

  10. If the store happens despite the protests and disagreement, and local businesses close because of it, then it is the fault of those who use the big box store instead of continuing to support the local stores that they are so scared of losing. The idea that the community will be weaker because of some development will only happen if the community makes it happen. Nobody at SmartCentres is making you shop there.

  11. no one makes you shop at the big box. prices make you shop there. i detest the concept. love community local stores. held out for years but now, i have to look at prices and the big box guys are cheaper.

  12. I agree exactly with Daley’s last comment. I live in the Beach and whole-heartedly support the businesses in my area and in adjacent Riverdale, Riverside and Leslieville. I pass the large Canadian Tire complex on Lakeshore everyday and make every effort not to shop there. I see the Loblaws closeby and choose to shop at local markets. At the end of the day, demand with dictate staying power and use. So if you the consumers and citizens really care with SmartCentres arrival, DO NOT SHOP THERE!!! That is the biggest statement you can make if the idiots at OMB in fact agree to its building. If SmartCentres really, truly cared about Leslieville, they would even consider building extremely reduced parking…how about underground parking and build a park or mixed-use public space above it (think of Aga Khan complex at Don Mills and Eglinton — he is paying for 750 car underground lot and building a large park above it…that is called community care initiatives) If SmartCentres really cares, they would consider the latter and build on a scale more attributable to the Queen and Portland sts. Home Depot. It becomes a much more amenable situation for everyone.

  13. I am fully supportive of large developments as long as they are not inappropriate for their neighbourhood. Unlike the Best Buy/Canadian Tire at Bay & Dundas or the proposed Home Depot at Queen & Bathurst, though, this development is wholly inappropriate because it is designed for cars, not people. Car-friendly development does not belong on Toronto’s waterfront or anywhere in downtown Toronto for that matter; thus, I am strongly opposed to the Leslieville big-box in its current form. However, in my opinion, large developments that are pedestrian-friendly are perfectly acceptable and should be encouraged. Overall, we should be promoting a free market. Small businesses have been and will be able to survive if they either find a niche market to serve, have a superior location (important in Toronto) or provide better customer service – historically, most have survived.

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