Empty Danforth plot undergoes redevelopment plans

Danforth Woodbine redevelopment photo by Nicole Bruun-Meyer

I recently attended a community meeting regarding the redevelopment proposal for 2055-2057 Danforth Avenue, at the intersection of Danforth and Woodbine. This site, empty since 2001, is slated for a 12-storey condominium with retail space at the ground level. The reason for the community meeting, held by Councillor Sandra Bussin, was because of a rezoning application for the site, which would allow the developer the extra building height.

Prish Jain, of TACT Design, presented the concept for the new building, showing its footprint on the overall site, with its affect on sun and privacy for the local residents. This was followed up with remarks by Leontine Major, Senior Planner, City of Toronto Planning Department and then a question and answer period. TheĀ  gathering, which attracted about 50 attendees, was a chance for the local residents to raise concerns on specifically the height of the proposed building. The current bylaw allows for five-storeys, while Toronto’s Official Plan suggests a density of nine-storeys for this area.

The site is quite unique, with no real precedent for its development. It fronts onto Danforth Avenue, while also having access from Woodbine Avenue. The back part of the plot is directly adjacent to residential backyards, providing a high impact on the direct community. It also covers two different planning designations, the front, along Danforth, is considered Mixed Use Area, while the rear is under Neighbourhoods. These two designations have different planning criteria, height restrictions, density allowances and objectives. This creates its own challenges for the site and the surrounding areas. Within the ‘mixed use’ portion of the site, the height limit allowed is 14 and 12 metres, whereas the ‘neighbourhood’ areas have a limit of 10 metres. In Section 4.2 of the Official Plan, it distinguishes between Apartment Neighbourhoods and low-rise Neighbourhoods, since, for the former, “a greater scale of buildings is permitted and different scale-related criteria are needed to guide development.” The predominent height in this area of the Danforth is three to four storeys high, so whether this proposal is the City’s suggested 9-storeys or the designed 12-storeys, it will be the tallest structure in the vicinity.

The site also falls into the Avenues category of the Official Plan, which according to Section 2.2.3, states Avenues are “important corridors along major streets where reurbanization is anticipated and encouraged to create new housing and job opportunities, while improving the pedestrian environment, the look of the street, shopping opportunities and transit service for community residents.”

The predominant concern of the community was theĀ  height issue, but they were also concerned with losing the character of their neighbourhood, as one attendee said, “ruining the uniqueness of this area,” while others are worried about the big box commercial retailers pushing the local business owners out. However, as a local business owner pointed out, “from the commercial side, if we do not have more people, we won’t survive.” From the residents to the back of the site, they are obviously concerned about over-looking and privacy.

The proposed building steps back from Danforth, starting at 4-storeys to 9-storeys, 12-storeys and back down to 4-storeys. The Architects have also pushed the bulk of the building into the mixed-use zone, keeping the underground parking entrance and drop-off point in the neighbourhood zone, using the access from Woodbine Avenue. It has incorporated the garbage and recycling bins within the building to keep them out of view of the residential neighbours.

I will be writing about the future of this development and the implementation of city-wide planning guidelines within smaller communities. There is a concern about losing our ‘neighbourhoods’ and their uniqueness, however Toronto is a growing and changing city, which presents its own challenges to intensification and reurbanization.

27 comments

  1. If you live near the subway line you should expect density. It makes sense for transportation, the environment, and amenities.

    I say built this thing as high as you can.

  2. Perhaps a bit to big for that area and I say that only because of the homes behind. The step back of the structure will work well. Take note of the condo/retail structure at Kingston Road and Fallingbrook. A beautiful structure that sits very nicely into the streetscape. As for character..tht is one thing that this stretch of danforth does not have. From approx. Jones to Main this area of the danforth is in dire need of new building stock and a lively infusion of retail, resturants, good office and work space.
    There is development at the corner of greenwood and danforth another location in dire need of a facelift. Why it has taken this long for redevelopment to start I have no idea. You would think that transit would spur this type of change…at least there appears to be some hope on the horizon.

  3. Fine by me.I live on a side street just east of Woodbine by Danforth and I fully welcome this new project. There are only so many asian nail salons and hair places that one neighbourhood needs.

  4. Sounds like the developer has done the right things, step backs, etc. In terms of height, I think if the whole corner is going to go high within a couple of decades, 12 stories is fine, but in the current context of 2 to 4 story buildlings, it’s too much.

  5. 9 storeys is plenty dense already, and plenty tall for an east-west street. What the area needs is a modest and consistent increase in density, not random huge increases. There’s no reason to break what is already generous zoning for a main street outside the downtown core, that has already been thought out in order to increase density while maintaining an appealing streetscape.

    I’m wondering about where the 9 storeys comes from, though. 14 meters is 4-5 storeys. It sounds like the city has *already* conceded considerable extra density beyond what the existing zoning allows, and the developer is now pushing for even more.

  6. I don’t see much issue with 9 storeys here; most of its ‘shadow’ will fall over commercial properties or the Danforth itself. I have friends who live just around the corner and I know the area pretty well, I think it can take it.

  7. The “Notice of …..” sign (those big white signs that go up on empty lots) for this lot says “7 storeys, mixed use).

    I live in the area, and as long as the building provides a good “streetwall” with street-level retail and no driveways off the danforth (hurting pedestrian traffic) then I’m all for the 4-12 stories.

    Plus, the lot is less than a minute walk from the entrance to woodbine station… a perfect place for something a little higher. Danforth in general should be in the 5+ storeys range for its whole length, instead of the 2-3 it is now.

  8. A look at the streetview might provide some context above the picture included in the post for non-locals. It is very close to the subway so where you might expect indeed some density, but to go from 2-3 stories to 12?

    A quick look around Danforth and Main shows that a scattering of towers is no panacea at a subway stop.

    The irony is that the city would probably allow a 1-2 storey Shoppers or LCBO or Rogers or Beer Store box next door – after all they did here, 250m from the front door of Broadview Station.

    Given the width of the street I’d like to see the City enforce ~3-5 storey minimum for developments at street front from Broadview to Dawes Road (i.e. the subway catchment) – the sort of heights you see in the Pape area. 2 stories to 4+12 seems to go from stunted to ridiculous.

  9. Build the condo already. Its near the subway and density belongs at subway stations. Besides, this neighbourhood could definitely use a little bit of TLC. I don’t understand why people are so resistant to building tall buildings in places where tall buildings clearly make sense.

  10. There are 6 & 8 storey buildings on Woodbine just to the north of Danforth, as well as a 6 storey building at Coxwell & Danforth and the large development at Main Square, but the rest of the buildings along Danforth and along Woodbine in the area are 2-3 storey.

    I’ve lived in the area for 5 years, and I walk by the site on a regular basis. It is within spitting distance of Woodbine Subway station, and for that reason alone its got to be built high.

  11. I also live in the area and support this project, which seems thoughtfully designed. That strip of the Danforth desperately needs densification and additional pedestrian traffic.

  12. Hopefully the local community association (DECA) will support this project. It is exactly the type of development that should be occuring all along the Danforth.

  13. It’s ridiculous to see dilapidated two storey buildings all along a subway line that was built over 40 years ago.
    Remove height limits within a 5 minute walk of ALL stations. Sell off the air space over ALL stations.

  14. People… are you now out of your mind?

    What “good examples” do you see along Danforth that fall within the “tall tower” category? I’ll tell you how many there are: NONE! All attempts at building high on that stretch was convincing enough not to repeat it! The complex at Woodbine, on the north side looks hideous, towers at Main Street are just horrid and I am not even going to discuss Victoria park. Plus they had NO VALUE to the ‘hood. None.

    So please, before voying to another tall pile of blah concrete, think about what it will look like as an “essemble” that we will leave as a legacy. Cause let’s be honest – once built, these little babies sticks around for at least 50 years.

  15. Have you ever lived there Shawn?
    If not, I challenge you to live in one of these lovely unit for a year.

  16. What does my living there or not have to do with it? I’ve been up in them, I’ve interviewed people who live in them. I found a lot of people who like and choose to live in them. The market condos in Crescent Town are not cheap. Why aren’t they cheap? People like them, and they are desirable.

  17. Useful as they may appear, high buildings on subway lines don’t necessarily create terrific cities. Recognizing The Danforth as a distinctive, even iconic area and promoting a liveable, walkable five-storey Danforth strip, on the other hand, just might. Think what the low-key and thoughtful Carrot Common did for the area around Chester over the past 20 years. Main Square did not do that for Main and Danforth. Twelve storeys here will stand out like a sore thumb for a very long time. The Danforth is already zoned for five storey buildings. But how many of them do you actually see? Things change slowly as individual landowners up their buildings, mainly to three storeys. Yes, The Danforth is gritty, busy, grungy, sometimes seedy but amazingly still truckin’ after all these years as a commercial main street with completely lovely residential areas all the way along. It’s not a place of prettified charm, but it does have a human scale that we would do well to enhance going forward. Let’s learn from European cities who transformed formerly seedy downtown districts, like the Marais district of Paris, not with highrises, but by respecting the inherent human scale that makes them so attractive to tourists and residents alike. This 12-storey building will fill the hole, but not necessarily improve anything about the strip. We can do better. I’m for a five-storey intensification here, an incremental change that would respect the scale of this area and that would offer a Carrot-Common like frontage to encourage the commercial activity of the street. I’m for Five on the Danforth.

  18. Main Sq has nothing to do with the Carrot Common. The Square, at Main, was done poorly, and it isn’t run well and there are vacancies in the small retail area. Unrelated to the height. You can have a carrot common with height.

  19. But five-storey is height already. It’s four times the residential space currrently available along most of the Danforth. Beside, this 12 storey is three higher than the nine storeys the City designated for this area in its Official Plan. And we have so many high-rise neighbourhoods all over the city already. I’m not saying low-rises solve everything anymore than highrises. Obviously. Regent Park was low-rise. No one factor makes or breaks planning decisions. But take a walk along Queen Street East from Woodbine towards Coxwell, and see how the 4-5 storey new buildings on the south side of Queen Street integrate and contribute to a neighbourhood feel of that area. Granted, Queen Street is a narrower street than the Danforth, but it is that kind of intimate yet clustered together feel that I find very attractive in city living and that I think should be a definite and legitimate option as we plan our city. For me, that kind of streetscape – with creative touches like Carrot Commonish couryards – would build a distinctive and lovely city district along the Danforth going forward. I don’t think this city has to be one size fits all.

  20. I live around the corner next to a parking lot that I fully expect will one day be a larger structure staring down on me – I’m putting another tree out front in the spring to prepare as it is inevitable and desirable (for the city as a whole) that the areas around subway stations support greater density. I missed the meeting and thus have not seen too much of the plan but do support the project in concept, this said even with a step-back 12 stories is indeed a bit incongruous and will be for a very long time. I would contend that unless the design is truly extraordinary that 9 stories may be a little more realistic which as noted would still be the tallest in the area, a little more palatable for any doubters and serve better as a bridge for the neighbourhood as it transitions to a more vertical streetscape. The debate should not be about low-rise (which we know is not dense enough this close to a station) or highrises (which can be jolting self-enclosed suburbs cut off from their surrounds) but about mid-rise, something that I think the city actually figured out (to an extent) in the Official Plan – ie. 5 to 9 stories:).

  21. I live a couple of blocks behind the proposed building. I think the Danforth/Woodbine area needs a building like this. This portion of the Danforth needs to catch up to its western portion. Having more pedestrians on the street will increase business (as well as the values of our homes). I’m all for it and hope it happens.

  22. Woodbine business is going downhill, there are more dead businesses then live businesses, the building will do well for the community in both commercial and industrial, me too daddy, theres 5 not 4, come on now lets take the orange and follow the kitty for christ sake.

  23. I currently live just north of Woodbine and Danforth across from the subway with my parents. I am on the market to buy my own place in 2011. I want to stay in the area, but am heavily leaning to wanting a condo which besides Queen St E doesn’t really exist in this area. I don’t drive, so this building would be a dream. If plans do move forward and it does get built. I will be in line to buy a unit. I have lived in their area for 20 years (almost all my life) and I have seen the “life” of the Daforth slowly flicker out from my childhood to now. I say, bring the people (and so the life) back to Danforth.

  24. Geeze, it’s too early, sorry for the typos.

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