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Condos in Toronto

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Toronto Real Estate

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Tag Archives: toronto condo developments

Growing Up: Toronto planner Jennifer Keesmaat pushes for lots of mid-rise

Skyscrapers may fit downtown, but the new chief planner sees Toronto’s salvation in more human-scaled development all over the city.

Wendy Gillis – Toronto Star

Condo Town may be up there in the list of nicknames with Hogtown and Toronto the Good these days, judging by the myriad cranes building towers beside towers.

And Toronto’s chief planner has resolved to make it easier for developers to build even more.

But Jennifer Keesmaat isn’t calling for just any kind of building, anywhere: Rather than more superstructures in the downtown core, Toronto needs moderate-sized buildings all across town, she said.

Citing Eglinton Ave. as an example, Keesmaat says many Toronto streets are prime real estate for mid-rise building, defined as five- or six-storey buildings on narrow streets, and up to 11 storeys on wide arterial roads. Such streets have the space to accommodate mid-rise buildings, often host businesses and services that would benefit from increased density, and most important, are served by transit.

Comment: Lordy yes, we need smaller buildings. A lot of people are turned off condos because they don’t want to live in a cluster of 50-storey buildings. Give them smaller, more boutique options, on quieter streets, and people will flock to them.

Mid rise Toronto condo
“It’s sometimes difficult to appreciate the magnitude of the development opportunity that these avenues present, (but) they’re everywhere,” Keesmaat said.

Among the reasons to build mid-rise: the structures increase density without dramatically changing the scale of the street, they’re low enough to let the sun in, and they often combine retail, office and residential space.

Toronto already hosts successful mid-rise projects. Though resisted when first proposed in the mid-1990s, the six-storey Alexandra Gate building near Yonge and Glencairn Ave., for instance, is a pleasant addition to the streetscape and has brought business to the stretch.

But mid-rises are still the exception to the skyscraping rule, so to encourage developers Keesmaat will be streamlining the process through “as-of-right” zoning.

That means streets such as Eglinton will be pre-approved for mid-rise building, allowing the developer to bypass the onerous and often expensive process of rezoning. The pre-approved zoning will be based on the city’s Avenue studies, thorough examining factors such as street character that have been conducted on 19 streets thus far.

Comment: Combining these shorter buildings with the new transit route will be an interesting experiment.

Keesmaat also hopes that clarifying land-use policy will provide a financial incentive for developers to go mid-rise. Companies can make a decent profit on such buildings if the land is priced for mid-rise, not highrise development. But developers will sometimes spend more on land if they think it can host a multi-storey building.

A clear policy articulating what is acceptable to build on streets prime for mid-rise development will help keep builders from overpaying for land, Keesmaat said.

Glenn Miller, vice president of education and research with the Canadian Urban Institute, said developers should invest in mid-rise because such buildings appeal to two distinct markets: young people looking to buy their first home, and older people scaling down.

“The advantage to the developer is that it mitigates the risk, because you’ve got a broader market,” he said.

But making mid-rise appealing to builders is just one battle. Increasingly, residents’ associations are fighting even mid-rise buildings.

Comment: No one said NIMBYism would go away.

That’s illustrated in the ongoing fight by some Queen St. E residents against a six-storey development.

“People do, in some cases, say: ‘We don’t want to have any changes,'” said André Sorensen, an associate professor in the University of Toronto’s human geography department and an expert in public participation in urban planning.

But research suggests that if there’s meaningful communication between developers and residents, vigorous opposition is much less likely, he said.

Keesmaat says concerned residents should familiarize themselves with the city’s Official Plan, which sets out where the city can best create growth. It’s not about whether the city will grow; it’s how to plan for it.

“To residents who say we don’t want growth, unfortunately that’s not the city we live in … This is a wonderful challenge, to have to figure out how we’re going to accommodate growth in a sensitive way.”

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.