King-Spadina - Planning for the future and the past
King-Spadina has a very special place in Toronto's history and how we act today will determine whether our new communities are liveable and equitable for future generations. Two major projects are almost complete that will help to guide the growth and change of King-Spadina over time, and ensure that the neighbourhood continues to reflect our past.
King Spadina is special in Toronto because it was originally inside the range of canon fire from Fort York, so no development was allowed. But after the Great Fire of 1904 destroyed a huge swath of manufacturing buildings in the centre of the city, these businesses rapidly established new homes in state of the art buildings to the west, in what is now the King-Spadina neighbourhood. Today the area is still characterized by this stock of solid, flexible structures reflecting an important moment in our history.
Downtown manufacturing began to decline after the Second World War and over time we lost much of the garment industry and other businesses to cheaper suburban locations. But when the former City of Toronto under the leadership of Mayor Barbara Hall, inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs, lifted the land use restrictions on the area, vibrancy and investment quickly returned in the form of office conversions and new residents.
Since 2004 when Festival Tower (the current home of TIFF) was approved, there have been 99 major redevelopment projects constructed, approved, and proposed in King-Spadina. Stacked end to end, all that development would be as tall as 21 CN Towers. It is absolutely critical that we make a new model of vertical community work in King-Spadina. It isn't enough to just add density; King-Spadina needs to be a liveable, equitable community today and in future generations.
The new King-Spadina Secondary Plan will protect the mid-rise warehouse character of the neighbourhood west of Spadina and ensure that new towers in the east still allow for privacy and sky-view of residents, and minimize shadowing. It will also give the City more power to link development approvals to the adequate provision of community services and facilities. If the neighbourhood doesn't have enough services like parks, childcare spaces, community recreation centres, and libraries, then we will be able to put a hold on new construction while those services catch up. Since being elected as councillor, it has been my priority to make sure King-Spadina has these services. A big piece of that puzzle will come from the partnership between the City and the YMCA to build a new community centre at 505 Richmond Street West, which was approved by City Council this year. The final proposal for the Secondary Plan will be brought to a public meeting in the fall, and City Council will be asked to approve it in December of this year.
In close coordination with the Secondary Plan, the King-Spadina Heritage Conservation District (HCD) will protect our valuable and unique stock of heritage buildings constructed between 1880 and 1940, and make sure that new buildings reinforce the prevailing heritage character of King-Spadina. It will also protect the public parks and network of streets and lanes that were designed at the beginning of this period. An HCD does not freeze a neighbourhood in time and it has flexibility to allow growth and change. But it also protects against the any further loss of our heritage under the pressure of King-Spadina's desirability and rising property values. With the HCD in place, the character and qualities that make King-Spadina special will still be recognizable and valued in another hundred years.
The King-Spadina HCD will be considered by City Council in October. The final HCD Plan is available to download from the City's website: