Community Consultation Meeting - 15-33 Mercer St., 400 Front St. - Q&A notes and presentations

On Tuesday, February 3, I hosted a community consultation about two proposed developments in the King-Spadina area. The event was extremely well attended, easily doubling the capacity of the room. I hope that trend continues as we host more development meetings in the future.

Below, you will find links to the two presentations, and notes from the open-floor Q&A session that followed each presentation.

15-35 Mercer St

  • Peter Smith – Bousfields Inc.
  • Stephen Teeple – Teeple Architects

Download the presentation here (PDF)

Q&A (responses are from the presentation / developement team, except where otherwise noted).

Q: Lucas from Planning Partnership on behalf of EDBIA: What is the separation between the towers and adjacent towers?
20m separation between the towers onsite, and adjacent

Q: Lucas con’t: Have you done a shadow study of the development, keeping in mind the surrounding developments?
A shadow study will be submitted as part of the formal application, to be reviewed by City Staff.

Q: Is it possible that the hotel would eventually be converted to resedential?
Plan is to find a permanent hotel tenant. Talks ongoing with hotel companies

Q: How will the new building impact access to the back alley for neighbours?
Most traffic for the new building will be underground, except one required truck bay at the back. The North-South all at the east end of the development site will remain the same. The East-West alley to the south of the development site will be widened by roughly one meter

Q: How many hotel rooms will there be and how many condo units?    
163 hotel rooms, 1086 condo units in the current proposal

Q: Has a traffic study been done for this proposal?
A traffic study has been done, and will be filed with the application, to be reviewed by City Staff. The Traffic report must be approved by City Staff as part of process, who can ask for revisions, or recounts as needed

Q: What is the effect of increasing residential density on traffic for the next 5-10 years in the area?
Recent statistics for the King-Spadina area show changing travel and commuting patterns travel patterns; most people in the area walk to work, with transit being the second most popular option. The last place choice for residents of the area is driving.

Comment: Traffic is major concern. Transit in the area is nearly useless because of overcrowding, and roads are jammed.

Q: How many estimated parking spots?
338 parking spaces, with valet parking for hotel

Comment: Truck traffic in the area blocks commuters, particularly at the intersection of Mercer and Blue Jays Way. The problem is much worse around major events, like game days at the Rogers Centre.  Worried that increasing delivery trucks in the area will exacerbate the problem.

Q: What kind of truck will use the ground level bay?
Private garbage truck service; these trucks are slightly smaller than city garbage trucks

Q: Does the traffic study consider major events?
City staff response: It is considered in the city review of the study, and staff could ask the traffic consultants to do counts during major events

Q: Will hotel traffic block up the road?
Valet system should pull cars in quickly

Comment: Don’t believe the valet system will work quickly enough. Hotels create a lot of traffic, from cabs, drop-offs, etc. Hotel traffic will jam up the roads.

Q: Will this create another major increase in height or density? What is the public benefit from the project – as per the TIFF / OCAD / art space provided in the Mirvish Gehry building?
Developer response: The history of the neighbourhood is around 47 stories. We believe this height is in keeping with the future evolution of the neighbourhood. In terms of public benefit, we see benefit in the heritage preservation on site, and the mixed use elements of the building. This development will provide both living working elements to the neighbourhood.
City staff response: There is no formal application at this point. When an application is submitted, City staff will review the built form, including height. No public benefit contribution (S37 funds etc) has been negotiated at this point.

Q: What is the current understanding of contribution of these buildings for families and seniors?
Project will have 10% 3-bedroom units for families. Multi-bedroom reduces homogeneity of the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, multi-bedroom units are very pricey – often out of reach for seniors. However, smaller units are appropriate for many seniors. Mercer St was a destination in the past for visitors downtown. We want to reestablish that, for all ages.

Q: Are there any plans to accommodate dogs in the building? Any space for daycare?
There are no current plans, but we appreciate the comments. Details like that will be worked out in the process of finalizing the application.

Comment: Dogs should be handled within the new building – not forced on to limited parks in area
Developer response: May be possible to do something like make use of the tenth floor green space

Comment: Would strongly prefer narrow(er) towers – not concerned about height.

Q: How much is the East-West lane being widened?
Believe it is being widened to a total width of 6m, 1m wider than the current lane.

Mike Yen, TEDRA – Comment: It feels like soon the entire area is going to be condos. There is nowhere to shop, no green space.

Mike Yen, TEDRA – question: When will you be building? What are construction timelines? Will the construction force any lane reductions in the area for staging?
A very good construction company is reviewing the plan now. It’s possible to minimize street staging. We may use the gap between the two towers to stage, or other similar solutions. Our hope is to build as quickly as possible – 3-4 years. Other developments in the area will include grocery features.
City Staff response: 1-1.5 years to determine building envelope. 1 year to determine detailed site plan. There is also a lag between applying and building while the developer sells units

Q: Any talk of extending PATH into building?
No conversation about PATH yet, but it’s a good question

Comment: glad to see the building isn’t just glass. Unique design

Q: Is there a new clothesline (building height guideline) from / created by the new Mirvish Gehry development?
We can’t say that, but we think there is an opportunity to rethink the guidelines

Q: Will this require an official plan amendment?
City staff response: this proposal is exceptional in terms of height. It would require an official amendment to proceed.

Comment: I would suggest paying careful attention to the roofscape – don’t just plop a [utility] shed on top

Q: How can an average community member get involved, either in favour or in opposition to the development?
Councillor Joe Cressy response: Speak up. Let us know what you want to say. Contact our office for more information about getting involved.

Comment: The six-meter gap to building to the south restricts privacy. Condo windows will be only 20 feet away from each other.

Comment from Councillor Joe Cressy: I am interested in holding the building height guideline for the area at TIFF (46 floors, 152m).

400 Front St W

  • Mark Ryan, Public Work
  • Peter Clewes, architectsAlliance

Download the presentation here (PDF): Part 1 - Clarence Square Park 'Ring' concept / Part 2 - Building proposal

Q&A (responses are from the presentation / developement team, except where otherwise noted).

Q: Who is the developer?
State Development Corp

Q: Clarence Sq (South side) is a ghost street – totally underutilized – would it be possible to close it to cars during the day?
We recognize that the road is underutilized. With this plan, we’d like to see a seamless transition from buildings to park, integrating the development with the public realm

Comment: Applauding development for sensitivity to public realm, and contributing exciting ideas to landscape and built form

Comment: Walkthroughs are a great idea. Looks like this could contribute positively to the neighbourhood. I think bringing the park ‘into’ the neighbourhood is essential, and I hope the final design will continue on with this plan

Comment: The ‘porch’ idea generates an extra sense of space at the park.
Peter Clewes: I’m not a fan of most colonnades for northern climes, the climate isn’t appropriate. To work in a city like Toronto, it has to be tall.

Mike Yen, TEDRA - Q: There are a lot of things here I really like. I’d like to hear more specifics about the buildings – how many units? Condo / rental? How much parking?
This project is still in its very early days, so we can’t offer all details. We see a major retail component, including a large grocer. The exact unit count is still to be determined, but it will include the family unit requirement (10% 3+ bedroom).
Currently very small units are in high demand, but that may shift as we go through the process, so layouts may change. We are proposing 175 commercial parking spaces (down from 800 surface spaces), and likely 1-in-5 parking spots to units for residential.

Q: When will you have final proposal in place?
We want to file an application soon, within the next 4 to 6 weeks. Given the application process, it’s likely to be 2-3 years before construction would begin

Q: How much grass will be left in the park? The dog park already takes up a lot of space in the very busy park, and the proposed ring concept would use up a lot more.
The reality is that dogs may be in 20 per cent or more of the units. The City is encouraging new buildings to deal with dogs internally, instead of overtaxing local parks. We will definitely consider the issue, and plan accordingly.
James Parakh from City Planning: Important to remember that the ‘Ring’ is a concept only – it’s not part of the site, and would require much more involvement from the City.
Dan Nicholson from City Planning: On a development of this size, we may consider requiring publicly accessibly private space, or acquiring new nearby parks space, to increase public space in the area.

Comment: Dog parks increase community safety, especially for women in the area. They are well lit, and attended at all hours, making the neighbourhood feel safer.

Comment: The playground in Victoria Memorial Square is heavily used – possibly overused. This site should include an accommodation for children.

Comment: The general plans look good, but I remain concerned about the domination of tall buildings, and the impact they have on the park and neighbourhood.
Peter Cluse: We will closely consider the real impacts of building height on the park, and community density, and other measures.

Q: Does this open up the building just to the south of Clarence Square to development?
Not likely. The close proximity to the park means the shadow impact would be too severe to allow an increase in height.

Q: What kind of retail are you looking at?
Most developers want the standard LCBO, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Starbucks combo. This unique setup would allow for some real variety, but commercial taxes will impose some limitations.

Comment: It seems like a great process, with lots of community engagement. Glad to see that.

Comment: The ‘Ring’ concept in Clarence Square would provide a good focal point to the park. It lacks focus currently.

Comment: I like the alleyway concept through the buildings, with mixed retail and entrances.

Q: Whose jurisdiction would animating the city park fall into?
City staff response: Any activities or animation in a City park would always involve City staff, in some capacity. Privately-Owned-Public-Spaces (POPS) are a bigger question. Room and need for consultation.

Comment: Shading and shadow impact is a major concern.

Q: Has anyone calculated people per square foot of public space?
No, but that is an interesting idea. Public space is more intensely animated all the time, but that intensity is very hard on park spaces
Dan Nicholson, City Staff: The City considers parkland deficiency when evaluating cash contributions, with an eye to increasing public space.

Comment: The Well wants to move the crosswalk south of Wellington (currently north of Wellington, by the streetcar stop).

Comment: The Clarence Square fountain is going in this year, from the AGO.

Q: Is there an opportunity to make a daycare here? Maybe overlooking the park?
That is a conversation we are willing to have with the City. We have space. It’s something we’ll look at with the planning department.