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Church-Gloucester condo project on hold

Developer asks for more time to revamp plans

A controversial condo project that would have gutted several historic buildings and displaced hundreds of residents from apartments at the corner of Church and Gloucester streets in Toronto has been put on hold, after a lawyer for Church 18 Holdings, the developer that owns the property, asked the city for a six-month delay for the site’s rezoning application.

The city granted the delay, during which time the developer will either submit a substantially revised application or withdraw its application completely. Some of the options being considered include a reduction in height of the project or a wholesale redesign using new architects.

The city can leave a rezoning file on hold for up to six months; if the developer does not submit a revised plan within that time, the file is closed and the developer forfeits its application fee.

The condo project, which would have taken up the entire block of Church St between Dundonald and Gloucester streets, came under fire from neighbourhood residents who criticized the height and scale of the project and its impact on residents. City staffers announced in December that they were recommending against approving the application, noting that the proposed building was far taller than the allowed height on the street and that it would ruin the heritage character of the neighbourhood.

The developer could have appealed a city decision to the Ontario Municipal Board but has so far chosen not to, according to a letter from the developer’s solicitor. Neither the developer nor its lawyer returned calls before press time.

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Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who had campaigned against this particular condo project, says she’s pleased that the developer is rethinking its plans.

“They heard from the community loud and clear that the community was not happy with it,” she says.

But the developer has only itself to blame, she says. It was clear when the initial application was made in April 2010 that community members were unhappy with the proposal, and despite an election-caused eight-month delay before a community meeting was held, the developer didn’t revise its initial plan.

“Instead of bringing revised plans that would have incorporated the input from the community, they submitted the same plans they did back in April, knowing the community was opposed,” Wong-Tam says.

Because of the initial election delay and this latest delay, residents of the neighbourhood are facing a year and a half of uncertainty about their homes.

“Residents and tenants are still unaware what’s happening in their neighbourhood. I feel quite sorry for the local community that’s been impacted. We shouldn’t have had to wait until after the election for the statutory meeting. That was ridiculous,” Wong-Tam says. “I think that’s the most sad thing to come out of this.”

This latest speedbump doesn’t mean the Village is closed for development, Wong-Tam says.

“I think the community has expressed a desire to see good development, and there was a question of whether or not the application was respectful of the treatment of heritage impact on low-rise neighbourhood,” she says. “That application was not necessarily, in my opinion, a good development.

“I was impressed with the articulation of the community of what they wanted to see. They were clearly articulating what they did want, not just what they didn’t want. They want green development, development that’s respectful of heritage and family-sized units.”