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Church St peeps to fight condo building slated for Church and Gloucester

Residents oppose '25-storey black death star'

no caption Credit: rendering by RAW design

“The village in downtown Toronto was once a thriving community however it is in need of some new energy and investment.”

That’s how architects at RAW design are describing a proposed Church St condo that one local resident called a “25-storey black death star.” A Thursday evening meeting at The 519 attracted about 100 people, many of whom live in the 35 low-rise residential units that could be torn down and replaced by a mixed-use high-rise development running from Dundonald to Gloucester along Church, on land owned by a company called Church 18 Holdings Inc. Some of the tenants that could be displaced have lived in their units for upwards of 20 years.

Developers have been meeting with city staff and refining their plans since at least February 2009, though residents were not notified that anything was in the works until a few weeks ago. The current proposal is for a 25-storey tower, including a seven-storey podium.

Fuzion  and Voglie, at the corner of Church and Dundonald, would become part of the development, as would some of the front and side walls at 592 Church and 67 Gloucester. The buildings at 596 Church, 584 Church and 69 Gloucester would be demolished. A number of affected buildings are included in the City’s Inventory of Heritage Properties. The resulting development would contain 35 replacement rental units and 158 condominiums.

At the meeting, residents expressed a lot of anger that they had not been consulted earlier and voted to form a new association, tentatively called the Gloucester Mansions Residents’ Association. More meetings are in the works, in preparation for the City’s official public consultations, which will be held in late fall, 2010.

Ward 27 candidate Kristyn Wong-Tam took notes on chart paper at the front of the room, but was not formally introduced, presumably in deference to rules against campaigning on City property outside of official all-candidates meetings. After the meeting, she distributed a press release outside the condemned buildings.

“This is not about being anti-development,” she says. “But we’re dead set against reckless development.”

City planners may well agree. A preliminary report on the rezoning application highlights 23 issues to be resolved, even though a number of changes have evidently been made in response to staff comments over the last year. Planners are concerned, among other things, about a proposal to make Gloucester two-way between Church and the entrance to the new building. They have also highlighted the fact that 13 two-bedroom rental units will be replaced by one-bedroom units. As the relevant planning staff are on vacation, they could not be reached for comment.

One of the meeting organizers was Jeff Myers, best known in the Village for rallying the community after Chris Skinner’s murder last fall. He recently moved into one of the buildings slated for demolition.

“The landlord hummed and hawed about our application for a long time and then finally approved us, and said, ‘We find it works better for residents and us if we just sign people to month-to-month leases,’” says Myers. “One month later, they let us know that they were tearing down the building.”

Myers sees a single strain running through the community’s mobilization around Skinner’s murder, Pride’s political messaging issue and this redevelopment.

“There is definitely a clash of values, of money over people, large developments and investment over human-scaled environments,” he says. “And at Pride, [also of] money over people, corporate and government dollars over free speech and the protection of freedom of expression.”

The development site – Church and Gloucester:

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