Rob Wolvin may have been the last candidate to register in the Ward 27 race, but he says that doesn’t mean he’s any less serious about his attempt to unseat incumbent Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.
The former owner of the now-closed Yonge Street gay bar Gladaman’s Den says that he’s concerned about the pace of development in the ward and across Toronto and that he wants to step in to help push a more “neighbourhood” or “village” feel on new developments.
“It would mean development that opens up to the community and invites the community in, as opposed to steel and glass towers to the sky that are pretty much closed-off, isolated populations that sit in tiny little boxes a couple of feet from where their neighbours are sleeping, neighbours that will likely always be strangers, then they go down to a parkade and drive miles away to work and to shop and for entertainment, completely and totally oblivious generally,” he says.
Wolvin says he’d like the city to force developers to include more community benefits in new developments, such as wider sidewalks and green spaces, community centres and social housing. He also says the city might be able to finance the downtown relief line by getting developers to build the stations in exchange for development rights on top of them — although no study has ever concluded that this is likely to work in Toronto.
And while he says that Wong-Tam has publicly advocated for increased community benefits along with development, he says she’s been too accommodating to developers in the ward.
“I wonder if Kristyn Wong-Tam is the best advocate for community-sensitive development,” he says. “This is someone who lives in a condo and commutes to the ward that she herself does not live in. I find that calls into question her ability to advocate on those issues. I find multiple approvals of condos that don’t fit to that vision.”
Wolvin singles out for scorn the proposed Lanterra development at 501 Yonge St, which recently got Wong-Tam’s approval in a complex deal that had the developer agree to build a new public park in a related proposal across the street at 11 Wellesley St E. Wolvin had sat on a community working group related to the development and thinks that the proposal is still too big for the area.
“There’s still seven storeys of parkade, including the entire footprint. It’s the least neighbourhood-friendly aspect of the development,” he says.