St. James Town residents worry about impact of proposed 51-storey condo

Click to play video: 'Proposed high rise for St. James Town raises community concerns'
Proposed high rise for St. James Town raises community concerns
WATCH ABOVE: One of the country's most densely populated areas is in Toronto, and it could be home to yet another high-rise condo development. As Caryn Lieberman reports, the project is facing a great deal of opposition – Dec 10, 2018

When asked about a proposed new condo development in her St. James Town neighbourhood, long-time area resident Vickie Rennie has a simple message.

“Enough, enough, enough,” she exclaimed.

Rennie has spent nearly 50 years in the Parliament Street and Wellesley Street East area and said she worries about the impact of plans for a proposed 51-storey condominium, townhouses and other mid-rise buildings.

“The majority of people that live here feel the same way,” she said.

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“Our schools are at capacity, so where are you going to put these people’s children?”

Greatwise Developments Corp. is the company behind the proposal, which spokesperson Danny Roth noted in a statement, “will create new, more diverse housing options with a range of building heights and forms, along with new community-based retail, as well as a new public park and additional open green space.”

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But resident Andrew Dykstra said he is against the development.

“It’s sort of like shanty town by the time they’re done. Like this is a really densely crowded neighbourhood,” he said.

An artist rendering of the proposed development in St. James Town. Handout / Greatwise Developments

A City of Toronto spokesperson acknowledged the St. James Town area is “among the most populated neighbourhoods in Toronto.”

The planning department has received input from local residents and community groups. Ellen Leesti, a City of Toronto spokesperson, said the top concerns involve the “height of the proposed 51-storey building, maintenance and repairs to the existing apartment buildings, TTC bus capacity on local routes, impact on traffic and local infrastructure.”

“Population increase is a concern with respect to impact on existing infrastructure such as local schools, parks and open spaces, traffic, TTC capacity and social services,” she explained.

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A combined Official Plan Amendment and rezoning application was submitted in April 2018 for the plan in St. James Town. The City of Toronto noted the application has not yet been deemed complete due to outstanding required studies and plans. The overall planning approval process will take at least another year to complete, but potentially much longer.

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Ryerson University Planning Expert Murtaza Haider said there will always be resistance to new development, but the City should consider what is best for society.

“If you take this building and put it somewhere like Markham or Vaughan or Brampton, then that walking, biking and transit is not an option. If we would like to replicate what Europe has, if we would like to embrace a non-auto future for mobility, then we have to turn our backs to NIMBYism,” Haider said.

“If not here, then where? And then where would be perhaps somewhere where you would get even worse environmental and economic outcomes. If this is the prime place to live where people can still live here, more people can live here, and try to get by on public transit and non-motorized modes such as walking or biking.”

READ MORE: The Toronto condo bust that wasn’t

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Vickie Rennie, who is busy preparing for an annual holiday meal for the residents of St. James Town, said “there’s not enough services, and now you want to put how many more people in?”

Rennie said she hopes the proposal by Greatwise Developments Corp. stays on paper.

“We don’t have the services needed to support more people,” she said.

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