Mac’s in the Sunnybrook Plaza is closing. The convulsion in neighborhood life caused by construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, and by the ripple effect of development, is causing many changes and this is just one. The Mac’s has less than a year left on its lease and the chain’s owner, Couche Tarde of Montreal, must figure there is no point in hanging in for whatever life is left in the old retail plaza. The owner of Sunnybrook, Rio.Can, intends to redevelop the corner and its mega-project two tower proposal (19 and 13 floors) is now at the Ontario Municipal Board. This means there will probably be construction at this location in as little as 18 months. Many locals will be sorry to see Mac’s go. Bob and Judy Arsenault were saying it is a handy stop for them when they step out of their nearby condominium. The official closing date is Thursday, January 14, 2016. We can look forward to increasing vacancies at the old Sunnybrook, a neighborhood landmark built in 1952 and said to be the first strip mall in Canada. Residents launch informed attack on Sunnybrook Plaza plan
Tuesday, June 30, 2015 will see the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) meeting at which RioCan will appeal to amend the City of Toronto Official Plan so it can build towers on the site of Sunnybrook Plaza. Community organizer Kate Whitehead has been leading the fight against a plan to construct towers 13 and 19 storeys. She and others are hoping for a good turnout at the hearing which is scheduled for 10 a.m. at 655 Bay Street on the 15th floor. Here is her Facebook page.
A Toronto rapper has been found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder in the 2010 shooting deaths of four men. Mark Moore pleaded not guilty to all four of the murders, which took place over a span of 75 days in the fall of 2010. The jury returned Saturday (May 30, 2015) with a verdict finding him guilty of first degree murder in the deaths of Jahmeel Spence, Mike James, Courtney Facey and Carl Cole. Two of the killings were witnessed by a friend of Moore, who testified against Moore. He will be sentenced on June 16. Moore was also the mastermind (if that’s the word) of the robbery at Arax Jewellers in the Sunnybrook Plaza in 2010. He was sentenced last year to a 12-year sentence for that violent attack on the shop at Bayview Ave and Eglinton Ave. E. That incident saw goldsmith Art Darakijan shot in the leg. The Sunnybrook gun play occurred Monday, August 9, 2010 when Moore, then 30, and accomplice Kevin Williams, 33, jumped out of an Audi behind the Arax store just before 6 p.m. They were armed and wearing masks. Darakjian tried to close the store’s rear door prompting Moore to shoot the man. Moore followed the wounded Darakjian inside while dragging another other employee at gunpoint, yelling at both to get down on the floor. Darakjian has made a full recovery but suffers from “lingering psychological impact.” The two men terrorized the staff as they looted the shop of a large haul worth about $500,000. They escaped in the Audi which was driven by Sarah Patsula. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment.
At the well-attended information meeting about the proposed redevelopment of Sunnybrook Plaza, one impressive speaker was Kate Whitehead. She is a mother of three who lives on Bessborough Dr. in North Leaside. Ms Whitehead has opened a Facebook page which following that meeting on April 28, 2015 has been receiving reaction to her forcefully delivered remarks. The South Bayview Bulldog has reprinted Kate Whitehead’s remarks below
The proposed high-rise at Sunnybrook Plaza threatens the very fabric of our community. Leaside is not downtown Toronto. Anyone who has driven downtown, with all of the massive high-rise development occurring there, may have noticed the same thing I have. The city is getting dark. As walls of condos fill in every available space in the streetscape one is left with an impression that they are driving through a tunnel. A tunnel where every building looks the same. A tunnel that blocks out the sun.
Leaside is not downtown Toronto. Leaside is a community where children can ride their bikes to their soccer games at Leaside high. It is a place where you can grow a garden. It is a place where you know your neighbors. It is a place where, during the ice storm, a group of neighbors spontaneously arranged themselves to walk the streets with willing hands and saws to clear the debris from people’s lawns. It is a safe place to retire. It is a safe place to raise a family. If developments like this one are allowed to proceed, this will end. It will end and with it will go something that is very valuable to the residents of the entire city. Something that makes Toronto somewhere you would want to live.
Do we want Leaside to simply become part of the tunnel? It seems to me that the city is in an ever accelerating process of abolishing neighborhoods in favor of streamlined, profit maximized, large-scale development. In so doing new housing goes up quickly and at great profit to developers, but at what cost? It seems to me that citizens of this city will have few alternatives to large-scale developments. There will be no place like Leaside left for people who find themselves wanting such an alternative. If we pave communities like Leaside over with condos, there will be no turning back.
I can see why someone would want to buy a condo in Leaside. I can almost envision the promotional material that RioCan will produce. There will be pictures of families playing in the park, pictures of tree lined streets. An invitation to be part of the vibrant community that is Leaside. The irony is this. The concept that will be promoted in those cheery brochures is the very thing that will be destroyed by the development. Developers like Rio-Can will have been successful in selling out two groups of citizens. Those whose neighborhood has been lost and those who thought they were moving to the Leaside of old.
I’m sure many other people will highlight what we already know. Large-scale developments like this will clog an already gridlocked Bayview where development is intensifying all the way up to the 401 with no new infrastructure planned. Increased traffic will spill in to the residential streets. Overcrowded schools will become more overcrowded. These concepts almost seem to lose their significance in their repetition. I think of it on a more personal level. What does adding this level of density do for the average person in Leaside? It means a parent spending part of the evening stuck in Bayview traffic rather than being home with their family. It means a teenager going to an overcrowded high school and getting a strained education. It means a 7-year-old riding his bike down the sidewalk and getting hit by a car.
Members of the community participated in the Eglinton connects consultations. We are not naïve. We know that, with the LRT, and with the growing population of the city, that some development is coming. Putting a midrise on the site of Sunnybrook plaza, even WITH the current bylaws will change the neighborhood and be difficult for many members of the community. But with the ink still dry on the new bylaws, Riocan proposes to ignore them and ask for more. This begs the question what is the purpose of a bylaw in the first place? It is not a platform for upward negotiation. It is a limit. It is a negotiated limit. It is a statement of collaboration between the city, business, and citizens.
If I look at the diagram of the proposed development I see some very clear demarcations. The 8 story base upon which the two towers sit is the kind of building that was envisioned for this corner by the Connects collaboration. Those 8 stories WITHOUT the two towers are what we, the community, thought we were agreeing to when we actively participated in making a development plan in light of the LRT. This is what RioCan can build if it respects the community and the bylaws.
The 8 story building (still larger that what was originally envisioned for the block and a significantly larger structure than what is there now) represents a compromise and a win win solution. It provides a mixed use building. It provides a building in keeping with the proposed new streetscape of Bayview and Eglinton. It provides intensification and new taxpayers. It will undoubtedly provide a more than reasonable profit for RioCan.
So let’s look at the towers. What is the benefit of 7 full stories on top of the maximum allowed (even by the most liberal definition)? The downsides I have already mentioned and are numerous. I would argue there is no benefit to the community, either those of us who are already here or those of us who are coming. Who are benefits is RioCan. Only RioCan. I challenge them to outline a benefit to the towers other than profit.
In the last election, the Toronto Star noted that our community had more “SLOW DOWN” child safety signs than election signs. We are a community who is united on the common cause of safety for our children and preservation of our streets. We are engaged and we are able and we are invested. We have the power to harness the potential of the community and we will. We believe Leaside is worth preserving for our children.
We will oppose allowing Leaside to be an extension of the wall of condos stretching out a shadow from lake Ontario. Why is RioCan proposing 19 stories? I think it is audacious and they are floating it to see if we are complacent enough to let them get away with it. RioCan, we are not.
Let’s put aside unreasonable and unworkable plans. I would ask RioCan and the city to listen to the community and respect the bylaws. Let’s work together to find a win win situation that we all can support. Lets collaborate to build a Leaside that both present and future Leasiders can be proud of and flourish in. Lets demand “Right Sized” (not Might Sized) development.
A crowd of as many as 500 people filled the William Lea Room Tuesday night (April 28, 2015) for the information meeting organized by Councillor Burnside on the redevelopment of Sunnybrook Plaza. It was a crowd feeling hostile towards the property’s owner RioCan. Many of them were armed and dangerous in a debating sense.
Elaine Biddiss, a youthful professional engineer and mother made a smack down type of presentation in five areas where she said the developer fell short of the City’s expectations. She spoke on her own behalf and as the first resident to “ask questions” she volunteered a couple times to sit down but was greeted with applause and shouts of “Go girl”.
RioCan has proposed to build a two-tower development — 19 and 13 storeys — on the site of the old strip mall. It would have parking for 420 vehicles at both ground level and underground. There are retail spaces at ground level and rental and condominiums as the floors count up. The City’s planner, John Andreesky, and a staff member from the traffic department, were pressed to keep up with the concerns.
Ms Biddiss noted RioCan’s failure to present a plan with mid-rise height towers (eight storeys) and instead ask the City “to dissolve” two bylaws and amend zoning permissions. It was a theme heard from a number of speakers. Some said they had been hood-winked into cooperating in the early stages of a concept with no idea plans would show such high towers. Biddiss enumerated a failure to accept heritage guidelines and instead offer glass towers, to cut retail space by nearly half, to try to install 700 new tenants and no new jobs and to fail to make a serious effort at including parkland.
Midway through this presentation Biddiss struck on the city traffic planning and seemed to suggest that estimates of traffic in 2030 were inadequate. Mr. Andreesky conceded this was an area needing work. He unloosed a bit of a bombshell among north-end residents when he said City staff were recommending the elimination of right turns from westbound Eglinton onto northbound Bayview. The purpose seemed aimed at moving traffic and perhaps finding necessary sidewalk outside the development. This news caused two or three residents north of Eglinton to shout out that the City was “cutting off my neighborhood”.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Burnside told the Bulldog he “was encouraged by the large crowd. And the fact that the community spoke with a united voice in their opposition.” He said he was impressed by the high level of knowledge of the speakers as well as the fact that everyone stayed focused on the most important issues “I’m confident our City Planner got the message and hope that RioCan did too.” Many well known people were present. Geoff Kettel and former East York Mayor Alan Redway were seen.
The Sunnybrook Plaza has all spaces leased for the first time it seems in a long time. It is a credit to the little strip mall at Eglinton Ave. E. and Bayview Ave in what are clearly difficult retail times The recent arrival of York Taps and a Thai eating establishment took two spaces. York took the long-vacant cast-off half of Rogers space, a casualty of the passing movie rental business. (Remember Blockbuster?) And you can argue that there’s a little more public money being paid to the landlord than usual — the Metrolinx information office and the John Carmichael constituency spot next to Subway bring that new note. But the entire plaza is living on borrowed time as the owners, Rio.Can, show plans for a condominium and commercial structure of two towers on the site. There is an evening meeting about that at the William Lea Room on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.
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