Residents say proposed Yonge-Eglinton development ignores their concerns

Midtown residents’ groups have the city’s ear as they go up against a plan by a major developer that wants to bring more people into the Yonge-Eglinton community but offers few amenities to the locals who already live there.

Canadian multinational Oxford Properties Group made its proposal to the city in December after it had met with local residents to hear their concerns about the plan. But its proposal, residents feel, ignored much of what they had to say.

The Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations and its midtown residents groups are fighting back.

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“We have seen no additional school capacity and no day care, only a small park and no additions to rec centres,” FoNTRA board member Andy Gort, told Streeter. Gort is also president of the South Eglinton Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association.

“There has to be special consideration for community needs that go along with residential needs,” Gort said.

Oxford has applied for a zoning amendment to redevelop a 9.2-acre site on the southwest corner of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue with a complex of five towers with more than 650,000 square feet of new office space, 2,700 residential units, and street-level retail.

The site, owned by the City of Toronto, formerly housed TTC bus barns.

Site of Yonge-Eglinton complex today
WHAT’S THERE NOW: Google Street Views shows the property from the intersection of Eglinton and Duplex avenues, including the former site of the TTC bus barns and the back of the Canada Square development of 1972 facing Yonge Street.

Oxford says the new complex will have landscaped open spaces and a new public plaza.

“The development puts open space at the heart of the project,” says the developer’s website.

Improved transit infrastructure will connect to the existing subway, and the housing component will be predominantly rental. The tallest tower will be 70 storeys scaling down to 45 storeys in the southwest area of the site where the complex meets the surrounding low-rise neighbourhoods.

Gort said even with the planned office space it will be less than what’s there now.

“Not all the office space is being replaced,” Gort said. “We’ve seen an incredible reduction in employment in places at Yonge and Eglinton.”

More people working in offices are needed to add to the intersection’s day-time pedestrian traffic, Gort said. “To have a vibrant community you need to have something that’s busy during the day, otherwise you end up with a bedroom community.”

As for Oxford’s planned community space, Gort said it’s 0.3 per cent (1,000 square metres) of the proposed floor space (276,000 square metres) and the park covers less than five per cent of the property.

FoNTRA also has a big question about two 99-year leases Oxford received for the Canada Square site from the city.

In 2018 city council authorized the TTC, as landlord, to enter into a “lease amendment” with the then-current tenants “which may include … Oxford Properties.”

FoNTRA wants to know what rights those leases give Oxford and what potential problems locals might face down the road as a result. FoNTRA wants the terms of those leases made public so it can review them.

“The city should be having a big say about what should go on the site and we hope that Oxford will listen and decide whether it wants to build it and lease it,” Gort said. “Alternatively, they might continue with their current lease agreement for part of the site.”

On April 7 city council adopted a motion from Toronto-St. Paul’s councillor Josh Matlow to establish a working group so FoNTRA can, once again, voice its concerns about Oxford’s proposal.

The working group will include three or four FoNTRA members, said Gort, along with area residents’ and tenants’ associations, local businesses and community organizations. The group will also examine future development north of Eglinton along Yonge. It’s to report to Toronto and East York Community Council on June 24.

‘Sea of apartment buildings’ foreseen

Yonge-Eglinton was designated as a Growth Centre by the provincial government in 2006.

“Unfortunately, the province did not ensure that community services and infrastructure would keep up with the pace of growth,” Matlow said in an April newsletter. “As a result, there is a recognized dearth of amenities in the neighbourhood such as parks, recreation space, child care and more.”

Gort sees the site as perhaps the residents’ last chance to take a stand.

“This city-owned site is our only chance to maintain something of a normal city centre that’s lively and healthy,” he said. “We have seen so much population growth. It’ll be just a sea of apartment buildings.”