What could have been another controversial development application for the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood turned out to be anything but, as the developer behind a pair of towers proposed for 45 and 77 Dunfield Ave. collaborated with city planners and residents.
The results are a new 6,060-square-metre green space, a subsidized daycare to accommodate at least 52 children, and what Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow called “arguably the most successful agreement in history” for the hundreds of tenants, many of them seniors, who live in the two apartment buildings next door.
Shiplake Properties’ final application, which proposes two new rental towers of 24 storeys and 26 storeys at the site, with 519 apartments between them, was approved by city council, including Matlow, on Feb. 3.
“I don’t often stand up and approve a major development in my ward,” Matlow said. “But I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish with this project.”
The present buildings at 45 and 77 Dunfield Ave., which Shiplake has owned since the mid-1960s, include a 28-storey, 575-unit rental tower and a 17-storey, 177-unit seniors residence, both of which are being retained, while the redevelopment site lies on the southern portion of the property and currently includes a one-storey pool and surface-area parking lot, which will be demolished and replaced.
It’s the perfect location, Shiplake’s director of development Maurice Wager said, for what the company wanted to be its “legacy” project — a proposal designed to increase the site’s green space by more than 30 percent by replacing the pool and parking lot with two slender towers, and its cultural value by adding a one-storey art gallery between them.
However, the neighbourhood needed child care facilities more than an art gallery, as Wager soon found out.
“When they first proposed the art gallery, I told them very candidly: of all the different needs in our community, an art gallery is not one of them,” Matlow said.
“We were hosting this community consultation at Eglinton Public School, and the director of the daycare program said, ‘I have a wait list of 50-some-odd kids,’” Wager remembers. “Then a number of parents stood up and said, ‘I can’t get my kid into a daycare, and you’re bringing in more families with more kids, and where are these kids going to go?’”
There was also the issue of height: 45 and 77 Dunfield Ave. are located between rows of multi-storey apartments and quieter streets filled with single-family homes. As a result, many similar proposals that such as 200–214 Keewatin Ave. and 95 and 99 Broadway Ave. have been sent to the Ontario Municipal Board as residents and the city fight with developers to to reduce their height — but Wager said Shiplake never considered the OMB an option.
“We never set up a path to go down that route,” he said. “I think that some sites just lend themselves to good planning better than others, and at this site…. There was a general willingness to cooperate from all sides.”
In the end, the company replaced the art gallery with the daycare and incorporated it into the new buildings, creating even more green space. It also reduced one of the towers from 28 storeys to 24, to provide a better transition between the area’s residential and apartment neighbourhoods and, though it required additional negotiations, provided Section 37 funds to compensate the tenants in the existing buildings for the next two years of construction.
“We figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” said Karni Baum, president of the 45 Dunfield Avenue Tenants’ Association, who negotiated the $200,000 settlement with two other tenants.
“They took care of us,” she said. “Compared to some of the stuff we’ve heard other tenant associations complain about, we don’t have to take (Shiplake) to the (Landlord and Tenant Board) because the carpet is mouldy, or the walls are falling down, or anything like that.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Shiplake will provide each unit at 45 and 77 Dunfield Ave. with a $200 one-time payout when construction begins, and use the remaining funds to reduce the rent by 2.6 per cent during the subsequent 16 months. The residents are also negotiating subsidized access to the swimming pool at the nearby Central Eglingon Community Centre.
“To give Shiplake credit, they actively listened when we said we’d rather have childcare than an art gallery, when we wanted more green space rather than another building, when we wanted the tenants to get a deal that really reflects the hardship that they will experience during construction,” Matlow said.
“Let this be a lesson to the other developers in the Yonge and Eglinton area: if you work with the community rather than around us, we will join you at the table to arrive at a solution.”
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