Downtown mid-rise development is casting its gaze on Ossington Avenue in Toronto’s downtown west end.
With at least two development applications already in the works, residents are rallying and the area councillor has plans for visioning before the condo boom hits full force.
“We know development is coming and we can’t stop applications from coming in, but the community can determine how they will treat those applications,” said Trinity-Spadina Councillor Mike Layton.
Once the site of industrial uses such as automotive repairs and storage facilities, the orientation of the sites on Ossington Avenue, with its larger parcels of land, make it more attractive to developers.
In the spring, when the City of Toronto posted a development application on one such site – 109 Ossington, formerly a car lot and garage – residents decided it was time to come together and have a voice in the way their street would evolve.
Smart Growth for Ossington was formed in May to increase communication among neighbours regarding condo development in the area.
“Mostly what we are concerned with is the stability of the neighbourhood and the character of the Ossington strip as a place that Toronto loves,” said Benj Hellie, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto, who moved from the United States in 2005 and now lives on Argyle Street.
Since moving into the area he has seen many changes - stores turning over and a few vacant storefronts occupied and new bars and restaurants opened.
That is a natural evolution of an area, Hellie said, but the current plans for 109 Ossington doesn’t fit with the street’s low-rise designation and traditional character.
“It’s the incredibly destabilizing effect that we are worried about, it would destroy everything around it,” Hellie said.
Smart Growth for Ossington started with about 10 people and their objective was fluid.
“Smart Growth for Ossington was sort of a guerilla enterprise in many respects,” he said. “Something we saw that was going to have to happen was we actually do need a community association.”
In July, the Smart Growth for Ossington transitioned into a more formal structure called the Ossington Community Group.
At the charter meeting in July, the group set up a formal structure, elected provisional officers and developed a rough strategy.
The catchment area for the association is the Ossington neighbourhood, from Dovercourt Road to Crawford Street, south to Queen Street West and as far north as Harrison Street, which is just north of Dundas Street West.
Beyond what happens with 109 Ossington, Hellie said this community association is in for the long haul and hopes to help guide development in the area.
That goal is shared by Layton, who has established the Ossington Working Group.
Compromised of 18 members, five neighbourhood associations, three Ossington businesses and representatives from nine neighbouring streets, the group is an advisory body that will help Layton reach more people in the area as well as help organize a series of public meetings aimed at painting a picture of how the community thinks Ossington should develop.
“How (Ossington) is to be treated in terms of intensification isn’t really clear,” Layton said. “This gives us the opportunity to have a really serious discussion about what is going to happen on Ossington.”
He hopes to work on guiding principals that development should follow and discuss goals for how the community believes Ossington should develop.
Layton said he expects there will be interest in these meetings.
“People feel passionate about their neighbourhood,” Layton said. “It is not all people saying, ‘We don’t want any development’, it is people saying, ‘How do we want to see Ossington in 10, 15 20 years’. We have to start having those conversations now so that when development starts to come forward, we know how to react.”
Layton is hosting a series of four meetings about planning and visioning. The first, called Planning 101, will tell people how planning works, the people involved in the planning process and core planning principals and is set for Aug. 8.
“We want to make sure that if the community is putting forth principals on how the community should develop, then let’s make them sound planning principals that we can argue (at the Ontario Municipal Board),” said Layton, who has a masters in planning.
On Aug. 29, Layton, with the help of city planners, will host an area walk. At this time, the walk start location has yet to be determined.
“We plan on doing a little exercise...taking pictures of land forms and street treatments and things that work or don’t work,” Layton said.
These first two meetings are to provide information for a visioning-style workshop where interested residents will have a conversation about what they would like to see and lay out guiding principals for developers.
That Ossington visioning meeting takes place Sept. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m.
There will be a public meeting on the 109 Ossington development at the Trinity Community Recreation Centre gymnasium at 6 p.m. Oct. 9.