In a school gym packed with more than 100 people at a public meeting Tuesday evening, residents said a proposed high-rise development would ruin the character of their North York family neighbourhood, add to traffic woes and cast shadows on their backyards when they want to enjoy their outdoor space in late afternoons and evenings.
But near the end of the meeting, a representative of tenants living in the existing social housing townhouses currently on the site begged the community to consider the plight of families living in the deteriorating homes on Adra Villaway, Grado Villaway and Tomar Villaway on the west side of Leslie Street north of Sheppard Avenue.
If the proposed development is approved, the social housing townhouses would be replaced and five residential buildings will also be added to the site.
“Take us into consideration,” tenant representative Lil Rankine said in an emotional plea.
“We are the people and we need to live good.”
The aging townhouses have mould and basements flood with sewage, Rankine said at the public meeting at Dallington Public School.
“We would like to live in nice places,” she said. “We are people. Let’s put money behind and put people first.”
Poonam Jain, a member of the executive of the Bayview Village Association, said the community supports replacing the townhouses with better social housing for the families.
But the community is worried about the scale of the proposed development, she said.
“We’re not against replacing the (social housing units),” Jain said. “The concern is the amount and the density. We certainly have nothing against this rebuilding.”
The proposed plan would see the existing 121 social housing community demolished and replaced with 127 social housing townhouses, two 10-storey buildings with one being a 150-unit retirement residence and the other being a 90-unit rental building, and three condominium buildings of 14, 16 and 18 storeys.
The development would be a partnership between Toronto Community Housing Corporation and Deltera Inc., part of the Tridel Group of Companies, one of Canada’s largest residential developers.
While the social housing needs to be replaced, the development as it is now proposed is not acceptable, Don Valley East Councillor Shelley Carroll said.
“It’s got a long way to go before everybody’s happy. A long way,” she said.
But the condo buildings are needed to bankroll the new social housing, Tridel development manager Steve Daniels said.
“We’re excited we can be part of this new approach to providing affordable housing in the city,” he said, noting governments don’t have the funds to pay for social housing.
Tridel wants to build a neighbourhood that rivals the highly regarded revitalization of Regent Park downtown, Daniels said.
Being only a 10-minute walk to the Leslie subway station, the site is appropriate for high-rises, he added.
The development would also feature pedestrian walkways, a central courtyard including a playground and other amenities.
But residents said the development doesn’t fit in with their family neighbourhood and could set a precedent for more higher-density development.
They said it would add to traffic congestion on Leslie, which is already at a crawl during rush hours, and push more traffic on to surrounding residential roads.
They were sceptical of traffic consultant Steve Krossey, who said research indicates the development would add only minimal traffic to Leslie during rush hour.
One resident said he is not opposed to adding more density to neighbourhoods, but argued nothing is being done to ensure services such as schools, parks, community centres and stores keep up with the growth.
“Are we building buildings where people can live, not just sleep? So, where are the services?” he asked.