Midtown and downtown residents’ associations fight for the neighbourhood

News Mar 27, 2014 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

While residents are the lifeblood of any community, they can often feel they have little clout as individual citizens.

Their voices can be heard more loudly when they unify into one collective to look after the concerns of those in the community, whether those concerns revolve around safety, development in their area, spreading news or simply getting local residents together for community events.

Residents’ associations, also sometimes known as neighbourhood or community associations, give them that stronger voice.

Midtown and downtown Toronto boasts particularly strong community voices, with more than 30 groups of that kind.

The Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) is one such group, rising out of the Sussex-Ulster Residents’ Association when the latter did not include enough of the community.

“There were a lot of issues with people wanting to do projects in and about the community but the group was named after two little streets, one in the north and one in the south,” said Tim Grant, HVRA chair.

These days, the group’s main focus is on development. While the Bathurst Street Study and the proposed winter sports dome at Central Technical School have been two key areas of focus, there are plenty of other projects on the group’s radar.

“We’re living cheek-to-jowl in a tiny place where you have 100 people in 150 yards if you’re in a single family home and more than that if you’re in an apartment,” Grant said.

He noted an influx of applications for taller buildings in the area has sparked a great deal of interest. This week alone, the group attended an Ontario Municipal Board hearing for a 22-storey building at the site of the Silver Dollar club as well as a Committee of Adjustment meeting for the Central Tech dome.

“The key issue is the height of buildings,” Grant said of development in the area. “In Mirvish Village, we’ll get bigger buildings and we understand that, but you don’t want to be living in a single family home with a 30-storey building 100 yards away.”

Other issues the group is working to stop include a trend toward student rooming houses as landlords try to pack as many students as possible in homes, and bars along College Street overserving students, leading to noise and safety concerns.

On a brighter note, the HVRA also celebrates the area’s history through naming laneways and a collected oral history of life in the area.

“We’ve had a huge focus on the neighbourhood’s history the past couple of years,” Grants said. “We’ve named 24 laneways after people who lived here – not the most famous people, but people like Toronto’s first black postman or the seven Jewish boys who went to fight in World War Two, only two of whom came back, who all lived on Major Street.”

The HVRA also brings the community together for its annual fall fair, its Litter and Glitter clean-up efforts and its Pumpkin Festival.

With the municipal election coming up this fall, the HVRA will also take an active role in giving the candidates a platform.

“We’re non-partisan - we don’t back a particular candidate, but what we do formally is have debates for the mayoralty and for councillors and trustees,” Grant said.

The nearby Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) has a range of projects on its plate, from battling development that does not fit into the community’s characteristics to helping to improve the tree canopy in the area.

“The overriding objective for the ARA is to maintain and improve the quality of life in the Annex,” said David Harrison, ARA chair.

That organization, like many others, has fought developments not just at the city level but as far as the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Given the costs of hiring lawyers and experts to speak at OMB hearings, residents’ associations allow groups of residents to band together to cover expenses and show strong community opposition.

In recent years, the ARA fought a University of Toronto application for a large student housing proposal at College and Glasgow streets. Harrison said the association does not fight development unless it would change the character of the neighbourhood.

“This issue is symptomatic of the many problems our communities face as they attempt to stem the tide of inappropriate development in our city,” he said of the application. “The ARA is open-minded about development proposals but resists development plans which are completely out of scale with the existing built form of the Annex - YIMBY (yes in my backyard) where possible but NIMBY (not in my backyard) when not.”

The ARA has also taken the lead on TreesPlease, a project dedicated to improving the tree canopy in the Annex and has played an active role in the Bathurst Street Study, which will help shape development along the busy street between Dupont and Queen streets.

The key to a successful residents’ association is to ensure it represents the voices and interests of as many members of the community as possible.

“The more active you are, the more able you are to connect with people,” Grant said. “It’s really about enabling people in the community.”

Midtown and downtown residents’ associations fight for the neighbourhood

News Mar 27, 2014 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

While residents are the lifeblood of any community, they can often feel they have little clout as individual citizens.

Their voices can be heard more loudly when they unify into one collective to look after the concerns of those in the community, whether those concerns revolve around safety, development in their area, spreading news or simply getting local residents together for community events.

Residents’ associations, also sometimes known as neighbourhood or community associations, give them that stronger voice.

Midtown and downtown Toronto boasts particularly strong community voices, with more than 30 groups of that kind.

Related Content

The Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) is one such group, rising out of the Sussex-Ulster Residents’ Association when the latter did not include enough of the community.

“There were a lot of issues with people wanting to do projects in and about the community but the group was named after two little streets, one in the north and one in the south,” said Tim Grant, HVRA chair.

These days, the group’s main focus is on development. While the Bathurst Street Study and the proposed winter sports dome at Central Technical School have been two key areas of focus, there are plenty of other projects on the group’s radar.

“We’re living cheek-to-jowl in a tiny place where you have 100 people in 150 yards if you’re in a single family home and more than that if you’re in an apartment,” Grant said.

He noted an influx of applications for taller buildings in the area has sparked a great deal of interest. This week alone, the group attended an Ontario Municipal Board hearing for a 22-storey building at the site of the Silver Dollar club as well as a Committee of Adjustment meeting for the Central Tech dome.

“The key issue is the height of buildings,” Grant said of development in the area. “In Mirvish Village, we’ll get bigger buildings and we understand that, but you don’t want to be living in a single family home with a 30-storey building 100 yards away.”

Other issues the group is working to stop include a trend toward student rooming houses as landlords try to pack as many students as possible in homes, and bars along College Street overserving students, leading to noise and safety concerns.

On a brighter note, the HVRA also celebrates the area’s history through naming laneways and a collected oral history of life in the area.

“We’ve had a huge focus on the neighbourhood’s history the past couple of years,” Grants said. “We’ve named 24 laneways after people who lived here – not the most famous people, but people like Toronto’s first black postman or the seven Jewish boys who went to fight in World War Two, only two of whom came back, who all lived on Major Street.”

The HVRA also brings the community together for its annual fall fair, its Litter and Glitter clean-up efforts and its Pumpkin Festival.

With the municipal election coming up this fall, the HVRA will also take an active role in giving the candidates a platform.

“We’re non-partisan - we don’t back a particular candidate, but what we do formally is have debates for the mayoralty and for councillors and trustees,” Grant said.

The nearby Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) has a range of projects on its plate, from battling development that does not fit into the community’s characteristics to helping to improve the tree canopy in the area.

“The overriding objective for the ARA is to maintain and improve the quality of life in the Annex,” said David Harrison, ARA chair.

That organization, like many others, has fought developments not just at the city level but as far as the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Given the costs of hiring lawyers and experts to speak at OMB hearings, residents’ associations allow groups of residents to band together to cover expenses and show strong community opposition.

In recent years, the ARA fought a University of Toronto application for a large student housing proposal at College and Glasgow streets. Harrison said the association does not fight development unless it would change the character of the neighbourhood.

“This issue is symptomatic of the many problems our communities face as they attempt to stem the tide of inappropriate development in our city,” he said of the application. “The ARA is open-minded about development proposals but resists development plans which are completely out of scale with the existing built form of the Annex - YIMBY (yes in my backyard) where possible but NIMBY (not in my backyard) when not.”

The ARA has also taken the lead on TreesPlease, a project dedicated to improving the tree canopy in the Annex and has played an active role in the Bathurst Street Study, which will help shape development along the busy street between Dupont and Queen streets.

The key to a successful residents’ association is to ensure it represents the voices and interests of as many members of the community as possible.

“The more active you are, the more able you are to connect with people,” Grant said. “It’s really about enabling people in the community.”

Midtown and downtown residents’ associations fight for the neighbourhood

News Mar 27, 2014 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

While residents are the lifeblood of any community, they can often feel they have little clout as individual citizens.

Their voices can be heard more loudly when they unify into one collective to look after the concerns of those in the community, whether those concerns revolve around safety, development in their area, spreading news or simply getting local residents together for community events.

Residents’ associations, also sometimes known as neighbourhood or community associations, give them that stronger voice.

Midtown and downtown Toronto boasts particularly strong community voices, with more than 30 groups of that kind.

Related Content

The Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) is one such group, rising out of the Sussex-Ulster Residents’ Association when the latter did not include enough of the community.

“There were a lot of issues with people wanting to do projects in and about the community but the group was named after two little streets, one in the north and one in the south,” said Tim Grant, HVRA chair.

These days, the group’s main focus is on development. While the Bathurst Street Study and the proposed winter sports dome at Central Technical School have been two key areas of focus, there are plenty of other projects on the group’s radar.

“We’re living cheek-to-jowl in a tiny place where you have 100 people in 150 yards if you’re in a single family home and more than that if you’re in an apartment,” Grant said.

He noted an influx of applications for taller buildings in the area has sparked a great deal of interest. This week alone, the group attended an Ontario Municipal Board hearing for a 22-storey building at the site of the Silver Dollar club as well as a Committee of Adjustment meeting for the Central Tech dome.

“The key issue is the height of buildings,” Grant said of development in the area. “In Mirvish Village, we’ll get bigger buildings and we understand that, but you don’t want to be living in a single family home with a 30-storey building 100 yards away.”

Other issues the group is working to stop include a trend toward student rooming houses as landlords try to pack as many students as possible in homes, and bars along College Street overserving students, leading to noise and safety concerns.

On a brighter note, the HVRA also celebrates the area’s history through naming laneways and a collected oral history of life in the area.

“We’ve had a huge focus on the neighbourhood’s history the past couple of years,” Grants said. “We’ve named 24 laneways after people who lived here – not the most famous people, but people like Toronto’s first black postman or the seven Jewish boys who went to fight in World War Two, only two of whom came back, who all lived on Major Street.”

The HVRA also brings the community together for its annual fall fair, its Litter and Glitter clean-up efforts and its Pumpkin Festival.

With the municipal election coming up this fall, the HVRA will also take an active role in giving the candidates a platform.

“We’re non-partisan - we don’t back a particular candidate, but what we do formally is have debates for the mayoralty and for councillors and trustees,” Grant said.

The nearby Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) has a range of projects on its plate, from battling development that does not fit into the community’s characteristics to helping to improve the tree canopy in the area.

“The overriding objective for the ARA is to maintain and improve the quality of life in the Annex,” said David Harrison, ARA chair.

That organization, like many others, has fought developments not just at the city level but as far as the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Given the costs of hiring lawyers and experts to speak at OMB hearings, residents’ associations allow groups of residents to band together to cover expenses and show strong community opposition.

In recent years, the ARA fought a University of Toronto application for a large student housing proposal at College and Glasgow streets. Harrison said the association does not fight development unless it would change the character of the neighbourhood.

“This issue is symptomatic of the many problems our communities face as they attempt to stem the tide of inappropriate development in our city,” he said of the application. “The ARA is open-minded about development proposals but resists development plans which are completely out of scale with the existing built form of the Annex - YIMBY (yes in my backyard) where possible but NIMBY (not in my backyard) when not.”

The ARA has also taken the lead on TreesPlease, a project dedicated to improving the tree canopy in the Annex and has played an active role in the Bathurst Street Study, which will help shape development along the busy street between Dupont and Queen streets.

The key to a successful residents’ association is to ensure it represents the voices and interests of as many members of the community as possible.

“The more active you are, the more able you are to connect with people,” Grant said. “It’s really about enabling people in the community.”