Yorkville condo towers approved
Four seasons complex: OMB ruling allows for taller tower than city had permitted
By Greg Macdonald – National Post
The Ontario Municipal Board has approved a $500-million project, including the city’s seventh-highest building, to be built in “the armpit of Yorkville.”
The 50-storey, 195-metre tower will be a part of the Four Seasons hotel-condo complex on Bay Street, between Scollard Street and Yorkville Avenue.
The ruling, which allows for a taller tower than that approved by Toronto city council, has been met with some local hostility.
Although a prominent community group reached an agreement with Bay-Yorkville Developments regarding the towers’ heights, other organizations are still opposed to the development.
Sheila Latham, director of the Save Yorkville Heritage Association, fears the project could “destroy” Yorkville.
“The way I see it, this new building being approved puts all low-rise buildings in the area under threat,” Ms. Latham said.
“It would ruin the area’s lowrise charm, sunshine, and its streetscape, which is on a human scale,” she said.
Ms. Latham charged that the city and community leaders had been “bought off” by the developers, Bay-Yorkville Developments, citing a $5.2-million donation to the community under Section 37 of the Planning Act. The funding will go to improve the local fire hall, library and the yard at Jesse Ketchum Public School.
“What kind of rules have we got when someone with deep pockets can buy out the opposition?” she said.
The OMB decision, released this month, called the property “one of the largest underutilized properties remaining within the midtown area, an important mixed-use area that includes the high-rise character of the Bay-Bloor-Yonge-Street area.”
City council had approved 45- and 35-storey towers. The heights were changed to address controversy over shadows the towers will cast on the Ketchum schoolyard.
The new plans do little to fix this, according to Ms. Latham. “The schoolyard is only going to get half an hour more sunshine a day,” she said. “This is a terrible precedent and an outrageous building. It sets the stage for more shadowing of public space.”
Despite the controversy, local city councillor Kyle Rae is pleased with the decision.
“Most of the neighbourhoods that opposed it were happy to see the tall tower get taller and the shorter tower get shorter. The new plans will reduce the shadow impact across the street,” he said.
“We’re talking about the armpit of Yorkville. This is a great location for a five-star hotel and is a great opportunity for the revitalization of the east side of Yorkville,” he said.
Mr. Rae said his office has already seen retailers’ proposals to move into the area because of the Four Seasons project.
“The community was [at the OMB hearing] and they agreed to it. The one group that did oppose it had their day in court.”
The project will not only benefit the immediate community but the city as a whole, according to a spokeswoman for Menkes Ltd., the managing partner in Bay-Yorkville Developments.
“The $500-million project will create great economic opportunity, including 1,600 construction jobs,” said Mimi Ing.
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