Bloor-Dufferin developer goes back to the drawing board after complaints from residents

Residents near Bloor Street West and Dufferin Street say they're worried about the future of a community hub they were promised as part of a mega-project being planned for their neighbourhood.

Developer promises 'open door' policy but residents nearby are not convinced

What a new Bloor Street West could look like west of Dufferin, according to developers of the site. (Capital Developments)

Residents near Bloor Street West and Dufferin Street say they're worried about the future of a community hub they were promised as  part of a mega-project being planned for their neighbourhood.

The site, which is almost three hectares, is currently home to three school buildings.

But once the city approves the redevelopment plan, the site will see several condo towers rise, as well new shops, roads, a park and a new high school.

About 2,000 new homes are planned for the development according to Todd Cowan, managing director of Capital Developments, one of two corporations developing the site.

But prior to selling the land, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) promised local residents that a community hub would also be included.

Nahum Mann, who is a member of a group called Building a Better Bloor Dufferin, said the organization had a wish list that was conveyed to the TDSB and the developer.

What the interior of the site looks like now (top) and what developers imagine it will look like once new streets, parks, retail and living space are created. (Capital Developments/John Hanley CBC News)

"Art space, performance space, we definitely want space that houses some of our social agencies in the neighbourhood," he told CBC Toronto this week. "We really want to see space  that can house community meetings, and even space that might serve a maker community, or entrepreneurial communities.

"What we've been offered is 30,000 square feet with none of the details filled in."

Developers plan a new high street to run through their re-imagined Bloor-Dufferin neighbourhood. (Capital Developments)

Last year, the developer submitted a plan to the city that outlined its vision for the project. That plan is being re-written after objections from the community.

A revised plan is now in the process of being sent to city planning staff for approval, according to Cowan, who emphasized  he's always been willing to listen to residents.

"We've shown as a developer that we're going way beyond what is normal in terms of public engagement," he said.

Nahum Mann, of Building a Better Bloor Dufferin, is worried that residents haven't been properly consulted on a new plan for a community hub within the Bloor-Dufferin re-development. (John Hanley/CBC News )

"We're an open door developer. I would say if the residents have any concerns they should call us, and they'll realize we're happy to sit down with them and make sure this is the right solution for everyone."

Both Mann and Coun. Ana Bailao, who represents the area, are also critical of the province's funding commitment for the community hub. 

Mann called the $7 million contribution "peanuts." 

Coun. Ana Bailao, who represents Ward 18, Davenport, says the city's financial contribution to a new community hub can't be determined until a more detailed plan is complete. (Rob Krbavac/CBC News)

Bailao said the city would be adding to the community hub kitty. But she said an amount won't be determined until she sees what the developer's plans are for the facility.

And despite some of the recent hiccups, she said she's confident the project, and the community hub will be built, although it could take years.

'Going to be delivered'

"Knowing my community, I know that we're going to be right there assuring that these things are going to be delivered," Bailao said.

However, some of the residents are worried, Mann says, about a recent application the developers have made to the Ontario Municipal Board. He said if the developer looks to the board to approve its redevelopment plan, it could cut the city — and residents — out of the negotiations altogether.

But Cowan says the application to the OMB is routine and that he has no plans to take that route.

Todd Cowan, managing director of Capital Developments, says he's happy to get residents' input on the redevelopment plan. (Vedran Lesic/CBC News)

Ontario Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris, wouldn't speak directly with CBC Toronto, but her spokesperson,  
Richard Francella, issued a statement.

"Through our investment of about $20M for this project, 900 students will have access to a new state-of-the-art high school," Francella wrote. "When the TDSB decided to sell this site, our government ensured that $7M be directed toward a community hub, which will include space for a licensed child care centre and space for community programming." 

About the Author

Michael Smee

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Michael Smee has worked in print, radio, TV and online journalism for many years.