Toronto

City plans to build affordable housing with park space on Birchcliff Quarry Lands

The city is proposing to build affordable housing with park space on its portion of a Scarborough site known as the Birchcliff Quarry Lands, a Toronto councillor said on Monday. 

Plan calls for 120 units, 70 of which will be rental, in row of low- to mid-rise buildings

The Quarry Lands, about 7.6 hectares that have been vacant for more than 50 years, extend east from Victoria Park Avenue to Clonmore Drive, between Gerrard Street East and the rail corridor to the north. The city owns about three hectares of the site. (Kelda Yuen/CBC )

The city is proposing to build affordable housing with park space on its portion of a Scarborough site known as the Birchcliff Quarry Lands, a Toronto councillor told a community meeting on Monday. 

Coun. Gary Crawford, who represents Ward 20-Scarborough Southwest, told about 100 people that a new redevelopment plan by the city for the Quarry Lands calls for about 120 units of affordable housing to be built in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. The housing will be a mix of ownership and rental. About 70 units are proposed to be rental.

"The plan, I think, is an improvement from the last plan," Crawford said at the meeting.

"Number one, we have a bigger park. There will not be a big-box retail. The community was concerned there would be a lot of traffic with the big box. That will no longer be there."

The Quarry Lands, about 7.6 hectares that have been vacant for more than 50 years, extend east from Victoria Park Avenue to Clonmore Drive, between Gerrard Street East and the rail corridor to the north. The city owns about three hectares of the site.

This conceptual framework shows the row of affordable housing, with park space on either side. (DiamondCorp)

According to the plan, the units would be contained in a row of low- to mid-rise buildings, about six-to-10 storeys each. Plans for a big-box retail store, which would have been located on Victoria Park Avenue, have been scrapped after feedback from residents.

The plan includes linear park space to the north and rectangular park space to the south of the buildings, with room for a children's playground and a dog run.

Crawford said the meeting was a chance for residents to see what the city is proposing.

"It's to introduce the conceptual idea of a change that everybody was expecting. Now, we will go back and start filling in the details."

Crawford revealed at the Birchcliff Bluffs United Church that the developer of the city's portion of the Quarry Lands will be Diamond Kilmer Developments — chosen through a competitive process led by the city's real estate development agency, CreateTO, formerly BuildTO.

Residents at the meeting expressed concerns about contamination of the site, an increase in traffic that will result when the affordable housing is built and a possible lack of schools from an anticipated increase of young families that will live in the area. (Kelda Yuen/CBC)

"Over the years, this is one well-studied site. And I am confident that the professionals will ensure the safety, as we're developing this through the whole process," the councillor said.

Crawford said the plan will go before council in November. He added it will be at least two years before there is any construction.

Residents raise concerns, but approve of park space

Residents at the meeting expressed concerns about contamination of the site, an increase in traffic that will result when the affordable housing is built and a possible shortage of schools after an anticipated influx of young families into the area. Previously, residents had expressed concerns about density.

Some, however, said the plan is clearly an improvement.

Karen Direkze, a member of Concerned Citizens for Quarry Lands Development, said she thinks the plan looks good.

"Actually, I think it's better than what was previously proposed," she said.

Karen Direkze, a member of Concerned Citizens for Quarry Lands Development, said she thinks the plan looks good. 'Actually, I think it's better than what was previously proposed,' she says. (CBC)

"There are pieces of the property that have been contaminated because the land used to be used as a landfill. One concern, of course, was contamination, but our group had our own study done on contamination, and there are up -to-date methods on how to deal with that."

Sally Talbot, a local resident who has lived in the area for 30 years, said she was pleased with the plan.

"It's wonderful land. And why wouldn't we want to have it developed? I think the plans are great. We've almost got a third of that land that's going to be a park for the children of the area. Whether that gets developed into splash pads or ice rinks, it's there for the community. And we really do need more parks."

Alex Mrkich, another resident, said traffic will be an issue.

"I do think there's probably too much traffic, and in general, I don't think our resources in the neighbourhood have expanded enough to accommodate the development," he said.

Current proposal in works for 3 years, councillor says

Decades ago, a highway was planned for the Quarry Lands but then scrapped, then a proposal to develop the entire site into a park was dropped about 10 years ago. About three years ago, Crawford said the city went back to the drawing board and came up with the current proposal.

Coun. Gary Crawford says: 'We are currently planning for approximately 120 affordable units in a mix of rental housing and affordable ownership housing in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.' (CBC)

According to a 2015 city staff report, the Quarry Lands are considered to be a "brownfield" site. The lands are flat but slope downward to the south.

From 1878 to 1913, the lands were used by a gravel company for the quarrying of sand and gravel. From 1913 to 1963, the site was used for brick making. A golf driving range and mini-putt course on the western half of the lands stopped operating in October 2012.

"Portions of the lands were subsequently used for waste disposal and have gradually renaturalized over time with meadows, thickets and treed areas," the report reads.

The eastern portion of the Quarry Lands is owned by a development company.

With files from Kelda Yuen

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