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E-BLAST: Building for the Future of Don Valley North

Today, I wanted to provide you with updates on two of the biggest projects underway in our ward right now: the redevelopment of Fairview Mall and the long-term care expansion at North York General Hospital. Both of these projects will shape the future of our community, and it's imperative that we get them right as we work to create an affordable and liveable Don Valley North for generations to come.



We'll start with Fairview Mall. I wrote a comprehensive E-Blast on this development application when it first came to our community back in 2022. I'm going to give a quick recap now for new readers who aren't familiar with the project.


Fairview Mall is an economic, transit, and community hub here in Don Valley North. It supports thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of transit riders daily, and these numbers will only rise as our community continues to grow in the coming years. From the start, I have said that any proposed development needs to acknowledge this reality and meaningfully engage our community to best support the needs of both current and future residents.


This application proposes to redevelop Fairview Mall with a mix of residential housing and new retail space. The mall itself will not be changed, but the applicant has proposed to add a total of 12 new buildings to the surrounding property, with height ranges between 18 and 52 storeys. This would add approximately 4500 residential units to the site. In addition to new housing, the applicant is proposing to add over 7800 square metres of new parkland, a multi-use trail, and a new street network.


The applicant has proposed to complete this development in multiple phases. We’re currently considering Phase 1, which would include three towers with proposed heights of 38 storeys, 45 storeys, and 52 storeys.


A preliminary rendering of the Fairview Mall Redevelopment, with the Phase 1 buildings highlighted and future phases ghosted out.


We had our first community consultation meeting on this application in July 2022. I heard loud and clear from the community that it was important to have ongoing engagement opportunities given the scope of this application, so I directed the applicant and City Planning staff to host two community open houses in March 2023. Over 120 neighbours attended to learn more about the proposal and share their feedback on how to best make this redevelopment work for our community.


So, where is this application at now? The developers resubmitted their application in September 2023, after this enhanced engagement process with the community. Since then, staff in several City divisions have been hard at work reviewing the application. On February 5, 2024, City Planning staff submitted a refusal report to North York Community Council, meaning they are refusing to proceed with the application as it currently stands.


City Planning wants to see the applicant make a number of key improvements to the application, including:


  • Better phasing and coordination so that we can evaluate the first phase of the application within the context of the larger plan for the site

  • A more diverse range and mix of housing options, including affordable housing

  • More parkland and greater provisions to encourage a healthy and active community

  • Stronger policies to make the new development safer for pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and drivers.

A photo from one of the Community Open Houses held last March.


Now, I want to be clear: I share many of these concerns and want to work together with both City Planning staff and the applicant to resolve them. However, I do not believe a refusal report is the best way forward for our community at this time. If City Planning refuses this application, the developer can appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal, which would seriously jeopardize our ability to secure these improvements.


Today, I moved a motion at North York Community Council directing Planning staff to work with the applicant to resolve the issues they have identified within a specified time frame, to incentivize both parties to work together in earnest. The applicant has agreed to this process as they want to continue the collaborative approach they've taken with the community so far, and have committed to not appeal their proposal to the Ontario Land Tribunal. I was grateful to have the support of my Council colleagues on this motion, and City Planning staff will now spend the next few months working with the applicant to iron out these issues.


I'd like to thank the community members who have been engaged on this application so far. Rest assured that I will continue to push for every opportunity available to bring community voices to the table. This redevelopment has the potential to deliver much-needed units of housing and community amenities for future Don Valley Northerners. We should have an update on the application this summer, at which point I will be sure to share the details right here in this blast.



Now, onto North York General Hospital (NYGH). NYGH is planning to build a new long-term care and seniors' health facility at 4000 Leslie Street, right across the road from the main hospital campus. I wrote about this project more recently, as NYGH hosted a community information session on it back in November.


North York is home to a vibrant and growing seniors' population, with the highest percentage of folks ages 65 and older in Toronto. That means it is absolutely essential that we start working right now to make sure we have the infrastructure that will allow our seniors to age in place. That means both a range of housing and care options, and the community and health infrastructure that supports seniors' physical and mental wellbeing.


NYGH is proposing to build a new state-of-the-art long-term care home that would be one of the largest in the Province, if not the country. It will include private rooms for every resident and a number of fantastic amenities like green space and an in-house salon. The building will also house a number of seniors-focused health and wellness services so that it can truly act as a seniors' hub in North York.



Knowing how vital these services will be to our aging community, we want to take every action possible to get this facility built ASAP. I have submitted a letter to Planning & Housing Committee that will be considered next week, asking City Council to support NYGH in requesting an Enhanced Minister's Zoning Order (EMZO) to help expedite the process. The Minister has already indicated his support for this project, and is working closely with NYGH to ensure they have the licenses they need to proceed.


Even with this EMZO, the long-term care and seniors' health facility will still be subject to maximum height requirements, minimum setbacks, parking requirements, and more. The proposal will also be subject to a development agreement with the City that will allow for an additional level of design review before construction starts.


I am fully supportive of this EMZO because I know how transformational this facility will be, not only for Don Valley North but for all of North York. We need to create every opportunity available to allow seniors in our community to continue living in the neighbourhoods many of them have called home for decades. I will be sure to keep the community up to date on this exciting project.


As our city grows, we need to guide its growth in a way that supports residents of all ages and backgrounds. We need everything from one-bedroom condos to multi-family homes to dignified long-term care rooms so that people at all stages of life can call our wonderful community home. Of course, our communities are much more than just the physical homes we live in. We need to make sure new developments include the physical and social infrastructure that make our neighbourhoods vibrant and liveable. I'm looking forward to continuing to work closely with the community to realize these ambitious projects and strengthen the future of Don Valley North.

 


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