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E-BLAST: The Tyndale Settlement Offer

In last week's E-Blast, I mentioned that City Council was considering a settlement offer for the development application at Tyndale University. Council approved the settlement terms last week, which means that the full details are now public. In this column, I am going to lay out everything you need to know about this development and the settlement offer, including the property's heritage designation and what it means for the development, what has changed through the settlement process, next steps, and why it was necessary to accept these settlement terms.

A photo of Tyndale University as it currently stands. To provide a bit of background, I first visited Tyndale University in the summer of 2018, shortly after Premier Ford announced that he was doubling the size of Toronto wards. The Chancellor of the University invited me for a tour, and I was delighted to see one of the finest examples of mid-century architecture in our city. I still remember my first glimpse of the interior chapel inside the "Mother House". I went a little weak at the knees—I had to sit down and stare before walking any further down the aisle. Years later, when I learned that Tyndale and their brand new development partner, Markee Developments, applied to build housing on the site, my first thought was to make sure that chapel would be preserved inside and out.

Today, after a couple of years of planning process, community consultations and working groups, and the Ontario Land Tribunal appeal and settlement negotiations, I can confirm that the Mother House of Tyndale University will be preserved. Heritage Planning staff did a fulsome review and recommended a heritage designation for the site. This designation preserves the chapel and does permit a portion of the building, which was later built to house a high school, to be demolished. The Toronto Preservation Board and City Council approved the heritage review for this property and the final settlement offer guarantees the preservation of the chapel. An important term of the settlement that the community can be proud of is that a view to the front door of the Mother House and the chapel steeple will be preserved all the way to Bayview Avenue via the location of a new park added to the development.

The "Mother House" chapel. Now, to get into the full settlement offer. As I mentioned last week, Provincial policy allows a developer to enter into confidential discussions with City Planning and make their final settlement offer to Council confidential. This is the route Markee Developments chose, which is why I have not been able to share details of the settlement offer thus far. I am glad I can finally share them with you all now. Here are the main changes that our City Planning department secured at this site:

  • The number of buildings was reduced from 15 to 12

    • To accommodate the reduction in total buildings, the tallest building, located at the lowest elevation point at the north, is now 24 storeys

    • As part of this change, the building closest to Bowan Court has been reduced to four storeys

  • Every building has sufficient setbacks from the ravine

  • The property has a Heritage Designation with clear sightlines to the Mother House and an accompanying preservation plan

  • The new road built on the site will be fully public

  • The affordable rental units on the site will be guaranteed affordable for 99 years

The overall number of units proposed at this site has not changed much. The settlement offer includes 1510 units of housing. At the beginning of this process, I held a few of my trademark Park Pop-Ups at Bestview and Saddletree Parks so that residents could drop by and ask some initial questions. Back then, I said that while I wasn't opposed to housing being built at Tyndale I hoped the number of proposed units could be reduced.

The Park Pop-Up I held in Bestview Park was very well attended by neighbours with questions about the proposed development at Tyndale. A reduction of units hasn't been offered, and I have to acknowledge the reasoning behind that. Toronto's housing shortage has now reached the point of deep crisis, and that is in large part why the Provincial "More Homes Built Faster Act" is now much more permissive about density. Metrolinx getting further along with a transit plan that includes Bus Rapid Transit on Steeles Avenue is another reason for this level of density. We need to build this level of housing if we want to tackle our housing crisis and give our own kids and grandkids a chance to live nearby.

The biggest disappointment of this settlement process is that there are far fewer affordable rental units than originally proposed. Some of you will remember that the most compelling thing about this proposal was that almost 50% of the homes were going to be affordable rental homes. Unfortunately, the Provincial policy changes included in Bill 23 led to a significant reduction in the number of affordable units here. The settlement offer proposed 205 affordable units. I worked with City staff to negotiate an additional 34 affordable units as an in-kind community benefit contribution. As a result of this reduction, the developer is also receiving a smaller affordable housing subsidy. They are receiving just a third of the Open Door intergovernmental housing funding that they initially requested, as the number of affordable units has reduced to one third of the original proposal.

A conceptual rendering of one of the public spaces at Tyndale Green. Now, to talk about next steps. The Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) hearing is going to proceed as scheduled this coming July, as a community group has applied for party status and will participate in the hearing. If the settlement between Markee and the City is approved by the OLT, the development will move forward in four phases. These phases are important to ensure that this housing actually gets built in a timely fashion. Here is a breakdown of the four development phases:

  1. Phase 1: The two largest buildings at the north of the property, and the majority of the large public park that leads to the chapel

  2. Phase 2: Four buildings and the remainder of the large public park

  3. Phase 3: Three buildings, the public road, a second public park, and a large privately-owned public space

  4. Phase 4: The remaining three buildings at the rear of the property

The affordable units mentioned above will be spread out over all four phases, and 17 of the additional units I negotiated will be included in the first phase. This will be a big project, which is why it was so essential that City Planning lay out clear guidelines for each phase.

A conceptual rendering of Tyndale Green. To close this off, I want to talk about why City Council approved this settlement offer. I've spoken to many folks across DVN who have the impression that City Council can stop a development in its tracks or demand any changes we want to the site. Under our current Provincial government's planning policy, this is not the case.

City Planning and City Legal staff always adhere to good planning principles and try to secure the best outcome possible for our communities. They made their recommendations based on what they know, from their experience, would be defendable at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), the Provincial body that will make the ultimate decision on this application. If we did not reach a settlement offer with the developer, there would be a high chance that the developer would receive a much more permissive approval from the OLT. Staff are the experts, and Council took their advice when we voted to support both the heritage designation and the amended application settlement at this site.

I will be sure to keep the community updated when the OLT hearing for this application is completed this summer. In the meantime, you can find all of the relevant materials of the settlement offer at the link below, and you can always reach out to my office with any of your questions or concerns.


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