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Is Sidewalk Toronto our path to greener cities?



BY SHELLEY CARROLL

After months of relative silence on development proposals in Don Valley North, you will see two reports for residential buildings being presented for consideration at North York Community Council and then City Council next month. Ryan Lo, our Planning Advisor, will provide more detail on that later in this e-blast. But reading the reports on these two buildings got me thinking about my recent visit to Sidewalk Toronto.

Ryan, Tom Gleason and I went to Sidewalk Labs' Toronto office for a tour of their proposal for a 12-acre waterfront community named Quayside. What was left out of all the razzle-dazzle when Sidewalk first arrived in town are fascinating innovations in mid and high-rise development that could be used anywhere. Quayside We were walked through the massive floor model for the new neighbourhood by former City Councillor, Mary-Margaret McMahon. No surprise that MMM, as we used to call her, ended up here — she’s passionate about "greening" our lifestyles and responsible waterfront development. When Council was fighting the foolhardy proposal by then-Councillor Doug Ford to build a shopping mall and ferris wheel at the mouth of the Don River, where crucial anti-flooding measures were needed, MMM went to work.

She organized site visits to the waterfront with councillors and Waterfront Toronto board members to show them exactly why Ford's proposal was ill-timed and dangerous. Those tours played a key role in ultimately defeating his proposal. So, on our tour at Sidewalk we saw how the waterfront could become climate-neutral — and even climate positive — while holding 2,600 units of housing and creating more than 3,900 jobs. We saw how density could be spread in a less overwhelming way across a series of three to 30-storey buildings using tall timber construction. Less flammable and environmentally-friendly, timber is already being used for buildings in Canada, Sweden and elsewhere. In fact, students are being housed in an 18-storey timber building in Vancouver known as Brock Commons. Have a look:

If you're contemplating downsizing from your house to a condo, you're probably wondering what you'll do with the lifetime of stuff accumulated over the years: out-of-season clothes, Passover dishes, Christmas decorations, your wedding china. Sidewalk proposes you could live in a small unit filled with built-in organizers and convertible furniture. Your additional stuff is in a storage depot downstairs in digitally-coded bins, and when you need it you simply request the bin on your smartphone and have it automatically delivered to your door.

Going outdoors, imagine a landscape that brings the LRT right past your door on a special quiet track while also accommodating pedestrians, cyclists, usable green space and garage entrances to take your car underground. What if digitally-controlled lighting embedded in the ground lit your path while you walk or ride your bike, or show you where you should stand while the LRT rolls through? Monitoring how this could attract increased transit ridership and car-less living could provide valuable information to all three levels of government who share the cost of transit.

Getting with the times All these ideas are part of the Sidewalk Toronto proposal that's currently being evaluated by Waterfront Toronto. These ideas are reality in other places in the world — the difference here is that Sidewalk is proposing to build all these concepts together into one neighbourhood.

Should Waterfront Toronto’s Board decide to move forward with Sidewalk's proposal, it would then be the City's turn to consult with you and evaluate. City Planning and the Chief Building Inspector will be challenged by the fact that we don’t currently have a tall timber building code or any rules for the other concepts. I'm hoping they reach out to other cities like Vancouver and Vasteras, Sweden and use their experiences to create rules that can get us with the times. Our provincial government is changing regulations to push us to grow far more than we planned — in turn, we should be demanding regulation that makes it mandatory for developers to create the best quality, most affordable and lowest environmental footprint structures in our city. Next steps Next week I’ll make a simple start. When the applications for 1650 Sheppard Ave East and 2600 Don Mills Road are before North York Community Council, I’ll move that both builders go beyond the basic first tier of the Toronto Green Standard and make the buildings in the more robust Tier 2 Green Standard.

These new buildings are proposed on the sites of existing apartment complexes built in the 1960s with no consideration for energy consumption and the environment. The least developers can do is to reduce the environmental footprint by using the policies we have for their new projects. Growth always challenges our community, especially along Sheppard Avenue. Over at the Atria condos it wasn't a problem for Tridel to build to Tier 2 Green Standard — so let's make that the norm. Let's demand greener, healthier communities.

 

1650 Sheppard and 2600 Don Mills In next week's North York Community Council meeting, Shelley and other councillors will be voting on staff's reports for the development applications at 1650 Sheppard Avenue East and 2600 Don Mills Road. These two sites are part of a larger Don Mills-Sheppard Context Plan that our city planners and the applicants have been working diligently on. While the applicants are proposing new infill residential buildings and new townhouse units, the context plan includes new streets to improve traffic circulation, a new park and a proposed daycare centre. The existing apartment buildings will be retained and current tenants will see new investments in community benefits, more stringent tenant protection, and improvements to their building facilities. 2900 Steeles Avenue East Some residents may have recently heard about a large redevelopment proposal at the Shops on Steeles and 404 just north of the city's boundaries. The project was actually approved back in 2011 at the former Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The public hearing held in the City of Markham this week was for a severance application (dividing the site into two parcels) that would help facilitate the developer's first phase of development. Since the site is located in Markham, the City of Toronto has no jurisdiction over the approval process. However, Shelley and our office share your concerns about the potential traffic impact that the construction and added density would bring. We are closely monitoring the development and will be requiring the developer to submit construction hoarding, safety and traffic plans on Steeles. We also know that some of you were worried about losing the existing grocery store in the mall. The City of Markham was able to negotiate for a new food store on site as part of the OMB approval, so we hope this would be a relief to residents in the neighbourhood. If you have any questions related to planning or development, please feel free to email me at ryan.lo@toronto.ca.

 

Community Events & Notices

 

Registration for City of Toronto summer camps and rec programs begins this weekend

Initial registration for summer camps as well as spring and summer recreation programs begins on March 7 and continues until March 11. Residents can prepare for registration with extended customer service hours at 416-396-7378 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on March 4, 5, 6 and 9. Registering online at https://efun.toronto.ca/ is the fastest and easiest way to register. Registration starts at 7 a.m. on the following four dates: • Saturday, March 7 – Etobicoke/York • Sunday, March 8 – Scarborough • Tuesday, March 10 – North York • Wednesday, March 11 – Toronto/East York and West Toronto/York

 


 


 


 


 


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