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Toronto Star



Apr. 11, 2003. 01:00 AM


Condo tower foes unite
Yorkville Village charm affected

Toronto notables sign petition


Can Toronto notables stop the encroachment of tall buildings on old Yorkville Village?

They're trying.

Don Harron, Catherine McKinnon, Harry Rasky, Jane Jacobs, Margaret Atwood, Jim Coutts, Diane Francis, Richard Gwyn, Dennis Lee, Michael Ondaatje, Gordon Pinsent, John Polanyi, Jack Rabinovitch, Vivienne Poy, Sam Sniderman, Veronica Tennant and more have petitioned Toronto City Council to block construction of an 18-storey tower at the intersection of Yorkville Ave. and Bellair St.

"This is the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the village," said Harron, former CBC personality and entertainer. "We find ourselves in a battle to prevent its destruction. Don't let them shove another highrise up our Annex."

Councillor Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore), a member of the Toronto Preservation Board, said he will ask city council next week to defer final approval of the tower project bylaw and re-examine its planning guidelines for the defence of Yorkville.

"Yorkville has a unique, charming character which benefits everyone in Toronto," he said. "If we lose it, that has city-wide impact."

There are multiple development pressures in the area northwest of Yonge and Bloor Sts., but a project on the former Mount Sinai Hospital land at 100 Yorkville Ave., now a parking lot, is causing the immediate heat. Some residents say council's approval of the tall tower at Bellair creates a precedent for more demolition throughout the Victorian village.

Bob Saunderson of the Bloor Yorkville Business Improvement Association said the Barclay-Grayson development, which includes an eight-storey tower at the west end of the property, an 18-storey tower at the east and much underground parking, has a number of virtues.

It preserves the Mount Sinai facade and creates street retail space and two open-air walkways linking Yorkville Ave. to Scollard St. It is a substantial improvement to the village, Saunderson said, but would be even better if the tall tower were somewhat shorter.

Ward 27 Councillor Kyle Rae said he supports the project strongly, not because it is ideal, but because it is vastly superior to a "hideous" project approved for the site by the Ontario Municipal Board in 1994 but never built.

"If anybody thinks all of Yorkville can be restricted to three-storey Victorian buildings, they just don't understand what's going on at the OMB," Rae said. "I can't deliver that." His job, he said, is to keep the hard development decisions within Toronto City Council and avoid offloading them to a pro-development OMB.

Rae said the established Yorkville retail businesses, including the Hazelton Lanes mall, are not doing particularly well and should benefit from the influx of high-income condo dwellers planned by Barclay-Grayson and the Toronto Parking Authority.



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