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Yorkville Fans

Toronto Star
Jan. 15, 2004.
Yorkville fans brave weather to fight tower
Protest meeting draws crowd
Fear is highrise will destroy village


An 18-storey tower would be the height of madness, a high-rise dagger in the low-rise heart of Yorkville, say opponents of a condo development scheme.

But the project is perilously close to being approved, a protest meeting was told last night. Speakers included author Margaret Atwood and urban planning guru Jane Jacobs.

The proposed development, including an eight-storey building and almost 200 condos, would replace a row of stores housed in Victorian townhouses along Yorkville Ave. The Ontario Municipal Board is scheduled to begin hearings Feb. 16 before making a final decision.

"And from that there is no appeal," said Mary-Helen Spence, one of the organizers of last night's meeting. Despite the weather, more than 100 people filled the Heliconian Club on Hazelton Ave. They were asked to sign petitions and donate money to continue the fight to the last ditch.

"It's 150 years since Yorkville was incorporated as a village, and we don't want its birthday party to be its destruction," Spence said.

"This is not about `all developers are bad,'" Atwood told the audience. "It's about some developments are good, some are ... why do they do it?"

Before the meeting, she reminisced about living in Yorkville in 1961, "Its pre-hippy days, before it was a slum. It's had several incarnations. It's a charming community. This development would rob it of the opportunity for future incarnations."

Atwood described the situation as a reverse-domino scenario one highrise goes up and others follow.

"It's inevitable, and it really is a case of, `There goes the neighbourhood,'" she said. "It's totally in violation of ha ha the official city plan. Why is that? It seems to be a lot about parking. The developers have promised to put in lots of underground parking. Parking for people, including all the tourists, who will no longer want to come here."

Jacobs said it's still possible to halt the project.

"The Spadina Expressway was farther along than this when it was stopped. But people have to realize very quickly how serious this is.

"Someone's been pushing it very hard. It didn't just happen. One of our big disadvantages as citizens is we don't know who that is. We don't know who's behind all this. It's very murky."

Spence said that when council passed a bylaw in favour of the development, Mayor David Miller, then a councillor, voted against it.

"We're hoping Mr. Miller and Paul Bedford, the chief city planner, will step forward and do something."

The protest is being led by the Save Yorkville Association and residents' groups. High-profile opponents include poet Dennis Lee, writer Michael Ondaatje, actor Gordon Pinsent, Nobel laureate John Polanyi and former ballerina Veronica Tennant. They don't include Ward 27 Councillor Kyle Rae, who wants the condos 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 commented last year.




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