I HAVE BEEN TOLD I DESERVE
“A FULL LIFE THAT ISN’T JUST ABOUT FIGHTING FOR THINGS”

I attended the fourth meeting to discuss the Foundry District redevelopment here in South Riverdale (Cf. the third and the entire category). Paula Fletcher called us to order, with no air conditioning but with a single fan, at 2005.06.06 18:58. I sat in the third row next to somebody from Rosedale who had never heard of Riverdale or South Riverdale, and of course behind the two solid rows of city officials and developers.

She asked who’d been here before – more than half. About ten said it was their first meeting. About eight from the city, same number from TFS. About 1/5 lived in the immediate neighbourhood.

Paula says “as you know, the Toronto Film Studios won a bid” for a new film studio along the port lands. A mixed-use rezoning is what TFS is looking for; presently it’s zoned “employment.” Someone [who, exactly?] had an independent consultant (MKI) do a study on employment trends if the Foundry District were redeveloped. She again mentions as-of-right uses like big-box stores with surface parking; “we all thought it was good to have a look at some other uses than big-box along Eastern and along Lake Shore.” “And yes, I’ve been getting your E-mails and phone calls saying ‘Stop talking so much and let us talk.’ ” MKI won the contract through a city RFP.

“It’s not a ‘plan.’ It is a vision of how things could come together.” Some had complained to Paula’s office about the name Foundry District, which Ken Ferguson will defend tonight, apparently.

July 5, at the Toronto and East York Community Council, will be a progress report (apparently not a “statutory public meeting”); September 20 is that statutory public meeting. A report will be prepared by the end of June that will become public only for that July 5 meeting. Apparently the Community Plan funding, in part deriving from the dismantling of the Gardiner, is still in operation and there’s still money, which recently went toward the repair of Leslie Grove Park. She congratulates us on getting a power plant down by the lakefront cancelled (other article).

Ken will now “put forward, compassionately [sic], his Foundry District reasons.”

Ken Ferguson: “It is by far the most comprehensive and interactive development process” that he’s ever been through, “and you really have added a lot to where we are today.” He thanks those on the working committee [and who exactly are they?], naming Joe Lobko and Paula Fletcher.

Economic study: “The issue came down to employment.” He hadn’t worked with MKI before. “They have completed most of their research. It was decided that, before they finished their report, before they write it, that they would present it to you here tonight in its preliminary form,” which we are asked to bug-fix if we think something is missing.

Paula mentioned to him that “a number of people have raised” the name Foundry District as an issue. “And again, we’re absolutely open. We don’t want to tag the area with a name that people are uncomfortable with…. And if you reject [our reasons], then so be it, but it certainly isn’t that we’re insensitive to what has happened in the area and that people have suffered in some of the businesses. We’re absolutely aware of that…. It’s part of the history of the area. [To ignore it] would be the final indignity to those people… kind of a tribute to the workers who worked in this area for so long.”

Plus the name connotes regeneration; the character of the neighbourhood (“at least our vision” of it). Some people tell him “it’s kinda cool,” and real-estate agents are already using it. [Given that they are almost as superficial as fashion models, this is not much to crow about.]

Jeff Lehman takes the stage. He’s an economist with MKI, a company nobody bothered to explain to the audience. He shows a slide with the TFS development and an area from the DVP to Leslie, Eastern to Lake Shore.

Their brief was to study employment generation and economic impact. He presents us with a series of awful PowerPoints, as nearly all of them are, but at least they’re not as bad as those at the last meeting. In Toronto, employment levels are essentially stable. Broad trends affect business location: free trade (meaning highway access to the U.S., which he says is actually poor in South Riverdale), just-in-time production (more transportation), “ ‘back offices’ to the suburbs” (sic; he means office development there), “creative industries and small offices are ‘reurbanizing’ ” (as those businesses return to the city).

He presents an incomprehensible bar chart about Toronto employment. If you don’t know how to present numerical data to a large audience, Jeff, don’t even try. He presents an easier-to-understand line graph showing 3.75 million “industrial floorspace” in 1993 and a mere 1 million in 2004. [The graph shows no units. Is this square metres?]

South of Eastern has experienced a decline in employment consistent with the rest of the city. Why? Land costs are high; transportation congestion; “inappropriate building configuration to accommodate current requirements”; “eclectic mix.” “Translates to a need to compete on value, not on cost and location.” It is never clear what he means by “value,” though it seems to be something as amorphous as “I like the area.”

Jeff presents in incomprehensible line chart that shows total employment in the study area in different sectors. If you remove Canada Post, manufacturing jobs have actually decreased.

What’s been happening instead? Growth of small businesses (1985: 60; 2004: 96). Several sectors (auto, transport, film, “emerging business/professional services sector… along Carlaw and Dundas”). (He said “Davies,” but clearly meant Dundas.) “This isn’t the best chart, and I apologize if this is difficult to read”: Jeff, nearly all your charts are hard to read.

The creative sector grew from 10 to 40 offices in about ten years.

There are two separate economic areas: At the west, auto, film, Enbridge, Toronto Works; at the east, retail. In the middle, “you’ve got a pocket of residential.” So it’s not “one single economy.”

Four development scenarios:

  1. Residential
    • Jobs on site: None
    • Wages and quality of jobs: None
    • Employment growth: None
    • Business generated for retailers: Some in the evening
    • Business generated for existing business services: Minimal
  2. Retail as of right (big-box stores)
    • Jobs on site: Low to moderate
    • Wages and quality of jobs: Low
    • Employment growth: Fast
    • Business generated for retailers: None; potential competition
    • Business generated for existing business services: Minimal
  3. Employment as of right (light industrial and office)
    • Jobs on site: Low to high. Essentially depends on how attractive the development is
    • Wages and quality of jobs: Low to high
    • Employment growth: Slow (“and this is a lot of space we’re talking about; this will take a long time to develop”)
    • Business generated for retailers: Some in the daytime
    • Business generated for existing business services: Moderate
  4. Mix of residential and employment
    • Jobs on site: Moderate (“something like 2,000 jobs on the site,” they predict)
    • Wages and quality of jobs: Moderate to high
    • Employment growth: Moderate
    • Business generated for retailers: High, daytime and evening
    • Business generated for existing business services: Moderate

2 million square feet of development could result in 3,000–4,000 work-years of construction work ($340 million in direct spending, $100 million in wages; $160 million indirect, $60 million wages).

Summary:

  • “Area no longer viable for traditional industry”
  • Trends support a change to new uses
  • Need to redesign a built form to compete on value [again undefined]
  • Office uses and value-added industry needs “comprehensive redevelopment” and longer build-out
  • Residential and employment mix creates markets of business and shops, extends trading day, has shorter build-out (vs. other scenarios)

Les Klein gets up, principal of Quadrangle Architects. [I interrupted him to ask his name. He gave it and added “I believe my name is on the (agenda).”] The built form he’s presenting tonight is not the one they’re applying for. They’ve merely developed principles, he says. The original design concept that went into the city [which I’d like to see] was urban, with a protective edge along Eastern, with controlled access through the site, with “a different kind of feel” along Lake Shore.

Their principles of urban design:

  • Framework of streets and blocks (allowing slow development)
  • Different scale of buildings (“the heights should decrease as they go toward the community to the north. If you’re going to have anything taller, [it should go] toward the south”)
  • Traffic control: Calm Eastern Ave., prevent infiltration
  • Parks and greenways
  • Mix of uses
  • Environmental goals: Site cleanup, sustainable “green design initiatives”

First drawing has heights of 20m, 30m, 45m (6, 9, 14 storeys). That was the initial suggestion. He overlays that block diagram on the other one, and notes that the Lake Shore end isn’t a wall.

They considered a park internal to the site, but prefer one on Eastern. A street going through the site is now offset to avoid the park. Almost the same size as Leslie Grove Park. What kinds of parks? Must allow for passive and active uses, “but also it has to be part of the larger community” (with buildings adjacent).

Traffic: Offset street. Perhaps a new intersection at Pape with a streetlight. Several one-way “traffic controls.” Pedestrians and bikes can go straight through the park. They’d need new TTC vehicles in the development because the TTC’s maximum walk of 300m only gets you from Queen St. to Eastern, not inside the District area.

He reiterates that they haven’t designed the buildings. He presented three slides with photos of existing buildings that might be used at Eastern, in the middle, and on Lake Shore.

Gary Wright, planning head, South District: He finds the presentations new and interesting, and appeared to say he had no real advance notice of it compared to us. They’ll look at impact on employment and the existing neighbourhood. They will report to the July 5 meeting. The Works and Economic Development Departments must also provide input.

Joe Lobko gets up and tells us we’re going to break into six groups. Four questions we are to answer:

  1. What do you think the impact of the proposal will be on your community?
  2. What will be the impact on the economy?
  3. What do you think about the Foundry District name?
  4. Are things generally headed in the right direction?

And at this point, the audience loses its shit.

Woman asks question about “mixed housing” – only market housing? social housing? co-ops? Ken Ferguson says “the straight answer is that there is no answer…. Our intent is really market housing.” He doesn’t understand where the rumours about social housing are coming from. A man in the audience tells Ken that he doesn’t have a vote; Paula Fletcher does.

Several voices clamor for us to just ask questions. This is the fourth meeting I’ve been to and I’ve learned nothing, a man says. Why can’t you just let the community ask questions rather than giving us the questions? a woman asks. Paula Fletcher says the city always asks for social housing (how much? 10% to 15%). What about detox centres? a man asks.

A woman says that at the first meeting the developers claimed not to have any ideas for buildings, but actually did all along. Paula replies that this is the first public unveiling.

A woman, Linda, complains that Paula is leaving at 8:00; the architect left (he did); and that we are being fed questions to ask. This is community information, not community consultation, Linda says. Paula says the city will write a report, and it can do so based on one person who talked a lot or many people in several groups listing all their issues.

An actor gets up and agrees with “most of these folks here.” He begins to understand the “thing” people have who live here. “One person per group is not going to get it done. There’s anger in this room, guys. Let ’em have their say.”

Paula asks how many people want to speak in small groups. Nil! She still wants some of the questions answered, if only for the city. She then complains about people from out of the neighbourhood and people hogging the mike. Valerie is allegedly writing down “whatever you say for the official record.” [In reality, she is quite poor at even summarizing people’s points, let alone capturing detail.]

A man gets up and asks us not to ramble.

Q&A

  1. A woman asks: TFS will build in the port lands, and then the Foundry District after that, right? Paula says she should get in line to ask [even though she had just actually asked a question; who cares where she was standing?].

    “We trust all of your judgement here in this committee.”

  2. Man at mike: The industrial brownfields are highly contaminated and very toxic. What sort of environmental regeneration plans do you have in mind, and who will be doing it, and over what time, and who will be paying for it?

    Ken Ferguson: We’re here for as long as you guys want us to be here. Les Klein did have to leave, but his partner Sheldon Levitt is still here, as are the planner and landscape architect. The site has been through an assessment. “All of it will be handled in accordance with MOE criteria. It will all be safely monitored and so forth. It will all be done by us, by Toronto Film Studios.” They’re experienced at cleanup – think back to the tannery fire and how well that cleanup went.

  3. Second man: Is the economic study just on the TFS properties or the whole neighbourhood?

    A. The latter.

    Q. So if industrial uses were no longer viable, how did you come to that conclusion, and what industrial uses did you look at?

    A. Not all are; we’ve still got Core-X [whatever that is; spelling uncertain even after extensive Googling], Enbridge. But traditional industries are not moving into the area even if you redevelop it.

    Q. If you rezone it, there will certainly be no traditional industries coming into the site.

    A. That’s not really a question for us.

    Ken: Rezoning applies solely to their property and only adds uses and does not “deplete” existing uses.

  4. Woman: Port lands first, TFS second, right? What is the timing?

    Ken: How soon will we be developing at the port lands and is it still alive? We are closer than we have ever been to finalizing our deal. Development might start in the winter, full development in the spring. “Those of you that are going around wondering if the port lands are going to happen, I’m here to tell you that it is.” Will not decommission TFS until they have at least equivalent space in the port lands.

  5. Man: Building right to the property line with no setbacks. Density is too high. Also concerned about built heights. In future presentations, can you show us the shadow cast at solstice and equinox?

  6. Woman: Density and height keep coming up at other consulting meetings she goes to. People do not want buildings as barriers between city and lake. Building closer to Lake Shore is wrong. At other meetings, planners from Holland showed high density with low height. “And, um, we need more greening. You just took down the Gardiner… and now what’s proposed tonight is more barriers.”

    Ken Greenberg: Park and bike trails “make this large superblock penetrable.” Scale: He worked for Amsterdam on the Eastern Harbour plan, with buildings of comparable heights to the ones shown here. The principle is scaling from Eastern Ave. up, “and there are a few higher elements as you move to the rear of the site, but definitely not a wall of buildings as you saw in the image.” [Does this imply that there are other, more serious, drawings that we are not being shown?]

  7. Man: Aren’t all these lands within a flood plain?

    Wright: To the best of my knowledge, not these lands, no.

    Q. Isn’t the city trying to identify this as a special policy area?

    A. No, just employment.

    Q. I meant having it designated as a flood area by the province.

    A. Not to my knowledge. Joe Lobko is working on flood control of Lower Don, “which will, in fact, floodproof, if you will, downtown Toronto,” Joe says, with work starting next year.

    Q. Is it premature to be allowing any development until these lands are taken out of the flood plain?

    Joe: They aren’t in the flood plain. Only on the west side of the river are there flood-plain areas, and they’re in a hold status until the floodproofing happens.

    Q. Will the area be sold off as a block or individually, and why isn’t lower density being considered?

    Ken Ferguson: The Film Studio will not be the ultimate developer. Its parent company will be. [He stated the name twice and I missed it, but it appears to be Rose Corp.] “My focus is frankly going to be down at the port lands.” He agrees with the previous comment of high densities with low heights. He built a low townhouse development at Massey-Ferguson with density comparable to a tall building. You need a context of multiple heights. “It makes no sense to take a prime piece of land like this and develop it for single-family townhouses or houses,” as that would be an underutilization.

  8. Man: I would hope the city would discourage business-to-business use – fewer offices, more retail or light (furniture) manufacturing. I think that those are actual productive industries. B2B approach to economy is not very productive; trillions of dollars have been lost in that sector. The city should take a stand and say those are not the kinds of business we want.

    The Foundry District name is OK.

    Design: The city should take a position on the principles they will approve. They should include heights. The city should do so even if the developer does not propose height limits. The city has intensification quite backwards. The city is not asking for intensification but for medium density, which may involve intensification but not necessarily. Most of the main streets in Toronto are usually two-storey buildings; we could have three- or four-storey buildings, but let the main streets be two- to four-storey buildings and then put the six-storey buildings half a block inside. Take the official plan and turn it inside out. Put the six-storey buildings in the interior of the Foundry District, because quite frankly, six storeys is a wall of buildings; four storeys is not.

  9. Woman: She lives on Eastern and is worried about enough policing to avoid drug use and prostitution in the green space. She wants a lot of lights “and making it not become a Regent Park area.” Paula Fletcher says there would be 10%–15% social housing, and if that happens, she would like another meeting, because the neighbourhood already has a lot of social housing.

    Joe Lobko asks her about park location. A. “If it’s social housing, then I’d rather have the park.” Joe tries valiantly to restate the question: Does she prefer the internal or the edge location of the park? She has no opinion.

  10. Woman: When the neighbourhood was called the Studio District, it was proposed by Showline and Cinespace, in consultation with residents after several meetings. “Studio District” kept away from the negativity – pollution, etc. TFS wasn’t in the area at the time. Why is it that, when they’re moving out, they want to take away a name that was already voted on? She also wants another meeting where residents can vote. It’s kind of been pushed upon us that we have no say in this. Paula made several comments that it was happening and they were just being nice to us because they could put in a big-box store.

    Joe: I’m not getting paid to do this.

    Q. How many other community projects are you involved in?

    A. I’m on the South Riverdale Community Steering Committee (and he listed several other projects). They encouraged Paula to start this process rather than the typical process, of two meetings at council. Man interrupts: You’ve got to perceive the anger in the community. It doesn’t seem to be getting through to the guys that are sitting down front that this neighbourhood has been put upon for a hundred years, and nothing you have been proposing even comes close to satisfying the hunger we have. Nothing even addresses the lost lives and mental process that has been lost in the Foundry District.

    Woman continues: Shoreline and Cinespace are staying here. We still have studios in this district and the name should not be changed. She wants these meetings run by the residents, not by anyone who stands to gain. Joe points out that he does not stand to gain. A woman points out that he has contributed to the NDP for years. I contribute to a lot of places, he responds, and says he called Paula, not the other way around. It is not usual to have this many community meetings. Woman wants community members to hold a meeting on their own. (Valerie: “Well, you’re free to call one.” Joe: “You go for it.”)

  11. Man: It’s his first meeting. He’s not angry himself even if there’s a lot of anger in the room. His wife and he were thrilled to see there was any development going on. He’s impressed by the work that’s been done, and has enjoyed the other work done by the architects. He doesn’t see why people are clamoring for social housing, as this neighbourhood “has done enough,” and likes the greenspace and traffic calming. He’s OK with the height and density. He wants us to understand that he doesn’t share all the concerns people have.

    Q. How does the community from now on make sure the concessions (greenery, traffic control, look and feel of buildings) actually happen?

    Wright: Council has to decide on it in the fall. They will write a report to council. If the council approved tonight’s plan, it would be accompanied by a zoning bylaw with densities, setbacks, and the like. Council may also require “urban design guidelines” for look and feel. Council cannot regulate specific architectural features under the Planning Act.

    Ken Ferguson: Asked for a holding designation “on our proposed bylaw” (sic). They can’t do anything else without a detailed site plan. We’ve come with a very open and, and – frankly, I don’t know what to say. I’m glad you stood up…. Toronto desperately needs a major film studio. We aren’t cutting it with the broken-down warehouses that we have.”

    Their financial partners [and who are they, exactly?] have the financial capacity to build something second to none in Toronto or Canada. “That is my commitment. That is the job that I am going to get done.” The buildings on Eastern are a hundred years old and are unsatisfactory for movie shoots. “We have come to you with open arms and said: Tell us what you want.” We’ve been working on this for a year now. Tell us what you want and we will listen.

    Man: This neighbourhood wants to get back to the lake. We will stand with you and be on your side—

    Ken: I’m calling you on it. Tell us what you want. Tell us how to do that.

    A. All you’re doing is building principles, you’re building hard edges, concessions, you’re building little smoke and mirrors.

    Ken: Tell me the process that we’re not following today that will get us where you want to be, because I’m listening.

    A. You’ve got your film studio down on the lake, plus a connection to your existing property. There’s got to be a better connection. I don’t know all the answers.

    Ken: I don’t know the question.

    A. You don’t build walls on Lake Shore Blvd. to prevent them from crossing the street. Soften the edges. Get associations across the Lake Shore. I’m not saying it’s particularly easy to do, but you asked, and this is what people here want.

    Ken: If this process isn’t getting us there, we need to know what process will. We’ve laid ourselves bare here. There’s nobody going to be more open than us, more straightforward than us. [Man says that the notes (by Valerie) have stopped; they have.] It’s not just a question of changing economies; it’s about people who have lived here their whole lives.

  12. Question from Paul: What about a bridge over the ship channel? Thanks Joe for doing this, switching gears to conventional Q&A. What about principles? Minimum and maximum surface parking? Building heights. The Home Depot shown in the slides equals surface parking in his experience. Wants Public Health involved during soil remediation. Focusing on Pape is fine, but consider the width for the added traffic. He sees smaller-scale industries replacing larger ones, so what did the economist mean? It’s the building that remains constant while accommodating new uses. Industrial space even in Leaside is disappearing. Is there a need for small-scale industrial space in this neighbourhood or not?

    Economist: That’s for TFS to respond to, but yes, there should be smaller industrial and office space in the area.

    Q. The eight-foot ceilings in the so-called live/work spaces at Dundas and Carlaw wouldn’t work for a photographer, for example.

    Ken Ferguson: Yes, you need thirteen-foot ceilings and an undivided studio space. There is no place on the plan for masses of parking. What you were seeing may be 20 years away. I don’t think it’s going to get built out immediately.

    Man: Height/density works sometimes and doesn’t work other times. How many storeys is the Beach Cinema?

    A. Probably two or three storeys. [It’s three.]

    Q. How about the condos on Queen?

    A. Four or five.

    Q. The shadows cast by a five-storey building almost onto the two-storey houses on Eastern makes them look smaller and cheaper. This neighbourhood used to be a swamp, then a feces-infested swamp, then industrial, so the neighbourhood has never been an idyllic place. (People interrupt about that: “Oh, crap!”) Roy Cleary Tower on Pape “is like this beacon of folly in the east end. You can see it from anywhere. I can see it from my office.” Fourteen storeys is too much.

    Man speculates that Alliance Atlantis is going to get out of the business, causing the building to turn over; Ken says they own the Beach Cinema building.

    Q. Is it true that residents could vote this project down?

    Joe: No, council does. Then he points out that other neighbourhood names, like Cabbagetown, were disparaging at the time, and others have been forgotten.

  13. Woman: It seems everybody is concerned about heights. Distillery District is building a possibly-20-storey glass building. I moved here because there are no tall buildings. She’s in favour of six or eight storeys as a height restriction. Canada Metal is still there; you’re literally building beside it. If they’re not paying their taxes, somebody should do something about it.

    Ken: I’m not sure why the city is not stepping in. The property is owned by one of our competitors (for three years). They’re here monitoring this meeting because my sense is they want to get on board as well. If you have concerns about Canada Metal, you should talk to Nick [Greek surname I didn’t catch].

    Woman continues: A park on Eastern would soften Eastern. There’s so much traffic on Eastern, Carlaw, and Pape that the houses look like little shantytowns. Calls for a bike path all the way south.

  14. Man: Park’s a little too small; density is too high. Corridor to lake is a great idea, but there’s nothing there to go to. Can you make it more of a pleasant journey to the lake?

    Ken Greenberg: A number of comments that have been made are exactly what we are doing. All four streets are continued for pedestrians or cyclists all the way to Lake Shore. With a traffic signal at Carlaw, you could walk across Lake Shore to the turning basin. Two traffic lights on Eastern, a new one on Lake Shore. He thinks there’s a structure plan being developed for additional connections through port lands and possibly across the shipping channel.

    Q. Can someone from Canada Metal get up and explain if they want to be part of this project [or, I inferred, if they’re going to develop something separately to follow on TFS’s coattails]? (No one does.)

  15. Man: Likes that it’s easier to get to the bike lanes. Anything that softens Eastern Ave. is helpful. “If it can improve Eastern, a lot of us would be a lot happier” (applause).

  16. Man: Maybe you should “disarm” the Foundry District name “so it’s not a rallying point anymore.” Perhaps an institution like a George Brown campus.

I left at 2005.06.06 21:06.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2005.06.14 13:48. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2005/06/14/foundry4/

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