Recall that the City hired George Dark to come up with the Carling – Preston mini-CDP that is supposed to be part of the bigger Bayview-Carling CDP that has been stalled and starved and rendered partially stillborn (in that development applications are approved before the plan is in place).
The City asked for comments by Feb. 11th and your faithful scribe dutifully complied, sending in a lengthy missive of 72 whines, complaints, and helpful suggestions. In the thought that some reader might want to see these pearls of wisdom, I will reproduce the letter over the next few posts. There is sure to be something to offend everyone. But don’t get too upset, the City is highly unlikely to do anything I suggest.
Where to start?
I took each of the six or so key maps generated by the Dark report and commented from those. Necessarily, some of the themes and issues lend themselves to the same comment on several maps, so as we work through the maps some comments are not made because they were already made previously.
Character areas (map shown above)
- Rochester is already a bit of corridor, alienated from the buildings on its east side by elevation changes and the fortress-style govt offices, and the west side is a motley collection of vacant lots and converted houses that together form an unattractive and uninviting landscape. The road is merely a conduit to the freeway.
- Calling for a long line of 18 storey high rises down the east side is not good planning (and don’t kid ourselves that there might be lower buildings here too, they will be built to the max, period). It is “good planning” for highrise developers (ie, short term profitable) who may not care about a legacy of buildings that remain attractive in an attractive neighborhood. Developers won’t voluntarily contribute to making a better street – that’s a city job. Step up to the responsibility.
- One improvement would require buildings to give a feeling of mixed heights, for eg. to be five or nine floors at the shared lot line or side street end, rising in steps (specify the setback) to the centre, so the street gets a rhythm of high and low. Sorry, making the corner apartments of all glass to ‘lighten’ the look works best on drawings and not in real life. We want real modulation, not fake. And the transition from 18 stories to four on the streets behind is too abrupt, but how can this be moderated on shallow lots? – only by building lower bldgs, eg 9 stories. And do not permit low rise portions of the building running down the side streets on additional lots to be visually connected to the taller building since mega buildings look out of place and alienating in scale in a low rise area.
- And while the proposed zoning for highrises is one lot shallow on the east side of Rochester, a strong hint of what is to come is the proposed Domicile building on Rochester-Norman whose peculiar shape just happens to maximize the light and views of Hobin’s adjacent site when it is redeveloped (for highrise? It wasn’t bought to remain a low rise warehouse for ever).
And no, I don’t believe the city can make the high rise zoning only along the west side of Rochester “stick”. Someone will buy up some adjacent lots in the block, and their building will sprawl over much the way Taggart’s initial 95 Norman proposed building does, with a five storey apt building continually promoted as “townhouses”. Sorry, ground level apartments with unused balcony doors do not a vital street make. So if a building extends further lots along the block, it would have to look and feel like a separate building with a clear visual separation of the mid-block rise from the highrise facing Rochester.
- The Rochester corridor also gets a “park”, at least on paper. Amazing, isn’t it, how City plans always require the park to be contributed by the Feds. Give it a try.
- There is mixed-use residential shown for both sides of Aberdeen west of Rochester. The NE side is already a mid-rise apt building, so why is marked for redevelopment as part of the Rochester corridor? As for the south side of Aberdeen, the map implies the area will be developed right through the block to back of existing houses facing Beech, ie not the lot line, but to the built line. Needs careful elaboration, so as to not simply call for wiping out the Beech houses. Nine stories proposed for here is good.
- The north side of Adeline does not need to be high rise. Four or five storey redevelopment would be good planning. Why does the “transition zone” from high rise to lower rise have to occur only in the lower rise space at the expense of lower rise uses? The transition could – theoretically – occur on the south side of Adeline, leading one to wonder in whose interests the plan is being cast.
8. A high rise cluster is OK around the Carling OTrain station. And it is right to extend this area to west to Sherwood. But is it good planning to just build another high rise immediately in front of the two Domicile buildings on Loretta? Why not specify or suggest a way to develop the lot intensely without just plopping another tower(s) in front of the existing ones? For eg, a thin, 4 – 5 storey building hugging the Carling curb and rounding the corner at Sherwood with a curved façade would sound buffer Domicile, create a courtyard between the two developments, and possibly make for enough density similar to one or two more domicile-style towers but without the clutter. Similarly, the Sherwood block that is now a mini-mall needs to make an architectural statement, eg a triangle building, flatiron façade, or something specific to the lot shape rather than just a square tower plunked on the site.
9. The proposed greenway down the west side of the OTrain is too undeveloped. Specify that it will continue along Railway Street with some special car-moderating cycle-priority (not merely cycle-accomodating) landscaping and regulation (a chance to construct a mews, a cycle boulevard…), and then under the Queensway at least as far as Gladstone.
10.It is good to see the greenway extended on both sides of the OTrain cut from Carling to Prince of Wales. The concept needs to be fleshed out, for eg as an interim measure, a signalized cross ride at Carling and an adequate connection to the Queen Elizabeth, Arboretum, and Farm cycle routes, that does not involve a detour path glued to the Carling-Preston curb. Even if marked by a bold arrow on the plan, it needs to be there to guide future planning and lobbying for funds to complete the pathway network.
11. And also mention that when the OTrain is double-tracked, if the Carling or POW underpasses need to be widened, they shall be widened enough to include an underpassing MUP along both sides of the cut. By putting this in the plan now, it will guide the expectations and planning for the eventual double tracking so that a continuous MUP doesn’t have to fought over anew.
The Minerology Site
12. The heritage buildings between Rochester, Orangeville, and Booth should be marked on the map as a distinct character area, not merely an employment centre. With provision for highrises along Orangeville, maybe very tall ones (40 stories)(this has worked out well at the Distillery site in Toronto). Buildings along Orangeville can also act as sound barriers.
Sir John Carling building
13. While just outside the planning area, and somewhat extra-judicial to zoning, it wouldn’t hurt if the plan called for the adaptive reuse of the Sir John Carling building, for eg, into condos. Since all the asbestos and cladding is being taken out anyway, better to sell the concrete frame and reuse it than tear it down… What are outside consultant’s plans for if not to be bold and thinking outside of the City planning blinkers??
Tomorrow: the contentious issue of Height. How much is too much? Is there such as thing as too much? And where to put it.