The Gladstone CDP is so named to distinguish it from the Preston-Carling CDP and Bayview Station CDP, and Bayview Yards CDP, LeBreton Flats plan, and Scott Street CDP, all of which are adjacent. But make no mistake, Preston Street is the commercial and visible heart of the Gladstone district CDP.
What did the planners do to the traditional main street heart of Little Italy? Consider the policies in the City’s new Official Plan:
Community Design Plans or Transit-Oriented Development Plans will be required to establish maximum building heights and locations for intensification within the boundaries of their study areas, based on proximity to the rapid transit network and compatibility with the surrounding neighbourhood. This is the most comprehensive approach to planning for height and density.
Where there is no Community Design Plan, the Official Plan will identify where specific building heights shall be located, with the tallest buildings located adjacent to the rapid transit network. These heights are described below:
- Mixed-use centres and employment areas:
- 10-19 storeys adjacent to rapid transit station
- up to nine storeys elsewhere, transitioning to low-rise areas
- Mainstreets – no change to current policies:
- up to six storeys on traditional mainstreets in older neighbourhoods [emphasis added]
- up to nine storeys on arterial mainstreets elsewhere
- Major urban facilities such as shopping centres, hospitals and major sport facilities :
- up to nine storeys
- General urban area:
- six storeys adjacent to the supplementary rapid transit network
- four storeys elsewhere
The City does indeed propose to leave Preston between Somerset and Larch as traditional main street, ie up to six floors. This is shown on the map in the faintest of gray colours (squint hard) and is noted on the map key as being simply “retail 1-6 stories” instead of TMS which is a mixed-use permission:
One of the things the city does in setting up a CDP is to determine who owns what parcels. Land assemblies are of particular interest. If a large parcel has been assembled, it is easier to develop for larger building (s). So one reason the blocks south of Larch on the west (left) side are proposed for larger scale developments is because they are under one ownership. This is not to say the Hardware store will disappear tomorrow, but the owners will be constantly evaluating whether to redevelopment or keep the business open at this location. Once rezoned, the land will be worth $300-500 per sq foot, so there is lots of money at play here.
On the opposite side of the street, there is Preston Garage and the end of the Gladstone Terrace OCH housing project. This block frontage has long been an obvious candidate for intensification. Storefronts would repair the gap in the street which is now car storage. A six storey building(s), with storefronts along the street, and possibly connected to the Gladstone Terrace building so seniors could walk out to the street without a hill, would be welcome. Funds from selling the frontage would pay for underground parking to replace the lost parking lot and some much-needed building renovations. I think the proposed building along Preston should go further, wrapping around onto Balsam and Gladstone while it steps down in height. Maximize the revenue, please, while not constructing a block-long slab.
But what would the street look like if there were new buildings on both sides? Recall the Preston Hardware zoning might be up to 20 stories under Option 2, facing six or more floors on the OCH Gladstone Terrace side. Even if mid rise on both sides of the street, will it be better than the Ashcroft Canyon looked at in Part i of this series? Go back and look at those pictures, or walk that block. Now imagine it on Preston, which would have the advantage of being open on the south to the mid day sun.
Now picture Ashcroft Canyon extending all the way east to Island Park Drive (don’t believe that hooey about the corner of Island Park being a four storey office building, it simply isn’t credible). The Preston (potential) Canyon would be similar, extending from Larch to the Queensway. Recall that under all three city options, the Adult High School playing fields are relocated to mid-block and the Gladstone and Preston street frontages become nine storey buildings (not six, it seems our planners can’t recall the OP). Someday maybe.
The City already restricts the proximity of high rise apartment buildings to each other, allowing them room to “breathe”. Maybe the City should be considering spaces between buildings and varied height controls on traditional main streets, limiting the formation of canyons. All this proposed intensification and high density won’t be worth it if no one wants to live there. This isn’t Manhattan Island.
Restricting ‘canyons’ doesn’t mean prohibiting six storey buildings. The “westboro station” complex (3 towers) at Roosevelt has lots of development but a totally different (better) look and feel than Ashcroft Canyon.
And let’s not forget the OP policy, referred to several paragraphs above, that building heights be limited to up to six storeys on traditional mainstreets in older neighbourhoods.
So just why do all the City Options 1, 2, and 3 include higher buildings (9 floors, or 20 floors) on Preston? There is plenty of room for them on the former industrial lands along the OTrain transit corridor. Indeed, Option 1 includes a fine cluster of them right at Gladstone Station, surrounding a nice transit plaza.
If the City permits more than six floors along Preston, the floodgates will open. Every developer will want at least nine. And a steady diet of six storey slab buildings on both sides of the street isn’t very appealing either.
The Gladstone CDP plan offers the city a good opportunity to address the Canyon effect on traditional main streets, and develop measures now before we lose what makes neighbourhoods attractive. Is the city up to it?