by carl wilson

Guest Post: SOBs at the OMB

At left, the currently permitted heights for buildings in the Queen/Gladstone area, looking west along Queen. At right, the heights of buildings that were approved by the OMB this week for development. From the Active 18 website.

Last night I got a note from visual artist Carolyn Tripp, of the Mercer Union artists' centre, asking if I would post her notes from the Active 18 press conference on Tuesday, which I mentioned here but wasn't able to attend. For much more discussion, let me remind Toronto-(dys)topians of next week's panel discussion on Parkdale-area gentrification, organized by the Parkdale Liberty Economic Development Corporation and moderated by yerz truly at Gallery 1313 (1313 Queen W), at 7 pm on Monday.

Active 18 held a press conference on Tuesday January 16th in response to decisions recently made concerning the development of the Queen West "triangle" by the Ontario Municipal Board (affectionately, the OMB). These decisions are largely in favour of the developers wishing to build four high-rise towers and four eight-storey buildings in a three-block area (largely falling in between Dovercourt and Dufferin Streets). These are also entirely residential, leaving no space for business or the light-industrial needs of art practioners.

Jessica Wyman and Charles Campbell were on hand from the community's activist group, Active 18, along with City Councillor Adam Giambrone and Urban Planner Ken Greenberg. The event shed light on several issues and examples of poor planning in Toronto, but largely maintained its focus on the current Queen situation, which includes the now marked 48 Abell Street complex.

In his statements, Councillor Giambrone tried to highlight some of the progress that has been made in terms of proposed park space and road extensions. To my artist and culture worker ears, that was no music, and at best feeble optimism. Gaining a small park and not much else seems a poor trade-off. There are very few development guidelines in the OMB ruling that would be beneficial or accessible to the surrounding community.

While nobody would deny that the 18th Ward has the support and efforts of its councillor, there is only so much that can be done to pressure the OMB. It is an unelected, independent body that, in light of recent events, certainly has no mandate to rule in favour of Toronto communities.

Finally, Mr. Greenberg took the microphone, and took time to respond to the aforementioned "progression" putting it in a sharper perspective: "With all due respect to Councillor Giambrone... how low do our expectations have to be?"

The OMB's role in Toronto urban development apparently is not typical of provincial involvement in the rest of the country. At the conference, Mr. Greenberg described its process as a "fruitless gladitorial contest" as opposed to providing solutions for Torontonian communities that are conscious of their specific needs.

One might ask what comes next for everyone involved, and especially for those who live and work in that area. Answering that, Active 18's website has a section that simply says, "Get informed." As Ms. Wyman pointed out, we would hate to see what would happen to development in Toronto if there was no opposition whatsoever. Get involved. - Carolyn Tripp

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, January 18 at 2:51 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)



That was exactly what I was looking for, thank you. I'm still pretty skeptical about the younger middle-class families outnumbering the young people vampirizing the neighbourhood because of cheap rents as well as the jaw-dropping sense of entitlement on the part of a lot of artists in the area, like Philip Monk and his fucking tote bags with uninspired slogans about artists "making" Queen West. Being an apologist for the developers is pretty weak ground but Christine Zeidler's third way bullshit and community tokenism is equally gross and seems almost more insidious.

Posted by benstimpson on January 18, 2007 10:30 PM



Here’s a writing exercise for Ben to practice:

“What EXACTLY is the problem? Beyond all the usual and insipid rhetoric and 'corporate bookstore' bogeymanning, what is wrong with higher profits besides the incredibly cringeworthy dream-catchers? Beyond nurturing a moribund and entirely myopic system of independent bookstores that seem to spend more time supporting emerging writers and the small press than actually selling books the majority wants to read, what does this industry stand to lose that it hasn't already lost because of the first-wave bookstore owners ie: precisely the people who are so outraged about this rigging of the marketplace. Think of all the awesome tax revenue that all these big box bookstores will bring in!”

Posted by Brian on January 18, 2007 5:42 PM



It's a reasonable question, Ben, and in response I say: Viz. the Richmond club district, Queen West between University and Spadina, etc.

While I agree that the arts community shouldn't be myopic about its interests and that development in itself is not actually a bad thing, the character of the neighbourhood has not yet been totally wiped out, and I think that development in most cases (not every case - there are always arguments to be made for bold initiatives when they actually *are* bold initiatives, architecturally or commercially or whatever they may be) should attempt to integrate with the character of the surroundings, not to tower over them and erase their history. Development should happen in stages - for instance, extending height variances a couple of storeys, rather than a couple of dozen storeys in one stroke - so that an organic growth can happen without the sudden displacement and erasure of that character. And I think that a mixed-use approach should govern planning - eg., why can't these developments be required to include more street-level services and spaces that would benefit the area?

As for the first wave of gentrification: There should have been restraints on the number of bars etc. that could open on that West Queen West strip in the first place (such restrictions are normal in other cities). Mixed-income housing issues exist in the area, as there do all over Toronto. But that "first wave" is also mischaracterized by people who often seem they're just playing class-consciouser-than-thou.

The artists are increasingly demonized as somehow inauthentic people and treated as if they were moneyed tourists. (And saying they're all shitty artists is just a cheap shot that could be levelled at any downtown arts community anywhere. Most artists are always mediocre. Except for the good ones. I have no doubt whatsoever that you could have said exactly the same about the Parisian art community in the thirties, but is that what matters in the long run?) The idea that live-in studio space and midlevel galleries are in some way positive aspects of the city worth conserving gets laughed out of town.

Likewise, the younger middle-class families are talked about as if they were all slumming Rosedalians. The gap between the Portugese community in the area and the new residents exists but it's not so vast, and it's the kind of integration that can happen cooperatively and to everyone's benefit. (As I know from personal experience with my neighbours in the area.) The sudden arrival of hundreds of condo dwellers disconnected from the neighbourhood on every other level, not so much.

I don't want to see downtown Toronto become a theme park on the theme of money a la Manhattan. This is obviously just illogical and sentimental of me. Fine, see you in Queens (Scarborough?) in 2017.

Posted by zoilus on January 18, 2007 5:06 PM



What EXACTLY is the problem? Beyond all the usual and insipid rhetoric and "gentrification" bogeymanning, what is wrong with development in that neighbourhood besides the incredibly cringeworthy ad-campaigns? Beyond nurturing a moribund and entirely myopically provincial arts community that seem to spend more time writing grant proposals than actually coming up with a single good idea, what does this neighbourhood stand to lose that it hasn't already lost because of the first-wave gentrifiers ie: precisely the people who are so outraged about this development scheme? Think of all the awesome tax revenue that all these new condos will bring in!

Posted by benstimpson on January 18, 2007 4:36 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson