Posted 04/Feb/2007 17:00:00
"Drake, you ho, this is all your fault."
Spraypainted on the front of the Starbucks at Queen West and
Dovercourt, it was an epithet for all to see. The once grotty,
run-down and cheap strip of Queen West was getting swankified. Just
wait, they all predicted, the next thing you know, they'll be kicking
out artists and putting up condos they can't afford.
Well, yes and no. Last week the Ontario Municipal Board approved a
development at 48 Abell Street that would see the current building
torn down, forcing the artists who currently reside there to find
other accommodations, at least temporarily. This has created an
uproar within the West Queen West community, because the predictions
all seem to be coming true.
But let's look more closely. Yes, the current building at 48 Abell,
an old industrial site that had been converted into lofts and
studios, is set to be demolished to make way for condo towers. But
the building itself is in such a state of disrepair that a recent
structural assessment of the place prevented it from receiving
heritage status. Even if the developers wanted to incorporate the
current structure, it probably wouldn't withstand the renovation process.
The irony is that this development has already promised to offer
units for low-income renters
including studio space for some of the displaced artists, as well as
units with more bedrooms than your typical condo tower, in an effort
to ensure that the building actually is supportive of, and becomes a
part of the local community.
Another important goal is to create a mixed-income
community. Housing a variety of people and incomes is one of the
hallmarks of St. Lawrence and other successful neighbourhoods. We're
hoping that a quarter of the project can be rented to individuals and
families at rents that are less than 50% of the CMHC average market
rents. The less expensive apartments will be rented on a
geared-to-income basis to applicants who have been identified by the
City as having priority for affordable housing;
So, if the existing building is currently falling apart -- photos on
another Toronto blog show cracked walls, sloping floors, water damage
and crumbling brickwork -- and the developer is promising to not only
provide space for artists but ensure there are units appropriate for
families, all at below-market rents (and all of which include
utilities), why has 48 Abell become the poster child for the
Sure, there are lots of ugly condos being built in Toronto, the
majority of which are not family-friendly, but this project doesn't
seem to be one of those. With a plan for the site that aspires to be
community building, it seems as if the protest put up by the Active
18 Association [active18.org] is a lot of Nimby-ism and a
general annoyance at being displaced while the work is being done.
Yes, the buildings will be higher than anything is the immediate
area, but there are other hi-rise buildings nearby, both condominiums
and rental towers, and as the city continues to search for solutions
to the issue of housing people downtown instead of having them move
to the suburbs, we're all going to have to take a good long look at
some of the necessary solutions.
For someone not at risk of being displaced (but who still lives in
the immediate area), the plans outlined for 48 Abell seem not only
reasonable, but ideal.