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48 Abell

Posted 04/Feb/2007 17:00:00 by Sheryl

"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.

48 Abell 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 anti-condo crusade?

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 [] 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.

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