A settlement reached between the Wynn Group of Properties and the City of Toronto is expected to serve as a big win for students at Lord Lansdowne Public School and the historic Silver Dollar music venue.
Wynn applied two years ago to build a 22-storey building on the site of the Silver Dollar at 484 Spadina Avenue, adjacent to the school. That raised a variety of concerns, including the shadowing impact of the building on the school’s playground, the possibility it would set a precedent for other developments in the area and the loss of a historic Toronto site.
After City Council rejected the application, the developer brought the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board, leading to fears it could be rubber-stamped.
The settlement at least lessens the concerns raised by the original application.
“We got a lot of the height down, from 69 to 52 metres, and there are stepdowns and stepbacks that will lessen the shadow impact on the school even more,” said Trinity-Spadina councillor Joe Cressy. “We would have loved to have seen eight or nine storeys on that site, but this is more than a compromise.”
As a result of the compromise, the building will now be 15 storeys in height, a reduction of nearly one-third over what was originally proposed.
The councillor added the retention of the Silver Dollar site marked another win for the community, though the neighbouring Waverley Hotel has no protection under the agreement.
“As part of the resolution, it was confirmed the Silver Dollar would be retained as an entertainment venue and the stage, floor, bar and outdoor sign will be restored to the satisfaction of Heritage Preservation Services,” he said.
Community members and members of the Lord Lansdowne school community all joined in the fight against the application, which certainly contributed to the compromise. Showing solidarity against the application was the neighbourhood’s best chance at not having the initial application foisted on them, though it hardly guaranteed success.
“When you’re at the Ontario Municipal Board, you essentially have a gun to your head,” said Harbord Village Residents Association chair Tim Grant. “You’re playing Russian roulette – the developer can get everything they initially asked for.”
Grant still feels the building’s height is out of character with the surrounding community and fears it could set a precedent for the area. He said a loss at an OMB hearing that gives a different developer the green light to build a 25-storey building at 245 College Street undermined the community’s case in the Silver Dollar negotiations.
“One oversized building creates a precedent and allows other developers to come in with applications of their own for tall buildings,” he said. “They come in and say ‘they got 22 (storeys) so why can’t we have 25? Why can’t we have 21?’”
He would have liked to have seen a 10-storey building built on the Silver Dollar site, but added the reduction in height, changes to the building envelope to further minimize shadow effects and the retention of the Silver Dollar made the compromise reached acceptable.
Lord Lansdowne Public School principal Beth Mills noted the original application would have shrouded almost all of the school’s playground in shadow. She noted this would cause additional problems in winter when a lack of sunlight would mean snow and ice in the playground would not melt.
“If there’s no melting on the playground, that’s dangerous,” she said. “I’ve shut our playground down more because it’s so slippery from the ice than because it’s cold.”
She added the reduction in height served as a win for the school.
“My understanding is there will be a significant reduction in shadowing and that’s really significant,” she said. “The shadow impact of the original proposal was quite shocking. It’s a school and our kids need to play outside.”
“I’m really proud of our community for insisting this should be a child-friendly playground.”
The Toronto District School Board also received an undisclosed payment from the developers as a result of the settlement, though whether that funding will go directly to Lord Lansdowne is not yet known.