The Deer Park Library is a vital community hub that has served the neighbourhood—albeit in many different locations—for over a century. Earlier this summer I was approached by the Toronto Public Library (TPL), CreateTO (the City’s real estate management branch) and City Planning staff to learn more about a potential opportunity to once again expand and modernize the branch through a nearby development proposal.
As many of you know, there is a development application was submitted just north of the St. Clair Centre which had a previous tower approval from 2008 that never materialized. Commonly referred to as the Wittington site, the owners acquired the rest of the properties on the block and resubmitted a proposal last year with significantly higher tower heights and overall density. At a community consultation meeting last fall I heard overwhelming concern that this large new proposal did not fit the community’s vision for how this block should redevelop. Not only were the towers too tall, with the highest at 59 storeys, but that there was not enough open space on the site and the additional density created would not be supported by the existing transportation and road network which is already at capacity. Further, they have proposed approximately 1400 residential units without any of them being affordable aside from the rental units they are required by law to replace. Given the current affordable housing crisis and proximity to a subway station, this is unacceptable.
I struck a community working group made up of local residents who have volunteered countless hours of their time reviewing the application to offer insightful and thoughtful feedback on how this application could be improved. At the last working group meeting we were not satisfied with the level of progress the developer (Capital Developments) had made in response to the working group and community’s concerns. I asked them to go back to the drawing board until they can present something that will have a meaningful contribution to the neighbourhood, especially considering the substantial impact any development here will have on the future of Deer Park and the wider Midtown community.
Where does this leave the plans for the library? I have made it clear to the City that we will not trade a new library for inappropriate development. While the City is currently engaging in technical conversations to explore options for relocation, these are separate from the important city planning discussions myself and the working group are engaged in. If the development does not proceed, the Deer Park Library will remain operating at its current location at 40 St. Clair East indefinitely. If the developer, the City, the working group and the wider community are able to get to a place where I have a clear mandate to support this development, the current 40 St. Clair site will provide an opportunity for a positive city-building project. I have written a letter (link here) to the CreateTO Board that I will hold a community consultation process to determine the future use of these publicly-owned lands. Please follow my e-newsletter for future updates and consultation meetings.