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East/West bicycle network considerably harmed by proposed “StudioCentre” development on Eastern Avenue

 

Just spent 2 hours at “StudioCentre” Open House. (www.studiocentre.com)

Behind the table as I walked in sat a smiling PR receptionist who welcomed me and asked me if I would like to fill out the sign-in form.

The first thing you see when you take in the windowless 1,000 square foot rectangular studio space are 12 easels supporting large architects’ top-elevation drawings and artists’ landscape perspectives. In the middle of the room was a table full of really sweet treats and single serving bottles of spring water and coloured ones that look like they might have fruit in them. Situated on the opposite wall from the easels is a table with feedback forms to fill out after your tour.

This was the Open House at Revival 629 – a public pre-presentation of a proposed ‘mixed-use facility’ development dubbbed “StudioCentre” — brought to you by “SmartCentres”, the same corporation that tried unsuccessfully 5 years back to develop this parcel of land into a Big Box Store / Big Parking Lot retail extravaganza anchored by a Wall Mart.

Top_Elevation_SmartCentres_StudioCentre_via_blogto_city_2013-05_massive_retail_development_20130514-Film-Map

Top Elevation SmartCentres StudioCentre drawing from Open House presentation 2013-05-16 via blogto – http://www.blogto.com/city/2013/05/massive_retail_development_and_hotel_planned_for_old_toronto_
film_studios_site/

I was guided through the easels by Ornella Richichi, Senior Vice President of Land Development for SmartCentres, the person in charge of this entire development, who told us that the entire plan – as far as land use and building heights – falls completely with-in City of Toronto planning guidelines for this area – which is – it is important to note, with-in ‘The Port Lands Development’, being overseen by WaterFront Toronto.

Later on – in the company of Health Promoter at South Riverdale CHC, landscape architect and urban designer, Paul Young – had a good listen to – and discussion with – City of Toronto Senior Planner Kyle Knoeck – who was there to give City Planning’s perspective.

The last time around the developers plan for this site created a broad based public backlash that changed City of Toronto development law and planning criteria – and created a strong community movement that has lead to much good development in the neighbourhood, and in the city in the years hence.

This Open House was a ‘pre-submission, community feedback presentation’; in other words, this development plan has not yet been submitted to the City of Toronto Planning Department. If SmartCentres does submit this plan to the City, the regular public consultation process will then kick in. It seems this pre-submission public consolation is part of an extra-careful process being pursued this time by SmartCentres.

 

Good news is:

By the incorporation into this plan of many of the ideas central to Jane Jacobs’ and the New Urbanism Architects’ ‘Living City’ model (much of which, I should note, is also official City of Toronto Policy) – I believe SmartCentres has started this conversation from a fundamentally different starting point than that of their last attempt at developing this site.

Of coarse the journey from drawings to community rarely reflects even the most un-utopian, architects’ vision.

 

Not-so-good news:

The 9 story Office Tower, the adjacent Hotel, and a Loblaws sized building proposed for the South and South-East of the site will pull customers in cars from Lake Shore Blvd.

Three streets cross the Lower Don Recreation Trail now along this development. 15,235 square metres retail space, plus 44,795 square metres (of existing) studio and (new) office space – means 60,030 square metres of leases will pull a lot more car traffic across the Lower Don Recreation Trail. The plan does have a Bike Track inked in along the east side of the development – that connects the Eastern Avenue Bike Lanes to the Lower Don Recreation Trail – but with the East West usability of the Trail being so impacted by increased flows across it … one wonders if anyone will be taking the track down to the Lower Don Recreation Trail anyway.

The wider picture has to be taken into account as we continue forth in the Port Lands Development.

  • How does the Bike Lane in these drawings fit into the grander vision for a sustainable transportation network for the entire Portlands?
  • How will that network connect to the rest of the city – East North and West?
  • How do we move people North and South from where they live, down to the Port Lands where they may play or work or connect?
  • How are we going to move people on their East / West commutes to work and back?

 

I like this development proposal over-all —as a pixel in the picture — but the North / South bicycle network is not made much better in this early vision; and the East / West bicycle network is considerably harmed by it.

 

mh



Posted: May 16th, 2013
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