Interview with Krikor Chitilian, member of Local Advisory Committee for ConsumersNext Development Plan’

In the coming years, the Toronto Armenian community’s focal point at Hallcrown Place, where a considerable number of its institutions are located, will undergo major physical changes. The area surrounding St. Mary Church, the ACC, ARS Day School and AYC is slated for a major development project (dubbed ConsumersNext) that might affect the everyday life at the community centre and especially, the school.

ACC leadership is following up closely with the developments of the proposed project as it fights its way through municipal and city hall planning and decision making stages.

TorontoHye asked Head of ACC Committee regarding ConsumersNext Development and representative of ACC at the Local Advisory committee Krikor Chitilian about the background, the work done so far towards the proposed project and its modification to meet the ACC’s safety and traffic concerns, as well as where things stand right now.

Q. Can you give us an overall idea about the ConsumersNext project?

A. The planned high density High-rise developments along Sheppard Ave East from Don Mills to Victoria Park Ave. at the fringes of Consumers Rd. (which is the largest employment office/commercial area in the City of Toronto after Downtown core), were mostly approved by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), bypassing the city planning.

The City of Toronto Commissioned a Planning Study for these very important Employment Lands in 2015. The purpose was to control the development and to increase employment in the area from the current 18,000 to about 30-35,000 within the next 25-30 years, with improvements to expand transportation to the area and convert it into a walk-able neighbourhood.

The City formed a Local Advisory Committee (LAC), comprised of land owners and businesses in the area and invited the ACC to participate. Initially. two individuals from ACC were involved as committee members, Harout Manougian and Krikor Chitilian. The committee submitted a final report to the Planning and Growth committee in the fall of 2016, which was then adopted and the staff was directed to prepare a secondary plan for the area, which if approved by the Council will control the development of the Employment Lands for the next 5-10 years.

The ACC Board appointed a committee internally to follow the proposed development of the total area within the Employment lands in general and the adjoining Universal Property at 2450 Victoria Park Ave., which was sold to a developer in 2011-2012. The committee met with the developer at least 4-5 times, the last one in Mid 2016, and expressed our desire to see a mid rise development with commercial/office buildings bordering St. Mary Church and the Community Centre/school at 45 Hallcrown. After several revisions, the Developer submitted a plan shown in Fig.1, with mostly residential development, low to mid rise buildings bordering the Church and ACC, a park at Hallcrown Place and Twin towers along Consumers Rd., 44 and 39 Storey high. With a new Road from Hallcrown Place to Victoria Park Ave. at the north boarder of the Church, as a buffer separating the two properties.

This has been a long process over the last three years, with 3 LAC committee meetings, 6 or 7 Public consultation meetings where hundreds of Armenian Community members were present, expressed their concern until the “ConsumersNext” report was finalized.

In the fall of 2017 the report was presented and accepted by the Planning and Growth Management committee of the City of Toronto, where we were represented by our Planning Consultant, Weston Consulting, and we had Written deputations by our committee. This is when the planning staff was directed to prepare a draft Secondary Plan for The Consumers Rd. Employment Area. In December 2017, this draft plan was presented for public consultation in early February, where our community members had another opportunity to discuss their views and concerns with the planning staff and the Area Councillor. Then, the Secondary plan was submitted to the Planning and Growth Management Committee for adoption on February 22, 2018. At this meeting Deputations were made by our planning consultant, Chairman of  St. Mary Church Harout Kassabian, Chairman of the ARS School Board, Sevag Kupelian, and Member of our ACC Committee Serouj Kaloustian, and School Parent Representative, Haig Petrossian.

The Secondary Plan was moved to be adopted by the Planning and Growth Management Committee, with a recommendation that the planning staff meet with the representatives of the Armenian Community to further discuss their concerns and make minor modifications within the next two weeks, as the Secondary plan will be submitted to the Toronto City Council for Adoption in Mid March 2018. Fig. 2 represents the development concept at the Sheppard Ave and Victoria Park Ave. with a tall building option (25 storey high single building on the Universal Site).

Q. In what ways can these changes affect the Community Centre’s and ARS School’s surroundings, mainly traffic and pedestrian safety?

A. The ACC committee still has some concerns and we hope that they will be addressed during our meetings with the planning staff and our councillor within the next week or so. These concerns are summarized as follows:

a. The new proposed road to the North of the Church from Hallcrown Place to Victoria Park Ave. should be built first, prior to any development in excess of the existing floor space.

b.The traffic on the new road should be controlled to discourage through traffic, and should be mainly intended to service the properties at the Hallcrown Place circle.

c. Safety and security of the school students, teachers and parents are paramount and, if the traffic congestion is further aggravated, we stand to lose students and endanger survival of the school.

d. The density (coverage) of the areas to the south of Consumers Road should be all labelled as 2.0 (two times the lot area. As our lands at 45 and 50 Hallcrown Plc. are designated as 1.5 times, to present some incentive to the land owners bordering 401 to consider commercial development.

e. The green path along the non-buildable areas within the 401/404 right of way should be limited in width to 5-6m to accommodate Cycling path, walk and green tree lines.

f. The Universal lot at 2450 Victoria Park Ave. is designated as mixed use, the only such designation on the south side of Consumers Rd, which will allow residential uses. It is our view that the density on the south side on both sides of Victoria Park East and West be reduced to 2.0, and the building forms be low to mid rise (up to 12 Storey high).

g. The city requirement for mixed use areas where commercial employment buildings exist is to keep the building, or if it will be demolished then at least the existing footage of the building should be constructed as a commercial component of the development. This does not mean only retail space at the ground floor of a residential development.

h. The preferred recommended option in the “ConsumersNext” Study and as dictated by the PPS (Provincial Planning Statement), and the City of Toronto OPA 321 (Official Plan Amendment), is mid rise mixed use development. This concept picture should also be included in the Secondary Plan, as the tall building option currently is included.

i. Finally, the infrastructure capacity in the area should be considered for equitable distribution as the ACC and AYC lands (6.12 Acres) are earmark for Institutional and Commercial developments, starting with the expansion for the school, for which an application is in process by KIRKOR Architects and Planners.

We are not yet out of the woods. The developer can still apply to the OMB with their plan. However, if the Secondary Plan passes the City Council, it will be more difficult for OMB to bypass the City Council, and their decision could be legally challenged. Having the City on our side will be an important matter, as this could be a very expensive proposition without the city’s support.