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New building rules would cost Toronto, councillor worries Add to ...

The city has come out with a $330,000, 157-page study that would reshape tall-building development downtown.

But a developer and councillor in one of the most construction-heavy parts of the city argue it's too blunt a tool, and attempts to uniformly regulate the way buildings go up throughout the downtown core would harm development and the city's attempts to capitalize off it.

The report, authored by Urban Strategies, Inc. and Hariri Pontarini Architects, sets out suggested regulations for everything south of Dupont, east of Bathurst and west of the Don Valley Parkway. It separates out "high" streets and "secondary" streets, defining firm height caps and "proposes a new vision for how tall buildings should fit in downtown Toronto."

Chief city planner Gary Wright said the impetus for the report came from growing pressure to increase density in an area that's seen white-hot development - both in condominium towers and, bucking a national trend, commercial buildings.

"As we all know, Toronto has a lot of tall buildings," he said. "We know that there's pressure and a lot of development interest in building taller buildings. … We thought we needed to be able to give our staff and our planners and councillors better tools for some of the finer-grain stuff.

"Going forward it informs us as to where we should guide the industry to put tall buildings. It provides a methodology for looking at height limits, it gives us guidance on protecting strategic open spaces and parks, and it also provides good guidance on priority retail streets."

Council is expected to vote on the report next year, following public consultation.

But Adam Vaughan, whose Trinity-Spadina ward saw 3,000 new units of housing brought online between June and September, said the proposal would take away some of the flexibility the city now has in negotiating height and density with developers.

"From an architectural perspective it's an interesting set of ideas … but on the ground, in reality, I've got a lot of concerns," he said.

Now, the city reaps the financial benefits of being able to effectively trade extra height for funds that go toward public space. The vast majority of the new developments going up south of Queen Street have been financial windfalls for the city, he said - to the tune of $1-million each.

One of those projects is Brad Lamb's. The condo mogul said this plan would be "the death of high-rise condominium construction in the downtown core."

"It's incredibly shortsighted," he said. "It means it's a lockdown on density in the downtown core. And every good thing that's happened in the downtown core in the past 15 years in Toronto has been the result of the condominium industry."

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