Humber Valley Village “main street” going vertical

Residents Richard Morency, Gayle Christie, Niels Christensen and Joanne Pickard, who all live near Humbertown Plaza in Etobicoke, are going all out to oppose a proposed massive redevelopment of the ’50s-era shopping centre that would include five new highrises. Keith Beaty/Toronto Star

Valerie Hauch   Published on Wednesday September 05, 2012 Reprinted from the Toronto Star 
Staff Reporter

Make no mistake, Humber Valley is not Happy Valley these days.

Hundreds of Etobicoke residents who live around the 1950s-era Humbertown Shopping Centre and who are members of theHumber Valley Village Residents Associationare not happy about a proposed massive redevelopment of the plaza.

Over the Labour Day weekend they posted 400 signs in the neighbourhood saying “Save Humbertown.” They’ve ordered 500 more to post on lawns in and around the modest two-storey plaza on The Kingsway, near Royal York Rd. and Dundas St. W., which is fondly seen as the “main street’’ of the community.

HVVRA president Niels Christensen is expecting “hundreds of people’’ who care about the future of that “main street” to turn out at a Sept. 11 community meeting at Martingrove Collegiate Institute called by city planners.

The plaza’s owners, First Capital Realty, applied to the city in January to build a mixed-use redevelopment of the site, including a two-storey commercial base and five 11- to 21-storey residential towers, with 654 condo units and 28 four-storey townhome units.

The proposal includes a daycare centre and underground parking. It would require a zoning amendment and approval of a site plan to proceed.

There have been some changes to the original proposal, said Jodi Shpigel, First Capital Realty’s vice-president for development, although those changes haven’t been “officially filed’’ yet. She told the Star she could not divulge any information prior to the Sept. 11 public meeting, at which there will be a full presentation and disclosure.

But Ward 4 Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby says that while the new proposal has “shifted things around, which has improved it,’’ the density and height remain.

“It’s still too tall, too dense … they have not downsized it at all,’’ said Lindsay Luby, who was also the area councillor years ago when the then-owners of the original single-storey Humbertown proposed putting on a second storey.

“All hell broke loose then,’’ she recalls, with a laugh.

She says she urged the current project’s developer, during working-group meetings that she chaired earlier this year over a period of months, to consider the character of the area.

“I kept saying, this is Humber Valley Village — think of it as a village.’’

The working group, whose goal was to work through the issues, included representatives of First Capital Realty, city planners and repesentatives of various area resident associations, Christensen, of the Humber Valley Village Residents’ Association. He would not comment on what came out of the working group’s meetings, which were confidential, except to say “our association is disappointed.’’

First Capital’s Shpigel, on the other hand, found the working group’s meetings “a very productive process. We did try to address many of the issues … I know we haven’t resolved all of the issues. I’m anxious for the Sept. 11 meeting to occur … so we can have our opportunity to alleviate concerns.’’

That may not happen. Christensen remains convinced that the proposal’s “height and scale are way out of character for our community.’’

Introducing hundreds of condos to the area “is going to create a huge influx of cars,’’ said Christensen, whose group represents 1,800 households in the area, including renters. “We use the word ‘village’ in our name because that’s how the area feels … the majority of residents feel this will destroy the character of the neighbourhood.’’

He also wonders how a dramatic increase in traffic would affect other members of the neighbourhood — deer are increasingly seen in this part of Etobicoke, which is near a meandering greenbelt, he said. There’s even a “deer crossing” sign posted in the area.