HVVRA members pay for alternative design to controversial Humbertown Plaza plans

HVVRA members pay for alternative design to controversial Humbertown Plaza plans

Etobicoke Guardian by Cynthia Reason

 

Humber Valley Village residents have put their money where their mouths are – investing “tens of thousands of dollars” toward an alternative design for the controversial redevelopment of Humbertown Plaza.

After many months of calling on First Capital Realty, the owners of the site at 270 The Kingsway, to produce a scaled back version of the mixed-use development proposal they’ve repeatedly called “too big, too dense, and too tall”, the Humber Valley Village Residents Association (HVVRA) decided to fund a redevelopment proposal of their own.

Those plans, drawn up with the help of Weiss Architecture and Urbanism, were unveiled to many among the association’s 900-strong membership at two meetings last month to unanimous approval, said HVVRA President Niels Christensen.

“At residents’ expense we hired an architectural design firm and we came up with an alternative design that was based on feedback from our membership in opposition to the First Capital proposal,” he said, noting those plans were presented at HVVRA meetings on Feb. 11 and 13. “We were delighted with the overwhelming support from our members.”

HVVRA’s alternative design – which limits heights in the Humbertown development to six storeys in keeping with the city’s guidelines for midrise buildings along avenues – features five buildings, incorporates residential condominiums and townhouses on the 10-acre site, and is based on five principles:

  • Maintaining the continuity of Humber Valley Village’s “majestic” tree canopy – the HVVRA design features building setbacks of 10.4 metres away from curbs “in order for trees to grow and mature.”
  • Maintaining the community’s lowrise nature – Humber Valley Village comprises a dominant built form of mostly single-family homes, so the HVVRA’s six-storey design alternative is a “reasonable maximum height that respects the character of the neighbourhood.”
  • Compatibility with the neighbourhood’s scale and texture – the HVVRA design uses setbacks and stepped back architectural design features, “so that buildings don’t appear as if they are looming over the rest of the surrounding community.”
  • Visual and physical connectivity – an “inviting” neighbourhood square off of Royal York Road is just one of the “functional connections” the HVVRA design purports will bring the community into Humbertown.
  • Creation of a neighbourhood square and water feature – the HVVRA-proposed, year-round space on Royal York will “encourage community gatherings such as skating in the winter, lounging in the summer, local school choirs at Christmas, and farmers’ markets in the fall.”

Etobicoke Centre Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby called HVVRA’s alternative design an “excellent” one.

“I like the greenspace idea and I like the walkability. I want to ensure that what’s architecturally there is not just glass towers – it has to be in keeping with the Homesmith character of that neighbourhood, and I don’t see that with First Capital’s proposal,” she said. “All they’re going to do is put in an modernistic looking thing…I want it to be more traditional and timeless – iconic.”

First Capital Realty’s VP of Development Jodi Shpigel declined to comment on the HVVRA alternative proposal for the Humbertown Plaza, explaining that neither she nor her team have seen the plans. In terms of First Capital Realty’s latest proposal for the site, though, she said she believes it’s “something that the community, in time, will be very much in acceptance of.”

While the original First Capital proposal for the Humbertown Plaza site submitted last January included five 11- to 21-storey residential towers, the newest incarnation of that plan – filed with the city in December – has seen both the number of buildings and their heights scaled back. Those revisions, Shpigel said, came about in part due to resident feedback received over the course of several community, working group and city staff meetings the company has participated in over the last year.

“What we’ve done generally is reduce the number of residential buildings from five down to three, reduced the heights (down to 12, 10 and eight storeys) and also increased the amount of publicly accessible open space on the ground level,” she said. “Our revised proposal also improved the quality of the urban design, the public realm, the sustainability initiatives and the landscaping – all of those elements have progressed quite significantly…so we’re quite pleased with the progress that the proposal has made over the course of the year.”

While Christensen conceded First Capital has scaled back their original application “significantly”, he said their proposal is still unacceptable because it hasn’t dealt with many of the other problematic issues with the site – density chief among them.

“They have changed the heights significantly since their first proposal, but really if you look at it carefully, all they’ve done is squashed and spread the development across the site. In actual fact, their last revision has increased the lot coverage to 73 per cent higher than the previous designs,” he charged. “They’ve given up on height, they’ve given up on the number of buildings, but what they haven’t given up on is the densities.”

HVVRA is now planning on going ahead with its own independent arborist, traffic studies and retail peer groups to continue to search for the “best possible solution for this site,” Christensen added.

“The character of our neighourhood is something that is really special to the people that live here…it’s like a village within a city,” he said. “First Capital has been quite famous for some of its developments, one of which is Liberty Village…they’ve done a remarkable job there, but Humber Valley Village is not Liberty Village – it’s a suburban environment, not an urban one, and we don’t think that it should be turned into one.”

The city’s planning department is expected to provide a report with their recommendations for the Humbertown site at the end of April. That report will be presented for a vote on May 14 at Etobicoke York Community Council, where residents are invited to attend and share their thoughts. The matter will then go before Toronto City Council on June 11.

Alternate Design (appeared in the print only version of the Guardian March 21,2013)

HVVRA’s alternative design-which limits heights in the humbertown development to six stories in keeping with the city’s guidelines for midrise buildings along avenues-features five buildings, incorporates residential condominiums and townhouses on the 10-acre site, and is based on five principles:

  •  maintaining the continuity of Humber Valley Village “majestic” tree canopy-the HVVRA design features building setbacks of 10.4 metres away from the curb’s “ in order for trees to grow and mature.”
  • height that respects the character of the neighborhood.”Maintaining the community low rise nature-Humber Valley Village comprises a dominant built form of mostly single-family homes, so the HVVRA’s six-story design alternative is that “reasonable maximum
  • Compatibility with the neighborhood scale and texture-the HVVRA design uses setbacks and stepped back architecture design features, “so that buildings don’t appear as if they are looming over the rest of the surrounding community.”
  • Visual and physical connectivity-and “inviting” neighborhood square off of Royal York Road is just one of the “functional connections” that HVVRA design purports will bring the community into Humbertown.
  • Creation of a neighborhood square and a water feature-the HVVRA-proposed, year-round space on row York will “encourage community gathering such as skating in the winter, lounging in the summer, local school choirs at Christmas, and farmers markets in the fall.”

 To learn more about the Humber Valley Village residents Association visit www.HVVRA.ca


The Etobicoke Guardian spoke with Niels Christensen on Monday March 18, 2013 to discuss HVVRA’s alternative design for Humbertown Plaza. Click on the link to read the whole story