Overflowing crowds pack auditorium to discuss Humbertown redevelopment

Sep 12, 2012 Cynthia Reason   Etobicoke Guardian

Tempers flared at Martingrove Collegiate Tuesday night, as nearly 300 of the more than 1,000 residents who showed up at a heated Humbertown Plaza redevelopment meeting were turned away due to overcrowding.

Police were on scene to direct traffic as cars spilled from the packed parking lot to line surrounding side streets, while security guards inside the school struggled to prevent the hundreds of overflow attendees from attempting to squeeze into the standing-room-only auditorium, which was filled well beyond its 740-seat capacity.

Inside the auditorium, shouted rebukes became the norm at the extended, three-hour meeting as debate grew more and more heated over what Etobicoke Centre Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby has repeatedly called a redevelopment proposal that’s “too big, too dense and too tall” for Humbertown Plaza.

“I’ve heard Humbertown referred to as the heart of the community,” agreed Paul Fredenburg, a longtime resident of Lambeth Road. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to remove a relatively healthy heart and put in a cancerous growth.”

While Fredenburg’s comment and dozens more just like it drew healthy doses of cheers and applause, representatives from First Capital Realty – the plaza’s owner – and Urban Strategies Inc. – the planning firm they hired to design the redevelopment – drew equal and opposite responses.

Not even the announcement of a revised and downsized proposal for Humbertown was enough to quell the tide of dissent against the redevelopment, as the crowd repeatedly shouted down First Capital’s Jodi Shpigel and Urban Strategies’ Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker as they tried to explain their “complete community” vision for the site.

While the original Humbertown application put forth by First Capital proposed a mixed-use development at the 270 The Kingsway plaza with a two-storey commercial base covering the majority of the site, plus 28 three-storey townhouse units and five 11- to 21-storey residential towers, the newest incarnation of the plan announced at Tuesday’s meeting eliminated two of those towers while retaining the originally planned set of 654 residential units.

Niels Christensen, president of the Humber Valley Village Residents Association, called out First Capital for falsely claiming to downsize the scale of the redevelopment.

“First Capital will tell you that they’ve compromised on density, yet they have not reduced the square footage of site coverage…it still remains at 650,000-square-feet of residential space and it still remains at 654 condominium units. All First Capital has done is shuffle things around and redistribute the total square footage,” he said, noting that the same can be said for their proposed building heights (the maximum of which remains at 21 storeys) and setbacks (which remain at 36 inches). “First Capital has refused to compromise on any of our residents’ main concerns – height, density, size and traffic foremost among them.”

The marathon meeting, which was originally scheduled to conclude at 9 p.m., wrapped up at around 10:30 p.m., after dozens of local residents took to the microphone to lodge their complaints and concerns.

When contacted Wednesday, Gloria Lindsay Luby’s office confirmed they are working towards scheduling a second community meeting sometime after Thanksgiving for those who were not granted admittance to Tuesday night’s meeting.

This article is for personal use only courtesy of Etobicoke Guardian a division of Metroland Media Group Ltd. 

Image courtesy HVVRA, taken at 7:15pm to an overcapacity crowd at MC