While this post and the constant stream of comments have been excellent for our site traffic (thank you!), Brian and I have decided to close the comments on this post. It’s been open for two days, people have had a fair chance to state their opinions, and we have linked to all the possible places where you can read the same comments and more.
In this two days, we have witnessed:
7 commenters supporting our position (over 11 posts),
12 commenters against (over 40 posts),
857 words used in support of our position,
7344 words used against our position
15 retweeters supporting our position,
2 retweeters opposing our position,
2 emails asking us to approve their comments the second after they’ve been sent, and
1 threat of libel and loss of friendship.
Brian and I have day jobs and we created this blog to support the community by promoting local businesses and positive community support. We’d like to return to doing just that. Thanks for continuing to read this blog.
Melinda and Brian
Our neighbourhood, as one prominent Toronto writer privately noted, is tainted – people outside are beginning to view the neighborhood as anti-business and anti-development. At this blog we decided it’s time to take a stand against this taint. We have restrained our opinion on the current development proposal at 109 Ossington – the heart of the battle – choosing to simply report on the facts of the battle to the extent we’ve thought it important. Based on discussions we’ve had with locals, travels to much other urban centres, and recent events throughout our city, we decided that needed to change. It is time that we state our opinion on this project and development in general.
This perception of taint stems from a small group of local residents calling themselves the Ossington Community Association (OCA). The group was founded by a couple of university professors who in 2009 successfully lobbied Joe Pantalone to implement a moratorium on Ossington of new food service establishments (the same ones they now claim create the character of the street). They continue their active no-growth lobby today through the group they founded, the OCA. They are highly active writers who litter every article written on the subject with dozens of extended comments, and post endless letters to the editors of the publications. In so doing, have built a perception of their group being larger than the few active residents who comprise it. The group has been intransigent, tone-deaf to local planners, city experts and many of the local businesses who have told them they don’t agree with their position, and possess a frightening schadenfreude toward the local developers. (Their Facebook group currently has a gleeful post about falling condo sales in the city).
Our belief is that Ossington, like Toronto, needs to grow. In the years we’ve written this blog and become increasingly involved in the community through Jane’s Walks and other events, we’ve noted that what happens in Toronto in general happens on Ossington. That means the bad as well as the good, like the recent anti-condo crusade spreading across the city.
As a community, we can and should have a say in this city. We don’t dismiss the hard work Mike Layton has done trying to bring the community together, but how we vote on what we want is with our pocketbooks. Economics and fundamental city planning needs to drive these decisions We need to let entrepreneurs build their businesses, and let them fail if they can’t build them well. We’ve seen a number of businesses in the last few years try to build on the street and we haven’t legislated their failure, we just haven’t shopped there. Whether the developers of 109 Ossington and Motif succeed or fail should be on the success of their business plan, not on whether we decide to legislate or lobby them out of our community. We believe the small six story development would be a strong addition to the neighbourhood, bringing more invested residents downtown to an area where the housing market prices are out of reach of what many who want to live here can afford.
Neighborhoods like ours grow thanks to small bars and restaurants and art galleries. Some of these may move on when the rents get high, and that is something we as a community ultimately can’t control. We had the opportunity, with Mike Layton’s planning study, to positively guide those we want to move to our neighborhood, and influence what changes they made. Unfortunately, the vocal OCA refused to listen to other opinions or allow for mature compromises. We believe it’s time to stand up for the people who want change and want to live in a vibrant evolving community that welcomes outsiders and growth.
We want our neighbourhood and, correspondingly the city we live in, to remain one of growth and entrepreneurship, inclusion, and artistic openness.
Over six years ago, when we made this area our home, the Ossington strip was run down. There were a few businesses who braved the dangers of the neighbourhood, and the lack of traffic, to serve the residents. We can now look back and salute people like Pol from Sweaty Bettys (and The Sparrow, which was the prior restaurant before Delux), Tom Thai from Foxley, and many others who took financial and personal risks in an unproven neighborhood to build their businesses and Ossington itself into a place where people want to live and play. We were impressed that this neighbourhood grew despite roadblocks put up by a few stubborn local residents opposed to change. The area was built thanks to entrepreneurs taking chances, and we feel these are values we need to reward in Toronto if we want our city to keep competing in an international economy.
When we moved here six years ago we were warmly welcomed into the neighborhood by residents and business owners alike. We want to continue to extend that welcome to new residents to the neighbourhood – whether they move into houses currently being sold for a million dollars, or whether they buy or rent small, one-bedroom condos yet to be built. Those are people we welcome to downtown to ensure our neighbourhood has a diversity of residences and residents. The entrepreneurs, artists, producers, musicians, chefs, gallery curators and show promoters bring the change and are the reason Ossington has thrived. With such a wide range of arts, why wouldn’t we embrace architecture? The concept at 109 is both innovative and created by a local, Roland Colthoff at Raw Design.
We spend a lot of time talking to local residents and business owners. Those conversations inform us that the majority of the neighbourhood does not agree with the Community Association. They assume that city planners will do their jobs and let the city grow organically based on current guidelines, taking community input into account, and then let economics chips fall where they will.
There have only been a few times where we’ve had to take a stand on an issue. The first, and the impetus behind the founding of the blog, was our opposition to the restaurant moratorium. This has become another issue where we need to state our opinion. Ossington and Toronto are going to grow. 109 Oz should be built. Many others agree.
Editors Note: Comments may be moderated for reasons stated above.