The corner of Humbert and Ossington has been going through some changes recently. The two locations on the north and south side of the intersection are about to change – the south side into a Greek restaurant, and on the north corner we’re still awaiting word on what the new owners want to do.
The south side of the intersection is 80 Ossington, the former location of Ministry of the Interior, a high end design shop that was here until a couple of years ago. The space has been empty for quite some time and until a few weeks ago the sides were boarded up. It has emerged with a grey stucco front and glass doors, and a series of new windows on the north side of the building. It’s starting to have the appearance of a restaurant.
We learned recently that it’s still going to be called Mamakas, but instead of being a bakery, as the signage from April 2012 suggested, it’s going to be focussing on authentic Greek cuisine, with smaller dishes using real Greek ingredients. The windows were installed to allow for a bright airy space, which will be good when they eventually open for lunch.
On the north corner, as BlogTO and Toronto Life last week reported, the Levack Block building was sold to new owners. The building sold for almost $3M after being on the market for a while. Levack Block was one of the founding ‘hip’ spots on Ossington, catering to young partiers who crowded the back room regularly and quite likely led to the restaurant moratorium in 2009 due to noise complaints and other issues. The building does not have official historic designation, but any changes will certainly be examined by the Toronto Historical Preservation services as it is one of the oldest buildings on the strip. The building features a beautiful upstairs party space which hosted numerous corporate parties and weddings. Although we don’t know what’s going in there at this point, we’ll let you know when we hear news.
Rob Ford is a popular topic of late night news shows and Korean cartoon video makers. Do you want a memento of these crazy days, or a gift for a non-local friend? Crywolf Clothing, at 91 Ossington, has the “You Crack Me Up” line of merchandise, and they are getting attention for it both near and far. When we stopped in this afternoon, a Japanese broadcaster was interviewing designer Chris Aslandis about his popular line of buttons, magnets and t-shirts.
Councillor Mike Layton is looking for community input through a neighbourhood survey he has created and posted on his website.
The purpose of the survey is to get people’s opinions on future development on Ossington Avenue between Dundas and Queen. There are a number of potential sites that could be developed, and Councillor Layton is interested in what residents want for this stretch of Ossington.
It’s your neighbourhood so you likely have an opinion on what happens in it. Click here to fill out the survey. We’ll see what happens.
In January this year our local Singapore streetfood joint, Hawker Bar, sent the below note to locals in the area asking for their input and support for a small back patio they are looking to open this summer. The permit process for patios in Toronto can be long and challenging, and the support of local residents is key to ensuring everything runs smoothly and quickly. They have asked us to share the letter as they want to ensure an open and honest dialogue with all the neighbours so if there are concerns they can address them quickly and directly rather than at a hearing room.
They are looking to build a small 23-seat garden patio featuring extensive use of foliage as both decor and sound- reducing devices. Access to the patio will be through a basement traverse through the restaurant, not from Foxley or through the kitchen. There will be no speakers or music present on the garden patio. They intend to build a cover on top of the patio to reduce the noise and close the garden patio at 11pm sharp.
They have asked anyone who has concerns or even wants to help support them to get in touch through their email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 647 343 4698.
We are excited by the project and look forward to some nice dinners out under the summer starlight with their Singapore Chicken Wings and Hawker Laska Lamak. Plus, in the summer, everyone will enjoy another outdoor dining option to complement Foxley and Union.
Read through their note posted below and give them a call or a note and let them know what you think.
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 possibleplaces 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.
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.
Councillor Mike Layton introduced the session at the Trinity-Bellwoods Community Centre, saying it had two purposes for residents: 1) what elements of your community do you most value; and 2) what aspects of the built form contribute to improving your community (occupants — who lives/works there, shape, size, architecture, material, windows etc.). He also urged residents to send in pictures of buildings and streetscapes they thought worked.
First stop was Queen and Crawford, where City urban designer Deanne Mighton pointed to three recent developments — the italianate townhouses at Queen and Strachan, the Chocolate Factory Lofts and the Candy Factory Lofts. They all fit within the planning guidelines where a street right of way of 20m gives rise to a building height of 20m (more or less). The Chocolate Factory was notable because the retail at grade doesn’t quite work, however. The shop heights are too low.
She also noted that the 20m right of way is a planning construct.
On the way to the next stop, 41 Ossington, it was pointed out Councillor Layton that there are two recent developments on Queen, at Queen and Givins and 2 Ossington, that are low-rise and fit the streetscape.
At 41 Ossington, Councillor Layton suggested that there are “soft development targets” in the neighbourhood, including the self-storage warehouse across Rebecca. They are relatively large buildings with a single owner. Similarly, Green P parking lots could be considered soft targets.
Righton pointed to potential developer concessions to widen sidewalks to create “tree trenches” since city trees find it difficult to flourish. It was pointed out that trees help soften the visage of Ossington.
At Argyle Place, where there is a house in the laneway, Righton said that planning principles argue that buildings should face front to front, side to side and back to back. Councillor Layton added that while many people favour residences in laneways, others push back at someone overlooking their backyard.
Up the street at Ossington and Halton, architect Terence Van Elsander, a principal at Van Elslander Carter Architects (168 Ossington) commented that the four-storey stacked townhouse development began the revitalization of Ossington. But it lacks flexibility. Units cannot be converted to another use, such as loft becoming a three-bedroom apartment, or a restaurant becoming an art gallery.
At St. Luke’s Catholic School, Councillor Layton suggested that both St. Luke’s and the Carmelite Sisters’ daycare property across the street (at Harrison) were both soft development targets, thanks to declining enrolments.
Righton suggested that St. Luke’s land could be acquired as a park, but only if a city agency has a plan before the property is sold.
Finally, at College and Roxton, Righton explained how the mid-rise Cube development has setbacks to reflect the historical block of three-storey buildings across the street. And the massing is away from the street, in the middle of the building.
Councillor Layton concluded the meeting by saying redevelopment is not just about height.
The night had two presentations, one from the city planning department with an overview of what they do and how they go about making decisions, and another from Terrence Van Elslander, of local architecture firm VanElslander Carter, on how the process with developers works from their perspective.
The goal was to educate all of us in the basics as we begin to discuss the future of our neighborhood. What do planners do? how do they do it? What guides their decisions?
Some of the notable slides were 22 and 23 which highlighted the young population of Ward 19 relative to the rest of the city. It was pointed out that Ward 19 has a disproportionate number of 25-34 year olds and a much higher percentage of residents who use something other than a car to get to work. Slide 25 is also notable because it shows the Ossington strip is a mixed designated use area. This means it is slated according to the city plan as a growth area.
In Terrence VanElslander’s slides, what stood out was slide 6, which shows the process that developers have to go through to get their building permits in the city, including the community input which the visioning study enables.
The neighbourhood has heard a lot about what some residents don’t want. In an effort to be constructive, Mike Layton and the visioning working group have assigned the neighbourhood some homework. They are asking asking ‘What do you want in the neighbourhood?’. He would like you to send his office pictures (or even make a Pinterest board) of the neighbourhood you want. It could be pictures of buildings, structures, parks, activities, businesses, residences, or anything that you feel represents the Ossington that you want to see. This will help guide the visioning group in their study and focus the upcoming meetings.
Don’t forget: the next meeting is a community walk on Aug 29th from 6-9pm to look at some other buildings in the community and see what works and what doesn’t work. Here’s a map of the walk starting at Queen and Strachan.
As many of you know, Mike Layton has been working hard to listen to the community about the upcoming developments and changes in the neighbourhood. Recently he pushed through an area study by city planners and a visioning study for the Ossington area. The visioning study is soliciting feedback from local residents on what they want for the neighbourhood and what kind of guidelines can be put in place for future development that will ensure it’s a place for entrepreneurs and residents to live together. The study involves a number of upcoming meetings to talk about the area as well as a neighbourhood walk to talk about what exists in our community and what works and doesn’t work and why.
The first of these meetings is coming up tomorrow, Wednesday August 8th, from 6-9pm at St. Christopher House at Dundas and Ossington in the Community Hall. This meeting is called “City Planning 101″ and the goal is to provide neighbours some basics of city planning and the development process.
The meeting will attempt to cover:
Planning Process, Principles & Interpretation of the Official Plan
Urban Design Elements
The Midrise Guidelines and how it applies to Ossington
The Role of City Planning
Actors in the planning process (City, OMB, Community & Developers)
Building Code and Presedence
To help the community in learning, Mike Layton will lead the meeting, which will feature discussions and presentations from our city planners plus local architects David Carter and Terence Van Elslander from Van Eslander Carter Architects, located on Ossington. There should be plenty of time for the planners and architects to answer any questions you have.
After you’ve learned the basics of city planning, the visioning group will be taking local residents on a neighbourhood walk on August 29th from 6-9pm. Mark it in your calender and get your walking shoes (and a digital camera) ready.
The bike sharing program Bixi has been in Toronto for just over a year now, and it’s getting use. In fact, according to a BIXI representative:
“The program is very successful. We have around 5,000 members and 20,000 casual users this year. Since the launch of the system, BIXI users have made more than 700 000 trips!“
We haven’t had cause to use BIXI yet in Toronto, as it doesn’t extend west to Ossington, so we ride our own bikes to work. People have tweeted us to use it: in fact, during NXNE, a really gung-ho BIXI fan tweeted that we should ride BIXI and park the bike at College and Borden and walk home from there. That isn’t the nearest station, though; there’s one at Dundas and Bathurst, a distance of 1.2km. Not a reason to switch from our own bikes, which get us door to door. Considering the number of cyclists who live in or visit Ossington Village, and the dearth of bike parkingin the area, there really should be a BIXI station here. We contacted BIXI to find out why we don’t have a station yet, and learned that it’s not up to them, it’s up to the city.
“We need the city council to approve the release of funds and to approve the expansion project and the locations of the new stations. A report is coming to councillor this Fall.”
As one of my first acts on council I put forward a motion at public works committee to develop a strategy for expanding bixi. The report is not yet complete as staff have been told not to include in the budget unfortunately. So we need to find other money. I’ve also been working to secure money and space in new development to fund its expansion. Its more complex that putting in a station. The Bixi models requires a station about 100m from another station so we would need to install many stations along Queen or dundas to make to Ossington. We’ve already seen it move a little further west along Bloor which is good news.
Long story short, I’m working on it.
If you want BIXI to expand, tell Mike you support him. If you live in another part of the city, let your councillor know you want him or her to support funds for bicycling and BIXI in the city.