Toronto City politicians aren't exactly known for either their foresight or insight. In fact, when it comes to seeing the multiple angles and complexity of the ecosystem that we call the City of Toronto, it seems that councillors are as blind as proverbial bats. The latest short-sightedness came to light this past week when city council voted to sell the Bloor Street McDonalds property to developer Bazis International to enable them to build a condominium development on that, and the adjoining site.
Forget, for the moment, that the sale went through for millions less than the actual market value of the property. Forget, too, that McDonalds has been getting away with paying less for their use of the property than the average apartment dweller in Scarborough. Why make this sweetheart deal? According to one of the proponents, Councillor Adam Vaughan, "The most important thing is what gets built there is a positive contribution to the development of the Annex as it faces Bloor St.," Vaughan said. "The money has to make sense, but the most important thing is the neighbourhood to the north is protected.""
Uh, Councillor Vaughan, sir? Have you actually visited the neighbourhood? Directly to the north is a parking lot, and to the north of that is Barristers' Row - some of the ritziest law chambers in the city. To the north of that (now three blocks north) are private residences. So let's take that same radius to the west and south. What you have is the University of Toronto, and its thousands of students. And what sits on the property that is going to be converted to condos for the ultra-rich? Affordable food services that serve those ultra-poor students. In fact, the Bazis development will rob the area of at least half-a-dozen eateries frequented by students, including Subway, Booster Juice, Pho Hung, Chinese Garden, Gabby's and McDonalds. And this is less than a year after we lost at least a half dozen affordable food services at the corner of Bedford and Bloor for that massive condo development now underway.
A livable city is made up of more than showcase architecture (like the Borg-meets-Granite-with-aluminum-siding monstrosity that is the new ROM) and condominiums for the elite. It needs more than bars that cater to the once-a-year Toronto International Film Festival. Especially in the neighbourhood of the university, Toronto's largest employer, by the way, a livable city needs places where students can congregate, share food and conversation that is integrated into the fabric of the city.
Jane Jacobs must be looking down at us and shaking her head in disbelief.
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