By David Ros
Since our March issue, we have received numerous e-mails from our reader’s, an overwhelming majority of you have told us that you would like the redevelopment in the Bathurst Manor Plaza to match the needs of the community.
When Sunnybrook produce store closed its doors for the last time in 2004, it signalled the beginning of the end for Bathurst Manor plaza in its current form.
Like many other strip malls located throughout the city, it had slowly gone into disrepair.
Once the store, which served as an anchor of the plaza, located on the corner of Wilmington Ave., and Overbrook Pl., near Dufferin Ave., and Finch Ave. W., was gone, the space had remained empty for more than a decade.
Slowly, other businesses which used to be located in the plaza began to move away. The scenario, which has seen many of the city’s small community plazas, once staples of Toronto’s inner suburbs, levelled to the ground in order to make way for new residential developments had begun to come into play at Bathurst Manor Plaza.
An official plan to redevelop Bathurst Manor Plaza into a mix of low and high rise residential buildings had been put forth in 2006, amidst widespread community opposition.
Kilbarry Holding Corporation, the plaza’s owners, want to create 44 townhouses and two 350 unit condominium buildings as well as some retail space on the property.
Since then, numerous community consultation meetings had been met by vocal opposition from local residents. As a result of those meetings, the developers have revised their re-zoning application four times, with the latest revision having been made in 2012.
“When I first moved into the neighbourhood, even before that actually, I attended one of the many community meetings that had taken place,” said Michael Anthony. “The meeting was a lot of people saying what they did not want and they weren’t putting forward any ideas on what they did want to see.”
As a result, Anthony and some friends, formed the Bathurst Manor Action Group and went door to door with pamphlets in an attempt to “mobilize the community.”
The group, which was formed in 2009 and has nearly 500 members on Facebook, has conducted two surveys of residents, asking what they want to see done to the site.
Anthony said that, contrary to what the developers might perceive, the majority of residents that he’s talked to are not against redeveloping the plaza.
“We don’t want to see the plaza as it is now, we absolutely want to see development, but we know that this area is going to be developed once, and it has to be developed in the right way,” Anthony said. “If we put two six to eight storey condo buildings in the middle of our neighbourhood where right now, the tallest building is a very short three storeys, it sticks out like a sore thumb, it’s very obvious that structure was an add-on, was not always there and it acts as an island in what is otherwise a very cohesive community.”
Anthony said that ideally, the members of the Bathurst Manor Action Group would like to see townhouses developed on the site that are no more than three storeys high so they fit in with the overall look of the rest of the community, adding that another important factor is to keep a strong retail presence on the site, which would allow for all of the businesses currently operating in the plaza to return if they wished, as well as to make room for more businesses such as a coffee shop, a small grocery store and a post office.
“We want to have a walkable community.” he said. “We can walk to our park, but we can’t walk to go to a post office, to a grocery store, or to a coffee shop, we can’t walk to any of those things that we want to walk to because everything is moved to Finch or Sheppard or Bathurst or Dufferin.”
Alessandro Derosa, the owner of Man About Town, a men’s clothing store located in the Bathurst Manor plaza agrees that the plaza needs to be revitalized.
Derosa grew up in the manor, and has been in business in the plaza for 20 years.
Derosa shared his feelings about the condition of the plaza, “I agree with the general consensus, it is not just my opinion, but also that of most of my customers. We want to see the plaza revived”
As far as the proposed redevelopment goes Derosa mentioned, “the big concern is the density that they want to stuff into the place. We are not against mixed use, but to get rid of retail would be disruptive to the residents of the neighbourhood. We are concerned about upgrades that would be required for our sewers, our roads, and overpopulation in our schools; those are the big issues”.
Derosa also mentioned that an overwhelming majority of residents he speaks with are concerned with aesthetics, “we all want redeveloped, but high rises are out of the question.”
When asked about whether he would re-open Man About Town following a redevelopment, De Rosa said, “100% I would, I care about this community”.
Please continue sharing your thoughts about what you would like to see at the site with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org and join the Bathurst Manor Action Group on Facebook.