St Mike's should help oppose current development plans for 95 St Joseph St.

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To: David Sylvester (President and Vice-Chancellor, University of St Michael's College)

Dear Dr. Sylvester,
RE: 95 ST JOSEPH STREET PLANNING APPLICATION

I am a member of the community living close to the proposed development by the Basilian Fathers and the Daniels Corporation at 95 St Joseph Street, Toronto. I am very concerned that this proposal, as presently envisioned, is grossly out of character with its surroundings. I urge you to speak to the Collegium about this development proposal and to use your influence to ensure a more positive outcome for all of us than that which the current development application provides.

I am saddened by the effect that the construction of a massive high-rise complex will have upon our neighbourhood. Not only will it dominate lovely St. Joseph’s Street, it will completely and irreparably alter the character of the University of St Michael’s College campus. I understand the desire of the Basilian Fathers to monetize their property, but surely this can be done without such adverse impacts.

The current planning regulations, which specify low-rise, institutional use, are there for a reason and should be upheld in any future development. For example, a seniors’ residence similar to what is in place at leading universities in the U.S., such as Yale and Dartmouth, could be an asset to the community while simultaneously working within the existing zoning regulations.

The current proposal would destroy the Cormier-designed heritage building at 95 St Joseph (and the irreplaceable Cormier-designed interior furnishings in the to-be-deconsecrated chapel). It would also cast dark shadows across the St. Mike’s campus, as well as the not-yet-completed Bay-Cloverhill Park, and substantially reduce light to neighbouring residential buildings. This development would introduce significant extra traffic onto St Joseph’s Street, where there are already safety issues for your students crossing from the main campus to the Kelly Library. There are many other concerns with this development, including environmental ones that include the loss of green space as well as concerns about the impact of the 149,000 litres of water per day (conservatively estimated) that will need to be treated and pumped out of the site due to the high water table in the area.

For the benefit of current and future generations of students, surely St. Mike’s will not to turn a blind eye to this development. You are the custodians of a particularly beautiful section of the University of Toronto’s downtown campus, which includes some of its oldest buildings, and you have worked hard in the past to preserve the heritage character of your campus. Twenty years ago, when Sorbara Hall was built, there were significant efforts made to respect Cormier’s masterplan for the campus and to create a building in harmony with its environment. The need for this type of architectural sensitivity is no less today.

Please do not stand by while this proposed development creates a particularly ugly precedent and undermines the protections laid out in the University of Toronto Secondary Plan. If allowed to proceed as planned this will herald the march of high-rise development along St Joseph Street, walling in the campus green space as it goes, adversely affecting student life, and adding more and more traffic. In the interests of the community St. Mike’s should be working instead to pedestrianize St Joseph Street – a move that would increase student safety and provide a lovely walk from the eastern edge of the campus starting at Bay-Cloverhill Park, across Queen’s Park, to the already pedestrianized Willcocks Street on the western edge of the campus.

With power and influence come responsibility. I urge you to work with the Collegium  and to use your influence to ensure a more positive outcome for all of us than that which the current development application provides.

Sincerely,

A concerned member of the local community