Major commercial developer Riocan wants to build a 7-story shopping mall with 3 floors of retail including a suburban-size Walmart and massive parking lot at Bathurst and College right between Kensington and Little Italy.
Everything I love about my neighbourhood is threatened by this proposal: the human scale of the streetscape, the skyline, its walkability, the local independent businesses that give Kensington Market and Little Italy their character. A mall this large will flood one of the most exciting pedestrian areas of the city with cars. At 129,000 square feet, the proposed mall is 130 times larger than most of the stores on College and in Kensington Market.
I’m especially concerned for my neighbours who own family-run businesses. As City Councillor Adam Vaughan pointed out at a public discussion, Walmart is known to use predatory pricing and other practices that put small independent stores out of business, making them the only game in town. This is one of the reasons so many communities have rallied to keep Walmart out of their cities.
We can stop the mall. The City's Official plan doesn’t permit malls like this to be built close to residential neighbourhoods, which is why the Ontario Municipal Board has already once rejected the mall. But Riocan is pushing ahead anyway, applying to have the area re-zoned to let them build the mall. The re-zoning could be approved if we don't fight back.
Toronto City Planning Division has the decision-making power to put a stop to this. Sign my petition to the city planning division demanding they respect their own Official plan and by-laws and stop this inappropriately large retail-only developement.
Riocan’s application for re-zoning is part of a disturbing trend in our city. Exception after exception has been made to allow developers to bring in chain store retail in the downtown core that has a serious impact on the independent business that are the heart and soul of our neighbourhoods. If the communities around Bathurst and College win this fight against Riocan we will have set a precedent that could empower other neighbourhoods in Toronto to face down developers in the future. It's a battle we can't afford to lose.
We’ve just learned that Riocan has quietly submitted an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), challenging the current bylaw preventing development on Bathurst for one year, and asking the OMB to allow the site to be rezoned to let them build their mall. If the OMB rules in Riocan's favour, there will be nothing left stopping them from building the mall and bringing Walmart to the border of Kensington Market.
Click here to help the Kensington Market community commission independent planning and economic impact studies to level the playing field against "goliath" developer Riocan at the OMB hearing: https://projexity.com/projects/view/Save-Kensington-Market-from-Big-Box/18"
Update: On July 19th, City Council passed an Interim Control By-law covering both sides of Bathurst St. for a period of one year. It is a pause in development to allow for the Bathurst Street Study to be completed and new and updated rules put into place for the corridor. You can read more here: http://mikelayton.ca/interim-control-by-law-for-bathurst-street.
We are pleased to see the city and the planning department slow down to take a look at what is appropriate for Bathurst Street. There are still concerns, however, that Riocan or any developer with projects in this corridor could appeal the by-law to the OMB. It's more important than ever to be prepared to counter Riocan's claim that the shopping mall will have no negative impacts on adjacent neighbourhoods and shopping districts. To that end, Friends of Kensington Market has teamed up with Projexity to crowd-fund professional studies showing realistic business and traffic impacts on Kensington Market and other adjacent areas. To learn more and contribute: https://projexity.com/projects/view/Save-Kensington-Market-from-Big-Box/18
With over 12,000 square meters (129,000 square feet) of retail, the Riocan/Walmart development proposal for 410-446 Bathurst is far too big for this location. It is not permitted by the Toronto Official Plan.
410-446 Bathurst is designated “Mixed Use” in the Official Plan, and it is adjacent to Kensington Market and Little Italy, two areas designated “Neighbourhoods” in the Official Plan.
In “Healthy Neighbourhoods (2.3.1(2))”, the Official Plan states that “Developments in Mixed Use Areas…that are close to Neighbourhoods will: (a) be compatible with those Neighbourhoods...". These developments must be compatible in scale, and not have major traffic and parking impacts on adjacent neighbourhoods.
In “Built Form”, the Official Plan states that “New development will be located and organized to fit with its existing and/or planned context (3.1.2 (1)).
And in “The Future of Retailing”, the Official Plan states, “Traditional retail shopping streets will be improved as centres of community activity by: (a) encouraging quality development of a type, density and from that is compatible with the character of the area and with adjacent uses (3.5.3 (2)”, and that in Mixed Use areas, the maximum store or commercial unit size should be based on “the prevailing sizes of existing stores and commercial units in the area (Policies, 3.5.3 (4a))”.
The proposed retail-only development – at 12,000 m2 (129,000 sq ft) with a single 8,800 m2 (95,000 sq ft) retail space; 21 meters high – is not “compatible” with Kensington Market and Little Italy. The development would dwarf adjacent houses, introduce reversing tractor-trailers to the residential laneway behind, and add far more traffic along Bathurst across from Toronto Western Hospital. At 12,000 square meters, the proposed development is gigantic compared to shops in Kensington Market and Little Italy, most of which are under 100 m2 (1,000 sq ft). It would have a major impact on the small businesses in the surrounding neighbourhoods. For these reasons, it should not be approved.