One of the most egregious of the errors committed by the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan planners was the inclusion of a 12-15 storey tower at Commercial and Venables.
In the draft plan, this monstrous tower and its 8-storey proposed twin across the street sit incongruously in an area of Grandview that is otherwise untouched by the Plan. The siting of the tower involves the destruction of a building, the Astorino’s Hall, which has significantly more cultural importance than, say, the Waldorf Hotel. It is placed where transit is at its worst (none on Venables, and the already always busy #20 on Commercial). And it exactly matches a desire floated by a major developer even though the local planner insists that no development proposal has yet been seen by the City. So how did it happen to appear in the Plan so perfectly sited and sized to meet the developer’s requirements?
Of all the elements that made up the unpopular draft Community Plan, apart from the deliberately provocative 36-storey tower at Commercial & Broadway, the tower proposal at Commercial & Venables met with the most furious reception by residents.
But the developers had what they thought of as an ace up their sleeve. One of the buildings they needed in their assembly is owned by the Kettle Friendship Society, a group that services individuals with mental health and related housing issues. The Kettle has a history on the Drive of more than thirty years, and they are well-respected and well-supported in the community. Boffo Developments offered the Kettle new offices and a few housing spaces in the new building if they, the Kettle, would become the front for Boffo’s plans to build a high-rise tower.
Boffo knew that most of us would support an expansion of housing services by the Kettle and they were counting on this feeling to overcome the community’s utter distaste for a badly positioned and overly tall tower that could well destroy that part of the neighbourhood. If reaction to the Boffo’s Open House is any gauge, it didn’t happen.
This has become a topic of conversation again because, now that the community has obliged the planners to rethink the entire Community Plan, with a long extension to the schedule anticipated to be approved on 25th September, Boffo is panicking that their plans are to be delayed for a further year. Their first reaction is to have the Kettle launch an online petition (which I certainly will not link to) demanding that their expansion be allowed to go ahead regardless of the rest of the Plan.
The petition never once mentions that the Kettle’s expansion involves a neighbourhood-destroying 12-15 storey tower on Venables. Perhaps they are too embarrassed to mention it; or perhaps they know that, much as we admire the Kettle, the neighbourhood is firmly opposed to the tower.
They are trying to guilt us into giving Boffo the outrageous tower — and all the profits that go with it — in their plea to help the Kettle. It is sad and disturbing that an organization as worthy as the Kettle has allowed itself to become a tool in this developer’s ongoing assault against our neighbourhood. Very sad indeed.