Yonge & Wilson TTC site under fire

Debate surrounding the proposed new centralized TTC headquarters continues to mount, as information on price and zoning are revealed. The TTC has signed a conditional offer to lease the site to be constructed at Yonge Street and Wilson Avenue with Build Toronto, the city’s arm’s-length real estate agency.

“It’s a positive first step for us, and although it’s conditional, obviously we’ll work through those conditions,” said Bruce Logan, director of communications and public affairs for Build Toronto. He expects it will take several months to finalize, even though the process was already supposed to be completed, and that the deal hinges on community approval, financing and zoning conditions, he said.

In addition to a city-mandated public consultation meeting scheduled for December, Build Toronto is planning a workshop on Nov. 24 for members of the public to help inform Build Toronto’s decisions prior to submitting a finalized site plan for the property at 4050 Yonge St.

“This is important to us and important to the residents,” said Logan, adding that his company had already been meeting with local ratepayers associations for several months. “We want to get their input on what they’d like to see, how they might use the building, areas they’d like to see designed, and things they’d like, for example, retail or restaurants they might like to see in there.”

Paul Baker, president of the South Armour Heights Residents Association, remains skeptical. “The only reason Build Toronto is holding the meeting is the residents’ associations started to scream,” he said. “The whole thing does not pass the sniff test, and that’s just the development issue. This is a mess that has been brewing for a while.” 

One of the most contentious issues is the proposed price and rent of the development. Joe Mihevc, current vice-chair of the TTC, who voted against the lease, said his main concern is that the lease is too expensive.

“We are not going to save the money that we wanted to save by having a centralized lease in one location,” he said. “We’re not going to save the money that we wanted to, and that’s why we went through this whole process.”

Current TTC chair, Adam Giambrone, who voted in favour of the lease, disagrees. “It allows us to consolidate staff around the city in one location instead of spending 15 to 16 million a year on lease payments, rental space,” he said, pointing out the lease also represents a net positive for the city because profits from Build Toronto go back to the city through a dividend payment.

Coun. Karen Stintz said she hasn’t seen any specific numbers, because she’ s not allowed to attend in-camera TTC meetings, but she’s aware of the cost-related concerns. “I did hear it would become extremely expensive office space once developed,” she said but added the height, density and use of the building remain unresolved issues for her ward.

Coun. Mihevc expects the proposed headquarters will be re-examined once the new city council and TTC board come into effect, but Giambrone remains confident the lease will go through regardless. To cancel the lease at this point, he said, would mean lots of financial repercussions. 

“I can’t imagine a new mayor wouldn’t want to review it,” said Mihevc. 

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