Comment 116753

By RobF (registered) | Posted March 03, 2016 at 12:26:08

Thanks for this. It is long past overdue that we start tying things together ... intensification may help us repair sprawl, but where we are already compact and mixed-use we need to consider why our city isn't socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. I'm not saying we shouldn't allow for incremental intensification via infilling or replacement of parking lots, or even modest density boosts when existing buildings age and it makes more sense to rebuild. But intensification can also be like a sledgehammer that shuts down thinking about the underlying nature of the problem ... using growth to grow out of problems that were caused by previous rounds of growth.

In the North End we're being told that to fix CityHousing in our neighbourhood we need to step aside and allow the land beneath the housing to be sold and the existing housing razed to monetize the latent value of the land if its upzoned. They're doing this in Toronto ... the ratio for Regent Park is either 4 to 1 or 5 to 1 in terms of new units to what existed. On principle it sounds great, especially if you frame the existing use as an under-utilization of the land.

Of course, people live in the housing and send their children to my kid's school, so people's lives are disrupted and friends and classmates are separated in the process. But that we're told can't be helped given the aging buildings and capital needs of CityHousing.

The trouble is the result of selling the land for intensified market redevelopment and using the money to rebuild CityHousing units elsewhere also at higher densities is still a one-shot deal. Once the land is sold we've exchanged the asset which is owned by all of us for cash. We'd better hope we don't make the same mistake again and build something that isn't long-term self-sustaining. Or we're destined to repeat this process. Except it's much more costly and difficult to deal with redeveloping or intensifying on lands with high-rises or mid-rises already on them.

That is already evident if one reads carefully the Deloitte real estate strategy report for the West Harbour and contrasts the comments for the Jamesville Townhouse Complex with those directed at 500 MacNab (the 17 storey Ken Soble Apartments).

The real question not being asked is why not rehabilitate the existing units, or consider a creative/innovative retrofit in the case of the Jamesville complex to fix some of the units and do some selective intensification and redesign based on feedback from the residents and wider community? My guess is that for both sites the actual housing is structurally in reasonable good shape, but the interiors and systems need upgrading.

Of course, the real push for selling off these lands might be dual get the cash and remove what is perceived to be a blot on the image and marketability of the West Harbour to outsiders. This is the City as real estate vision for our common future. The modern equivalent to sweating the land for more ...

Comment edited by RobF on 2016-03-03 12:34:16

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