The area known as the Birch Cliff Quarry Lands is at the heart of confrontation between the community and two real estate developers seeking to change the landscape of the area.
Mark Brender created the Concerned Citizens of Quarry Lands Development group in order to give his community a voice in what the site would ultimately look like. He doesn’t have much hope left for the land owned by one of the developers, The Conservatory Group.
“There has never been a forum where The Conservatory Group has come to present their ideas to the community,” Brender said. “The plans aren’t in any way consistent with modern planning principles or with what our community looks like or could be. The community has made it very clear that we’re strongly opposed to those plans based on zoning from the 1960s.”
The larger section of land is owned by Build Toronto, the city’s independent development company. Build Toronto agreed to a community meeting on Oct. 3 to unveil its plans for the site.
“We think it would be a benefit to invest substantial sums of money to clean up the area, to make it safe and usable so people can enjoy it in the future,” Prakash David, vice president of residential and real estate development, said. “It would represent a major investment in the community and create new jobs within keeping of the character of the neighbourhood.”
As far as Brender is concerned, the fact that Build Toronto accepted their invitation to hold a public meeting is a step in the right direction.
“I thought it was a really good chance for the community to get to hear Build Toronto’s ideas and to provide feedback,” Brender said. “In that sense I think it was a great success. We heard a lot of feedback from the people at the meeting that Build Toronto needed to hear.”
Build Toronto’s plan included a revitalized park, cleared of the contaminated debris that currently remains there from when the area was used as a landfill. Low-rise housing was suggested for the area by Build Toronto as opposed to the high-rises proposed by The Conservatory Group. Brender sees this as an indication that Build Toronto is willing to listen to what the community wants.
“It’s a huge improvement from some of the ideas that were being talked about two or three years ago, which included a lot of high rises,” Brender said. “At the time many of us thought that Build Toronto was acting no differently than a private developer might, out to maximize profit. We don’t believe that is the case any longer.”
However, there were still concerns raised by members of the Birch Cliff community from increased traffic flow to the decision to allow the Beach Fairway Golf Range’s lease to expire.
“We will hope and expect that a lot of what was heard tonight is incorporated into what happens on that site,” Brender said. “It’s a positive first step, but there’s certainly a long, long way to go.”