Would building condos on the Danforth help or hinder Greektown?

Photo by Jena KarmaliWhen walking past 2055-75 Danforth Avenue, two things are noticeable: The increasing number of empty storefronts on this end of the strip and the vacant crater on the north side of the street.

This gaping hole in the struggling commercial stretch is set to be the site of a 12 storey, mixed-use condominium, which is much taller than the current limit of four storeys for the area and more than the recommended nine storeys originally suggested in the Official Plan.

While many could argue that the area will benefit economically from a new mid-rise condo, the quality of the building is a large concern.

While high-end architecture and features have been proposed, Marc Trumphour, Sales Representative with RE/MAX Hallmark Realty, and resident of the area for 11 years, doesn’t feel that residents will have much of a problem with the new addition if certain conditions are met.

“A high-end, well-done condo would be an attractive feature for the neighbourhood,” he explains. “It would be a positive thing as long as parking works out and it’s not a monstrosity. Thirty storeys would be a bit of an eyesore.”

While he states that “anything is going to be better than what is currently there,” he’s not entirely sure that the area is in desperate need of development. “The whole area is not a weak sister in terms of value,” he states, comparing it to West Danforth, the more affluent end of the street. He mentions that even small homes sell in the $400,000-500,000 range and that there isn’t as much crime as some developers may want residents to believe.

Whether it’s needed or not, the area shows promise for more growth. In the Rezoning Application, the Avenue Segment Review suggests that in the future, as density in the area increases, five other soft sites will possibly be reviewed for similar developments between 8-12 storeys.

Discussing condo development can cause tension between business owners and residents, especially in a neighbourhood that markets itself on its quaint façade. Development in the heart of Greektown proper could potentially hurt the charm of the area.

Lars Hansen, Board Elect Member for the Danforth Business Improvement Area, stresses that retail and residential interests must be equally respected. “The Danforth BIA believes that it is important to strike a balance between increased density while maintaining the unique culture and character of our neighbourhood.”

Trumphour doesn’t feel there’s much of a threat, citing a lack of areas large enough for development. “Where would you build them? There’s not a lot of land left.”

Gerald Whyte, head of the Riverdale Historical Society, is one man concerned with preserving some of the smaller, iconic buildings in the neighbourhood.

“A lot of it’s just common sense,” he says of developing taller structures in the area. “If a developer is sensitive, and considers not just his interests but the local interests, there’s probably no problem. You don’t come along and put a huge skyscraper right next to a historic church.”

Whyte feels that smaller buildings with “heritage distinction” support businesses through tourism. “If you turn the Danforth into nothing but a long stream of glass and steel towers who’s going to be interested in it? You’re not going to have neighbourhood that has any historical importance or community to it.”

Photo by Jeremy LucykThere are many buildings on the Danforth that could be considered historic, most notably the Music Hall, which received a plaque from the Riverdale Historical Society for its 100 years of history. It was one of the few original Allen’s Theatres that was still an actual theatre up until recently.

The Music Hall’s doors were closed in August of 2010, after its tenants were unable to pay rent.  In the wake of such closures, perhaps the Danforth might benefit from some revitalization.

Sitting at the Green Rooster Café on Broadview and looking across the street at lovely Withrow Park, Whyte asks “How would you like condos all along here? It would be nice for the people who have the condos…but the people across the street wouldn’t have any view at all.”

He sums up well why a lot of residents don’t seem fond of the idea of a new condominium in their neighbourhood: “Something that you just throw up in the area may have a history someday, but it doesn’t have one today.”

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