The city says it’s trying to save Little Jamaica. So, why is it letting developers tear it down?

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Developers are threatening to destroy the few remaining parts of Little Jamaica’s cultural heritage even as the city begins to move forward on a plan to protect it.

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According to the City of Toronto, there are 116 development applications for neighborhoods, some of which will be large, new developments. Of the total applications, 75 are small changes to existing buildings, such as adding a single storey (slight variations), and 41 are planning applications.

study that will eventually lead to a formal plan for conservation Little Jamaica and Eglinton West Neighborhoods Overall, it is in the beginning phase, but the timeline for how long this is expected to take is undetermined.

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As development projects pile up in the area, urban planners question why the city can’t stop development and what will be left in the vibrant Caribbean enclave by the time the study is completed.

Keisha St. Louis-McBurney, Urban Planner at urban strategiesAmong those who are surprised that the city will not put a halt to development. She said the city should invoke interim control bye-laws under Section 38 of the Planning Act.

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“It’s something that happens all the time in small municipalities,” she said. In Toronto, however, it is rare and in the Little Jamaica neighborhood it is far from alone that needs help.

“When we look at Chinatown, (the community) is asking for similar permissions while the city studies its cultural heritage, and the response has often been that it’s not fair,” said St. Louis-McBurney, who Worked with Black Urbanism Too (BUTO) to analyze how planning practices in both Ontario and Toronto are responsible for gentrification and displacement in Little Jamaica.

Construction has paralyzed businesses in the area for years with lane closures and storefront blockages.  The study that will eventually lead to a formal plan to preserve the Little Jamaica and Eglinton West neighborhoods as a whole is in its early stages, but how long it is expected to take is undetermined.

A city spokesman told the Star that the bylaws are often raised and discussed with local communities and ward councillors, but noted that there are no applications or formal requests for the city to implement the interim control bylaws in Chinatown. Is.

Greg Lintern, the city’s community planning director, said the city is taking measures to preserve Little Jamaica, but using an interim containment bylaw is not the answer. The bye-law, he said, is designed to “fix something broken” in the area’s existing area as it pertains to land use rather than stopping development altogether.

For example, if an auto body shop has been approved for the area, but residents protest due to noise or some other factor, the city will ban all auto body shops while it surveys the area. to see if this is an appropriate land use for the community.

“This is the intent of the interim control – it really pauses by removing permission for land use on a temporary basis,” Lintern said.

In the case of Little Jamaica, this is not fair, he said, because residents of the community are not opposed to land use types, such as retail or residential, but to the scale and nature of the development.

A jerk chicken drum smokes lightly on Eglinton Avenue West.  A study is expected to create a framework for designating the region

NS Little Jamaica and Eglinton West Neighborhood Study Beginning in September 2020 after two resolutions were passed, calling for immediate city action, the area has been rapidly and largely destroyed as a result of years of neglect, ongoing development, the Eglinton LRT construction and the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic. between the changes.

The study focused on the area between Eglinton Avenue West between the Allen Expressway and Keel Street. Roads such as Oakwood Avenue and Caledonia Street and parts of the surrounding area are also being considered.

Ultimately, the study is expected to lead to a framework for designating the area a “Cultural District,” which supports the area’s black-owned businesses, celebrates the area’s culture and explores buildings or landscapes. Conducts a survey for what may be protected under Ontario. Heritage Protection Rules.

Nemoy Lewis, a native of Little Jamaica and assistant professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University, said the planning approach for Little Jamaica is reactionary rather than preventive.

Nimoy Lewis, a little Jamaican native and assistant professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University, struggles to see the city’s opposition to using the interim control bylaw, especially since it was used in 2013. One was to stop. Proposed RioCan development in Kensington Market.

RioCan submitted plans to the city to build a three-story retail complex between 410 and 440 Bathurst St., with Walmart on the top two floors. The Interim Control Bye-law was enacted, with protests and petitions from local residents banding together. Eventually, the developers went back on the plan.

“In the context (of Kensington Market), it was used to protect the character and place of community in the wider fabric of the city,” Lewis said. “And I’ve seen other municipalities call for the use of an interim control bylaw.”

When asked about the bylaw’s use in Kensington, a city spokesman told the Star that it was introduced along the Bathurst Street Corridor “in response to the need to study and allow the right ‘retail warehouse’ in the zoning bylaws.” In. Further,” adding, “that separate issue is not the intent of the Little Jamaica Initiative.”

Condo building located at Eglinton Avenue West and Oakwood Avenue.  As development projects pile up in the Little Jamaica area, urban planners question why the city can't stop development and what will be left in the vibrant Caribbean enclave by the time the study is completed.

The planning approach for Little Jamaica is reactionary rather than preventive, Lewis said.

“If you’re doing research to understand some of the issues that are plaguing the community, how are you giving developers so much access to the community and, if so, whether (they) are going to break it to get a feel for it.” Going to try and fix something later?”

Cities, he said, “are not planning for long-lived residents living in these communities, but they are planning for people who want to live in these communities.”

he pointed “A proliferation of non-traditional landlords,” which he described as asset management firms, private equity firms, hedge funds and public pension funds.

“They have taken advantage of Eglinton Crosstown (LRT) as an upgrade or infrastructure investment,” Lewis said. “As a result, they turn multi-family buildings into profit-generating assets, which exacerbates affordability problems in the community, and in turn, excludes very low-income and working-class families from the community.” It attracts more high-income families. This further displaces long-lived residents in the community.”

Lintern said the city has been proactive in informing developers of its goals to preserve Little Jamaica’s cultural heritage. Earlier this year, for example, approval for a nine-story mixed-use building development near Eglinton and Dufferin came with a mandate to contribute $150,000 to support the outcome of the Little Jamaica Study.

For Lewis, the community benefit method is putting the cart before the horse. He said that development should have been put on hold when the Eglinton Crosstown plan was first introduced. in April 2009.

“How are you going to benefit when your culture and community heritage is lost?” Lewis, emphasizing that with all the developments to come in the field, and trying to make things better to stop it would be a lost cause.

“On top of that,” he said, “are people really going to benefit from these investments?”

Danica Samuel is a staff reporter for the Toronto-based Star. Reach him via email: [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @danicasamuel

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