Redwood Properties, the developer of the Slessor Square site, is holding a public Open House this evening (Tuesday 27 June 2017) from 5pm-8pm at the Seniors' Centre, 474 Davis Drive, Newmarket.
The flyer tells me
"the development team at Redwood Properties would like to invite the community and residents of Newmarket to an information session regarding the property at 17645 Yonge Street (formerly Slessor Square). A development proposal has been made to the Town of Newmarket to modify the approved zoning."
It will be purpose built rental.
Development on the desolate Slessor Square site - directly opposite Upper Canada Mall - has been on the cards for years. It is a living example of our sclerotic planning system where things that are promised and approved, never materialise.
The original Zoning By-law application was submitted by Dwight Slessor Holdings in September 2011, proposing a mixed use development which included a seven storey retirement residence/special needs centre, two towers at 26 and 23 storeys (one down from 29 storeys) and another seven storey retirement residence.
In all, 731 suites/units. And a conference centre and a medical centre. Oh yes. In the early stages we were promised an hotel but that failed to fly. It all seems so long ago now.
The drawing (right) is an early imagining.
Then there was a "without prejudice settlement offer" in August 2012, modified in November 2012 by a "without prejudice refined offer" put forward by the ever inventive lawyer, Ira Kagan. Our innocent councillors were beguiled and agreed the settlement offer on 11 February 2013. The OMB Hearing, wrapping it all up, followed later that month. Then everything was put on hold. This is the story of Slessor Square.
The towers are now 21 and 19 storeys with a third tower proposed.
In June 2015 I was sitting next to Kagan at the Glenway "lessons learned" autopsy. He acted for the Glenway developer, Marianneville. I reminded him about Slessor Square.
I tell him that years after the decision it is still a patch of bare earth. Yes, he says. But it’s got a fence round it.
Over the years the plans morphed and morphed again. The land - by now a moonscape - was sold. The Slessors took the cash and disappeared. And here we are. Wondering what to do with a key strategic site on the Town's Yonge Street corridor.
The early proposals called for on-site parking provision for 1,263 vehicles. That's more than the parking capacity at Southlake Hospital. How could all those vehicles get in and out of the underground parking garage without snarling up the traffic on Yonge?
Over five years ago, I recall a certain Bob Forrest in the Doug Duncan Community Centre telling us the giant underground parking garage could go down three levels, rather than four. Now we are being told the four level parking is all above ground because of the soil conditions and the high water table.
I am gonna stop. I am disappearing into the weeds...
What's on offer?
This is what the developer says about the new proposal:
1) Does Redwood on Yonge have more density than Slessor Square?
* No, the approved density has not changed.
2) Does Redwood on Yonge have a seniors residence?
* No, it will be purpose built rental with commercial at the base along Yonge Street.
3) Is Redwood on Yonge higher than Slessor Square?
* No, the max height is the same at 21 storeys.
4) Why is Redwood changing the site to have a parking podium?
* The soil conditions and high water table on the site do not allow for any more than 1 level of underground parking. Therefore a podium has been added to accommodate the parking needs on the site. It will be faced with residential townhouses and commercial retail.
5) Will adding a third tower make the site more of a visual obstruction than Slessor Square?
* No, Redwood on Yonge will be visually less obstructive. While Slessor Square had only two towers, it also had 8 and 9 storey slab buildings. Slab buildings of 8 and 9 storeys are significant visual obstructions. By removing these buildings and adding a more slender third tower, Redwood has improved the sight lines through the site.
Note 1: The zoning of the Slessor Square site can be found here. Go to page 149 of the Comprehensive Zoning By-law for details.
Note 2: The parking is all above ground. I mistakenly wrote earlier that there would be one level of underground parking. (Update on 27 June 2017)