Developers’ appeals to the OMB ruin neighbourhoods

Developer’s appeals to the OMB are usually disastrous for neighbourhoods and heritage buildings. This concerns me greatly, as I have now placed over 800 posts on this blog that explore Toronto’s historic neighbourhoods and heritage sites. My intent has been to increase awareness of our city’s past, so that more of the buildings of yesteryear, and communities where they are located, will be preserved for future generations.

I realize that not every older building can be maintained, and some are clearly not worthy of preservation. However, though we have improved in our approach to saving historic structures, much more is required. Many developers still pay too much homage to financial gain at the expense of the neighbourhoods where they build. Even in Heritage Districts, the city allows structures that are clearly too tall for the narrow streets where they are located. If the city refuses the extra height, developers appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

A proposal has been submitted to the City of Toronto to erect a 13-storey building on the southeast corner of Camden and Brant Streets in the King-Spadina Heritage Conservation District. The developers assert that they have considered the impact of their project on the neighbourhood, as they also live in the district. However, unless they live on Brant or Camden Streets, they are not directly affected. They do not agree that the traffic their hotel would generate is simply too much for the two narrow roadways to absorb.

A thirteen-story hotel does not belong on 19th-century streets such as Brant or Camden. All the problems that residents fear relate to the building’s height — the more floors, the more rooms, therefore the more traffic, greater noise, and the increased shadow effect on the surrounding buildings and St. Andrew’s Playground. I doubt if either of the developers would allow a project of this height to be built next door to them. Would they really welcome a structure that would place their dwellings in shadow for most of the day for at least five months of the year? Would they endanger their families by allowing traffic to increase to a point where emergency vehicles could be seriously delayed?

May I be allowed to give a personal example. On Tuesday, March 31st, we were to be picked up by Wheel Trans for an appointment. The vehicle was late in arriving, as the driver was unable to proceed westward on Camden Street due to the illegally parked cars. The driver reversed, went south on Spadina to King, and turned north on Brant. It required five minutes to journey up Brant. Due to the illegally parked cars, the northbound Wheel Trans was forced to wait for southbound cars. Needless to say, we were late for the appointment.

What if we had called an ambulance, the police, or the fire department? Minutes lost can cause the loss of a life! The traffic on Camden and Brant Streets is already beyond capacity, and the Ace Hotel has not been built.

I fear that the City of Toronto has a conflict of interest in this development. The city wants the hotel to be erected. This is understandable as Ace Hotel is a prestigious brand and the tax dollars it would generate would be enormous. In this instance, what is good for the city is not good for the neighbourhood, yet it is the city that will decide on the height of the building—a conflict of interest. Which member of our city council would agree to allow a building of this height to be erected next to their home?

The developers of the Ace Hotel state that they have carefully assessed the financial viability of their project, and concluded that they are unable to reduce its height. Does this mean that the eight-story Hotel Victoria on Yonge Street operates at a loss? This hotel is the type that would more readily fit into the Brant/Camden neighbourhood, and be an asset. It is a boutique hotel, with no rooftop bar and of a size that would be better suited to narrow streets such as Camden and Brant.

I believe that the Ace Hotel as planned is architecturally attractive, but its 13-storey height will create a dangerous amount of traffic. It will also decrease the public’s enjoyment of St. Andrew’s Playground, which will be over-shadowed by the building. The City of Toronto owes the residents of the area more support to reduce the number of floors. I realize that if the city enforces the bylaws and refuses the extra storeys, the developers would likely appeal to the OMB.

According to recent articles in the press, developers are the largest contributors to all three of the provincial political parties. Perhaps this explains why no government has ever abolished the OMB. It is an unelected body that favours the developers when making decisions. This is very unfair and undemocratic. As long as developers are able to appeal to the OMB, neighbourhoods will suffer and heritage buildings will be demolished. 

Map of 51 Camden St, Toronto, ON M5V 1V2

Site of the Ace Hotel, on the east side of St. Andrew’s Playground, where the hotel will cast shadows.

For more details about the Ace Hotel project, see the blog of the Garment District Neighbourhood Association (GDNA)

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The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


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Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating history.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released on June 1, 2016. For further information follow the link to  here  or to contact the publisher directly:–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.

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