RioCan pulls Sobeys plaza condos in favour of low-rise commercial development

Plan for 20-storey condos shelved after community intervenes


Pam Taraday-Levy, with Michael Ruskin (L) and Fred Wingust (R) from the SpringFarm Ratepayers Association

Thornhill residents are relieved that the Springfarm Marketplace at Hilda Avenue and Clark Avenue will not be the site of a highrise development after years of opposition. Instead, RioCan, the developer of the site, is now proposing a 10,000-square-foot low-rise commercial building instead of a highrise apartment building. 

“It’s an important part of our community,” said Pam Taraday-Levy, the president of the SpringFarm Ratepayers Association. The Spring Farm Marketplace has a kosher Sobeys and Second Cup as well as Jewish restaurants and a Judaica centre, which are all expected to remain. “It’s a diverse community, but it’s also a community that serves a large segment of the Jewish population in this area. It’s a hub,” said Taraday-Levy. 

RioCan submitted its proposal for an 18-storey condo tower in 2015. Hundreds of residents showed up to a public meeting to share their concerns with Ward 5 Councillor Alan Shefman and RioCan staff that November.

“What went on was probably the largest meeting in Thornhill in many years,” said Shefman. “I’d say, four or five hundred people were in the room and they were not happy at all.”

In January 2016, RioCan invited residents to a planning meeting to come up with some solutions. But Taraday-Levy said a proposal was handed in right before that, with additional floors added to the plan. 

In the following months, the ratepayers gathered around 2,500 signatures for a petition to stop the development. 

This past May, the province announced the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) would be replaced with a less powerful local tribunal, making it more difficult for developers to bypass local government and get proposals approved through the OMB. 

“This sort of local planning process that we just saw here may become much more the norm, where real decisions have to made at the local level,” said Shefman. “And I think that’s brilliant for planning.”

In the end, RioCan did not pursue the residential aspect of the project “largely as a result of the dealings with the community,” according to Ed Sonshine, CEO of RioCan. 

“A lot of [residents] had very, very proper concerns that we tried to address over a series of meetings, but we were still getting a lot of pushback,” he said.

Sonshine believes construction could start in a year. The developers will continue to work the city and community.

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