New big box proposal in Leaside rankles residents


The latest proposal for a big box development in Leaside has residents frustrated with a “loophole” in the official plan.

Brian Athey, president of the Leaside Property Owners’ Association, has appealed to North York Community Council not to approve any further turnover of industrial lands to retail uses.

“If the owner can buy up enough land to get just a little crack of frontage on Laird, which is what SmartCentres has done here, then it can apply for consideration to convert all those lands to retail,” he said.

According to Athey, more than half a million square feet of retail has been approved on the east side of Laird Drive.

The application for the vacant Wicksteed Avenue lot, formerly the site of J.R. Short Mills and Colgate Palmolive Canada, proposes a 147,000-square-foot retail commercial centre with 479 parking spaces.

“The density is completely excessive for this use, so much so that the developer’s proposing basically a department store jacked up on stilts on a second storey,” Athey said.

Coun. John Parker cited the use as well as the size and scale of development and traffic as issues that will have to be examined moving forward. When he was first approached by the developer, Parker cautioned not to repeat the architectural design of its retail development across the street.

“They brought in a design that looks like it’s a Mexican hacienda, like an oversized Taco Bell, and bears no relation to the community that it serves or the neighbourhood where it sits,” Parker said.

To the developer’s credit, Parker said, it has hired a top architectural firm for this project: Diamond and Schmitt. A community consultation meeting was scheduled to occur March 29.

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