the 350-bed u of t student residence planned for the corner of Bloor and St. George has faced stiff opposition ever since it was conceived. Groups like the Annex Residents' Association and the York Club have argued that the 13-storey project is not in keeping with the city's official plan.
But nothing prepared U of T for the fight being put up by Sonja Bata, of Bata Shoe Museum fame.
While the Students' Administrative Council says housing is desperately needed -- the university is currently spending more than $1 million on hotels to house downtown students -- Bata argues that the proposed building is bad urban design.
A former chair of the National Design Council, Bata says she and other business owners and area residents are concerned about the effects of wind traps and shadows the building will cause.
The university, she says, is itself delaying the creation of much-needed housing by "putting forth a plan that's not acceptable to the neighbourhood." For her, the aesthetics are of primary importance.
"People hesitate to protest against these things and then find themselves saying, "What an ugly building. How could it have happened?'"
But Paul Kendal, the SAC's deputy affairs commissioner, calls the complaints "very petty" and remains doubly concerned about the current freeze on construction. He's in the midst of rallying support for an upcoming protest outside the Bata Shoe Museum. He remains hopeful that the Ontario Municipal Board, where the planned residence is being debated, will see through the "smoke and mirrors to the basic fact that students need housing."