Bridgepoint health centre has the province's money and the city's approval for a land swap that could spell good times for condo developers and the demise of the Riverdale "half-round," the modern architectural gem overlooking the Don Valley.
Try as they might, residents failed to convince the city it's being fleeced at an administration committee meeting on Monday, March 6.
The deal currently on (or under) the table will see the city trade parkland adjacent to the Don River to make room for provincially subsidized plans that include a new 12-storey hospital, a 10-storey building for institutional uses and two other eight-storey "mixed-use" buildings on the site at Gerrard and Broadview. The plan includes creating a patch of parkland in front of the old Don Jail.
According to a city staff report, the deal is an even trade, so there's no exchange of money. Yet the city recently changed zoning of the land it's giving to Bridgepoint to allow for condo development. "The city is giving up very valuable lands," says Ron Fletcher, pres 0ident of the Riverdale Historical Society.
Local councillor Paula Fletcher seems to consider the fate of the circa-1960s half-round sealed. She told the committee matter-of-factly, "It does not have a protected status." It would be sacrificed, but Bridgepoint has agreed to renovate three other buildings on the site the Don Jail, the Gate Keeper's House and the Governor's House.
"The heritage buildings are in very bad shape, and Bridgepoint will bring them up to a certain standard," Councillor Fletcher said later in the meeting.
Residents, however, did manage to score some breathing room for the half-round.
A motion was passed to obtain clarity on the province's stance on the half-round.
The motion seemed to make Julie McGregor happy. "All the provincial government has to do is tell City Hall it would like the building to be preserved."
Councillor Martin Silva, on the other hand, expressed reservations about giving city land to a currently "good" corporation that could become a "bad" corporation if the trend toward privatization in the health sector continues.
Silva suggested the city consider simply leasing land it's preparing to swap to the hospital so it could have more control over its use.
Bridgepoint already has a lease on city land on the site until 2099, Silva tells NOW.
"My understanding from a development perspective is that a 99-year lease is almost like freehold. I don't understand why Bridgepoint needs a donation of land if it already has a lease until 2099," he says.
Architect Jane Burgess, who doesn't want Toronto to lose the half-round, says Bridgepoint is trying to bully the city into the deal.
"It's being done very hastily by Bridgepoint, which is saying that if everybody doesn't agree to everything it wants, it'll leave."
Indeed, the health org only gets the province's cash if it builds according to its current proposed plan, which includes demolition of the half-round. The hospital clearly wants to get moving. Bridgepoint boss Marian Walsh expressed some urgency when speaking to the administration committee.
"The issues around the half-round, with all due respect, have been dealt with," she said.
The plan comes before council on May 2.