Media Coverage

Engaging thousands to fight for the ‘heart’ of their community

posted Apr 24, 2013, 12:41 PM by Chris Kerrigan   [ updated Apr 26, 2013, 5:59 AM ]


Staff photo/IAN KELSO

How does Etobicoke’s Humber Valley Village neighbourhood define community engagement?

When it comes to the fight for the “heart” of their community – Humbertown Plaza – what that term has translated into over the past two years has been: a “Save Humbertown” lawn sign campaign that has reached 2,350 households; two overflowing community meetings that drew more than 1,500 residents late last year; tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket spent towards an alternative design for the site; a flier campaign set to reach more than 7,000 households in the coming days; and more than 100 volunteers who have mobilized to make it all happen.

“There is a very strong feeling of ownership and attachment to this neighbourhood by the people that live in it, and people have participated on various levels,” said Niels Christensen, president of the Humber Valley Village Residents Association (HVVRA). “From coming out to the community meetings last year at Martingrove Collegiate, where we had 1,500 people attend two meetings – which, I was told by people more knowledgeable than I am, was an unprecedented turnout for a community – to helping us put up lawn signs, deliver fliers, fundraise, and organize meetings. The support has been overwhelming.”

That “unprecedented” groundswell of support – which has necessitated the relocation of next month’s statutory public meeting on the Humbertown issue to a 3,200 seat venue to accommodate its many supporters – has come as little surprise to Gloria Lindsay Luby, who characterized Humber Valley Village residents as “very intelligent, very engaged and very knowledgeable”.

Back in 1988 when the longtime Etobicoke Centre councillor was still a newbie on the old City of Etobicoke council, she witnessed firsthand the backlash of opposition to a proposal to add just a second storey to a mere portion of the Humbertown Plaza site.

“It was like the end of the world,” she recalled laughing.

So she knew what was coming when word of First Capital Realty’s original proposal to build five 11- to 21-storey residential towers on the Humbertown site at 270 The Kingsway first came to light nearly two years ago.

“This is much, much bigger – it’s too big, too dense, too tall. This proposal offers too many challenges to say that it’s going to be great for the community,” she said.

Now revised and downsized, the current First Capital Realty proposal – which was put forth to the city in December – has seen the number of residential towers scaled back to three, and their heights reduced to 12, 10 and eight storeys, First Capital’s VP of Development Jodi Shpigel told The Guardian in an interview last month.

Those “significant” revisions, Shpigel added, came about in part due to resident feedback received over the course of several community, working group and city staff meetings the company has participated in over the last year. But it’s still not enough
of a compromise, argues the 1,200- member strong HVVRA.

Back in February, Christensen unveiled HVVRA members the association’s alternate design plans for Humbertown’s redevelopment, which were drawn up with the help
of Weiss Architecture and Urbanism and funded by the association. The design limits heights in the development to six storeys in keeping with the city’s guidelines for midrise buildings along avenues, features five buildings, and incorporates residential condominiums and townhouses on the 10-acre site.

The HVVRA and its supporters are hoping to make councillors aware of that alternate design on May 14 at a special statutory public meeting of Etobicoke York Community Council, which has been relocated to Church on the Queensway – a venue with seating for 3,200 people and parking for 600 cars – in order to accommodate what is expected to be a yet another unprecedented turnout of Humbertown supporters.

In a flier set to be delivered to more than 7,000 households, the HVVRA is urging everyone in the neighbourhood and beyond to come out to the meeting at 3 p.m. on May 14 to have their voice heard before councillors vote on the issue.

“It is critical that YOU attend this important meeting to let councillors know that this is NOT the kind of design that we want for Humbertown,” the flier reads.

That sentiment was echoed by Christensen this week: “I can’t stress enough the importance of this meeting. This is the last opportunity for this neighbourhood to speak to the decision makers, the elected officials who represent us in this matter, and it’s absolutely vital that people come to this meeting.”

Lindsay Luby, meanwhile, said she’s confident Humber Valley Village residents will come out in droves to protect the character of their community.

“The people who live in Humber Valley love their community,” she said, noting that she’s certain that many and more of those residents will come out to depute at May 14 meeting. “I have no idea how long the meeting is going to go, but given this community, I suggest you bring your sleeping bag.”

Jan. 26, 2012
First Capital Realty submits its first Humbertown application to the city

May 15, 2012
EYCC passed a motion calling for a “comprehensive” review of the First Capital’s Humbertown application by an already-formed working group consisting of First
Capital, city planners, and representatives from six area resident associations.
 Sept. 6, 2012
First Capital submitted a revised and somewhat downsized Humbertown application to the city.

Sept. 11, 2012
A community consultation meeting about the Humbertown redevelopment at Martingrove Collegiate draws close to 1,000 people – 300 of whom are turned
away due to overcrowding.

A second community consultation meeting is held  Oct. 18 for those turned away from the first meeting.
 Nov. 3, 2012
HVVRA hosts two vision meetings to discuss its alternate
design plans. The HVVRA then submits its community approved, principles-based vision to the city on Nov. 20.

Dec. 18, 2012
First Capital submits its third and final revised application to the city.
 April 30, 2013
City Planning’s written report
is scheduled to be released to the public.

May 14, 2013
EYCC statutory public meeting and council vote at Church on the Queensway at 3 p.m.

June 11, 2013
Toronto council is scheduled to make a final vote on the Humbertown application.

HVVRA members pay for alternative design to controversial Humbertown Plaza plans

posted Mar 22, 2013, 11:17 AM by Chris Kerrigan   [ updated Mar 22, 2013, 12:04 PM ]

Etobicoke Guardian by Cynthia Reason

Humber Valley Village residents have put their money where their mouths are – investing “tens of thousands of dollars” toward an alternative design for the controversial redevelopment of Humbertown Plaza.

After many months of calling on First Capital Realty, the owners of the site at 270 The Kingsway, to produce a scaled back version of the mixed-use development proposal they’ve repeatedly called “too big, too dense, and too tall”, the Humber Valley Village Residents Association (HVVRA) decided to fund a redevelopment proposal of their own.

Those plans, drawn up with the help of Weiss Architecture and Urbanism, were unveiled to many among the association’s 900-strong membership at two meetings last month to unanimous approval, said HVVRA President Niels Christensen.

“At residents’ expense we hired an architectural design firm and we came up with an alternative design that was based on feedback from our membership in opposition to the First Capital proposal,” he said, noting those plans were presented at HVVRA meetings on Feb. 11 and 13. “We were delighted with the overwhelming support from our members.”

HVVRA’s alternative design – which limits heights in the Humbertown development to six storeys in keeping with the city’s guidelines for midrise buildings along avenues – features five buildings, incorporates residential condominiums and townhouses on the 10-acre site, and is based on five principles:

  • Maintaining the continuity of Humber Valley Village’s “majestic” tree canopy – the HVVRA design features building setbacks of 10.4 metres away from curbs “in order for trees to grow and mature.”
  • Maintaining the community’s lowrise nature – Humber Valley Village comprises a dominant built form of mostly single-family homes, so the HVVRA’s six-storey design alternative is a “reasonable maximum height that respects the character of the neighbourhood.”
  • Compatibility with the neighbourhood’s scale and texture – the HVVRA design uses setbacks and stepped back architectural design features, “so that buildings don’t appear as if they are looming over the rest of the surrounding community.”
  • Visual and physical connectivity – an “inviting” neighbourhood square off of Royal York Road is just one of the “functional connections” the HVVRA design purports will bring the community into Humbertown.
  • Creation of a neighbourhood square and water feature – the HVVRA-proposed, year-round space on Royal York will “encourage community gatherings such as skating in the winter, lounging in the summer, local school choirs at Christmas, and farmers’ markets in the fall.”

Etobicoke Centre Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby called HVVRA’s alternative design an “excellent” one.

“I like the greenspace idea and I like the walkability. I want to ensure that what’s architecturally there is not just glass towers – it has to be in keeping with the Homesmith character of that neighbourhood, and I don’t see that with First Capital’s proposal,” she said. “All they’re going to do is put in an modernistic looking thing...I want it to be more traditional and timeless – iconic.”

First Capital Realty’s VP of Development Jodi Shpigel declined to comment on the HVVRA alternative proposal for the Humbertown Plaza, explaining that neither she nor her team have seen the plans. In terms of First Capital Realty’s latest proposal for the site, though, she said she believes it’s “something that the community, in time, will be very much in acceptance of.”

While the original First Capital proposal for the Humbertown Plaza site submitted last January included five 11- to 21-storey residential towers, the newest incarnation of that plan – filed with the city in December – has seen both the number of buildings and their heights scaled back. Those revisions, Shpigel said, came about in part due to resident feedback received over the course of several community, working group and city staff meetings the company has participated in over the last year.

“What we’ve done generally is reduce the number of residential buildings from five down to three, reduced the heights (down to 12, 10 and eight storeys) and also increased the amount of publicly accessible open space on the ground level,” she said. “Our revised proposal also improved the quality of the urban design, the public realm, the sustainability initiatives and the landscaping – all of those elements have progressed quite we’re quite pleased with the progress that the proposal has made over the course of the year.”

While Christensen conceded First Capital has scaled back their original application “significantly”, he said their proposal is still unacceptable because it hasn’t dealt with many of the other problematic issues with the site – density chief among them.

“They have changed the heights significantly since their first proposal, but really if you look at it carefully, all they’ve done is squashed and spread the development across the site. In actual fact, their last revision has increased the lot coverage to 73 per cent higher than the previous designs,” he charged. “They’ve given up on height, they’ve given up on the number of buildings, but what they haven’t given up on is the densities.”

HVVRA is now planning on going ahead with its own independent arborist, traffic studies and retail peer groups to continue to search for the “best possible solution for this site,” Christensen added.

“The character of our neighourhood is something that is really special to the people that live’s like a village within a city,” he said. “First Capital has been quite famous for some of its developments, one of which is Liberty Village...they’ve done a remarkable job there, but Humber Valley Village is not Liberty Village – it’s a suburban environment, not an urban one, and we don’t think that it should be turned into one.”

The city’s planning department is expected to provide a report with their recommendations for the Humbertown site at the end of April. That report will be presented for a vote on May 14 at Etobicoke York Community Council, where residents are invited to attend and share their thoughts. The matter will then go before Toronto City Council on June 11.

Alternate Design (appeared in the print only version of the Guardian March 21,2013)

HVVRA's alternative design-which limits heights in the humbertown development to six stories in keeping with the city's guidelines for midrise buildings along avenues-features five buildings, incorporates residential condominiums and townhouses on the 10-acre site, and is based on five principle

  •  maintaining the continuity of Humber Valley Village “majestic” tree canopy-the HVVRA design features building setbacks of 10.4 metres away from the curb's “ in order for trees to grow and mature."
  • height that respects the character of the neighborhood."Maintaining the community low rise nature-Humber Valley Village comprises a dominant built form of mostly single-family homes, so the HVVRA's six-story design alternative is that “reasonable maximum
  • Compatibility with the neighborhood scale and texture-the HVVRA design uses setbacks and stepped back architecture design features, “so that buildings don't appear as if they are looming over the rest of the surrounding community.”
  • Visual and physical connectivity-and "inviting" neighborhood square off of Royal York Road is just one of the "functional connections" that HVVRA design purports will bring the community into Humbertown.
  • Creation of a neighborhood square and a water feature-the HVVRA-proposed, year-round space on row York will "encourage community gathering such as skating in the winter, lounging in the summer, local school choirs at Christmas, and farmers markets in the fall."

 To learn more about the Humber Valley Village residents Association visit

The Etobicoke Guardian spoke with Niels Christensen on Monday March 18, 2013 to discuss HVVRA’s alternative design for Humbertown Plaza. Click on the link to read the whole story


posted Mar 15, 2013, 9:59 PM by Chris Kerrigan   [ updated Mar 19, 2013, 8:07 AM ]


Global News visited Humbertown plaza on Thursday Mar. 14 2013 to discuss HVVRA’s design for Humbertown plaza and provide an update on discussions with FCR. Check out the news clip by CLICK HERE.

DEVELOPMENT Leave us alone, Humbertown residents say

posted Oct 22, 2012, 6:56 AM by Chris Kerrigan

Article from the Globe And Mail, Friday Oct 19th, 2012

Residents of the Humber Valley Village community attend a community meeting to discuss a proposed new development in Etobicoke, Ont. (Kevin Van Paassen /The Globe and Mail)


Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Oct. 19 2012, 8:40 PM EDT

Last updated Friday, Oct. 19 2012, 8:46 PM EDT

In the affluent Humber Valley Village neighbourhood, density is a dirty word.

A proposed development at the site of the Humbertown Shopping Centre has met with furious opposition from local residents, who have staked their lawns with “Save Humbertown” signs and flooded two community consultation meetings. On Thursday evening, area residents spent more than two hours in an Etobicoke high-school auditorium grilling the plaza’s owners, First Capital Realty, over what they see as an assault on their suburban lifestyle.

The proposed development would transform the aging shopping plaza with a slew of apartment units, townhouses, retail space, green space and underground parking. The development would feature three residential buildings, 654 apartment units and 28 townhouses. No element of the plan escaped the scrutiny and scorn of local residents.

In many ways, the neighbourhood is confronted with the challenges facing much of the rest of Toronto: How to accommodate an ever-increasing population, how to make the most of limited land and how to provide affordable housing while prices climb.

So far, the local response to these questions has been a resounding, “Leave us out of it, and leave our neighbourhood alone.”

“People that live in Humber Valley Village … live there because they want more of a suburban lifestyle,” said Humber Valley Village Residents’ Association president Niels Christensen, who believes neighbourhoods should be able to remain low-density indefinitely. For Mr. Christensen and the residents who voiced their opposition to the project on Thursday night, the area is defined by its single-family homes, quiet streets and low-rise buildings.

Or, as both Mr. Christensen and local councillor Gloria Lindsay-Luby put it, the development is too big, too tall and too dense. It will change the neighbourhood’s character and bring increased car traffic.

Jodi Shpigel, vice-president of development for First Capital, takes issue with the characterization of the development as something one would find in downtown Toronto. The development’s floorspace index – its total floorspace compared to the site’s total size – is 2.2, which Ms. Shpigel called “modest.”

“We don’t view this as a high-density development,” Ms. Shpigel said.

Mr. Christensen, who drew a standing ovation after addressing the crowd Thursday, noted that his group is not opposed to development. The residents’ association is currently working on an alternative proposal. He said more than 90 per cent of the group’s membership opposes any buildings above six storeys.

One of the few people to disagree with Mr. Christensen on Thursday evening was Robert Ruggiero, a 23-year-old with a masters degree in urban studies. Stepping to the microphone, Mr. Ruggiero introduced himself as a lifelong resident of nearby Robin Hood Road.

“The population of this area, of this census tract, has declined 2 per cent in the last census, and it has declined 2 per cent in the census before,” Mr. Ruggiero said. “And unless we have change, and unless we have new life in the neighbourhood, our neighbourhood will suffer.”

Mr. Ruggiero’s comments were met with heckling from fellow residents. When he said new apartment units may be the only way that he could afford to live in the neighbourhood, a man yelled at him to get a job.

But Mr. Ruggiero is not alone. The site is designated as mixed-use land by the city, and the province’s policy statement on land use and development generally supports intensification.

Sandeep Agrawal , a professor at Ryerson University's school of urban and regional planning, described increased density across urban centres, including in areas such as Etobicoke, as “inevitable.”

Mr. Agrawal said that people need to be educated on the benefits of density, like improved public transit, as well as some of the drawbacks. “Land supply is very limited. Even [in] the most suburban municipalities … you would see higher-density development,” he said.

But if higher density is, as Mr. Agrawal said, a truth of 21st-century life, that may have either been lost in communication or simply drowned out by the opposition. Nigel Terpstra, a 26-year-old urban planning graduate who contributes to the website Urban Toronto, lamented the state of the discourse at Thursday’s meeting.

“It becomes so underhanded and so about emotion that all the issues get lost,” Mr. Terpstra said.

Michael Hynes, senior planner for the city of Toronto, will now analyze and weigh the city’s official plan, public opinion, provincial guidelines and studies submitted by the applicant before presenting a report to community council.

Mr. Terpstra also accused the residents association of artificially inflating their own opposition numbers by saying on their website that attendance at the meeting was mandatory. And fliers distributed on Thursday featured an outdated image of the proposal under the headline, “Is This What You Want?” As well, the image had been altered, with the proposed green roofs having been blacked out, according to Christine Fang-Denissov, of Urban Strategies Inc., a firm responsible for the project’s planning and urban design.

Councillor Lindsay-Luby lauded the nature of the community discussions and said a September meeting was far more raucous. As for any people of lesser means looking to move into the area, the councillor responded: “That’s never been the demographic for that area.”

Ford brothers pan Etobicoke condo development

posted Sep 17, 2012, 12:13 PM by Chris Kerrigan   [ updated Sep 17, 2012, 12:21 PM ]

Posted By: Siobhan Morris · 9/16/2012 6:49:00 PM

Toronto's mayor says there's "no way" he'll allow an Etobicoke mall to be converted to 700 unit condo development.

Speaking on Newstalk 1010's The City, Rob Ford re-affirmed his opposition to the redevelopment of Humbertown Plaza near Royal York Rd & Dundas St W.

The plan is to add 5 condo buildings, retail & office space plus parking.

Neighbours say the area can't handle all the extra traffic the build would bring to the area.  The mayor agrees.

Last week so many people showed up to a public meeting on the plan at Martingrove Collegiate, that hundreds had to be turned away.

Councillor Doug Ford joined his brother in again panning the development, saying he was going to "go out swinging for the people of Etobicoke".

The Ford brothers stress they aren't against development, but Doug Ford says you don't develop in an area that can't handle the congestion.

Overflowing crowds pack auditorium to discuss Humbertown redevelopment

posted Sep 14, 2012, 5:57 AM by Chris Kerrigan

Sep 12, 2012 Cynthia Reason   Etobicoke Guardian

Tempers flared at Martingrove Collegiate Tuesday night, as nearly 300 of the more than 1,000 residents who showed up at a heated Humbertown Plaza redevelopment meeting were turned away due to overcrowding.

Police were on scene to direct traffic as cars spilled from the packed parking lot to line surrounding side streets, while security guards inside the school struggled to prevent the hundreds of overflow attendees from attempting to squeeze into the standing-room-only auditorium, which was filled well beyond its 740-seat capacity.

Inside the auditorium, shouted rebukes became the norm at the extended, three-hour meeting as debate grew more and more heated over what Etobicoke Centre Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby has repeatedly called a redevelopment proposal that’s “too big, too dense and too tall” for Humbertown Plaza.

“I’ve heard Humbertown referred to as the heart of the community,” agreed Paul Fredenburg, a longtime resident of Lambeth Road. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to remove a relatively healthy heart and put in a cancerous growth.”

While Fredenburg’s comment and dozens more just like it drew healthy doses of cheers and applause, representatives from First Capital Realty – the plaza’s owner – and Urban Strategies Inc. – the planning firm they hired to design the redevelopment – drew equal and opposite responses.

Not even the announcement of a revised and downsized proposal for Humbertown was enough to quell the tide of dissent against the redevelopment, as the crowd repeatedly shouted down First Capital’s Jodi Shpigel and Urban Strategies’ Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker as they tried to explain their “complete community” vision for the site.

While the original Humbertown application put forth by First Capital proposed a mixed-use development at the 270 The Kingsway plaza with a two-storey commercial base covering the majority of the site, plus 28 three-storey townhouse units and five 11- to 21-storey residential towers, the newest incarnation of the plan announced at Tuesday’s meeting eliminated two of those towers while retaining the originally planned set of 654 residential units.

Niels Christensen, president of the Humber Valley Village Residents Association, called out First Capital for falsely claiming to downsize the scale of the redevelopment.

“First Capital will tell you that they’ve compromised on density, yet they have not reduced the square footage of site still remains at 650,000-square-feet of residential space and it still remains at 654 condominium units. All First Capital has done is shuffle things around and redistribute the total square footage,” he said, noting that the same can be said for their proposed building heights (the maximum of which remains at 21 storeys) and setbacks (which remain at 36 inches). “First Capital has refused to compromise on any of our residents’ main concerns – height, density, size and traffic foremost among them.”

The marathon meeting, which was originally scheduled to conclude at 9 p.m., wrapped up at around 10:30 p.m., after dozens of local residents took to the microphone to lodge their complaints and concerns.

When contacted Wednesday, Gloria Lindsay Luby’s office confirmed they are working towards scheduling a second community meeting sometime after Thanksgiving for those who were not granted admittance to Tuesday night’s meeting.

This article is for personal use only courtesy of Etobicoke Guardian a division of Metroland Media Group Ltd.

Image courtesy HVVRA, taken at 7:15pm to an overcapacity crowd at MC

Humber Valley residents fight condo plans with robo-calls

posted Sep 11, 2012, 11:06 PM by Chris Kerrigan

Posted By: James Moore · 9/9/2012 9:23:00 AM

A group of residents in the Humber Valley are determined to keep a proposed condo project out of their neighbourhood.

The Humber Valley Village Residents Association is using automated calls to drum up support for their cause.

The computer voice, which will call about 8,000 homes in the area, tells residents to attend a public meeting with the City on September 11th at Martingrove Collegiate to voice their concerns over the plans.

Developers want to build 700-unit condo complex near Royal York Avenue and Dundas Street.

It would be built over the Humbertown Plaza shopping mall.

The Residents Association is concerned about potential traffic congestion if the project goes ahead as-planned.

CBC Coverage At Public Meeting Sept. 11, 2012

posted Sep 11, 2012, 10:52 PM by Chris Kerrigan   [ updated Sep 11, 2012, 10:54 PM ]

Humbertown Coverage begins at 3:34
If video doesn't start, CLICK HERE

CBC TV News Toronto 11pm, September 2, 2012

posted Sep 6, 2012, 9:37 PM by Chris Kerrigan   [ updated Sep 7, 2012, 5:55 AM ]

Click link to go to video . Forward to 3minutes 18 seconds for Humbertown Coverage

News Toronto (Late Night) - September 02, 2012

Late Night CBC TV News from Toronto

Global Toronto 6:00pm News Sept. 2nd 2012

posted Sep 6, 2012, 9:19 PM by Chris Kerrigan   [ updated Sep 6, 2012, 9:55 PM ]

Look to the 5min 18second spot for the Humbertown coverage.

Evening News -
Evening News: Sep 2
The Evening News on Global Toronto for Sunday, September 2, 2012. Hosted by Carolyn MacKenzie.

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