Community wins battle against Thornhill highrise

Community wins battle against Thornhill highrise

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Kosher Sobeys in Vaughan

Following a two-year battle between real estate developer RioCan and the SpringFarm Ratepayers Association (SFRA), a volunteer community advocacy group, a 20-storey high-rise building will not be built in the plaza containing the kosher Sobeys at Clark and Hilda avenues in Vaughan, Ont.

In November 2015, local residents learned about the plan to demolish the stores on the east side of the plaza to build an 18-storey condo. The proposal was later amended to add two more storeys, to compensate for the loss of the stores.

After RioCan presented its plan to the community, the SFRA conducted a community survey, held meetings to appeal to RioCan to amend its proposal and drafted a petition to the City of Vaughan to halt the development.

Community members felt the development proposed by RioCan, which owns the Spring Farm Marketplace – home to the kosher Sobeys, a kosher Second Cup, Israel’s Judaica and other Jewish-themed stores – would negatively impact the community in countless ways.

Sobeys at Clark and Hilda avenues in Vaughan.

SFRA, aided by Vaughan Councillor Alan Shefman, who “strongly opposed” RioCan’s proposal, argued that the proposal violated Vaughan’s official plan and contravened zoning bylaws for usage, density and height.

On June 6, RioCan released a statement, which said that after “working collaboratively with a variety of stakeholders over the past several months, we have concluded that a one-storey retail property, offering additional options to customers, is the best option for the future of Spring Farm Marketplace and the local community it serves. As a result, RioCan is proposing a new, small retail pad for the northeast corner of the site and will not proceed with the development of a residential tower.”

Pam Levy-Taraday, SFRA’s president, said she was happy with RioCan’s decision.

“I give RioCan credit for listening to the community and working with us. It was not adversarial. We each had our own points of view, but we listened to each other and I think that made a final decision for them easier,” Levy-Taraday said.

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According to a statement on the SFRA Facebook page, RioCan will move forward with a proposal for a low-rise commercial building, adding 10,000 square feet of retail space, about the size of the current Shoppers Drug Mart in that plaza.

Levy-Taraday said she was pleased to learn that RioCan’s senior vice-president of development will present at the SFRA’s annual general meeting in September.

“They may not have a plan finalized by then, but they will bring what they have and that is very encouraging because they are going to show the community, possibly even before it is submitted to the city, which is outstanding,” she said.

She thanked the community for standing behind the SFRA, and the volunteers who put in the hours to see this through.

“My executives and the Sobeys plaza committee – you can’t work with a better bunch of people … Alan Shefman was really instrumental,” said Levy-Taraday, who added that after the decision was made, “we gave each other a big hug.”

Although Levy-Taraday sees this development as a positive step forward, she said there is still work to be done.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, because there has been no plan proposed yet for what they intend to do and we still have to make sure it’s in keeping with the community and our architecture and things like that, but I’m encouraged.”