New TTC headquarters under review

Although the majority of councillors on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) board before the recent municipal election   voted in favour of a new centralized TTC headquarters at Yonge Street and Wilson Avenue, the fate of the deal now depends on approval from the new city council and the new TTC board. And it isn’t looking good.

The project was to see the construction of an eight-storey, 450,000-square-foot building over the current parking lot on the northwest corner.

“Definitely the deal will be revisited and reviewed by both the new board and Mayor Ford,” said Coun. Peter Milczyn, vice-chair of the TTC board. “The new board can get out of the deal if it chooses to. Build Toronto may want some compensation, but the mayor does sit on the board of Build Toronto and can influence that issue.”

Bruce Logan, director of communications and public affairs for Build Toronto, the city’s arm’s-length real estate agency, said he was confident they have made every effort to ensure a positive outcome from both the city’s planning department and the councillors.

“We are working with the key staff to make sure they have all the information they need surrounding the deal,” Logan said. “If all this change at the TTC has an effect on their accommodation strategy then we will need to evaluate the TTC offer to lease in that context.”

As the TTC is only a potential tenant, he added that, if the deal were to be revoked, they would continue their development plans and seek another anchor tenant.

“The site is excellent, and a surface parking lot only is certainly not the best use for the city. While our development represents change, it is an important and responsible change. It is going to be a great building,” he said.

Milczyn said the TTC board will be fully briefed on the potential development at 4050 Yonge St. this month and will then be able to take any next steps.

“Previously as a TTC commissioner, I voted against the new TTC headquarters as it did not represent a good financial outcome for the TTC,” he said. “It would have cost the commission more to accept the deal than to maintain the status quo. Unless the business case for the TTC improves on this proposal, I will continue to oppose it.”

Coun. Karen Stintz, the chair of the board, said she’d have to assess the business case and look at the proposal from the requirements of the TTC before making any decisions but said, from a planning perspective, her concerns haven’t changed. Those concerns include the loss of commuter parking if the site is developed, the height of the building and protection of the nearby ravine.

“The public has also questioned whether or not this is a good investment, to build a TTC headquarters at this location,” she said. “There’s a decision within the administration, as well, the Ford administration, if they wish to continue with this project, and that decision has to still get made.”

As the local councillor, Stintz will be co-chairing the city-mandated public consultation meeting, along with city planning staff members, which will bring the application to the community on Jan 12.

Addressing one of the developments main concerns, the loss of the commuter parking lot, Logan said it was important to note a significant amount of public parking is available in the area.

“We have commissioned detailed studies specifically for parking available to the public. There are more than 600 public parking spots in and around York Mills subway, for daytime use, and more than 1,600 spaces for public parking during evenings and weekends,” he said.

Article exclusive to TRNTO