DCA Minutes 3 March 2010 (draft)

 DCA Minutes 3 March 2010 (draft)

Present: Eric Darwin, Charles Akben-Marchand, David Seaborn, Ida Henderson, Doug Gabelmann, Jessica Sellars, Archie Campbell, Michael Hatfield, Zsofia Orosz, Laura Bergen, Grace Xin, David Hearden of Delcan

Minutes: the Minutes of the previous meeting were adopted, with a few minor typos noted.

Chinatown Royal Arch:

David organized a meeting of Cambridge Street neighbors to discuss the proposal to use vacant lot immediately south of the Yangtze Restaurant to pre-cast concrete pieces for the arch. A satisfactory arrangement is being put in place for residents, restaurant visitors, and artisans. The concrete casting would occur mostly in the northern part of the lot. The street-closing chain will only be opened to move the biggest pieces. The forms, or wooden moulds, are already made in China and have been shipped; they are arriving next week. Grace had a large wooden model of part of the arch, which came apart into individual pieces, which it appears the artisans use to guide their construction process in addition to blueprints.

A local contractor (not yet selected) will be responsible for the two main posts and 130 ton overhead beam (poured in place) and the artisans will cast decorative elements mostly off site, although some will be cast in situ. We are looking at complete street closure for about two months, starting in mid-June. Bike and pedestrian access will remain. This closure will be hard on local businesses, coming as it does soon after the opening of the T&T Chinese superstore on Hunt Club. It will take about 2 months to paint the arch elements (14 layers of paint) but the street will be opened for that. The tiles on top will be real, shipped from China.

The CBIA will be entering into maintenance arrangement with City to do a structural inspection every 5 years. The structure is expected to last 20 years without any major repair.

The city’s detour roads for traffic during the closure will be Booth, Gladstone, Bronson, and Somerset. The number 2 bus will probably be detoured along Bronson, Albert, Preston. This could be further aggravated by the Somerset reconstruction immediately west of Preston which probably will go the same length of time and will also require a detour, perhaps to Bayview. There is a concern that much traffic will spill over to side streets. The street closure at Booth is a problem since it is several blocks west of the actual blockage that will be out of sight, and traffic will still have to be let in to reach restaurants and businesses. Members suggested it should be indicated/signed that it is a dead end at Bronson rather than totally closed.

The arch is designed to meet the Ontario Bridge code. The two lions that guard the pedestals are already made, carved from granite, on granite pedestals, which will be mounted on a low concrete base to protect the pedestals from snowplow damage. The CBIA estimates an April 19 construction start up; on April 21-22 (to be confirmed) there will be a big opening ceremony with a BBQ.

In other news, the CBIA has hired, twice a month, a cleaning contractor. Using a truck mounted vacuum and sweeper, it will do the sidewalks, curb lines, and street corners. (This is in addition to regular city cleaning twice a year). Members of the board expressed appreciation for this effort by the CBIA to help clean up Chinatown.

Bronson reconstruction

The consultants and City have added more technical staff to ensure compliance with other (earlier) studies. We are now looking towards the end of March for the first public advisory committee meeting. With the additional resources and stern reminder from the Councilor’s office as to the mandate and consultation process required, we are looking forward to a more productive planning process. Actual construction begins in 2011.

Chinese Alliance Church

David met with their building committee of four people, and explained our concerns about opening the new building onto Bell Street, explored some more options for adding a housing component, and some opportunities to rearrange the building on the site that might be better. We are awaiting feedback.

Somerset reconstruction and streetscaping

The various stakeholders seem to have resolved all the major planning issues except for the final choice of pavers on the sidewalks and parking bays for the portion between Preston and City Centre Avenue, for which the consultants are to come up with new drawings. Tree types have been recommended, bulbouts designed, parking spaces preserved, etc. The planning process was arduous and dialogue was sometimes contentious. The stakeholders met twice a week for 2 hours each evening for over a month. Council Holmes was helpfully present for many of these meetings or sent a representative.

There will be a public meeting to review the plans on March 24, 7 to 9pm at the Plant Recreation Centre. Construction commences in April, 2010.

As part of the planning process, we are examining the design and desirability of an underpass for cyclists next to O-train, along a route identified in the City’s Official Plan and Cycling Master Plan as the route of a major cycling arterial. The Somerset consultants (Delcan) have done a preliminary survey and drawings for an underpass. It remains to be seen if an engineering and costing feasibility study of cutting a tunnel next to O-Train can be funded this year (this detailed work is apparently not in the road reconstruction study so funding has to be found for the study). It also remains to be seen if the City can be persuaded to put up the money to actually insert the underpass in 2010-11. It has many other competing priorities, so it is up to us to let the city and our councilor know that we want the underpass now.

Eric put forward motion to get in touch with other adjacent community associations and bike organizations to write letters to the City and councilors to express strong support. The proposed rough budget for the underpass was discussed; too much of the money is going to an access stair on the NE side which we think has insufficient utility and should be delayed until the adjacent site is redeveloped. 

Somerset Viaduct Tree Maintenance: as part of the Somerset reconstruction, the communities really want a row of trees along both sidewalks over the span. These trees would be planted in planters as the gravel fill comprising the viaduct wicks away water, and for part of the way there are shallow ducts under the sidewalk. Planters need irrigation; the consultants are looking into piping system, the water source, who will turn it on/off, winter maintenance, and who is going to pay for the water. Domicile has indicated a willingness to discuss using their site as a water source. The city normally doesn't pay for this kind of water, but there might be a way to achieve our plan. The DCA would be willing to help with the operation of the system – we already help maintain two manual watering systems at streetside gardens along Somerset.

Underneath Somerset at City Centre Avenue is a small underpass, of indeterminate ownership and maintenance. It is used by motorists and pedestrians. It is not plowed by the city, but possibly by PWGSC from 1010 Somerset. The DCA and HCA would like to see this improved and made safer for pedestrians. There is a walk around on March 11 with the consultants. There may be one other steering group meeting for the public art component, which will most likely focus on the bridge portion of the street. A general public open house to review the Somerset reconstruction proposal is proposed for 24 March 2010.

Hickory at Champagne

Starwood Mastercraft is proposing 22 and 24 storey condo towers on a townhouse pedestal for the former Aquerello site. The height is contentious, it requires considerable rezoning and since it is within 600 metres of public transit the city can restrict the project to offer only 60% parking (the builder norm for this location would be 113%; the building is proposing 100%). This might increase the on street parking demand. We are concerned that if the City estimate of required parking is too low, the neighborhood suffers from congestion forever. The lower parking requirement is a progressive feature of Transit Oriented Development (ToD) planning concepts. However, the builder wants additional units because he is close to transit but doesn’t want to provide fewer parking spaces even though he is close to transit. Fewer parking spaces should keep units more affordable since parking spaces cost around $30 thousand each.

The situation is further complicated by the number of dead-end streets in the area, the current spill over of all day commuter parking (esp. for the Booth Street complex), etc. While a traffic study is not yet available, we do not anticipate overloading Preston, but do anticipate considerable walk-in mainstreet traffic, especially if the pedestrian bridge extending Hickory over the Otrain is built (by the City, at a later date).

Members expressed concern that the proposed tower height is too high for a mid-block, mid-neighborhood, non-gateway location; members were also concerned as it would be precedent setting, and there are numerous other development parcels along the Otrain corridor which we expect would want the same height. The requested height is bigger than current (max 15) storey Preston/champagne secondary plan. The association decided to write a letter opposing the height, especially for the mid-block location; but to indicate support for the principles of ToD.

There will be a public meeting about the proposal on Monday March 22nd at 7:30 at the Civic Hospital amphitheatre, sponsored by the CHNA.


We need a Buzz ad for the upcoming AGM, to be held on 13 April, Tuesday, 7:00pm. Eric to write the text, with an invitation to meet neighbours, Councilor, etc and to see the Somerset reconstruction plans, the Chinatown Royal Arch plans, and maybe preview something about the Bronson reconstruction. Cost of the ad was approved.

Councilor’s report

Laura Bergen from the Councilor’s office heard our concerns for the trees for the Somerset reconstruction including an irrigation system, and promised further work into seeing how this can be accomplished.

Responding to member concerns, she will look into the public artwork bambinos concept proposed by the PBIA (Gladstone/Preston) to see if there is adequate space, impact on trees, aesthetics, etc..

The board was encouraged by efforts trying to get community gardens at Lisgar and Lyon, a vacant lot.

Somerset near Dundonald seems to be festooned with overhead wires (particularly South side) though about 16 years ago these were buried (Kent to Bronson). The underground wiring is not being maintained, but replaced by ever more overhead wires. The councilor’s office will investigate, and Eric to get in touch with Friends of Dundonald Park about the issue and ideas for planting more trees along Somerset between Kent and Percy.


  1. As always, the update is appreciated.

    I'll send off an email about the otrain- bike path. It's clearly needed. It might be a good idea to include Robin Bennett, the city's cycling coordinator. He might not have the final say, but he can push a project along.


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