Housing advocates gathered outside Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow’s office Thursday afternoon to demand that she meet with them to discuss the city’s commitment to purchasing a prime development site in the downtown east neighbourhood.
The property in question is a seven-parcel lot at 214-230 Sherbourne St., just south of Dundas Street East.
Vacant for more than a decade and disused for several years, advocates and supporters have long advocated for the construction of deeply affordable housing at that location.
The City of Toronto put forward a bid to buy the site in early 2022, however it lost to KingSett Capital, which had initially planned to build a luxy 47-storey mixed-use condo there.
Despite that unsuccessful bid, a group called 230Fightback came together about a year ago to continue pushing for social housing at 214-230 Sherbourne St.
The group told CP24.com that it learned in December about KingSett’s new plans for the property.
“KingSett has offered to sell 214-230 Sherbourne back to the City of Toronto for a value that covers the cost we have incurred to date (and no more),” wrote William Logar, the firm’s Chief Asset Management Officer, in a Dec.6 email to 230Fightback that was shared wth CP24.com. The message was sent to the group shortly before it held a rally outside KingSett’s head office at 40 King St. W.
“We understand what this property means to the local community, and we are now patiently awaiting a response from the City regarding 214-230 Sherbourne,” Logar continued.
In a follow-up communication with CP24.com, a media representative from KingSett said that the sale price for the property has not been disclosed.
We have since reached out to inquire if the developer wishes to comment further on this matter or provide any update.
Long-time anti-poverty advocate John Clarke, a member of 230Fightback, said this news has given them a “bit of optimism” for the future of 214-230 Sherbourne St., but what’s really needed is a concrete commitment from the City of Toronto to pursue this purchase.
“After months of trying to get a response from Olivia Chow’s office, she has still not indicated what the city’s intentions are. She still refuses to meet with us. She, indeed, refuses to acknowledge us,” he said on Thursday afternoon at City Hall.
“So we’ve come here today to say that we are demanding that we get a response, we get a meeting, that we get an answer, and we know what Olivia Chow’s intentions are. … This rebuffing that we’re facing is completely unacceptable.”
Late Thursday afternoon, Chow met with the members of 230 Fightback.
CP24.com also reached out to her office for comment, but we have not heard back.
We’ll post more soon, but we did get a meeting with Chow’s staff and it was an enlightening conversation… we’ve left City Hall now to digest, but the fight isn’t over yet. https://t.co/noe7GtGF19
— 230Fightback (@230Fightback) January 25, 2024
Clarke, meanwhile, said that they remain hopeful that this site will one day be used for the intent generations of advocates have long pushed for.
Nonetheless, he said that the fight isn’t over and they’d continue to advocate the city to present KingSett with a strong offer, so that this site in the “heart of the community” won’t be sold off to another developer.
“Our immediate goal is to get the city to commit to acquiring this site, then hopefully KingSett will accept a reasonable price in the negotiations,” Clarke said.
In an interview with CP24.com, local Coun. Chris Moise said that KingSett had actually reached out to him over the summer to get his thoughts on the city bidding for a second time on the site.
“I know that it is something that the community has wanted,” Moise said.
“I say ‘yes,’ I’m interested.”
Since then, the Toronto Centre rep said he’s met with a number of senior staff to discuss how to make this happen.
“I’ve been front and centre on this file,” the Ward 13 councillor said, adding at this point discussions are in the “very early stages” between the developer and the city.
Moise said the potential acquisition of this site is “now in the hands of the developer to respond.”
“I know how important it is to the community. As the local councillor I’m doing everything I can to support. … It’s a priority to me,” he added.
Toronto Centre MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam, who previously served as the city councillor for the area, said that KingSett must be “realistic” in its expectations for what it will get for the sale of this site and should not anticipate that the city can match the amount it paid for this property in early 2022.
“(It) was purchased under a bidding war and they likely overpaid for it. … (KingSett) will have to drop their expectations,” they said.
“Since then there’s been a market downturn. … The city cannot overpay for the purchase of this property. It’s public money and there has to be accountability.”
Wong-Tam went on to say that Chow, as much as she may want to acquire this site for, simply cannot justify paying more than market value for it. In fact, the city is legally-bound to not overbid, they noted.
“There will be an appraisal at today’s value, not the 2022 bidding war,” Wong-Tam said, adding that it is “good news” that the developer wants to work with this site on this possible acquisition.
“It would be sad if KingSett dug in its heels. … I would encourage (the developer) to lower its expectation because that is what the market is dictating. It’s a very different market now than in 2022.”
Wong-Tam said the community can be hopeful that this property could one day become an affordable housing site.
They also noted that the development of this property had been approved by the city under the Downtown East Action Plan and it shouldn’t be too difficult to get shovels in the ground fairly quickly.
“The motivation is definitely there… and the foundational work is done,” Wong-Tam said.
“The city known this site. … A deal can be reached if KingSett is willing to work with the city.”
In a written statement, the City of Toronto said that it works in partnership with CreateTO, the city agency that manages its real estate portfolio, “regularly investigates opportunities such as acquisitions or partnerships, and conducts appropriate due diligence if the opportunity supports City Council priorities and is considered financially viable.”
“Negotiations regarding the potential acquisition or disposition of City properties are confidential as the deal terms are commercially sensitive and disclosure of them would negatively impact the City’s negotiating position,” a spokesperson told CP24.com.