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New residence spaces needed at downtown Toronto campus

Faced with an increasing need for student housing, the University of Toronto is taking steps to move a planned residence project forward and is asking the Ontario Municipal Board to assist in mediating talks with the city and the community.  

The proposed residence on the northwest corner of Spadina and Sussex avenues has been the subject of three and a half years of community consultations, workshops and design review. It would provide accommodation for about 540 undergraduate and graduate students, at a time when the city as a whole is struggling with a shortage of rental accommodation. 

The university estimates as many as 2,300 new residences spaces will be needed by 2020 on the downtown Toronto campus to meet demand.

“We want to be good neighbours and want to reach an agreement on this issue,” said Scott Mabury, U of T’s vice-president of operations. “That said, we are anxious to move this project forward because we know how badly this housing is needed by our students.”

In response to the growing need, the university filed an appeal with the OMB on May 15 as a way to resolve remaining issues about the development in a timely manner. The city deemed the university’s application complete in October, 2016. The intent is to bring parties to the table to continue discussions with the help of OMB mediation, Mabury said. The university is not pressing for a hearing. 

“We have a long history of working with the city and the community,” Mabury said. “Our university is home to some of the city’s most prominent buildings and our St. George campus has one of the most extensive collections of heritage properties in the city.”

The new residence would address the need for student housing and also rejuvenate an underutilized site close to a major transit hub, Mabury said. 

The site also would include townhouses for faculty, and the project has been significantly altered based on community consultations, he added.