Sophia condos now seniors housing

North York project changed to affordable apartments
Patricia and Bathurst site should see action this summer
By Kris Scheuer
(Written May 6 for Town Crier.)

The Sophia Condos project has changed to a seniors affordable housing complex. Photo by Karolyn Coorsh/Town Crier.

A once controversial plan to build luxury condos at Patricia Avenue and Bathurst Street has now morphed into a project of a different kind: A 237-unit affordable housing rental highrise apartment building.
Several years ago, developers Cityzen planned to construct 240 condos in a 10-storey building described as being luxurious enough to rival the finest European hotels with a fully equipped gym, steam rooms, a party lounge and full catering kitchen.
At the time, many residents on Patricia protested the project, which they feared would bring congestion and traffic problems to North York street.
Multiple calls to Cityzen were not returned, but their lawyer Adam Brown confirmed the new project is moving forward under the previous approvals, but with some changes.
“That application is proceeding in the way of a seniors facility,” Brown said in a voicemail message. “Therefore they won’t have the need for as much parking.”
In January, the North York Committee of Adjustment approved the reduced parking.
The original condo project was approved in stages between 2006 to 2008 at various Ontario Municipal Board hearings. They resulted in a settlement hearing with the city in support, said Brown.
But last year, everything changed when the developer was approved for over $30 million in economic stimulus money from the province and federal governments to build the affordable housing units. The city kicked in $3.3 million by eliminating development charges and waiving property taxes for 25 years. The developer will spend $23.8 million on the seniors’ building.
For the apartment to be deemed affordable by Toronto standards, units must be 80 percent of the average rent, which means the units will be about $742 for a one-bedroom or $884 for a two-bedroom. Prices will still be affordable, but may be adjusted to current market value once the apartments are built.
The federal and provincial money, plus city waivers, helped lower the cost to the builder by $120,000 per apartment.
Cityzen is also working with B’nai Brith Canada to provide cultural programs in the new building, said Simon Liston from the city’s affordable housing office.
Local Dolly Beil said residents suggested townhouses for the site years ago, but the developer rejected that. She wasn’t aware of the current status of the project.
“I don’t want to know of it and see it (built),” she said May 5. “I am very angry about that.”
“The whole neighbourhood is opposed to it because of congestion and horrible bottleneck (traffic),” she said, referring to the now-defunct Sophia condo plan.
If the project proceeds on schedule, it will open in winter 2011 or spring 2012.

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