Developer Muzzo Group successfully appealed the city to reverse its decision to designate 221 Sterling Rd. a cultural heritage site in 2022. Now, the developer wants to demolish it and replace it with three 20-storey condo towers. Photo by Fernando Arce.

Wrestling Over South Junction Housing

In Toronto, affordable spaces for artists are disappearing. The lofts at 888 Dupont St. (corner of Ossington Street) are now demolished. Condos are under construction in its place. Artscape went into receivership last year, and while many of its artist spaces are seemingly going to be maintained, some aren’t.

The South Junction Triangle just east of the Bloor GO station (near Dundas West and Bloor), has some of the city’s last cheap artist spaces. They are buildings with character, some so much so that the roofs are leaking.

Condo developers also have their eyes on the area at the intersection of multiple transit lines.

Muzzo Group has plans for 221 Sterling Rd., KingSett Capital for 1423-1437 Bloor St. W., and Lamb Sterling Corp. plans to build at 1405 Bloor St. W. All of the proposals are for luxury condos being marketed as “attainable” instead of “affordable.”

“To me, that was like a click,” says Cristina Costa, co-director of South Junction Triangle GROWs Neighbourhood Association. “It was like, really? Attainable how? What’s the starting point for downpayments? I couldn’t afford to live in these buildings.”

The community group has been opposing these three projects at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT). While not opposed to development or densification of the area, they say they want to see the right type of housing built — that is, missing middle housing options that include structures like triplexes and fourplexes.

Daniel Rotsztain, a Toronto-based urban geographer, says it’s not a case of NIMBYism (not in my back yard-ism), but of “exclusionary zoning practices that force development in these areas.” He agrees the area “should welcome density, but not at the cost of demolishing the community anchors that make a city worth living in.”

The group also says the process itself — from appeals at the OLT to lack of transparency from the city — is rotten and favours condo developers.

For instance, in 2022 the group successfully fought to have 221 Sterling Rd., a three-storey building housing live-work spaces for artists, officially designated as a cultural heritage site. The complex also includes 225 and 227 Sterling Rd. But developer Muzzo appealed that and got it reversed, opening the possibility of demolition and replacement with three 20-storey condo towers.

This February, the group was hit with a $10,000 bill for legal fees at the request of KingSett Capital after losing a separate appeal.

With so many projects either underway or in the process of being greenlit and residents hitting procedural walls, they are uncertain of what the new look of the once-historical and artist-driven area will be — and whether they’ll still be able to afford to call it home.

This article appeared in the 2024 May/June issue.