They recently bought Greenbelt land that was undevelopable. Now the Ford government is poised to remove protections — and these developers stand to profit
A man with big ideas and a vision of the future – and little money.
That’s the description of a group of men and women who gathered last week for a meeting on the corner of Oak St and Lake Shore Rd W, a few minutes’ walk from where a few hours earlier, in the shadow of a steel-framed wall, they had presented a master plan to the City of Toronto.
“We came to do this on Wednesday,” says Bob Ruhl, one of the founders of what is now called the Greenbelt Alliance, whose members have come together to fight against the changes planned by the Ford government. “We wanted to have an opportunity at a meeting or two to talk to city staff.”
Ruhl and his associates were a mix of academics, businesspeople and planners. Among them were John Cavanagh and Andrew Tipton of the University of Waterloo, who had just been awarded the 2017 Ontario Excellence in Urban Design Research Award. The pair will share the $10,000 prize with Cavanagh’s colleague, Richard Schilling, for the research work they did at the University of Toronto that helped shape their proposed Greenbelt Plan. (See also: Why there’s a Greenbelt under our cities.)
The group, called the Greenbelt Alliance, is one of several groups working together to halt what many fear are long-term plans to remove any kind of protection from this undeveloped land.
The land on Lake Shore Rd W and the Greenbelt was purchased in 2011 by the Toronto Waterfront Company Limited (TWCL) for $4.75 million. The company bought part of the former industrial land, which is now the site of Ford’s new manufacturing plant, and turned it into a large open space, where it would build a park.
But the land was undevelopable. Neither it nor the park are protected by the city’s Zoning By-law – a set of regulations that allow for the preservation of certain open spaces. There are no rules that say you can’t build on a former industrial site.
“The rules governing the greenbelt are the rules for the