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Archive for the ‘Royal St. George’s construction’ Category

RSGC March construction plans scrubbed

In Royal St. George's construction on March 13, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Royal St. George's construction planned for March 14 to 28, 2011 has been postponed to June after it was unable to obtain a shoring permit from the city. The application for a shoring permit is still under review | Pictured: phase I construction in 2007

By Louise Morin | Unable to get their shoring permit from the City in time, Royal St. George’s College’s March 2011 construction plans have been scrubbed and rescheduled for June 2011, after classes end for the year.

The March work would have involved the drilling and filling of 30 of the 80 caissons that will shore the perimeter of the planned underground garage.

Word of the delay was not communicated to the neighbourhood until late Friday afternoon, March 11th, and only after various neighbours had made repeated inquiries to RSGC. St. George’s CFO and construction liaison Andy Whiteley apparently left on two weeks vacation sometime before March 11th without bothering to tell the neighbourhood–or his fellow members of the Construction Management Committee–whether the construction due to begin March 14th would actually proceed.

I sent Whiteley an email the morning of Friday March 11th, asking whether the construction was a go for Monday. When Whiteley did not respond, I telephoned RSGC at about 10:45AM.  I used the business hours construction information hotline advertised on the RSGC website. There the run-around began.

I was initially told by a chirpy woman who answered the phone that the construction was indeed proceeding on Monday. When I asked her to confirm that the City had granted all the needed permits, the woman referred me to Whiteley’s colleague in Finance Sarah Skinner. Skinner wasn’t then available, so I left a message for her. When I hadn’t heard from her after about 90 minutes, I rang Skinner back. She told me she didn’t know the status of the permits or the construction, although she was trying to find out. She said Acting Headmaster Paul O’Leary knew, but he was out of the office to attend a memorial service, and Construction Manager Rudy Tomaini hadn’t been around that day to ask.

At this point, RSGC had still not yet released the contact information for the community members of the Construction Management Committee, even though Councillor Vaughan told RSGC, in no uncertain terms almost four weeks earlier, that it was mandatory that they do so.  I then called City of Toronto plan examiner Peter Raynes, whom City planner Barry Brooks told me was responsible for the RSGC permit applications. Raynes did not return my call.

Eventually, at 2:20PM, Skinner called me back.  She had found out that the shoring permit had been delayed, and that the shoring project was being postponed to June. And to her credit, she was calling back all the neighbours who had inquired with her. Under the direction of neighbour and Construction Management Committee Chair Jim Jacobs, Skinner eventually sent out an email and mail bulletin to neighbours later that afternoon, and got the news of the delay posted to the “Update for the Annex Community” page of RSGC’s website.

Skinner also told me that Bell Canada would be on the campus March 14, 2011, to relocate two telephone poles and re-route underground cable on RSGC property. Despite Whiteley’s assurances at the February 16th community meeting that no service interruptions were expected and that all connections would be done live, Skinner’s e-bulletin says “current information is that service interruptions at RSGC and our five neighbours’ homes will be brief.”

Whiteley also left without publishing the minutes of the first meeting of the Construction Management Committee, held on March 4, 2011, in which contact information for the community members of the committee was finally revealed. Under Jacobs’ direction, Skinner also managed to get those minutes posted to the RSGC website Friday afternoon.

When it next meets on April 14, 2011, the Construction Management Committee will no doubt want to investigate this disappointing failure by Whiteley and RSGC to communicate important information to the neighbourhood in a timely fashion. Whiteley’s conduct is a worrying portent that–assurances to the contrary–RSGC’s shameful record of ignoring the neighbourhood and its right to information is not going to change.

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The minutes of the inaugural meeting of the Construction Management Committee contain the following chart with the names and contact information for members of the Construction Management Committee. Jim Jacobs, third name down, was elected the committee chair, and Andy Whiteley, second from the bottom, volunteered himself as the committee secretary.

The See House | 120 Howland Avenue

The Construction Management Committee next meets on April 14, 7PM at the See House, 120 Howland Avenue.  The meetings are open to community members.

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Our previous article about Royal St. George’s construction (click on image to open article):

For other articles about Royal St. George’s College construction, visit the RSGC Construction Archive.

Adam Vaughan’s report on the February 16th community meeting with Royal St. George’s College

In Royal St. George's construction on March 3, 2011 at 9:00 AM

Meeting with Adam Vaughan, the West Annex community, and Royal St. George's College on February 16, 2011*

By West Annex News | On Wednesday, February 16, 2011, Councillor Adam Vaughan convened a meeting between the West Annex community and Royal St. George’s College. On February 22, 2011, Councillor Vaughan issued the following report.

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Dear Neighbours of Royal St. George’s College 

Thank you for attending the meeting regarding construction at Royal St George’s College (RSGC) on February 16th.  It was important for the College, my office, and city staff to hear and understand your concerns.

I’m writing to summarize the information and discussion, and to provide information for moving forward.

Construction Plan
Andy Whiteley, Assistant Headmaster of RSGC and Project Manager for the construction at the college, presented an outline of the plans for the site.  These include underground parking, additions to “See House”, which is the middle building on Howland Ave, additional physical activity space, and landscaping.  This plan is available on the RSGC website at click “About Us”, then “Campus Redevelopment” for more information. Preliminary construction is expected to occur for 10 days in March for excavation work.  Construction will then begin again in mid-June, and continue for 16 weeks.  In spring 2012, the landscaping work will occur.

The Portable
As discussed at the meeting, the portable which was used for judo lessons was removed Friday.  The portable was removed in two parts, which will be taken to Mississauga.

Our office received a call Friday morning with concern about the truck going over the sidewalk on Barton and being without escort. We spoke with the college about these concerns, and reiterated the importance of following through with promises.  RSGC responded that the truck was with an escort on the streets (not a police escort, which may have been a misunderstanding), and the truck may have gone on the sidewalk while turning due to the tight corners.  However, the college is aware that these concerns were raised so they can consider them for the future.

At the meeting, RSGC's Andrew Whiteley issued his standard promises to respect bylaws, which were received with widespread skepticism by the audience. RSGC has a long and shameful record of breaking bylaws and promises. Adam Vaughan assured the community that this time, bylaw enforcement "will be vigorous."*

Interruption of Services
Residents raised concerns about interruption of services.  Royal St George’s College confirmed at the meeting that no service disruptions are expected to take place.  The utility companies or City of Toronto contractors (for water and sewer) will make the connections live.  If RSGC becomes aware that there may be an unforeseen interruption, they will provide as much notice as possible, but have no ability to control the occurrence as the connections are done by the utility companies or the City of Toronto contractors.  To be clear, the service providers have indicated that they do not foresee any interruptions.

Noise
Questions were raised about construction noise, and how this can disrupt peace for everyone, and in some cases impact people who work from home.  Royal St George’s College plans to do construction from Monday to Friday, 7am to 7pm.  This is the standard by which all construction in the City is set (see the noise by-law at http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/municode/1184_591.pdf).  In their Construction Management Plan (available here: http://www.rsgc.on.ca/site/royal_st__george_s_college/assets/pdf/Construction_Management_Plan.2011.02.16.pdf), which was created as part of their approval process, RSGC indicate that in addition to working within the by-laws, they will not be doing exterior work on Saturdays.   If any construction activity occurs outside of permitted hours, enforcement will be vigorous.

A resident on Howland, across from RSGC, requested that the College ask their workers to be respectful of neighbouring properties when taking a break. The neighbour used the example of smoking on her property. RSGC indicated that they would speak to their contractors about respecting the community.

Traffic Plan
At the meeting, RSGC said that approximately 900 dump trucks will be needed to remove soil from the site. This is radically different from the original number of 500 trucks. When questioned about this difference, RSGC responded that there was a miscalculation as they hadn’t taken into account that soil expands when unsettled from the ground.

The community then discussed five options for truck routing, to decide which streets these trucks should take in March, when excavating, and from June onward.  After discussing the options, with information from Ron Hamilton, a Manager of Traffic Operations at the City of Toronto, a vote was taken and Option 1 was decided on for the March work, and Option 2 was decided on for the rest of the construction. Option 1 is south on Howland to RSGC, exit on Albany, South on Albany to Barton, West on Barton to Bathurst.  Option 2 is east on Barton then north on Albany to RSGC, and exiting using the same streets.

Space for three trucks will be on the site, and the staging area will be at Bridgman and MacPherson.  Trucks will be radioed in when needed so there are no trucks on the street.

The Construction Management Plan is part of the RSGC’s tendering process, meaning that contractors have to agree to adhere to this truck routing and the rest of the plan in order to get the job.

Construction Management Committee

Councillor Vaughan said the community--not RSGC--gets to choose the community representatives to the various committees that will oversee the construction. RSGC must provide contact information to the community for everyone who serves on the committees.*

A Construction Management Committee is being finalized.  Their membership includes Andy Whiteley of RSGC, Rudy, the Construction Manager, several community representatives, and a City of Toronto representative.  The group plans to meet for the first time March 3.

As I said at the meeting, the community should choose its own representatives on the Construction Management Committee.  An important principle for this to be an effective, accountable, transparent process is the contact information for the members needs to be public and accessible.  At the meeting February 16, it was decided that at least three more members from the community are joining the committee to ensure interested groups have a voice.  The Neighbours of St Alban’s Park will put forward a member to be added to the Committee.  Ko Van Klaveren will represent the Annex residents Association on the committee.  The community was asked if anyone else would like to join, and James Jacobs volunteered to join the committee.  Other neighbours on the committee include Bruce Twining, Michael Low, and others.  When the membership is finalized in the coming days, the contact information for the members will be made public.  You will be able to contact your neighbours with concerns so issues can be raised at future meetings.

Contact information
If there are any problems with work being done outside permitted hours, or other construction related concerns, there are several routes you can take:

– RSGC has now posted a 24-hour emergency cell phone number, which is 416 533-9481 x 230.
– You can contact the Assistant Headmaster of RSGC and Project Manager, Andy Whiteley, at 416 533-9481, or awhiteley@rsgc.on.ca.  The Construction Manager, Rudy, will be on site the entire time, and Andy will be able to reach him if a problem arises.
– You can contact the Construction Management Committee, whose contact information will be available once finalized shortly.

– Municipal Licensing and Standards can send a by-law officer to the site to investigate if by-laws are not being followed.  You can request an MLS officer by calling 3-1-1 or emailing311@toronto.ca.

– My office can be reached at 416 392-4044, or email Rebecca Hewitt of my staff at rhewitt@toronto.ca.  She can contact the appropriate people on your behalf.We will be watching this project closely and ensuring there is a public process in place.  Thanks again for attending the meeting and sharing your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Adam

Councillor Adam Vaughan
Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina
416-392-4044
Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street West
2nd Floor, Suite C50
Toronto, ON      M5H 2N2
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*Note: the captions under the photographs are by West Annex News, and not Adam Vaughan.

Further notes: We’ve learned that the first meeting of the committees convene tonight, March 3, at 7:00PM at the See House.  Royal St. George’s College has not publicized this information, nor have they provided any agendas to the community.

Notwithstanding the resolutions reached at the February 16 community meeting:
  • Royal St. George’s College continues to insist that the four neighbours it hand-picked as community representatives for the committees–Michael Low, Fabian Rucker, Greg Vogt, and Patrick Thompson–will serve on the committees.
  • Royal St. George’s College has yet to provide the community with contact information for any of the committee members.

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For further articles and information about Royal St. George’s College construction, visit the RSGC Construction home page and RSGC Construction Archive.

Issues for this Wednesday’s meeting with Councillor Vaughan and Royal St. George’s

In Coming events, Royal St. George's construction on February 15, 2011 at 1:34 PM

By Louise Morin | BOHICA: bend over, here it comes again.

Yes, Royal St. George’s College is back at it again; they will be resuming construction on March 14, 2011 for two weeks, then take a hiatus during the spring, resume the summer of 2011 and continue then until the fall of 2012 . . . and perhaps beyond, to complete the project Jane Jacobs famously called “bad Mel Lastman-era planning.”

And between RSGC’s indifference to bylaws and construction guidelines and the City’s inability or unwillingness to enforce them, the St. Alban’s Park neighbourhood can be forgiven for feeling abused.

But Adam Vaughan has decided to wade in where Olivia Chow wouldn’t, and has called a community meeting this coming Wednesday, February 16th at 7:00PM at Walmer Road Baptist Church  to try to address some of the more contentious issues arising from the construction.

What are the issues?

1.  Routing of construction vehicles through the neighbourhood

Of the 500-plus construction vehicles to pass through the neighbourhood, 200-plus will be tandem dump trucks | Photo credit Jack Byrnes Hill

Adam Vaughan wants our input on the proposed route for the 500-plus construction vehicles which need to travel through the neighbourhood to the RSGC construction site. The first option would bring the trucks down Howland from Dupont to the RSGC campus, the second brings them in Barton from Bathurst and north up Albany–the wrong way on the one-way street; the third brings the trucks in Wells from Bathurst–the wrong way on one-way Wells–then south on Albany. In all three options, the trucks exit south on Albany and west on Barton out to Bathurst.

In an attempt to avoid having this issue divide the neighbourhood, I’ve heard some neighbours suggest that the trucks should rotate amongst the three routes. While I appreciate the spirit of compromise that motivates this suggestion, I’m against it. RSGC has been my neighbour for 23 years, and they’ve never failed to disappoint me during construction projects: they just don’t follow the rules. If they’re given a schedule of rotating routes, they are not going to comply; instead, we’re going to have trucks on all three routes all of the time.

The red line is option 2: the fastest, shortest route in and out of the neighbourhood.

Although it will be unpleasant for me personally (I live just a couple of doors north of the corner of Barton and Albany), I’m in favour of the trucks following option 2.  It’s the shortest route in and out of the neighbourhood. It keeps the rest of the neighbourhood relatively safe and undisturbed. It will be easy to tell our kids where they can and can’t go without our supervision, to avoid trucks. And it will be crystal clear to RSGC the only route where their trucks are permitted.

2.  Protocol and compensation for interruption of services .

RSGC says that they will need to interrupt services (hydro, water, gas, telephones, Internet) for up to six hours at a time, at various times during this project. Neighbours of St. Alban’s Park–the de facto residents’ association of the West Annex–has pressed RSGC to provide a schedule of the interruptions in advance. Neighbours also asked for details of RSGC’s plan to pay compensation to those financially inconvenienced by the interruptions.

In reply, RSGC wrote earlier this month “RSGC can’t speak to compensation as it relates to third parties. If neighbours have questions, we ask that they contact these utilities directly.”

This disingenuous response won’t do. RSGC has to speak to a protocol for advance notice and compensation for us at Wednesday’s community meeting.

3. Removal of portables

The portable illegally moved by RSGC in late 2010. RSGC first promised to remove their portables in 1996, in return for permission from the Committee of Adjustments to build an addition. They built the addition, but never removed the portables.

In 1996, RSGC promised to remove the two portable from their property in return for a variance to permit them to build addition for more classrooms.  They built the addition but the portables were not removed.

In December 2010, RSGC moved the two portables, and pushed them up to the back fences of adjoining residential properties on the east side of Albany and the west side of Howland. In keeping with their philosophy that it is always better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission, RSGC didn’t get the okay from the city before making the move. The city has since told them one of the portables must go.

Neighbours of St. Alban’s Park have asked that the portable–which is used only as a judo studio–be removed entirely from the site immediately; after all, it’s been improperly on the property for well over 10 years. RSGC wants an indulgence: they want to move the portable to the tarmac, facing Albany Avenue, pleading just “three more months”.

Given the long history of broken promises around the portables, yet more promises aren’t going to cut it. The portable has to go, now.

4. Community Committees

During the construction in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s, in 2007 and again in 2010, RSGC repeatedly breached bylaws and construction management guidelines, particularly those concerning hours of construction, weekend construction, dust, mud, and noise control, and traffic and parking control.

The OMB ordered that for this project, various mandatory committees be struck, and that neighbours have a seat on these committees–the Construction Committees, where RSGC can seek permission to break the rules in special circumstance; the Community Consultation Committee, where neighbours can take complaints and problems caused by the construction; and the Neighbourhood Liaison Group under the Traffic Demand Management Plan.

RSGC has funny notions about neighbourhood representatives on committees.

Up until now, without any consultation with the neighbourhood, RSGC has chosen the so-called neighbourhood representatives. RSGC has then refused to give the rest of  us contact information for the neighbourhoods reps; they ignored Neighbours of St. Alban’s Park’s 2007 request for contact information, and mine made in the summer of 2010. And if these committees have ever met at all, RSGC has kept secret the date and place of their meetings and the results of their deliberations.

This farce can’t continue.  The neighbourhood should get to choose neighbourhood representatives.  We should be able to contact our representatives. We should be told in advance when committees will meet.  We should be able to attend the meetings.  Meeting agendas should be posted on the RSGC website in advance, and the minutes of the meetings promptly posted afterwards.

5. Enforcement of construction guidelines and bylaws

Councillor Vaughan’s office has asked someone from the City staff to come to to Wednesday’s meeting to explain to us why, project after project, RSGC has gotten away with breaking rules, and coach us on how we can get help from the city in the future.

In my many years as RSGC’s neighour, I’ve been to too many meetings where I hear RSGC’s “sincere” apologies for past breaches, followed by their lavish promises that they’re going to change their behaviour–this time.

When the next round of construction begins, we get the same disappointing behaviours–construction on weekends and statutory holidays, construction noise well before 7AM and well after 7PM, sidewalks blocked with building materials and trucks, no dust or mud control, on-street parking taken by construction crews and equipment and RSGC students.

Personally, I believe that RSGC follows a deliberate strategy of apology.  Why pay, for example, several thousand dollars on dust control when an apology later costs nothing?

6. Building on the south lawn by St. Alban’s the Martyr Cathedral

The view of St. Alban's the Martyr Cathedral from the east end of St. Alban's Square park

RSGC recently mentioned their desire to build–at some point–a small greenhouse “of less than 100 square feet” on the south lawn of St. Alban’s the Martyr Cathedral, where the RSGC environmental club wants to grow plants.

It is important that we stop any expansion of RSGC sheds and bins onto the lawn of St. Alban’s the Martyr Cathedral. The Cathedral is a designated heritage building of tremendous historic significance.

Between the brutalist gym RSGC stuck on the Albany end of the Cathedral in the 1970’s, to the big bus layby stuck on the Howland side in 2007, and the various bits and pieces stuck here and there on the Cathedral in between, there only is one unobstructed view left of the Cathedral for public contemplation, that is the view from the east end of St. Alban’s Square.

RSGC filled the the north side of their property with many sheds, bins, and portables. Now that they’re converting that space to a playing field, they’re looking to the only open space left on their campus, the lawns on the south side of the cathedral.  We must say no, and preserve what’s left of the view of this heritage site.

After 30-plus years of RSGC expansion, this the view of the historic cathedral from Albany Avenue

So as Jane Jacobs urged us, this we must remind RSGC on Wednesday night that there is a community here. If we all work together to make sure RSGC follows the rules, there’s no need for this latest project to become the same chaotic hell of those of the past.

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For further articles and information about Royal St. George’s College construction, visit the RSGC Construction home page and RSGC Construction Archive.

Visit Jack Byrnes Hill’s photostream on Flickr.

The weekly wrap for February 11, 2011

In Coming events, Reviews, Royal St. George's construction, This week in the neighbourhood on February 11, 2011 at 6:41 PM

Custom bike painter Noah Rosen of Velocolour shows off the plaid fenders he made for Don Cherry's bike at Curbside Cycle

Picture yourself in plaid. Custom bike painter Noah Rosen of Velocolour has finished the plaid fenders for Don Cherry’s pink bike, and you can have your picture with the bike tomorrow at Curbside’s Bike Love Sale, 412 Bloor Street West. [Curbside Cycle]

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Bikes on ice. Later on Saturday, head over to Dufferin Grove Park for Icycle 2011 bike races on the rink. [Duncan’s City Ride]

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Councillor Vaughan to hold meeting with West Annex community, Royal St. George’s on Wednesday, February 16th at 7:00PM.  Meeting to decide various issues including how to route 500 construction vehicles through neighbourhood, interruptions of power and other essential service, immediate removal of portable. [Ward 20]

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The Children’s Storefront reopens. Destroyed by fire in October of 2009, the beloved drop-in centre for kids and parents has reopened at 286 Bloor Street West. [InsideToronto.com]

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A great brunch. Eddie loves his meal at local fave By the Way Cafe. [T.O. Bites]

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No more dorms. U of T abandons residence in favour of luxury condos geared to wealthy and foreign students. [thestar.com]

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In defence of graffiti. Jake Tobin Garrett examines the mayor’s troublesome war on urban art. [deconstructed city]

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Every Friday, the Weekly Wrap collects articles from around the web about or of interest to residents of the West Annex.

For previous weeks’ columns, visit the Weekly Wrap archive.

Royal St. George’s construction imminent, Councillor Vaughan to host community meeting February 16, 2011

In Coming events, Royal St. George's construction on January 19, 2011 at 10:49 PM

Historic See House at 112 Howland Avenue is to be partially demolished and a large addition built on the back. Built in 1887, it was the home of all Anglican Archbishops of Toronto until 1937.

By Louise Morin | According to Andrew Whiteley, Assistant Headmaster at Royal St. George’s College, initial work on Phase II of RSGC’s OMB-approved construction plans–the underground garage and the addition to the back of the See House–is scheduled to begin in March 2011.

The March work will involve two weeks of shoring the perimeter of the future underground garage. So long as RSGC gets its final approvals from City Hall or the OMB, the work will take place during RSGC’s spring break from Monday March 14 t0 Friday March 25 (weekends excepted, or at least so Whiteley has promised; RSGC’s track record for observing bylaws and guidelines about days and hours of construction is not impressive).

Shoring involves excavation, driving steel support beams into the ground, and pouring concrete. Whiteley described this work as “noisy and disruptive” and “lots of work, lots of traffic and cement trucks”.

In mid-June of 2011, the balance of the work on the new underground garage and the large addition to the back of the historic See House on Howland Avenue begins. Whiteley said this too will be noisy and disruptive work. How disruptive? Whiteley suggested at least some neighbours should plan to spend the summer of 2011 at their cottages. RSGC hopes to complete the exterior work in September or October of 2011, and the interior work by the fall of 2012.

While the construction is ongoing, RSGC needs to route more than 500 construction vehicles, including about 200 tandem dump trucks through narrow West Annex streets. RSGC proposed three route options City Transportation Services in December 2010:

  • Option 1: Enter from Dupont, then south on Howland to RSGC; exit RSGC south on Albany, then west on Barton to Bathurst Street;
  • Option 2: Enter from Bathurst, then east on Barton, then north on Albany to RSGC; exit RSGC south on Albany, then west on Barton to Bathurst Street;
  • Option 3: Enter from Bathurst, then east on Wells, then south on Albany to RSGC; exit RSGC south on Albany, then west on Barton to Bathurst Street.

Thanks to the intervention of Neighbours of St. Alban’s Park Inc.–the de facto residents’ association of the West Annex–Councillor Vaughan will consult the neighbourhood about these options in a community meeting he’ll host, probably the evening of Wednesday February 16, 2011.

Also on the agenda:

  • protocol for RSGC to interrupt essential services (hydro, water, gas, telephones, Internet). RSGC wants to be able to interrupt services for up to six hours at a time, at various times over the summer. Neighbours of St. Alban’s Park has pressed RSGC to provide a schedule of the interruptions in advance. Neighbours of St. Alban’s Park has also requested answers to other questions about service interruptions, including details of RSGC’s plan to pay compensation to those financially inconvenienced.
  • RSGC’s breaches of bylaws and construction management guidelines in 2007 and again in 2010, particularly those concerning hours of construction, weekend construction, and dust, mud, and noise control. Also to be addressed is RSGC’s failure to establish the OMB-mandated community consultation committee where neighbours can take problems and complaints as they arise during the construction;
  • the removal or relocation of the portables. In 1996, RSGC promised to remove the two portable from their property in return for a variance to permit them to build an addition.  The addition was built but the portables stayed. In December 2010, without the necessary permission, RSGC moved the two portables and pushed them up near the back fences of adjoining residential properties on the east side of Albany and the west side of Howland. RSGC must move at least one of the portables. The city will not allow it to stay. Neighbours of St. Alban’s Park have asked that the portable–which is used only as a judo studio–be removed entirely from the site now. RSGC is considering the request, but may ask to move the portable to the tarmac facing Albany Avenue until construction is completed. Then both portables must be removed entirely, which Whiteley promises RSGC will do–this time.

Further information about the community meeting will be posted here as it becomes available, and watch for a flyer from Royal St. George’s College.

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For further articles about Royal St. George’s College construction, visit the RSGC Construction home page and RSGC Construction Archive.

Royal St. George’s College and the uglification of Albany Avenue, and the history of RSGC development in the residential West Annex

In Royal St. George's construction on September 6, 2010 at 11:20 PM
Albany facade, gym entrance
This is what we were promised

Remember Royal St. George’s College promise to ‘repair the Albany streetscape’? Remember the seductive architects’ drawings, imagining the new, improved Albany gym frontage?  The brick facade, the peaked roofs, the faux-Victorian vibe?

Remember when it was all approved by the Ontario Municipal Board in their 2006 decision?

Well, RSG has now shelved those plans, indefinitely.   While construction on other parts of RSG’s plans will start in March 2011, the ’70s-era brutalist-style cement gym facade facing Albany is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Worse, RSG is adding a big grey stucco chimney-like structure to the Albany side of the gym, to house ducts for an HVAC/air-conditioning unit to be installed on the roof of the gym.

HVAC project at RSGC 2010

This is what we’re getting

Worst yet, construction has already started.  You’ve probably already noticed the noise, the big trucks (some travelling the wrong way up one-way Albany Avenue), and the blocked sidewalks as delivery trucks unload construction materials to the gym doors.

How could this happen when the OMB decision compelled RSG to enter into a site plan agreement, which was supposed to end RSG’s decades of ad hocdevelopment?

No one seems sure.  RSG obtained a building permit on August 19, 2010, describing the property as a ‘place of worship’.  The City’s Planning Department isn’t sure quite how they got the permit, given the site plan agreement.  But while the planner looks into all this, construction continues apace.

And long time neighbours shake their heads.  Just another episode in RSG’s land development history.

Originally the property of the Church of St. Alban the Martyr, the lands now occupied by RSG originally contained three buildings: the Church at 100 Howland Avenue, the Rectory at 112 Howland, and the Parish Hall at 120 Howland.

In April 1963 the Church applied to the City’s Committee of Adjustment for permission to use the rectory at 112 Howland as a private day school for not more than 100 boys. The Committee of Adjustment rejected the application.

So, the Church took the issue to the politicians via the Planning Board. The Commissioner of Planning said the College intended to use the“property temporarily only, for a period of about 10 years, while the school…finds a satisfactory (out of town) site for a permanent residential college.”

The report explained that private schools weren’t allowed in areas zoned residential because they “would interfere with the quiet enjoyment of neighbouring properties” and “could constitute a nuisance.” The report concluded that it would be preferable to establish the day school “in a more institutional area of which there are several in the same vicinity.” City Council ignored its Commissioner’s advice and passed a special by-law to allow “the use of premises known in 1963 as 112 Howland Avenue for private academic, philanthropic or religious school purposes.”

In 1964, St. George’s opened with 89 students. By 1970, enrollment had increased to 253.  Temporary somehow became permanent.  The student body spread to the other church buildings though they were still zoned residential. The brutalist-style gym got built at the back of 110 Howland on the strength of a building permit issued to 112 Howland.

In 1991, enrollment was 361.  Then headmaster John Latimer sought to reassure neighbours increasingly concerned about RSG’s burgeoning size and the consequent traffic it brought to the neighbourhood.  “We do not intend to enlarge the number of students.” he wrote.

By 1994 enrollment was 391.

In January 4, 1994, Mr. Latimer wrote again to neighbours about the proposed severance of Church lands to permit the sale of properties to RSG. “The Church will retain ownership of the church building itself and the lands on which it is located. The building will continue to be the home of the congregation of St. Alban the Martyr, your local parish. The purpose of this letter is simply to assure you that the effect of the severance and transfer of the facility to the School itself will not result in any change in use, will not result in any increased traffic and so far as we are aware, will have no impact on the neighbourhood.”

Two years later, when the size of the student body has swelled to 417, RSG was back before the Committee of Adjustments seeking to add a two-storey addition to the Senior School and the two-storey addition to the Junior School.  In granting the application, the Committee noted  that the purpose of the application“was not to increase the size of the existing student body, and that the existing traffic and parking problems would not be exacerbated by this proposal.” The purpose of the proposal it said, was to provide additional classrooms to replace existing portables so that they could be removed from the property.

The additions were constructed. The two portables were not removed. Enrollment swelled to 440 in 1998, and 465 in 2001.

Today, the next round of construction is premised on RSG’s promise to – yes, you guessed it — limit enrolment.  But this time says local City planner Barry Brooks, RSG has to keep their promise; it’s part of the site plan agreement mandated by the OMB.

But that site plan also says that the Albany gym facade is going to be beautified.  No big stucco chimney and no HVAC unit of the roof in the site plans.

You might want to ask local planner Barry Brooks, bbrooks@toronto.ca , and Councillor Adam Vaughan, councillor_vaughan@toronto.ca about that.