Does the city still have an eye on 214–230 Sherbourne?

By Andre Bermon –

 In March 2022, the City of To­ronto placed a bid to acquire a vacant lot and a century home near the corner of Sherbourne and Dundas Streets. The prop­erties known collectively as 214–230 Sherbourne were to be made into a housing project as part of a plan to revitalize the neighbourhood.

However, the KingSett Cap­ital real estate investment firm outbid the city and purchased the property for $52 million.

A year and a half later, the new owner submitted a 47-storey condo proposal for the site. Meanwhile, Ward 13 Councillor Chris Moise said his office has been in talks with the developer to acquire the proper­ties for the city.

What does this mean for the Dundas/Sherbourne communi­ty, and how much does the de­veloper stand to benefit?

Century home and adjacent lot comprising the 214-230 Sherbourne properties. Photo: Andre Bermon

Housing the impoverished

Long-standing anti-poverty activist Gaetan Heroux, a lead­er of the grassroots group 230 Fightback, wants to overturn KingSett’s condo proposal. For Heroux, the struggle to con­vert the land into much-needed affordable housing is both moral and symbolic.

In 1985 a homeless woman, Drina Joubert, froze to death near the lot. Her death and oth­ers that followed outraged social advocates. In response, the mu­nicipality purchased rowhous­es lining Sherbourne between Queen and Gerrard Streets and converted them into one-bed­room apartments. This was a breakthrough for single home­less adults.

According to Heroux, the 214–230 properties had func­tioned as rooming houses as far back as 1911. Around 2008, most of the buildings were shut down and eventually demol­ished. Only the century home at 230 Sherbourne survived be­cause of its designated heritage status, although it has since been abandoned.

Revitalizing the Dundas/Sher­bourne area

After the properties fell into disuse, advocates called for the city to purchase or expropriate the land. The decade-long cam­paign began to make an impres­sion on City Hall beginning in 2019.

Fresh from her 2018 re-elec­tion campaign to oversee the new Ward 13, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam worked with city staff to implement a new policy known as the Downtown East Action Plan. Calls were made to address long-term needs for city services in the Moss Park and Dundas/Sherbourne com­munities and to revitalize the aging Dan Harrison Complex, a Toronto Community Housing building at 251 Sherbourne.

Since a 1991 report, city offi­cials have been aware of deteri­orating social cohesion among Dan Harrison residents as well as the building’s failing infra­structure. When City Council endorsed a report called “Acti­vating a Revitalization Plan for the Dundas Sherbourne Neigh­bourhood” in December 2019, acquiring 214–230 Sherbourne became integral.

According to the policy, if the city could purchase the site, it would “unlock new housing op­tions and revitalization solutions to address the physical, social and economic needs facing Dan Harrison and the wider commu­nity.”

However, the city’s attempt to acquire the properties in April 2022 failed.

Enter KingSett Capital

Prior to KingSett’s acquisition of 214–230 Sherbourne, associ­ates of the company made the news. A seniors’ building at 877 Yonge Street that KingSett had received from a non-profit op­erator for $2 in May 2019 was sold to the city for nearly $100 million, with funds coming from the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative. According to the Toronto Sun, the city had paid nearly four times the ap­praised 2016 value.

KingSett’s acquisition of 214–230 Sherbourne was seen by social advocates as another financial sleight of hand. It was public knowledge that the city had an interest in the property, which – like 877 Yonge – could be sold for considerable profit.

A few months after purchas­ing the site, KingSett submitted a proposal to City Planning to build a 47-storey condominium with 619 units. The city hosted a community consultation last February, but a decision report has not yet reached Community Council.

A change of heart?

In the July 10 Toronto Star, a KingSett spokesperson said the company is “considering a range of options for the property,” in­cluding re-selling it. No further details were released.

Around this time, the bridge learned that Councillor Moise’s office had spoke with the in­vestment firm about acquiring the properties. At a Town Hall meeting on October 4, Coun­cillor Moise made comments that 214–230 would be used to support a revitalization project in the Dundas/Sherbourne area – similar to what Council had approved years earlier.

As negotiations regarding ac­quisition or disposition of City properties are confidential, how much KingSett stands to benefit is unknown. But if the compa­ny is considering reselling the lands, as with 877 Yonge, it could be lucrative.

The city’s vision may become clearer at the Economic and De­velopment Committee meeting November 28, which is expect­ed to approve the next phase of the Downtown East Action Plan.

1 Comment

If 214 Sherbourne is bought by the city after they bid and lost and is bought for public housing would probably be my exit card from the 416.we have a chance to not make mockery of public housing and Tor gov incompetence by going private with 2 new towers being proposed across from 214.more poor people is more crime more of making moss Park unusable . There is a whole city to build this form of housing. The meighn centre must go too. The best thing about Tor gov is they are broke ideas funds talent