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A 25-storey Wonderland Road tower, and concerns about traffic overload

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A 25-storey tower may rise on Wonderland Road just north of Oxford Street, a sign of things to come in an area poised for major development, said planning officials.

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A 25-storey tower may rise on Wonderland Road just north of Oxford Street, a sign of things to come in an area poised for major development, project officials say.

The 219-unit highrise, to be built by York Developments on the site of what is now a Swiss Chalet restaurant in a commercial plaza, will dominate the neighbourhood dotted with a busy Costco, mid-rise apartments, plazas and strip malls.

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But just wait a few years, and more towers are certain to rise due to demand to live in northwest London, said Nick Dyjach, a planner with Strik Baldinelli Moniz, a firm working with York on the project.

“It may not seem to fit now, but this area is planned for intensification and you will see more towers going up,” Dyjach said. “There’s a long-term vision. Redevelopment is underway. It won’t happen right away; it may take years” but it is coming.

The area is designated as an urban transit village under the London Plan, the city’s blueprint for growth, even though city council decided in 2019 not to fund bus rapid transit service along Oxford Street between downtown and Wonderland Road.

That transit village designation allows higher-density building in the area.

In addition to 735 Wonderland Rd., a twin tower development by York is proposed for 530 Oxford St. at the southeast corner of the Wonderland Road intersection, that would see two 33-storey highrise apartments with 408 units built. That proposal will go to city council’s planning committee in May.

That comes after city council in 2022 approved a three-tower development by Westdell Developments nearby at 689 Oxford St., just west of Oxford, that includes 17-storey, 18-storey and 21-storey buildings. It will be constructed in two phases.  

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689 Oxford St
An artist rendering shows the triple highrise project, with a total of 490 housing units, proposed by Westdell Development Corp. at 689 Oxford St. W., looking southeast.

In addition, there are several vacant commercial sites in the area that builders are considering, said Dyjach. “There’s a ton of development potential in that area and it screams for transit. All this development will push demand.”

In 2019, now-London Mayor Josh Morgan was one of the city politicians who voted against spending tens of millions of dollars from Ottawa and Queen’s Park to build a $72-million bus rapid transit line between downtown and the Oxford-Wonderland intersection. At the time he was a city councillor representing northwest London.

Ward 6 Coun. Sam Trosow is concerned the tower at 735 Wonderland marks too much intensification in an area with limited road access, causing traffic delays and congestion that already gets tied up.

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While York is planning on tearing down the Swiss Chalet, it will keep the rest of the plaza, built on 1.45 hectares (3.6 acres). The Swiss Chalet is across the street from Angelo’s Italian Bakery and Market. The site is bound by Wonderland, Beaverbrook Avenue and Horizon Drive. 

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“Residents will be concerned about the additional traffic. Taking down the Swiss Chalet, putting up a tower and leaving other businesses intact doesn’t sound like a practical idea,” Trosow said.

City staff, in an email, said they have few concerns about the tower project. “Transportation staff did not have any significant concerns with the proposed development.”

A transportation impact study was done and recommended a two-way left-turn lane along Beaverbrook Dr., planning staff noted. Staff also confirmed the site is in a so-called transit village where greater density is allowed.

“Highrise development is contemplated in the transit village and a mix of uses in a walkable form are encouraged, particularly on sites that are underutilised, such as this,” they wrote. “The surrounding area includes a mix of apartments, townhouses and commercial and community uses.

“This proposal will contribute to the vision of the London Plan and the mix of uses and densities in the transit village.”

The proposal will go to city council’s planning committee April 9.  

ndebono@postmedia.co

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