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Midland-Lawrence ‘rebirth’: Is ‘complete gentrification’ coming to this mid-Scarborough neighbourhood?

May 22, 2023

Originally Published By:

By Mike Adler

Madison selling low-rise homes in Midland Park as boundary change looms

The Midland-Lawrence area of Scarborough is changing and developers think it is ripe for gentrification. One of these is Madison Group, now working on phase two of a townhouse and detached-home subdivision it is calling MILA (after the intersection). – Dan Pearce/Metroland

Midland and Lawrence, an intersection pretty much in the centre of Scarborough, could look very different a decade or so from now.

“The area is just starting to go through complete gentrification,” David Singer, a vice-president of Madison Group Developments, said in a recent interview.

The builder is selling the second phase of a new, low-rise 35-acre subdivision — a rare thing in the 416 area code — Madison markets as the start of the area’s “rebirth,” a mix of townhouses, semis and detached homes “rooted in community and inspired by locals.”

Madison calls it MILA, a SoHo-like abbreviation of Midland and Lawrence avenues for the neighbourhood.

Singer said the company originally had more townhouses in the plan, but Madison met members of the Midland Park Community Association (MPCA), turning up at the ratepayer group’s annual barbecue.

They heard people in Midland Park, streets of bungalows and other older homes stretching northeast of the intersection to Brimley Road, wanted more single homes and no stacked townhouses. Madison agreed.

“Our goal is not to cause fires in the community. It’s to get along with the residents,” Singer said.

MILA’s Phase 2 is on the former David and Mary Thomson Collegiate. The Toronto District School Board’s decision to tear down both the collegiate and neighbouring Bendale Business and Technical Institute — rebuilding Thomson and selling the remaining land — was a seismic event in Midland Park, which MPCA had protested vigorously.

Dave Barnes, a MPCA executive, said things went smoother with MILA. “We didn’t get a good fight” out of the proposal, he joked.

Barnes thinks most people still consider the neighbourhood safe and the new Thomson building looks esthetically pleasing compared to the industrial Bendale he once attended.

The association has been “idling” for a while, but Barnes predicted its activities would resume as soon as some energetic residents stepped forward.

“The seniors still walk. Kids still play on the streets,” he added.

Midland and Lawrence is also the centre of what Salma Zahid, Scarborough Centre’s Liberal MP, calls one of the largest Muslim communities in the city.

At that community’s heart is the Jame Abu Bakr Siddique mosque, which the Scarborough Muslim Association, supported by local families, bought and renovated in 1992.

Zahid has been fighting to stop a proposed change to Toronto’s federal ridings, which almost certainly will be reflected at provincial and city levels, to create a new Scarborough Centre—Don Valley East riding whose boundary ends at Midland. The MP has argued this would divide a cultural community, and the new boundary should at least move east to Brimley Road.

A final decision is expected soon.

Highrise development, meanwhile, is expected around the intersection, which is about one kilometre away from a future Bloor-Danforth subway station.

One proposal submitted last year for 2650 Lawrence Ave. E. calls for a 25-storey condominium building and a 35-storey mixed-use building, each with an eight-storey podium.

Barnes said current residents can’t stop the towers, but the city must make sure amenities, places for people to go, come with them. Otherwise, quality of life won’t be the same, he said.