Federal Building apartments are ready.

Weston’s old post office, also once known as the Federal Building has had its upper floor renovated by developer Jack Morelli of First Avenue Properties and is now seeking tenants. Readers may remember that across the street, Mr. Morelli is building low-rise condominiums on the old beer store site so these renovations might be some clue as to how he views the neighbourhood’s potential. Readers may also remember that the ground floor of the building will be a medical centre opening next year. WestonWeb took a ‘stickybeak‘ on Tuesday morning during an open house.

Arriving a leisurely half-hour after the event had begun, WestonWeb’s south media team (Roy and Roy) found the front access doors to the apartments were still locked. Since a previous visit in July, even more windows at ground level have been broken. Not an auspicious start. Unable to cool off in a tantalizingly unopened fabulous new coffee shop, a quick scout around the back of the building revealed a door left ajar. A set of terrazzo stairs that have seen better days led to the top floor where a pair of startled agents sprang to their feet and introduced themselves.

First Avenue has gutted the top floor and installed 15 apartments in place of the old offices. There is a choice of one, two or three bedrooms averaging 800 square feet. All apartments and hallways have the same tiled flooring throughout and flat (not textured) 9-foot ceilings. A variety of layouts is available but unfortunately, First Avenue’s definition of a bedroom is sometimes an enclosed space with a door but no window. In one apartment, one of the alleged bedrooms was simply a windowless alcove – a feature described by the agent as flexible. When asked if a windowless bedroom was legal in Toronto, the agent went quiet. When pressed, another awkward silence ensued.

The entrance to Apartment 203

The entrance to Apartment 203

Kitchens are small with formica countertops. The appliances had not yet arrived yet but range hoods appear to be vented to the outside. Bathrooms are standard toilet sink and bath/shower combinations.

The kitchen alcove in Apartment 203.

The kitchen alcove in Apartment 203.

Prices for the apartments range from $900 for a one-bedroom $1050 for a two and $1200 for a three-bedroom. Water is included but heat and hydro are billed extra; heat being supplied via individual apartment furnaces through ceiling vents. Although no laundry facilities are provided in the apartments, a coin laundry room will be available. The lack of air-conditioning could be a problem in summer as windows are quite small. Each unit comes with one parking space.

A windowless bedroom.

A windowless bedroom in Apt 203.

Living room (L) and a bedroom.

The living room (L) and a bedroom of Apt 203.

While no-one will accuse First Avenue Properties of gentrifying Weston, it’s nice to see any reasonable development coming to a formerly empty space in a significant Weston building. Residents will occupy brand new walk-up apartments and have access to a variety of amenities within easy walking distance at an affordable price. The developer might however want to do something about the state of the ground floor exterior which continues to deteriorate.

UP Express Fare – Do The Math

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Those of us hoping for an affordable fare on the UP Express are in for a big disappointment and the reason is to be found in simple arithmetic.

Anyone checking the arrivals and departures at Pearson Airport (or living in Weston) knows that a lot of flights come and go daily. Last year Pearson handled 36,000,000 passengers. Let’s generously assume that half of them are in transit. That leaves about 9 million arrivals and 9 million departures. That’s an average of 25,000 daily. In addition, 41,000 employees need to come and go for a total of about 66,000 people daily in each direction.

What is the capacity of the UP Express to move people? Well, it’s nothing like that of a GO Train. UP Express trains will either have two or three cars, each car holding 60 passengers. If all trains could be the maximum 3-car format (they can’t) the hourly one-way passenger potential is 4 x 180 or 720. Again assuming an 18-hour operating schedule and an even flow of people, the maximum number that the train could move (assuming nobody used the Bloor or Weston stations along the way) is just under 13,000. Given the availability of trains with a third car and the other limitations mentioned, that number will be considerably lower.

The danger of pricing fares at an affordable level is that the trains would be wildly popular leading to overcrowding.

Metrolinx will therefore err on the side of high fares and carefully watch passenger numbers with a view to adjusting them later if necessary.

One more thing: many people have already figured out that the extortionate money grab by GTAA of $2.00 from each passenger in lieu of lost parking revenue is bogus. The vast majority of people arriving at the airport do so in taxis, buses and limousines. They would not be contributing to parking revenues anyway.

First look at UP Express trains

Amidst the flurry of excited announcements regarding the almost completed Pearson terminus, BlogTO has an article about a sighting of the actual trains that will be used for the Union Pearson Express. The sighting in Brantford by photographer James Gardiner shows a two-car train painted in subdued colours.

The trains will complete the journey from Terminal 1 at Pearson to Union Station in 25 minutes for an as yet undisclosed (but anxiously anticipated) cost. The trains will operate every 15 minutes for most of the day.

Also of interest to Westonians (since Weston is one of only two stops along the way) will be the cost of tickets from here to either end of the line. Many people have speculated that if demand for the service is underwhelming, the line could be converted to an above-ground subway serving additional stations along the length of the line.

Trains will be running in time for the July 10 2015 opening of the Pan-Am Games in Toronto.

Developer: How about 62 Stacked Townhomes?

Wednesday’s meeting to discuss the latest development proposals for the old Beer Store property at 2059 – 2069 Weston Road was deja vu all over again. The developer, Jack Morelli from First Avenue Properties and Councillor Nunziata met with residents last October and the proposal at that time was for 38 townhomes on the site.  

First the good news:

One of the developer’s other properties, the old Post Office building at 2050 Weston has found a major tenant. A medical centre (relocating from Mount Dennis) will occupy the entire 20,000 square feet of the ground floor next Spring. The upstairs will contain 15 new apartments.

Now the bad news:

After being sent back to the drawing board by various city agencies, Mr. Morelli has returned with a revamped proposal that now consists of 3 buildings occupying a smaller footprint but containing 62 condominium stacked town homes (a 63% increase) measuring between 500 – 1300 square feet. Each of the buildings will contain 24 underground parking spaces; one per townhome and 10 extras for visitors to the 62 homes. The townhomes will form a frontage along Weston Road. Once again, the city (represented by Natasha Lang) will study the plans to see if they comply with city requirements.

The developer stated that, ‘This is the new concept of town homes and it’s what people want’. He also justified building town homes instead of retail since it took such an effort to find a tenant for his retail space across the street, and besides, ‘There’s too much retail space in Weston anyway’, and, ‘Retail is out of the question’ (on the site).

Apparently the MCR (not R2) zoning on the site allows an 8 storey building on the property. This was repeatedly hammered home by both the developer and Councillor Nunziata. MCR zoning permits a retail ground floor that could form the exterior of the project along Weston Road in keeping with the rest of the historical ‘Main Street’.

All of this seems to be posturing. Mr. Morelli, like any developer, wishes to generate the largest amount of money from the site. He is not doing Weston any favours. To point out that he could put up an 8-storey building is an empty threat. If Mr. Morelli could make more money by erecting such a building, you can be sure he would do so.

The people of Weston will be left with this development for many decades. Townhomes will be a classic case of bad planning along Weston Road in the middle of a retail stretch. While there is a demand for housing, any city planner will tell you that developments need to fit in with their surroundings. As currently proposed, these townhomes will look like missing keys on a piano or the gap in a hockey player’s smile.

The Weston Road Frontage.

The proposed Weston Road Frontage.

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3-D view showing the street entrance of the development.

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Plan view of the development.

Mr. Morelli agreed to the formation of an advisory committee that would work to consider the wishes of area residents. This will be done in conjunction with the Weston Village Resident’s Association.

Weston Federal Building Update.

Last August WestonWeb commented on the dismal state of buildings along Weston Road. This is the first in a series of updates starting with 2050 Weston Road – what was once known as the Weston Federal Building, containing the post office for many years. In 2012 the Federal Government sold the building after efforts by Mike Sullivan and Frances Nunziata to make the property available for community use. The premises have stood vacant for years but now, while things are happening inside, external appearances have changed little.

The old Federal Building. No trace of its former tenant remains.

The old Federal Building as it looked last August.

There Federal Building in July 2014

The Federal Building as it looks today – little changed, its facade still blighted by ugly utility wiring.

A reader of the original article commented that changes to the building had been held up because of asbestos issues on the second floor. These seem to have been fixed as the interior is currently being worked on.

While there has been quite a bit of activity inside the building, the once attractive brick, cement and granite exterior remains largely as it was with a broken window and old graffiti allowed to remain. The planting beds outside the building have been cemented over.

The upper floors are being converted into apartments and are advertised for rent.

Work is in progress on the ground floor.

The interior has been stripped and work is in progress on the ground floor.

Broken windows invite more vandalism.

A broken window outside the old entrance.

Graffiti is still there after nearly a year.

Graffiti is still there after more than a year.

This bench is an artifact from the old City of York and belongs in a museum.

This bench is an artifact from the old City of York and belongs in a museum.

While First Avenue Properties has had a ‘For Lease’ sign displayed on the premises since last August, several calls to arrange a viewing were put off with the comment that, ‘The agent who deals with the property is not in the office’. They did allow that the upper floor apartments will be bachelors and one-bedrooms.

If readers wish to try for themselves, the phone number is 905-856-3031.

Liberal Nomination Candidates Post their Details.

Readers may be aware that a Federal Election must be held on or before October 19 of next year. Although the Tories legislated the actual date of the election, the Prime Minister retained the right to call an election before then. The likelihood of an earlier election is therefore strong as the Tories will no doubt seize any opportunity to take advantage of high polling numbers should that occur.

Three candidates so far are contesting the nomination to represent the Liberal Party of Canada in the riding of York South-Weston. They have responded to the questions posed by WestonWeb and these responses are presented below. WestonWeb will alert readers once the date of the nomination meeting is announced.

Anthony Cesario

Relevant experience:

Anthony is a small business owner and a lifelong Liberal. Prior to starting his own business, he worked in municipal government for over 10 years and volunteered with various city, provincial and federal politicians over the last 15 years. Anthony has been working on the nomination process since mid-January. He is the son of immigrants who came to Canada with the hope of a brighter future.

Main Issues:

Anthony believes that the riding has lost its voice in Ottawa and that he can help restore that voice by being part of a Liberal government that is interested in the priorities of the York South-Weston: seniors’ concerns, funding community services, providing effective transit service and combating youth unemployment.

Residency:

He doesn’t presently live in the riding but has many relatives and friends that do. He has provided services and assistance to the riding through his work in municipal government.

Monique Rudder

Relevant experience:

1: Immigrated to Canada from Trinidad & Tobago in the West Indies in 1989, at the age of 13, raised by a single mother, attended University of Toronto through a combination of scholarships, student loans, summer and part-time jobs.

2: Earned a Chartered Accountant designation and has 15 years of business experience. Her job involves working with colleagues and collaborating with clients to develop solutions. MP role is similar – must listen and engage with constituents from varying backgrounds and community leaders, develop recommendations to address needs and be a strong advocate for public policy beneficial for the riding.

3. Has volunteered with various groups through the company she works for and also participated in income tax clinics, United Way events, Canadian Women’s network, volunteered for an NPO that supports Pan-Asian professionals and co-facilitated a course for the University of Waterloo’s Master of Taxation program for 5 years.

4. Has been a member of the Liberal Party for a few years, has canvassed with MPP Laura Albanese as well as acting as a scrutineer in the recent provincial election. Now wishes to become more involved and give back to the community where she grew up.

Main Issues:

1. Jobs and training

2. Housing and enforcement of standards so that people can live in dignity.

3. Access to equal opportunity and ability to get ahead, including subsidized day care.

She has canvassed in low income buildings, continues to meet with community groups in the riding and understands the struggles that people are going through.

She believes the Liberal Party is committed to invigorating the political process and achieving increased engagement with citizens. She is also interested in the increased engagement of women and youth in public service.

Residency:

She lived in York South-Weston until her early twenties and feels at home in the area. She currently lives in Parkdale High-Park with her husband and two children. Her mother still resides in the riding. Previously her grandmother also lived in the riding until moving to a retirement home due to the need for specialized care.

Bill Saundercook

Relevant experience:

As a city councillor, first for the City of York then for our mega city, Toronto, I learned a tremendous amount about our communities in York-South Weston. I’m very proud of my achievement of starting the first Blue Box program in York (all of Toronto followed), and many years of affiliated committees to the health of our Humber River. My association with numerous committees is too long to mention here, but maybe at another time. Being a life long resident of York, living in 7 different communities of west end Toronto (formerly York) has allowed me to experience the diversity of  neighbourhoods. Now, having raised our family of 5, my wife, Anne and I live in Swansea. Anne teaches in the riding, Our Lady of Victory and I taught many years (mostly part time) in Mississauga (Dufferin-Peel Catholic Board). Having the privilege of representing York-South Weston as their Member of Parliament would allow me to bring much of my life experience to the everyday lives of most of the constituency.

Main Issues:

Some of the main issues of York-south Weston, to mention just 3, would be, the aging population, youth unemployment, and infrastructure needs and concerns for the future. Without getting into too much detail, here is a thought on addressing all 3 at the same time. It has come to my attention, in dialogue with the President of the Humber River Regional Hospital, that not too far into the future, we will be dealing with a surplus building! What better location to offer our seniors a centre for activity, residence possibly, and health related care and at the same time, hopefully offer many of our youth opportunities to engage and work with our elderly! This may be a project that touches all levels of government and community, but would serve the Trimbee family proud for keeping a local service approach to the future use of this building!

Residency:

I currently do not live in the boundaries of York-South Weston. But, over the years, the boundaries have changed many times and subsequently, I have lived and voted many times for candidates representing York-South Weston.

An Apology

Today seemed like a slow news day and I thought I had stumbled onto news about a boundary change for the Federal Riding of York South-Weston. Once published, a reader questioned my accuracy and as I was composing a clever reply, Paul Ferreira from MP Mike Sullivan’s office came to my rescue through a quick email pointing out my error. Red faces all round (well here anyway). To anyone who read the article (since assigned to the dustbin) please accept my apologies and know that I will try harder in the future.