30 Storey tower concerns residents

There’s some good news and bad in the latest development proposal unveiled in last week’s information meeting hosted by Councillor Frances Nunziata. Well over 100 people packed the York West Active Living Centre where terms such as podium as it refers to the base of a tall tower and Woonerf were tossed around.

Since the move of Weston GO Station south of Lawrence, the parking lot has remained the home of Weston Farmers Market but is a bit of an eyesore and has lost its primary function. Over the last few years, residents have been involved in brainstorming the future of Weston and responding to subsequent ideas brought forward by developers and the city.

The Good

People power in Weston pushed the addition of a stop along the UP Express line. From that one act has come political respect for Weston residents, a commitment from politicians to spend money, quality planning for the future that involves residents and the unavoidable attention of developers who want a piece of the action. A business plan has been approved by the city for the development of land in the centre of Weston.

Lands to be developed not only include the old GO Station parking lot but the recently expropriated adjacent vacant land. Tied in with this will be an agreement with the owners of 35 King Street (late lamented home of Andrew McLean), Artscape and the City. The betting is that 26 subsidized living / work spaces plus creative programming and outdoor public space will encourage businesses and institutions to invest in Weston. Artscape will be given a lease to run the spaces for 50 years.

There will still be outdoor space for the Farmers Market which has been a diminished attraction in recent years, losing both customers and vendors. Hopefully the new digs will boost attendance.

A lot of ideas from the charette are still alive and the city feels that creating high quality public spaces is important as people walk through Weston to the UP Express. This pleasant environment will encourage them to linger and support local businesses.

place

The layout of the proposal – the footbridge and rail tracks are at the top right. Artists’ accommodations (brown) are along two sides of the existing building to the left. The original tower footprint is the dotted line.

 

place

The new tower footprint is the small blue square. The Farmers Market will be located near the footbridge ramp (stalls are dark red). Parking spaces for the Farmers Market will ease the parking on Weston Road at other times.

The Bad

Crowning the whole development like a single birthday candle will be a 30-storey residential rental tower. Apparently this kind of height is needed to make enough money for the developer the project worth while. Responding to a resident’s question, Rockport Group C.E.O. Jack Winberg, stated that a condominium development instead of a rental building would not sell in the current market. When asked if there is another tower of similar height in the locality, he mentioned the co-op building at 2100 Weston Road (it’s closer to 20 storeys).

The tower.

The tower.

As a sidenote, Mr Winberg’s company built Scarlett Heights retirement home along Lawrence and handily smacked down residents’ objections when the development was inevitably taken to the OMB.

The not so bad.

Chief City Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat mentioned that the original tower proposal was wider and had no podium. The latest version will have less of a shadow and a podium cuts down on the wind that tall buildings generate.

What Now?

There will be further opportunities to have input on this project and others but it is up to every Weston resident to get involved, attend consultation meetings and ask questions. Community input and the hard work of people and groups such as the Weston Village Residents’ Association have resulted in good things happening but vigilance will be needed to make sure that developers don’t cut corners or maximize their profits at the cost of a liveable community that we can all be proud of.

Media Manipulation?

To the casual observer, sometimes a media storm can seem large and when a story appears in several media outlets, it gains credibility. For a couple of days, the media has been full of news about the partisan use of NDP MPs offices. Our own MP, Mike Sullivan even got a mention.

Looking more closely, it seems that far from being a media storm, it is a single article put out by Joan Bryden of the Canadian Press and faithfully reprinted for example, herehere, here and here… My esteemed colleague Adam rightly covered it because it is news with a local ingredient. Ms Bryden is also the source of other stories about the NDP – concerning the use of satellite offices.

It would be improper to suggest that the Tories and Liberals are feeding Ms. Bryden story ideas. It is also an unfounded suggestion that Mr. Mulcair’s recently improved polling numbers are giving the back room boys in Canada’s traditional ruling parties unwanted bowel movements.

Mulcair - on the rise.
Mulcair – on the rise.    (WestonWeb file).

This month, both the Tories and Liberals are about to be battered by a political tsunami courtesy of their colleagues in the Senate. There are no NDP Senators so the Libs and Cons will be feeling the full wrath of the people. Voters, who have no patience with the concept that Senators are easily confused by forms and may have been tricked into filling them out fraudulently. With more than 100 from the ‘Chamber of Sober Second Thought’,  being asked to justify their claims, hearing about Nancy Ruth enduring deprivations such as cold Camembert and broken crackers is a prescription for high blood pressure.

While such a callous lack of understanding on the part of the public they so selflessly serve must hurt, Mike Duffy’s trial will be in the headlines this month and unless Nigel Wright can perform witchcraft, lots more pain will be inflicted, hence the need for artificial public outrage.

Allegedly, Mr. Sullivan used his constituency office to gather people for a rally. Having been inside Mr. Sullivan’s poky headquarters, it might be easier to have gathered them into something more spacious such as a phone booth.

There is no doubt that partisan activities occur in riding offices. Does the public expect that an MP step outside the office to discuss party strategy? Regardless, is doubtful that the NDP are any better or worse than the Liberals and Tories. The latter two have had more experience in hiding it. One is left to wonder, was this strategy on the part of the Tories and Liberals concocted in a riding office or in the PMO? No doubt that would be illegal too.

As the old saying goes, the first casualty in any war is the truth.

Shop Local – with a notable exception

Here at WestonWeb, we encourage residents to support local businesses and institutions. For example, we have a jewel of a library that is housed in a 100 year-old arts and crafts building. Squibbs, a stationers has been serving the community forever. Some of our eateries are new and some are old. Please support them.

Unfortunately, there is one establishment that cannot be recommended, and that’s a shame. It’s the Emergency department at our local hospital, Humber River Regional at Church Street. On average, for a serious issue, you will spend more than 5 hours longer than the cruel Ontario target of 8 hours between walking in the door to walking out or being admitted to a hospital bed. On the plus side, if your problem is not so serious, you’ll get in and out slightly under the 4 hour target.

Here is a graph with Humber’s wait times (top line) showing an alarming upward trend.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 4.16.14 PM

If we can hold on until October, a new state-of-the-art replacement hospital will be opening.

Until then, stay safe.

Perfect Blend Official Opening

On Saturday March 28, there was a packed house inside Weston’s newest and long anticipated coffee shop and bakery. Perfect Blend had its official opening and Weston’s politicians were there in force to mark the occasion.

A packed house enjoys Perfect Blend's offerings.

A packed house enjoys Perfect Blend’s offerings.

MPP Laura Albanese and Councillor Frances Nunziata.

MPP Laura Albanese (L)  and Councillor Frances Nunziata.

During her speech to the crowd, Councillor Frances Nunziata thanked George Kalamaris  stressed that things are looking up for Weston. As evidence, she named the new medical centre opening up in the old Post Office Building that she claimed will bring ‘thousands of people into Weston’ as well as the new P&M restaurant opening soon. The councillor referred to Weston as being a vibrant community. MP Mike Sullivan stated that people in Weston have been waiting for a good coffee shop for a long time. ‘They were begging for some of the chains to come here but we did better than that with this opening by a local person.’ Sullivan stated he is trying to get Perfect Blend, ‘Connected to the GO Station too so that when the GO Station has its own little coffee shop, then it’s these folks that are supplying it’. Sullivan stressed the importance of supporting local businesses.

Laura Albanese stated that, ‘Small businesses are the heart of every community’ and that Weston is no exception.

Mike McDonald representing the Weston Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association said, ‘We have needed this and wanted this for a long long time.’ His six-year-old son declared that his Perfect Blend bagel was the best he’d ever had.

Mike Sullivan, Laura Albanese and Frances Nunziata congratulate George Kalamaris at the official opening of Perfect Blend Bakery.

Mike Sullivan, Laura Albanese and Frances Nunziata congratulate George Kalamaris at the official opening of Perfect Blend Bakery.

Owner George Kalamaris thanked everyone in the community for coming out and stated that opening Perfect Blend was a dream come true for him. He and his father Costas have been part of the build ‘from the ground up’ at his location as well as across the road at the new P&Ms. George recalled when his grandfather opened P&Ms many years ago and said that 40 years later, his family is part of the community and proud of the contributions they have made in Weston. Perfect Blend has a core of regulars already, after only three weeks. George personally thanked his father Costas for all his hard work and support, ‘Without him, none of this would have been possible. Without him, Perfect Blend wouldn’t be perfect.’

The ribbon cutting ceremony.

The ribbon cutting ceremony (apologies to George the actual ribbon cutter).

Look for Perfect Blend’s Facebook page coming soon. Perfect Blend is an easy walk for most Westonians; and as the old expression goes, use it or lose it.

UP Express nearing completion.

The UP Express is close to becoming a reality. Beginning today, Monday, March 30, Metrolinx will be testing its service at 15 minute intervals between 8:00 pm and 3:00 am, moving to daytime towards the end of April.

In early April, a footbridge across Lawrence just east of Weston Road will be installed to steer passengers safely to the train platform for UP Express and GO Train users. The big lift into place will occur on Saturday, April 11th and should be worth watching.

The North ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.

The North ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.

 

The North ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.

The South ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.

As for the John Street footbridge, this will be installed in the summer.

John Street looking towards Rosemount March 2015

John Street (and its unattractive overhead wiring) looking towards Rosemount. March 2015

The John Street bridge deck - artist's impression.

The John Street bridge deck – artist’s impression – looking towards Weston Road.

The John Street Bridge.

The John Street Bridge – artist’s impression – looking towards Rosemount Avenue.

The UP Express and GO stations are almost complete and are next to each other.

Note the higher platforms for the UP Express.

Note the higher platforms for the UP Express.

The new GO platforms and waiting areas.

The new GO platforms and waiting areas.

Artist's impression of the new Weston GO Station.

Artist’s impression of the new Weston GO Station.

It has been a long haul since the airport link was first proposed. The UP Express is seen by many to be an elitist project for the rich while the transportation needs of the many are unchanged. The trains will be diesel which is a disappointment as it was hoped that the new train would provide an opportunity to electrify the line. Sadly, the much hoped for all-day electrified GO service is still a far off dream.

What’s good about the changes that the UP Express is bringing?

First, the good citizens of Weston showed their political muscle by arguing for and receiving one of only two stations along the route. The fight galvanized the community and has ensured that Weston has a voice and can no longer be relied upon to meekly accept whatever planners and politicians decide is best for us.

Second, although the GO station moved further away from many people in Weston, its replacement is modern, visible (unlike the old station) right on Main Street (Weston Road) and is a visual reminder of access to an incredibly quick ride downtown (and frequent once all day GO service is launched). As has been pointed out before, even on the currently limited GO Train service, Westonians can glide downtown in comfort in 21 or 23 minutes while commuters from the much coveted Royal York subway area have a 34-minute journey and have to change trains, battling the crowds at St George.

Third, the old station was hidden and the new visual reminder and the upgrading of transportation infrastructure has begun to revive interest in Weston as a place to live. Real estate prices, once depressed are starting to recover and businesses are investing in our commercial areas. While the old GO station occupied virtually no real estate, its parking lot that doubles as the home of the Weston Farmers Market (and surrounding property) will be developed to be the focal point of an exciting ‘Community Hub‘.

The lesson we have all learned is that a community has to be vigilant and fight for good infrastructure. It won’t arrive by itself. In addition, developers want to make money regardless of the social cost to the community. We need continued citizen involvement and active and responsive politicians who will represent us regardless of the cost to their career ambitions or political beliefs. We also need to believe in our own community by patronizing local business. Only then will Weston achieve its awesome potential.

Musical Opportunity for Weston Youth

If you know anyone interested in music between the ages of 15 and 24, here is a golden opportunity to learn from the experts. Outstanding band Soundcheck is offering free lessons for a year and they even include the use of an instrument. See the official poster below for the details.

Play Our Sound Poster Final!

Business as usual at City Hall

In spite of the nice shine that Mayor John Tory is putting on the work of running Toronto, for lobbyists and the councillors who meet with them and accept their money, it’s business as usual.

A typical example is the sad story of how eight massive highway billboards were imposed on the people of this city by councillors acting against the public good. Sadly, our own councillor, Frances Nunziata appears to be part of the problem. According to influential blogger and Toronto activist, Dave Meslin, Nunziata, met with billboard lobbyists Paul Sutherland (twice) and David Bordonali (three times), accepting campaign contributions from them both. By mere coincidence, Ms Nunziata then thought she knew better than City Staffers and the citizen Sign Advisory Committee (both of whom rejected the signs) and voted to impose these eyesore traffic distractions onto our landscape.

Apparently this is quite normal – if you’re ever puzzled by the voting patterns of councillors, and why they seem to vote against the public interest, lobbyists might be the answer to your question.

Read the awful details of this depressing story here.