Today was the last day of the Weston Farmers’ Market. I went with my family at midday, when the vendors were beginning to wind down. There was a pronounced melancholy in the air, along with the threat of rain.
The three local politicians were there, announcing to a small crowd a new—and quite nice—mural facing the GO parking lot. It has a quite different aesthetic than most of the murals in town: more abstract, with an 1980’s colour palette.
Ever since Scotiabank pulled the plug on its Weston and Lawrence location, speculation has been mounting regarding the future of the corner site. It’s a bit of a historic building in its own right and might even be preserved in some form when redevelopment inevitably takes place.
When the discussions (Charettes) around planning for the UP Express were taking place back in 2011-12, the site was bandied about as having a possible future institutional use – perhaps a community college (George Brown) or a YMCA facility – later deep-sixed by the YMCA themselves. George Brown’s objection was that without all day GO Train service, the location would not be considered. Now that we have (a sort of) all-day service and as an added bonus the newly affordable UP Express, perhaps the college will reconsider but it may be too late.
Next door to the Scotiabank site, the Weston Park Baptist Church (WPBC) community has made no secret that they would be interested in selling up, together with their parking lot received as a donation several years ago. They also expressed an interest in being part of any new development of the site. Incidentally, the WPBC parking lot saved the Farmers Market’s bacon earlier this season when in spite of years of advanced notice, Metrolinx puzzlingly fell mute on permission to use the UP Express parking lot on Saturdays. At short notice, Weston Park’s minister saved the day and the market was able to operate on WPBC land until Metrolinx’s vast bureaucracy was prodded into spitting out the necessary paperwork.
Added together, these two locations plus any land that Metrolinx throws in, would form a site with considerable development potential. In the original Charette plans, it was deemed that the street frontages of any new buildings on Weston and Lawrence would be low to mid-rise while anything built further back from Weston Road near the tracks could go higher. Rumour has it that a deal has been in the works for some time and that once the details are carved in stone, the public will be invited to comment.
We all know by now that City building guidelines go out the window whenever a developer offers a few crumbs to the community so cynical readers will know to expect some tall residential buildings on that corner. Add a rubber stamp from the ever-so-accommodating Weston Village Residents’ Association (representing a tiny fraction of the thousands of people in Weston) and yet another golden opportunity will have been lost.
One side-effect of having the WPBC parking lot out of commission is that in 2018, the Farmers Market will be dragged kicking and screaming back to a much smaller space in the newly built and pristine Weston Hub. Unlike the current set-up, space will be at a premium so traders’ vehicles will have to be parked relatively far away. Traders are very unhappy about this. Removing the WPBC parking lot as an alternate site will reduce the possibility of a mutiny on the part of these traders, a feisty and vociferous bunch who have enjoyed increased sales at the more visible Weston Road location and are murmuring about boycotting the new Hub site. This lack of an alternative location will be a win for Councillor Nunziata who would have some ‘splainin’ to do if the ‘Farmers’ were able to boycott the new digs. It still remains to be seen whether or not the traders (some of whom are actual farmers) will be able to fit into the smaller spaces more suited to selling pickled condiments than pumpkins and unshucked corn.
Whatever happens, you can guarantee that the people who actually live, work and shop in Weston will be the last ones to be consulted or informed.
The tiny building that was home to the Weston Farmers Market is to be demolished. The building stored essentials, housed a washroom and provided power and water to the old Farmers Market.
The application to demolish is from Kathryn Randle of 22 John Street Developments. Oddly, the building (and presumably the land where the Weston Hub will be built) still belongs to the Toronto Parking Authority. According to Council briefing notes, “transfer of the ownership is still outstanding at this time”.
Why the transfer delay? It could be a formality or perhaps a more serious problem but does explain why the site is so quiet in spite of a cast of thousands shovelling mightily at the June 2016 groundbreaking ceremony.
Weston Farmers Market has finally moved to its designated temporary location in the UP Express parking lot on Weston Road south of Lawrence. As readers know, this year, the market had to find a new home as the old site was sold by the Toronto Parking Authority and is being ‘developed‘. Metrolinx was persuaded to allow the market to use its UP Express parking lot but unfortunately dragged its feet and didn’t have the site ready for the market until late last week. Thanks are due to MPP and provincial cabinet minister, Laura Albanese for applying pressure on behalf of the market through many letters to Metrolinx.
Thanks should also go to Weston Park Baptist Church who, when asked, donated their parking lot to the Market while the Metrolinx site was unavailable. Weston B.I.A. Chair Masum Hossein tells me that without Weston Park’s generosity, the market would have had nowhere to go while waiting for Metrolinx to release the site.
This week, in a new location and layout, the market looked much more like a market from the street and if there was any doubt, the B.I.A.’s Deborah Gibson was pulling in passing traffic in fine carny barker style.
The larger space of the Metrolinx lot allows for a better arrangement of stalls that has much more appeal from the street.
Masum also mentioned that the market area is patrolled on Friday nights until early on Saturday mornings and then cones are strategically placed so that people aren’t tempted to park overnight in the market area.
Councillor Frances Nunziata was there keeping an eye on things (you can see her in the second photo far left). Traders I spoke to seemed pleased at the numbers this week and the weather cooperated. It also helps that there is a large amount of fresh Ontario produce available, much of which comes directly from farms and orchards. I bought some peaches and they were delicious.