Major Weston Property Deal Being Cooked…Ramifications all round

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.

The site as imagined in 2012.

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.

Upcoming events

14570607_1105793426169176_3473622563130770711_oNow this is my kind of fundraiser. Frontlines is having a cigar and drinks evening at Martins Churrasqueira this Saturday. Cigars, beer, and wine are included in the $100 ticket.

The annual Weston Farmer’s Market fall harvest festival will be this Saturday.

The BIA has also announced the date for the Weston Santa Claus parade: it will be  Sunday, Nov 27th at 2.00 p.m.  They’re looking for volunteers.

A piece of history is going

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The building was a backdrop to the Farmers Market opening day ceremonies in 2013.

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”.

Image from Artscape
Image from Artscape

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.

Summer sights along Weston Road…

It’s the height of summer and some things are happening yet some things stay the same.

Cruickshank Ford is still open but its main building is being demolished to make way for a more updated showroom. Sales now take place in a trailer on the site and service is still in the old location for now.
Cruickshank Ford is still open for business but its main building is being demolished to make way for a more modern showroom. Sales now take place in a trailer on the site.
The temporary sales office.
Cruickshank Ford’s temporary sales office. Service is still in the old location for now.
Weston Towns are nearing completion.
Weston Towns: This development quickly sold out with prices starting at $399,000. They are being built on the former Beer Store site and some will be occupied this year. These at the rear are the most complete and will be the first to be occupied.
Later phases of the townhomes closer to Weston Road.
Weston Towns: Later phases of the townhomes closer to Weston Road. According to the builder, First Avenue Properties, the first 16 owners will be moving in on November 17 this year.
Not much is happening at the future Weston Hub apart from some rehabilitation of the parking garage that will provide the parking for residents of the 30 storey rental that will be placed on the old Farmers Market site.
Weston Hub: Not much seems to be happening at the future Weston Hub apart from some rehabilitation of the parking facility that will provide parking for residents of the 30 storey rental soon to be placed on the old Farmers Market site.
Looking over the Hub site towards John Street.
Weston Hub: Looking over the Hub site towards John Street.
The beautiful flower display by Weston's war memorial contrasts nicely with James Gove's stonework.
Little Avenue: The beautiful flower display along Little Avenue by Weston’s Cenotaph contrasts nicely with James Gove’s famous stonework.

Farmers Market update

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.

Deborah Gibson from the BIA doing a fine carny barker routine.
Deborah Gibson from the BIA encourages passing traffic to try the market.

The larger space of the Metrolinx lot allows for a better arrangement of stalls that has much more appeal from the street.

Now that’s what a market looks like. Wychwood Barns it ain’t but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Those two SUVs are still blocking the view (we’re talking to you smoothie man and Grandpa Ken).
Grandpa Ken’s bacon sandwiches are still big sellers. Perhaps Grandpa Ken could encourage his clients to line up so that they don’t block access to other traders.

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.

Is it too much to hope for a beer garden?

Farmers Market – my 2 cents.

I made my first visit of the year to the Weston Farmers Market on Saturday in its new location. It’s not for lack of trying but a family vacation, a sick relative and Saturday morning forgetfulness have kept me away until now.

It was re-assuring to see many familiar traders there such as Grandpa Ken and the Egg Man.

Other traders I spoke to seemed to feel that business is slow but has been picking up recently. This makes sense as at this time of year, there is more legitimate produce from actual farmers.

Just a couple of observations from the point of view of a ‘naive’ visitor looking at the location for the first time.

Seen from Weston Road, there is little to indicate that a farmers market is happening.
Seen from Weston Road, there is little to indicate that a farmers market is happening.

One of the big advantages of this new temporary site is that the market has a much higher visibility, being situated in full view on Weston Road. There seemed to be interest from passing vehicles; cars were slowing but moved on, possibly because they couldn’t figure out what was happening.

The best view of the market is from the station side rather than the road.
The best view of the market is from the station side rather than the road. There is no mistaking from this angle what is happening here.

Strangely, the best view of the market is from the station end of the stalls rather than the Weston Road side. Cars and end stalls block the view from the street.

Even from this close, it's not that obvious what is happening.
Even from this close, it’s not that obvious what is happening and it looks a mess. The gold and red SUVs hide the market from the street. Photo taken at 10:15am.

It would seem that a couple of simple adjustments would make a big difference and attract more passing traffic. It might also remind people who haven’t been this year that the market still exists.

  1. There is a need for a large banner outside the market to indicate what is going on and entice people to stop.
  2. Traders’ vehicles should not be blocking views of the market from the road.
  3. All traders should be arranged in rows perpendicular to Weston Road for maximum attractiveness, accessibility and visibility.