Drake General Store Pop-Up Hits Mount Dennis

The pop up shop concept (from Scadding Court site).

The Mount Dennis BIA is about to open a pop-up shop. Julia Maddin, Mount Dennis resident and General Manager of the Canadiana and Toronto themed Drake General Store downtown (not that Drake) will run a pop-up-shop in Mount Dennis this and next weekend. Working with Scadding Court’s BOB (Business Out of the Box) Project, the idea is operate a pop-up shop in Mount Dennis, under the lights of Nyctophilia at the corner of Weston Road and Dennis Avenue. While not quite the concept that we at Weston Web have been harping on about, it’s a good start that may lead to bigger and better things; especially if Mayor Tory’s excellent suggestion to tax vacant stores is adopted. Yes, even the Mayor gets things right sometimes.

When: December 10th to 11th between 11 am and 5 pm, December 17th to 18th between 11 am and 5 pm, and again for the BIA’s Winter Solstice Event on Wednesday, December 21st from 6-8 pm. 10% of all proceeds will go back into the community.

Community Centre Opening Delayed – again.

For those not on Councillor Nunziata’s email list, news has arrived that the opening of the long awaited community centre will be further delayed. The expensive Centre at Eglinton and Black Creek has been tantalizing passing drivers for months as it looks very close to completion.

The word is that the opening will occur sometime towards the end of this year or early next. The opening date has been pushed back several times already and this latest delay is another blow to those in the fortunate position of actually being able to access the facility (mainly drivers).

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.

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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.

Weston Station Restaurant up for sale

From Realtor.ca
From Realtor.ca

Being of a cautious nature with a strong preservation instinct I have always resisted the temptation to wander into the Weston Station Restaurant for a meal or even a story. The building, at 1935 Weston Road in downtown Weston has had a checkered history but is now for sale and with that, the prospect of new ownership. Apparently there is 6600 square feet of floor space with 14 tenants upstairs (who knew?) and a restaurant and licensed bar downstairs.

The listing is on Realtor.ca and can be yours for a dollar shy of $2 million.

Weston / Mount Dennis is gentrifying – in spots

There is an interesting article in the Toronto Star today that discusses gentrification, its effects and where it is happening in our city. The article looks at the change in household income between 2006 and 2015 in neighbourhoods across the city. While neither Weston nor Mount Dennis can be classified as gentrified – or even close (yet), there are significant increases in household income in many of our neighbourhoods.

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Warm colours represent larger increases while blue indicates a decrease in household income.

Interestingly, Weston Village is a rare Toronto enclave where incomes have stagnated or even dropped over that 9-year period. That’s not to say that incomes there are low but they’ve not kept up with the rest of the city in that time. In contrast, neighbourhoods along Weston Road seem to have become more prosperous. There is a particular hot spot (+34%) north and south of Lawrence just west of Weston Road but it’s probably too soon to say if the UP Express has had an effect (btw, my neighbours love taking the 14-minute UP Express trip into Toronto for baseball games at the Skydome Rogers Centre.)

Many parts of Mount Dennis, have also seen an above average increase. Again, the 2021 opening of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT may be a factor in this but time will tell.

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The results across the city showed an 18% average increase in household income. Check the Star’s article to see how your neighbourhood compares.

Ontario Government lets payday lenders off the hook

From Richmond Times Dispatch.
From Richmond Times Dispatch.

After dragging its heels for months, the Ontario Government has finally acted on a promise to do something about the huge rates charged by the payday loan industry in this province. As readers in Weston / Mount Dennis are painfully aware, these stores have proliferated in our communities and prey mainly on the poor, charging as much as 21% for a two-week loan; an eye-watering annual rate of 14,299%.

All of this was made possible in 2006 by the lovely Vic Toews, then Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the late lamented Conservative government. His bill made it legal for companies to charge more than (the then) usurious rate of 60% annually by giving provinces the power to regulate their own loan rates. Ontario opened the flood gates in 2008 and the payday loan industry hasn’t looked back.

The provincial Liberal government, instead of taking leadership, has listened to the Payday Loan lobby and rather than lowering rates drastically, they have decided to take the line of least resistance. They are quietly proposing that as of January 2017, rates for a two-week loan drop to 18% and then in January 2018, rates will become 15%, matching those of Alberta. While this is a good start, there is nothing in the legislation that addresses the dire plight of people forced to borrow at such appalling rates. 15% may sound better, but it is still 3,724% compounded annually.

Here is John Oliver’s take on Payday Loans.

Does Ontario have to go this route? Quite simply, no.

Quebec has taken the lead and they cap annual loan rates at 35%. As a result, there are no payday loan companies in that province.

That is the example that Ontario needs to follow and would help poor in our province dig their way out of poverty. In addition, some pressure on our hugely profitable banks and credit unions to provide loans to the poor would not go amiss.

If readers would like to comment on the proposed changes to the act, the Ontario Government isn’t making things easy. The contact page is here and a written submission may be sent via email or snail mail.

MPP Laura Albanese’s contact information is here and her constituency phone number is 416-243-7984.

 

Have your say about rental apartment licensing

When I was a young lad in some dim and distant past, rental apartment buildings were glamorous creatures. They were modern, had great views, lots of room and everything was included in the rent. Most had a sauna and outdoor pool. For gosh sakes they even had laundry facilities in the basement!

Then in the 1970s, the practice of subsidizing tenants in rental apartments was a cheaper alternative to building public housing. Poor people flooded apartment buildings and with rising incomes, middle-income earners began to abandon rental housing. For the most part, rental apartments became the domain of the poor and were synonymous with shabby conditions and health issues. Conditions steadily deteriorated and ten years ago, in Weston, the two towers at 1765 and 1775 Weston Road were in atrocious condition and the subject of bitter complaints. The federal government stepped in with forgivable loans and millions were spent upgrading rental buildings.

1765 Weston Road in 2012 (file).
1765 Weston Road pictured in 2012 (file).

Nowadays, renting is the only option for many people in the current real-estate market. While conditions have improved, many buildings are poorly maintained and it is felt that legislation concerning these buildings needs an overhaul.

The City of Toronto wants to hear from its citizens about licensing rental apartment buildings. According to the City,

The intended goal of the licensing framework is to build on the current Multi-Residential Apartment Building Audit Program by promoting best practices in building maintenance, strengthening enforcement of property standards violations, and improving tenant engagement and access to information.

The public and stakeholders will have an opportunity to:
• contribute to establishing goals and objectives for a licensing framework
• create recommendations related to current challenges and/or gaps in regulation; rules governing the operations of rental apartment buildings such as maintenance and cleaning plans; enhancement of the current building audit program, including enforcement of property standards; and improved public access to information about rental buildings, and
• submit their own recommendations for improving tenant living conditions.

The meeting for our area will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, August 24: Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, Meeting Room 1/2/3, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.