Selling off taxpayer assets.

This week (Monday) we will have a meeting concerning the land, some of which was donated to the town of Weston for what became Humber River Regional Hospital back in the 1940s. We will also have a residents’ meeting (Wednesday) to hear citizen input regarding the Weston Hub on John Street. In both of these cases, taxpayer funded entities sold or are looking to sell valuable public land to developers. The Toronto Parking Authority sold off the old GO Station parking lot with little fanfare and now HRRH effectively wants to sell its entire site to developer/s.

On the one hand, we have been told by Councillor Nunziata and others, it’s essential for a tower to be built as part of the Weston Hub on the GO site but according to Inside Toronto, she is quoted as being opposed to one on the hospital site,

“The people from the community are very concerned because it is an 11-acre site, it is zoned institutional and they were concerned the hospital was going to try and sell it to the highest bidder and build towers, residential, which they didn’t want.”

I would guess that those same citizens of Weston aren’t cheering about a 31– 30 storey* rental tower on the old GO parking lot but it looks like they’re getting one. Why is the HRRH site any less vulnerable? Answer: it’s probably not.

As the old saying goes, there is only one taxpayer. Why are (often hard fought) public assets compromised by the need for taxpayer funded agencies to raise cash? Surely our cities deserve better and more deliberate planning than this?

One more thing… Farmers Market traders have been concerned for a while that because their new site is so much smaller, they won’t have room for their vehicles. Superimposing the approximate new space allocation (black line) over a satellite view of the Market in full swing is quite telling and may explain traders’ anxiety. This much smaller space may work well with stalls selling selling pickled artisanal mushrooms and the like but it probably won’t be the same for many of our current traders who need their current freedom to spread out.

Farmers Marketl space allocation after the Hub is built.

Farmers Marketl space allocation (black line) after the Hub is built.

Parking may be an issue too as that will be in the lower part of the green space at the bottom of the image.

*Update: Etobicoke York Council minutes have changed (from the original agenda) to now state that the Hub rental apartment will be 30 storeys. Hopefully it was just a typo on the part of clerical staff.

22 John St–my view:

I am not opposed to rental buildings on John Street. The Rockport Group developers—and Daniel and Jack Winberg in particular—are genuinely nice people, honestly concerned with doing a good job, and they want to give much to the community. We should welcome them and Artscape.

But Weston should get the most out of this deal, and we should be careful.

In particular, I am not thrilled about the 30-storey tower nor the self-storage facility. The original design, which called for a shorter tower and a wider base, was more like the Weston I love.

As I understand it, this shorter tower was overruled by city planners, who said that developments in Weston must adhere to the “Tall Building Guidelines”. The city planners are wrong—these guidelines are just that, guidelines, meant to be adjusted for neighbourhoods. I think we should be furious with them for overruling wise architecture and community sentiment. But it is likely—certain, even—that this ship has sailed. If we are getting a tower, it’s going to be a big one.

Maybe that’s not true of the self-storage facility. Right now, the plan calls for the long-empty space at the ground level of 33 King to be converted into a very large storage area for residents, artists, and the community.

This is a waste.

Space2 copy

The storage space will be five times larger than the cultural hub. It will be three times larger than the outdoor community space. In a real way, we can see this development as only an apartment and storage facility—together, they add up to 97% of the total developed area. The hub and the market are tiny in comparison.

Space copy

We can do better.

33 King has been empty for years, which might make one think it is a white elephant, a failed idea without potential. I don’t think so. It is empty because it can’t make money. But there are hundreds of happy potential customers with a million great ideas and endless energy—but no money except their allowances.

33 King is at the intersection of two schools, a cultural hub, and the library. It should be a space given to children and education. We could have

  • A daycare—our last  one closed several years ago
  • A tutoring facility
  • A maker-space
  • A community centre with recreation facilities
  • A huge indoor play area for the harsh winters
  • An indoor garden and park

But, more than anything, I think we should be creative. We should ask the schools and the libraries what they would do and what they could use. This is too good a space to waste on dusty books and broken lamps. It should be a space for fresh learning and bright lights.

Hussen blows it.

The Federal election campaign has been running for, well, a whole campaign now and some strange things have been happening on the road to Ottawa.

Ahmed Hussen was the surprise nomination of the York South-Weston Liberals back in December last year. Many had expected YSW Liberal Riding executive Jules Kerlinger to be a nominee but he inexplicably withdrew from the race quite early and wouldn’t talk about it. Rumours were that he’d been invited to step aside by the Liberal Party but confirming those rumours proved elusive. Riding Association President, Ryan Ward was unable or unwilling to open up on the subject, referring me to Ottawa functionaries. Jules himself declined to respond.

Former Toronto councillor Bill Saundercook was then expected to get the nod but during the voting process, a strange turn of events took place. Large numbers of people came by the busload to vote and somehow, a bottleneck occurred at the membership and credential checking process. Late in the afternoon, with time pressing, organizers decided to close the polls before everyone was able to reach the voting booths. Outsiders shrugged and thought that this was simply business as usual for the Liberals.

Bill Saundercook.

Bill Saundercook confidently awaits the result at the nomination meeting.

The result of the vote that fateful day was a shock, not merely because a seeming long-shot had won but also because of the surprisingly small number of votes cast when compared to the huge numbers lined up – no doubt a result of the glacial pace of the voting line. The winner was a relative unknown, Ahmed Hussen but he had a well known local backer, George Smitherman.

As 2015 progressed, Mr. Hussen was seen at various events in York South-Weston and it was thought that his campaign was shaping up nicely. With a good tail wind from Justin Trudeau, he had a reasonable chance of winning the seat.

Moderator Judith Hayes listens to the candidates.

John Johnson (Green) and Mike Sullivan (NDP) tackle the issues.

There is usually one major debate in York South-Weston before an election. This is meticulously organized by an army of hard-working volunteers from one or more organizations in the riding who do what is necessary to hold a fair debate. Many of these people are politically active but not exclusively for any one party. On September 16, Mr. Hussen announced to organizers that he would not attend the debate. More recently, the candidate allegedly let it be known that he considered the debate to be partisan; skewed in favour of the NDP.

Moderator Judith Hayes listens to the candidates.

Moderator Judith Hayes listens to the candidates.

Knowing the scrupulous lengths to which organizers of these events go makes it clear that no party owns or controls these debates. To make the allegation even more fatuous, Liberal riding executive Jules Kerlinger was part of the proceedings and read audience questions to the candidates. Witnessing the event were former YSW Liberal MP, Alan Tonks and Liberal MPP Laura Albanese who would have quite correctly blown the whistle had anything underhanded been transpiring.

Jules Berlinger reads audience questions at last night's debate.

Jules Kerlinger reads audience questions at last night’s debate.

At this stage it should be mentioned that the Conservative Party candidate also failed to show up at the debate. This was neither a surprise nor much of a disappointment as it seems to be Party policy, especially in York South-Weston where the right-wing vote along with Tory candidates’ speaking skills are generally on the marginal side.

York South-Weston's democratic deficit.

York South-Weston’s democratic deficit.

One can only surmise that Mr Hussen’s sudden attack of shyness was not from a fear of entering some sort of NDP stronghold where he would be ambushed by frothing hordes of rabid lefties. The only conclusion that the public can come to is that he was woefully unprepared to respond to audience questions and decided to bolt. That alone is telling.

So much for the Big Red Wave. Thanks to Mr. Hussen, its now likely to be a trickle in this riding and YSW federal Liberals are facing four more years in the political wilderness. Perhaps the geniuses at Party HQ should have gone with Mr. Kerlinger after all.

Weston a dump? Not so much.

An interesting article in Toronto life ranks all of Toronto’s 140 neighbourhoods based on ten weighted categories such as affordable housing, crime, transit, shopping and so on that others more qualified can argue over. What matters is that perception is everything and outsiders have perceived Weston and Mount Dennis for that matter to be quickly improving places. You may remember that Mount Dennis came dead last in 2013.

Some notable local rankings (2013 ranking in brackets):

  • Humber Heights Westmount: 66 (112)
  • Weston: 75 (105)
  • Mount Dennis 93 (140)
  • Weston Pellam Park: 96 (125)
  • Kingsview Village The Westway: 136 (123)

Interestingly Edenbridge came in at 81 (81) and Lambton Baby Point at 82 (78).

Coming soon in a meeting whose location is yet to be determined, people will be explaining to the citizens of Weston that since we’re a dump, we shouldn’t expect nice things and that nobody wants to invest in anything too fancy here.

Perhaps they’re wrong.

Hub rezoning community meeting.

The old GO Station parking lot, existing rental tower and unused podium.

The old GO Station parking lot, existing rental tower, unused ground floor and multi-level parking.

An item up for discussion at next week’s Etobicoke York Community Council Meeting concerns the Weston Hub and surrounding area. At this meeting, City staff will be directed to invite residents within 150 metres of the Hub to a consultation meeting. Presumably this will be to listen to residents’ suggestions and concerns about the project. As yet a location and hour have not been announced but the date will be Wednesday, September 16. (The meeting is being rescheduled – WestonWeb will publish the date once it’s known.) In attendance will no doubt be the major players in this endeavour including Councillor Frances Nunziata. As with all such consultation meetings, any member of the public is eligible to attend.

The tower.

An artist’s impression of the proposed 30-storey rental tower (from Rockport).

In order for the project to go ahead, approval must come from the Community Council at their November 10th meeting. It will then go to Toronto City Council for final approval (rubber stamp) and enactment.

From the Preliminary Report Summary:

This application proposes to amend the Official Plan, the former City of York Zoning By-law No. 1-83 and City of Toronto Zoning By-law 569-2013 to permit the development of a 30-storey, 370-unit rental apartment building, seven at-grade townhouses and a 1,200 m² outdoor community open space at 22 John Street, which will be used for a Farmers Market and public open space.  A 794 m² Creative Cultural Hub with 26 affordable live/work artist units is also proposed at 33 King Street and 2 Elsmere Avenue, with 70 new Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) parking spaces on the lands municipally known as 14 John Street.


In addition, 3,897 m² of vacant ground floor space at 33 King Street is proposed to be converted to a self-storage facility.  Parking for the proposed development at 22 John Street would be provided in an underutilized parking garage located at 33 King Street.


The Weston community has been identified as one of the City’s 31 Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIA’s). The proposed development, along with local expansion of public transit by Metrolinx and GO Transit, will contribute to an area-wide social and economic revitalization.


This report provides preliminary information on the above-noted application and seeks Community Council’s direction on further processing of the application and on the community consultation process.


A community consultation meeting arranged by staff in consultation with the Ward Councillor has been scheduled for September 16, 2015.  A Final Report and statutory public meeting under the Planning Act to consider this application is targeted for the  November 10, 2015 meeting of Etobicoke York Community Council provided that all required information is submitted by the applicant in a timely manner.

Coming soon to Weston?

Coming soon to Weston? Yuuuuup!

I don’t recall prior mention of almost 4000 square metres (43,055 sq feet) of rental self-storage as part of previous Hub discussions. Surely self-storage doesn’t belong in or near a cultural hub? This dwarfs the less than 800 square metres (8,611 sq feet) of creative programming space also on the vacant ground floor of 33 King. In other words the ground floor community space will be 83% self-storage. Since the apartment building will have no parking spaces, tenants will be sharing parking space with the storage and Cultural Hub folks in the existing multi-level parking garage. The number of rental apartments in the 30-storey building seems to have been nudged about 6% upwards from Artscape’s claim of 350 to 370. Flatteringly, Artscape reckons that Weston is, “a neighbourhood that has not seen new private investment since the 1970s”.

It just gets better.

N.B. This article has been edited to reflect that the meeting will not be held on September 16 but on another date. The Etobicoke York Community Council Agenda had this as the date but according to Councillor Nunziata it is incorrect. WestonWeb will publish the date once it’s known.

HRRH The City may own part of the land – a perspective


The Church Street site of Humber River Regional Hospital is closing in October and as Adam has pointed out in several articles, the land will be up for grabs. Many residents of Weston breathed a sigh of relief when they learned that benefactors who donated land for a hospital in Weston had made a condition of their donation that the land must always be used as a hospital. The donation was made to the town of Weston, whose successor is the City of Toronto. It’s not the whole site as the hospital has grown since 1948 but 1.2 acres (out of 11.5) is enough of a chunk to make development more challenging.

The Humber River Regional Hospital Site. From

The Humber River Regional Hospital site.

Much speculation has occurred over what precisely should happen to the land. Recognizing that we live in a big city where real estate is expensive and development almost inevitable, what will happen to the site? Will there be open space? What kind of housing will be built? Will housing match that in the neighbourhood or will there be townhouse and high-rise development? Will the covenant be honoured and what form will that take?

The tired looking entrance to the Church Street site.

The entrance to the Church Street site.

Unfortunately, ownership of land by the City did not protect the Farmers Market site from being sold off to a developer. The same fate awaits this parcel of land unless an eagle eye is kept on the process. The public needs to be informed and have input into every step and decision made along the way. No doubt there will be talk of wonderful collaborations with a developer but these will come with a cost as we found out recently with the Farmers Market site.

Farmers Market at Crossroads

There is much discontent at the Farmers Market with some traders threatening to pull out as mentioned in Adam’s recent article.

I paid a visit to the Market last week and yesterday trying to see the place with fresh eyes. Thanks to delays in constructing the John Street pedestrian bridge, the main approach is from Weston and John. Looking along John from Weston Road, there is nothing to indicate to pedestrians that there is a market. Incidentally, when will BMO fix their clock?

Yes, the Market is in full swing!

Yes, the Market is in full swing! Click to enlarge.

It’s not just the lack of visibility that’s causing the problem. People on the Weston Village side of John Street face a long trek to the market via King Street or Lawrence Avenue. Those using the car face a fight for a parking space and once in the car, there’s the temptation to just head off to the supermarket.

Communication with traders also seems to be a problem. I was chatting to one of the Farmers Market’s largest stall operators a week last Saturday and according to him, he had heard only rumours about next year’s move. “They tell us nothing”, he lamented. The trader, who has been coming to Weston for more than 30 years, was under the impression that the temporary move was to a Lawrence Avenue location.

He claimed that some of his fellow stall operators are still considering calling it quits as they are discouraged by the prospect of being squeezed into a smaller space in the much vaunted Weston Hub, with long walks to set up stalls and then for supplies as the day goes on. He told me that he has to return to his truck several times each day to bring out fresh produce – if the truck was some distance away (as it will be once the Hub is complete), he would consider moving elsewhere.

A panoramic shot from the 'Hub' boundary fence. The Vos Farms Egg Man is on the left.

A panoramic shot from the ‘Hub’ boundary fence. The Vos Farms Egg Man is on the left. Click to enlarge.

Looking at a panoramic view of the Market it is clear that it’s a bit of a mess with trucks parked alongside rows of stalls. Markets in more upscale areas such as Wychwood Barns don’t have supply trucks as part of the mix. While Weston’s Market can be considered charmingly old-fashioned or just messy, it does make life easier for many traders. They don’t sell much in the way of produce at Wychwood – perhaps because of the difficulties caused by the separation of trucks and stalls. Incidentally, all is not sweetness at Artscape’s Wychwood Artist Studios either.

Wychwood Barns.

Wychwood Barns. Click to enlarge.

Had we been able to turn the clock back (not the one at BMO), the City’s selling the Market’s current location to a property developer now seems like a move that should have been foreseen and stopped. The land could have become Weston’s civic square and a park as well as contain the Farmers Market, Hub and a community centre. That potential has been lost forever and much of the outdoor space will now be occupied by a 30-storey rental apartment building and podium. All accomplished with the enthusiastic support of Councillor Frances Nunziata and the 106-member Weston Village Residents’ Association. As they say, those who fail to learn from mistakes of the past…

Weston's BMO branch - where time stands still.

Weston’s BMO branch – where time stands still.

There does seem to be optimism among traders that the new (but temporary) location in the GO Station parking lot south of Lawrence will allow for a bigger space with more parking and better visibility from Weston Road. If that is a success, getting them back to John Street in two or three years might prove difficult if not impossible. In the meantime, Weston BIA Chair, Masum Hossein is looking for ideas that would improve the current year’s Market and thus encourage more people to attend (the Market is operated through the Weston Business Improvement Area).

Debbie Gibson from the B.I.A. sells Farmers Market fundraising T-shirts

Debbie Gibson from the B.I.A. sells Farmers Market fundraising T-shirts

Readers are invited to give suggestions through the comments section of this article or contact Mr Hossein directly.