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.

City Council will consider ‘Community Hub’ in Weston next week

City Council will vote on funding the cultural hub in Weston next week.

The development will have

  • An 18-storey tower with 350 rental units
  • An 800-square meter (8600 square foot) community/cultural hub
  • 26 rental artist live/work units
  • An 1,150 square meter (12000 square foot) open-space area for the  Weston Farmers’ Market
  • A 75-spot parking lot

The apartment building, townhouses, and live-work spaces will be built on the John Street parking lot and in the vacant spaces under 33-35 King.

City Council will be voting next week to “expedite the planning review process once the Rockport Group has made the necessary planning applications”, among other motions.

The proposal to Council says:

The proposed multi-million dollar investment in the Development will create some 940 new jobs, which, together with the local expansion of public transit byMetrolinx and GO Transit will contribute to an area-wide social and economic revitalization…. The cost to build the Community/Cultural Hub, Live/Work Units and Open Space Area is projected to be $13.3 million, including an operating reserve.

 

Construction is expected to begin in 2016.

 

29 Church continues to draw fire

The repeated law-scoffing at 29 Church is creating a minor crisis at City Hall, and Korce Group (the landlords) may now be wishing they had just taken out the garbage.

In 2003, the landlords installed three apartments on the main floor of the building and refused to provide enough parking for tenants. City officials refused to grant after-the-fact permission for the  apartments, and the landlords appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The OMB forgave some aspects of the landlord’s actions but put conditions on the building. And now, much later, it turns out Korce Group has ignored the conditions.

This was a decade before the landlords paid lawyers rather than builders and tried to get around building garbage facilities and doing repairs at 29 Church. Yet the more recent events seem to have drawn the attention of our City Councillor.

In the Licensing and Standards Committee meeting from last week, Frances Nunziata said,

A recent case in which it was discovered that the conditions within an OMB decision and order from 2005 were not adhered to, nor enforced by the City, raises the question of who is responsible for enforcing OMB decisions and orders….It has been brought to my attention that the instance noted above in which the conditions within an OMB decision have not been enforced is not uncommon.

 

 

She is asking a City Manager to report and explain what can be done to better enforce OMB decisions.

Also (and this delights me), late last year she asked that city staff go enforce the orders from 2005.

Weston man faces eviction for gov’t screw up

A local man was in the news today because he faces eviction from his apartment even though he did nothing wrong.

 

Drywaller Andrew McLean, 53, had arranged for his disability cheques to go directly to his landlord to ensure his rent was paid on time. But when those cheques stopped arriving, Ontario’s Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) prevented new ones from being issued quickly.
Now his landlord has successfully argued for an eviction order for late-payment of rent, though McLean’s disability benefits caseworker admits it’s the government’s fault the cheques weren’t getting there on time.

Realstar, McLean’s landlord, owns the building at 35 King.

8 Oak St facing a fight

Councillor Nunziata says that the potential builders at 8 Oak Street will have a fight on their hands.

Earlier this week, our councillor held a meeting about the proposed development of the Satin Flooring factory near the Superstore. The developers—oh, how I hate that word!—are proposing 99 townhomes.

The homes would be between Knob Hill Drive and the CP Rail line. The site plan is—in your humble correspondent’s humble opinion—a little uninspired: rows of houses quite tightly packed.

Satin Finish

 

There are a number of things I don’t like.

To start with, there is only one playground. This, to me, is a terrible waste. Townhomes and condominiums work on a simple principle: some things are best bought in a group. There is no sane excuse for each one of us having a ladder or a drill. They’re used once a year. Nor is there a good reason for each of us to have a playground in our individual backyards. Playgrounds are best when they are shared, and townhome developments like this—which seems destined to attract first-time buyers—should have lovely, large, well-sited playgrounds (in the plural) for different ages and different styles of play. They should also have a field, for open play, and berms and rocks and streams, and all the things that children delight in every once in a while—things that it makes sense to share. This development has nothing like that.

It fails, too, in the private space. I once lived in a townhouse just like these proposed. My townhouse was larger, nicer, cheaper, and better designed than my home in Weston. When I moved here, I essentially bought a $160,000 backyard.

These townhouses have no backyards. They have no private outdoor space at all. And don’t tell me a rooftop patio can suffice; it cannot. Rooftop patios are for frying eggs, not having barbecues, which are illegal, I found.

Prosaically, the traffic is going to be a pain, I’ll bet. The intersection at Oak and Knob Hill is already stupidly done; it’s impossible to make a right turn around stopped traffic, for instance. This development is going to create minor headaches, since entering traffic is going to block the busy two-lane Knob Hill Drive.

Finally, there is no sense of heritage here. That factory is interesting. Where is the old brick building? Where is the nod to its industrial history? The silo? The people, the jobs, and the buildings that are being displaced? It looks from here that we’re getting another set of honeycomb houses. Those have their place, but we can do better.

Best Place To Live in the World? Toronto – we have proof!

Most of us believe we live in a great city but now we have corroborating evidence. Influential British magazine The Economist has proclaimed Toronto the world’s best place to live based on a number of factors covering things such as personal safety, infrastructure, democracy and food security. While Toronto isn’t number one in any of these indexes, because it ranks consistently high on most of them, it is considered to be the best overall. For example it ranks #70 in cost of living but #4 in both liveability and business environment. As for personal safety, Toronto at #7 is safer than anywhere in North America or Europe except for Stockholm.

OK, Toronto, don’t let it go to your head; now go clean your room. Read the full survey here.

Bulldozers we will cheer for a change

The city may soon get the power to demolish derelict buildings—of which Weston has quite a few.

Presently, Licensing and Standards can force owners to board up, lock doors, and disconnect utilities. It cannot, however, tear buildings down. And so we get empty hulks like those miserable eyesores Weston Road, which have been vacant threats for as long as your humble correspondent  has lived here—at least 7 years—and likely a decade longer than that.

 

Welcome to Weston

The Licensing and Standards Committee is trying to get more power for the city. The city and staff would have “additional tools in the event that properties are not compliant, up to and including the potential for demolition permissions.”

Of course, much must be done—research, consultation, and analysis—and the new powers will not even be proposed until October.

Still, the staff’s goal is lofty: “to move the property from community nuisance to community enhancement.”

It couldn’t happen soon enough.