Leaf collection creates stir

Who knew? Only parts of Toronto get mechanical leaf collection. In fact, only parts of Weston get leaf collection.  Few streets north of Church get it, and no street south of the village does. Now Frances Nunziata is pushing the apparent unfairness of this; she and InsideToronto are saying that the city needs to be more equitable.

From Nunziata's office

Leaf collection in Weston

Nunziata told InsideToronto that “It would make sense that the city should implement it city-wide…. There are some places that you can’t because of on-street parking. But maybe the city should go out and collect the leaves.”

Nonsense. This is great politics, but it’s terrible economics. It would be silly, for instance, to collect leaves on Dundas St W, where I used to live: There are very few trees. It makes much sense to collect them in the Weston where flooding has been a problem (leaves clog catch basins) and there are many trees.

Even my kids know that fairness doesn’t mean treating everyone the same (if it did, we’d have a subway). Fairness means treating people right. It might make perfect economic sense to clear the streets of Weston.

96 John St requests severance

The owners of 96 John Street have asked the city to let them sever their property. Doing so will violate several planning regulations, including

  • The frontages will be less than required
  • The lot areas will be smaller than required
  • The dwellings will take up a larger-than-allowed portion of the lot
  • The lots will not have the required amount of lawn or landscaping
  • The garage will be larger than required

The applicants will be making their case before the committee of adjustment this Thursday at 1:00 pm at the York Civic Centre, 2700 Eglinton Avenue West.

Oct 30, 2014 2 3 Oct 30, 2014

Federal Building apartments are ready.

Weston’s old post office, also once known as the Federal Building has had its upper floor renovated by developer Jack Morelli of First Avenue Properties and is now seeking tenants. Readers may remember that across the street, Mr. Morelli is building low-rise condominiums on the old beer store site so these renovations might be some clue as to how he views the neighbourhood’s potential. Readers may also remember that the ground floor of the building will be a medical centre opening next year. WestonWeb took a ‘stickybeak‘ on Tuesday morning during an open house.

Arriving a leisurely half-hour after the event had begun, WestonWeb’s south media team (Roy and Roy) found the front access doors to the apartments were still locked. Since a previous visit in July, even more windows at ground level have been broken. Not an auspicious start. Unable to cool off in a tantalizingly unopened fabulous new coffee shop, a quick scout around the back of the building revealed a door left ajar. A set of terrazzo stairs that have seen better days led to the top floor where a pair of startled agents sprang to their feet and introduced themselves.

First Avenue has gutted the top floor and installed 15 apartments in place of the old offices. There is a choice of one, two or three bedrooms averaging 800 square feet. All apartments and hallways have the same tiled flooring throughout and flat (not textured) 9-foot ceilings. A variety of layouts is available but unfortunately, First Avenue’s definition of a bedroom is sometimes an enclosed space with a door but no window. In one apartment, one of the alleged bedrooms was simply a windowless alcove – a feature described by the agent as flexible. When asked if a windowless bedroom was legal in Toronto, the agent went quiet. When pressed, another awkward silence ensued.

The entrance to Apartment 203

The entrance to Apartment 203

Kitchens are small with formica countertops. The appliances had not yet arrived yet but range hoods appear to be vented to the outside. Bathrooms are standard toilet sink and bath/shower combinations.

The kitchen alcove in Apartment 203.

The kitchen alcove in Apartment 203.

Prices for the apartments range from $900 for a one-bedroom $1050 for a two and $1200 for a three-bedroom. Water is included but heat and hydro are billed extra; heat being supplied via individual apartment furnaces through ceiling vents. Although no laundry facilities are provided in the apartments, a coin laundry room will be available. The lack of air-conditioning could be a problem in summer as windows are quite small. Each unit comes with one parking space.

A windowless bedroom.

A windowless bedroom in Apt 203.

Living room (L) and a bedroom.

The living room (L) and a bedroom of Apt 203.

While no-one will accuse First Avenue Properties of gentrifying Weston, it’s nice to see any reasonable development coming to a formerly empty space in a significant Weston building. Residents will occupy brand new walk-up apartments and have access to a variety of amenities within easy walking distance at an affordable price. The developer might however want to do something about the state of the ground floor exterior which continues to deteriorate.

Condo development–an alternate view

My esteemed colleague, Roy, doesn’t like the proposed condo development at the former Beer Store site. Though I defer to Roy’s considered opinion on many things, about this I disagree; these condos are a fabulous idea.

The black-brick façade might be, ahem, an inspired choice. And three-and-a-half-storey, flat-top buildings are not my first love; they loom. These, though, are primarily aesthetic concerns, and I match plaids, so I’m no judge of beauty. The builder has every incentive to make the buildings attractive, and I trust that they will be nice.

I’m much more in love with the philosophy of the development. First, it’s a brownfield development, the very best kind. Nothing lovely was cut down, torn up, or demolished to make room for it.

Second, townhouses are affordable and create community.

And that is the best part of this new development. The way I see it¹, right now, Weston is two towns². There are the large, often unattractive, generally affordable rental buildings. With many exceptions, people in these buildings are passing through, and often don’t have a strong sense of community.

Then there are the single-family detached houses. They are lovely, old, expensive, and foster an almost cultish community. (I love the cult, to be sure, but nobody would say we are a diverse set of well-adjusted people.)

This new condos could bridge the two groups. The homes will be affordable. The many people who find a $650,000 fixer-upper a little insane³ will able to buy in Weston.

And we want those people. People who own have every incentive to make their community better. And people who own 500-square-foot affordable condos might just be more interesting, entrepreneurial, and—yes—fun than the rest of us.

These condos are the start of a new kind of building in Weston. They might also be the start of a new sort of community.

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¹That’s a nice way of saying “I have no data to back this up”

² With a huge number of exceptions.

³ i.e. sane people

Developer: How about 62 Stacked Townhomes?

Wednesday’s meeting to discuss the latest development proposals for the old Beer Store property at 2059 – 2069 Weston Road was deja vu all over again. The developer, Jack Morelli from First Avenue Properties and Councillor Nunziata met with residents last October and the proposal at that time was for 38 townhomes on the site.  

First the good news:

One of the developer’s other properties, the old Post Office building at 2050 Weston has found a major tenant. A medical centre (relocating from Mount Dennis) will occupy the entire 20,000 square feet of the ground floor next Spring. The upstairs will contain 15 new apartments.

Now the bad news:

After being sent back to the drawing board by various city agencies, Mr. Morelli has returned with a revamped proposal that now consists of 3 buildings occupying a smaller footprint but containing 62 condominium stacked town homes (a 63% increase) measuring between 500 – 1300 square feet. Each of the buildings will contain 24 underground parking spaces; one per townhome and 10 extras for visitors to the 62 homes. The townhomes will form a frontage along Weston Road. Once again, the city (represented by Natasha Lang) will study the plans to see if they comply with city requirements.

The developer stated that, ‘This is the new concept of town homes and it’s what people want’. He also justified building town homes instead of retail since it took such an effort to find a tenant for his retail space across the street, and besides, ‘There’s too much retail space in Weston anyway’, and, ‘Retail is out of the question’ (on the site).

Apparently the MCR (not R2) zoning on the site allows an 8 storey building on the property. This was repeatedly hammered home by both the developer and Councillor Nunziata. MCR zoning permits a retail ground floor that could form the exterior of the project along Weston Road in keeping with the rest of the historical ‘Main Street’.

All of this seems to be posturing. Mr. Morelli, like any developer, wishes to generate the largest amount of money from the site. He is not doing Weston any favours. To point out that he could put up an 8-storey building is an empty threat. If Mr. Morelli could make more money by erecting such a building, you can be sure he would do so.

The people of Weston will be left with this development for many decades. Townhomes will be a classic case of bad planning along Weston Road in the middle of a retail stretch. While there is a demand for housing, any city planner will tell you that developments need to fit in with their surroundings. As currently proposed, these townhomes will look like missing keys on a piano or the gap in a hockey player’s smile.

The Weston Road Frontage.

The proposed Weston Road Frontage.

DSC04405 (1)

3-D view showing the street entrance of the development.

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Plan view of the development.

Mr. Morelli agreed to the formation of an advisory committee that would work to consider the wishes of area residents. This will be done in conjunction with the Weston Village Resident’s Association.

Weston Federal Building Update.

Last August WestonWeb commented on the dismal state of buildings along Weston Road. This is the first in a series of updates starting with 2050 Weston Road – what was once known as the Weston Federal Building, containing the post office for many years. In 2012 the Federal Government sold the building after efforts by Mike Sullivan and Frances Nunziata to make the property available for community use. The premises have stood vacant for years but now, while things are happening inside, external appearances have changed little.

The old Federal Building. No trace of its former tenant remains.

The old Federal Building as it looked last August.

There Federal Building in July 2014

The Federal Building as it looks today – little changed, its facade still blighted by ugly utility wiring.

A reader of the original article commented that changes to the building had been held up because of asbestos issues on the second floor. These seem to have been fixed as the interior is currently being worked on.

While there has been quite a bit of activity inside the building, the once attractive brick, cement and granite exterior remains largely as it was with a broken window and old graffiti allowed to remain. The planting beds outside the building have been cemented over.

The upper floors are being converted into apartments and are advertised for rent.

Work is in progress on the ground floor.

The interior has been stripped and work is in progress on the ground floor.

Broken windows invite more vandalism.

A broken window outside the old entrance.

Graffiti is still there after nearly a year.

Graffiti is still there after more than a year.

This bench is an artifact from the old City of York and belongs in a museum.

This bench is an artifact from the old City of York and belongs in a museum.

While First Avenue Properties has had a ‘For Lease’ sign displayed on the premises since last August, several calls to arrange a viewing were put off with the comment that, ‘The agent who deals with the property is not in the office’. They did allow that the upper floor apartments will be bachelors and one-bedrooms.

If readers wish to try for themselves, the phone number is 905-856-3031.