Nunziata speaks on church for sale

Frances Nunziata has clarified the status of the 150-year-old Weston Road church that is up for sale. St John’s Anglican, which is listed in the Heritage Properties database, is not a designated heritage property. It is for sale for $1,650,000.

From Realtor.ca

Nunziata says

A listed building is protected from demolition by a part of the Ontario Heritage Act that requires an owner to provide the City with a minimum of 60 days advance notice of an intention to demolish, at which point Heritage Preservation Services (HPS) would then initiate the process to have the property given heritage designation. HPS has been notified that the land is now up for sale and they will be monitoring the address.

29 Church continues to be a poor neighbour

It takes a lot of work to give landlords a bad name, but the Korce Group, owners of 29 Church Street, are taking a run at it.

The apartment building has long had issues with garbage, and rather than put money into fixing the problems, they fight City Hall.

The OMB ordered the owners to build a 5′ wooden fence to control their garbage in 2005. Korce never did. Instead, in 2015 (ten years after the original order), they put in a hedge, which neither does the job of retaining garbage nor complies with the law. After a decade of disregarding the OMB’s order, they have asked the city to give them permission to continue breaking the law.

The gall.

The application, thank goodness, was denied by Etobicoke York Community Council this week due to neighbourhood opposition.

The cedar fence reduced visibility for automobiles, because it was planted next to the driveway. There are two schools nearby and school children, among others, use the sidewalk.

Also, the garbage is simply a mess, and it has been so for years. Google Street View tells no lies: for at least 5 years, waste management has been getting progressively worse. Click through and then click on “Jul 2015” to see the history yourself.

Councillor Nunziata asked community council this week to ensure that there are “ongoing enforcement (and related charges) at this property” in line with city bylaws.

 

Sullivan: Weston’s hospital site.

Now that the dust has settled after October’s Federal Election, I was curious as to how former York South-Weston Member of Parliament, Mike Sullivan was adjusting to the new reality of being a regular citizen once more. He agreed to an in-depth interview and we sat down last Friday over coffees in a busy Perfect Blend Bakery. We touched on four main topics that have been published over the last few days.

Already published:

1. Fallout from the election

2. The Weston Cultural Hub

3. Metrolinx

The fourth and final issue that we discussed was Weston’s recently closed hospital.

4. The Church Street, former Humber River Regional Hospital Site.

The Humber River Hospital’s three campus locations have closed to be replaced by a brand new hospital at Wilson and Keele. In preparation for the closing of our local Church Street site, the Hospital Board went ahead with plans to sell the site to the highest bidder. Some people then pointed out that a significant chunk of the original site was a bequest with the proviso that the land would be used for a Weston hospital in perpetuity. The matter is now before the courts.

The Church Street Site last August before it closed.

The Church Street Campus last August before it closed.

Sullivan sees a solution in the way other parts of the province have handled their hospital closings,

What should happen is the Province pays the appropriate price for the property and turns it into a long term care facility which they have already done in Parry Sound and Ottawa and other places where hospitals that have been decommissioned have become long term care facilities. According to (York South-Weston MPP) Ms. Albanese, it’s not as simple as one arm of the province buying the hospital from another. She said that the hospital is entirely run by a private corporation that has nothing to do with the province and that corporation can do whatever it wants with the land. Martin Proctor challenged her strongly on this at a meeting and pointed out that it was the folks in Weston that contributed and added on to that hospital over many years and now they are losing that resource. What appears to have happened is that the Province has separated itself from hospitals by declaring them corporations run by an independent board who the Province then paid 2 billion dollars to build a new one on the understanding that the board would raise 200 million of its own by selling the land and other fundraising.

 

The province can correct its mistake by saying that the land which is worth about 20 million can be forgiven to the Hospital Board of Directors and the province take over the property but Ms. Albanese wasn’t going there.

 

They’ve got to build long term care facilities anyway – somebody has to. There’s a 1 year wait list for long-term care facilities and people will die on that list. Why are we ignoring a  great potential? I understand that the Province wants privately run long-term care facilities but surely if the land is available they can find a developer who is willing to do that.

 

I spoke to Rueben Devlin (HRRH CEO) about that possibility and he told me it could never be a long-term care facility because the rules are so strict it wouldn’t meet the current standards. But then how did they do it in Parry Sound and Ottawa? The province has grandparented other buildings why wouldn’t they do that in Weston rather than tearing it down and building a condo tower. SuOn College is very interested in the site. They’re bursting at the seams and are looking to expand.

There would be no rezoning needed as it is zoned institutional. The fly in the ointment is that the city owns part of the site and the hospital was very quick to go to court over that and are suing the city to try and keep title of the land with the Hospital. Frances had a plan for some kind of trade that would allow the city to keep some parkland somewhere in exchange for the land. Her wonderful deal with Cruickshank Section 37 money didn’t buy a community amenity – it bought drainage in Swanek park which the City was going to pay for anyway.

I contacted York South-Weston MPP Laura Albanese and she confirmed that currently the site is zoned institutional. She also confirmed that hospitals are not fully funded by the province but communities are expected to have an investment in their hospital by raising 10% of the funding. The sale of the Church Street Site would go towards that community contribution. Under the current setup, long term care facilities are managed by not-for-profit corporations, indirectly connected with the Ontario Government. In order to use that as a solution, there has to be an expression of interest from such an entity and to date there has been none. She also mentioned that until the ownership of the deeded land on the HRRH site is settled, nothing is likely to proceed.

She did say that the Keele Street Hospital Campus has been sold to developer Daniels Corporation and the plan is to build some institutional facilities along with low-rise housing.

Having a similar outcome for Weston probably wouldn’t be too terrible, but who knows – with the way things are done in this city, the vision, accompanied by beautiful architectural drawings and the reality are often two entirely different things. Can you say Weston Cultural Hub?

Thanks to Mike Sullivan for agreeing to do this and to MPP Laura Albanese for her response.

Weston Hub financing details

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 5.26.06 PM

Artist’s impression of theWeston Cultural Hub, 30 storey apartment (on left) and Farmers Market stalls.

As expected, the Weston Cultural Hub cleared its final hurdle at the full meeting of Toronto City Council without amendment and the way is open for implementation. Here is another look at some of the financial juggling that makes the Hub possible:

All figures approximated for simplicity.

$2.1 million from selling the old GO parking lot

$3.3 million in Section 37 and similar contributions from the developer

0.54 million grants from the City Parks fund to Artscape

$3.9 million to Artscape from the Canada / Ontario affordable Housing Fund

$0.22 million to Artscape from waived development fees

$0.64 million from Affordable Housing to develop and adapt 6 affordable, accessible one-bedroom units in the rental building

Total: ~ $10 million.

Most of this money is to be directed towards the 26 live / work artists accommodations as well as the lease subsidy for the first 50 years. In addition, the 26 units will be exempted from property taxes.

The developer is being asked to provide a letter of credit for about $10 million that will be reduced as building progresses. If the developer is unable to get everything in place by July 2016 (permits etc. in preparation for construction) the City reserves the right to cancel the project or boost the funding.

Additional Funding:

$1.0 million from council has been set aside to pay for acquisitions costs (not the actual acquisition) and remediation of the vacant land at 14 John Street purchased to provide additional parking.

In all, the City did quite nicely as on the plus side they pulled in $2.1 million from the GO parking lot sale but are paying out $1 million for 14 John Street remediation costs plus whatever they paid for the expropriation of 14 John Street (how much did the City pay? – Does anyone know?) plus $1.1 million in grants.

We’ll keep readers posted of any developments as they are announced.

 Addendum:

In response to a question by Dan Harris inquiring as to the whereabouts of a $1 or $1.1 million grant from Metrolinx, a quick search revealed a document from February 2012 that states,

“Metrolinx recently made a $1 million cash contribution to the City which will be used to develop and establish a Cultural/Creative Hub in Weston. The Social Development, Finance and Administration Division is directing a companion report to Executive Committee on February 13, 2012, in order to seek authority to receive the said funds.”

The million was awarded several months before the City’s TPA put the GO parking lot up for sale and may have been absorbed into general funds. If true, the million dollar contribution could mean that the City is actually making money on the Hub project.

 

Dan Harris: Walkway is important

Plans are almost in place for the new 30-storey rental tower in downtown Weston. The second-last hurdle was easily stepped over at the November 10, Etobicoke York Community (EYCC) Council meeting when councillors approved the project with some minor modifications. Interestingly, one of those modifications was to double down on the proposal by prohibiting the current owners, Rockport Group from demolishing or converting any of the units into condominiums for 20 years.

A total of 432 units will be built on the site including 26 affordable live-work units for artists.

The City Planning Department broke its own urban planning and zoning guidelines in approving the building (8 storeys is the legal height limit in that part of Weston).

Weston Village as planners projected back in 2004. Note the conspicuous lack of a 30-storey rental apartment building.

Weston Village of the future as planners projected back in 2004. Note the conspicuous lack of a 30-storey rental apartment building.

Weston resident Dan Harris has written letters to Toronto’s Planning Department, specifically to Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat. (Readers may wish to check out one of her TedX talks in which she stresses the importance of providing residents information, analysis and evidence in order to generate ‘understanding’ of development proposals – around the 12 minute mark.) In his correspondence, Harris maintains that no rationale has yet been put forward that actually justifies the breaking of the current 8-storey height limit on Weston buildings. He is also frustrated by the glacial speed of and lack of meaningful responses to his objections. The only official reaction has been from the Community Planning Director for Etobicoke York, Neil Cresswell. Mr. Cresswell promised a further response would come last week but failed to deliver. Without the courtesy of rationale behind decisions, Harris maintains that it is hard to present any form of rebuttal.

While Harris is realistic about the project’s likelihood of becoming a reality, he is attempting to at least get a formalized pedestrian walkway between the east side of King and the new Hub. The City’s position appears to be that while the walkway is needed for traffic access and so will be accessible by pedestrian traffic, it will not be formalized through legislation.. Harris is concerned that if not legislated, pedestrian access may be blocked at some point in the future cutting off safe access from King to priority destinations such as the two schools in the area and even the Hub itself.

The ball is still in the Planning Department’s court. WestonWeb will alert readers to any responses.

 

Something afoot on Rosemount

A piece of Weston’s industrial history is up for sale.  30 Rosemount, which had housed Christian Bros. Restaurant Supplies since 1952, is on the market.

The sellers are asking $2.4 million and tout, among its other virtues, its potential for “Possible Residential In-Fill Development. This Is Rare !” [sic].

2 Rosemount, the Tae Kwon Do building, is also up for sale, for $3 million. The sellers may not be the same person; the two buildings are listed with different agents.

Finally, in related news, the clothing business at 1952 Weston, which your correspondent counts as one of the ugliest shops in town for its daily clothing explosion, is also for sale.

As an aside: why do agents always capitalize each word in the listing? It Does Not Make Listings More Exciting !

 

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.