Weston Treasures – Toronto Bell Cote.

The former St. Matthias church newly renovated.

The former St. Matthias church newly renovated.

There is a small white church on Scarlett Road (in Greater Metropolitan Weston) that featured large in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel. Then named St. Matthias Anglican, (the congregation relocated in 1957) it became a centre for community donations to assist victims of the disaster that killed and rendered homeless many people in the area. Even without that role, it has a fascinating history having been built in Malton in 1895 and was moved to its current location on Scarlett Road in 1923. Eighty years later, in 2003, the site was given Hertitage Site designation by the city thanks to the hard work of local historical societies. An application to have the site redeveloped as a townhouse complex came in 2004 but the City and then the OMB said no (demonstrating the worth of a heritage designation).

In 2010, current owners, the Sukyo Mahikari organization tried to have it demolished, justifying demolition with a report which stated that:

  • the building has fallen into disuse and disrepair, it has been neglected and is in a rapid state of deterioration
  • the foundation walls are on the verge of collapse, and there is an immense amount of energy loss given the original construction materials and methods
  • The building is a major eyesore in the community
  • When the application was made for heritage designation, critical structural and material analysis were not completed which would have revealed unsafe conditions
  • In order to maintain and rehabilitate the current building, the cost would be overwhelming

Details of its condition can be found here.

City planners recommended against demolition, and mercifully, Etobicoke York Council unanimously voted against the application. The group was told by then Councillor Doug Hoiyday to have a re-think and look around for grant money which they did – very successfully – and the rest is history so to speak. The costly renovation that has been done is very sympathetic and has ensured many more years of existence for the 120 year-old building and the preservation of a local landmark. The installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system will ensure low running costs for many years to come.

The Sukyo Mahikari organization has only one location in Toronto and this is it.

The sympathetic addition can be seen on the right.

The sympathetic addition can be seen on the right.

The church is one of 16 buildings competing for a Heritage Toronto Architecture award in the category of projects which “restore or adapt buildings or structures that have been in existence for 40 years or more, or are included on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties.”

The church is still working on further restoration and a major project will be to replace the bell that went missing a few years ago.

If readers would like to have a tour, one may be arranged by phoning 647-748-2683.

Hub meeting location announced

The meeting to assess public reaction to the latest Weston Hub proposal will be held at Weston Collegiate Institute at 100 Pine Street on October 7; 7:00 – 9:00 pm. Councillor Frances Nunziata will host the proceedings. No doubt there will be an opportunity to ask questions.

The original proposal has undergone a considerable detour over the past four years from this to this. The meeting will probably be the last opportunity for public input before council approval.

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.

Upcoming community consultation on John St apartment, storage space, Farmers’ Market, and Cultural Hub

The Etobicoke-York Community Council brought the Weston Hub and 30-storey tower one step closer to construction. The council ordered a community consultation at an as-yet unspecified location and time. At this meeting, residents will be asked for a reaction to the proposed:

  • 30-31 storey, 370-unit rental apartment building
  • 7 townhouses
  • 12,000 square-feet of community open space for the Farmers’ Market
  • 8000 square-foot Creative Cultural Hub and 26 affordable artist units
  • 40,000 square-feet (not a typo) of self-storage space in the ground floor of 33 King Street

The meeting, hosted by Councillor Frances Nunziata will be held on Wednesday, October 7 at Weston Collegiate Institute (100 Pine Street) beginning at 7:00 pm.*

Artscape will also be hosting a meeting to “discuss and develop ideas for the potential role of Weston’s new Community Cultural Hub”. That meeting will be October 15.

*Article amended to insert the date, time and location of the October 7 meeting.

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 Google.ca

The Humber River Regional Hospital site.
From Google.ca

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.

Apartment to be built on old houses

Well, here’s a dilemma: Would you rather have two abandoned firetraps or another Weston Road high rise?

You won’t actually get to choose. You’re getting the high rise.

The two fire traps are ages-old houses on Weston Road that have been abandoned, dilapidated, eye sores for as long as I have lived here. They are a depressing welcome to Weston for people coming off the 401; they remind me of Detroit or another failing city, too poor and too small-minded to do something about a public nuisance.Ah, history

Your humble correspondent, like everyone else, he supposes, had hoped something good would come of them, but he, like everyone else he supposes, took no action.

The Committee of Adjustment has approved variances to the city plan and will now allow construction of a 13-storey, 113-unit building. The building will be bigger and taller than is generally allowed and will not have as much parking as the rules require.

Frances Nunziata says that she and the Weston Heritage Conservation District opposed the variances, but the committee overruled them and went in favour of the developer, who will be required to give money for community benefits.

On the upside, the developer has built many other properties, some of which are in the neighbourhood, and others that have vibrant communities.

Mayor Tory attends WVRA AGM

It was a full court press at the annual general meeting of the Weston Village Residents’ Association (membership of almost 100 apparently). Mayor John Tory had agreed to attend along with the president of Artscape, Celia Smith and all three of our political representatives. The meeting was no doubt sold to His Honour as an opportunity to bask in the approval and gratitude of residents. After all, aren’t we getting a wonderful new cultural hub?

Mayor Tory checks out the audience.

Mayor Tory checks out the audience.

The elephant in the room was a giant middle finger (ok enough metaphors) seemingly directed at the people of Weston in the form of a 30-storey rental apartment building; allegedly the unavoidable price of getting the hub. Despite organizers’ best efforts (I was in the second row yet somehow invisible when I raised my hand) a couple of awkward questions were asked about the latest tower proposal and judging by the spontaneous applause, a growing concern is shared by many in the audience. This latest rental apartment in Weston seems destined to become like the others (only taller).

The questions that still need answers are,

  • Was it necessary to sell the old GO Station parking lot to a developer? Why didn’t the negotiating team look at retaining the site and developing a decent Wychwood Barns type space with parkland and no 30 storey rental apartment building? Costs could have been amortized over years rather than all at once.
  • Who owns the podium at 33-35 King? (The largely unoccupied building that is about to be bailed out by this project.)
  • What did 33-35 King bring to the table to offset the costs of developing the hub since they stand to gain millions from this in rents, parking charges and a more valuable building?
The 'Podium' and parking lot - Who owns it and what did they bring to the table? Click for expanded view.

The ‘Podium’ – Who owns it and what did they bring to the table? Click for expanded view.

  • Was Rockport the only developer asked to submit proposals? If not, who else made proposals and why were they rejected?
  • Is the current deal the best the negotiating team could make? Who was on the negotiating team?
  • Metrolinx paid $1 million to be applied to the purchase of the additional land to the south of the TPA lot. The City ended up purchasing the lot in a separate deal. What will happen to the $1 million? Where is it now? Why was this information withheld from the public?
  • Were the highest ethical standards applied in making this deal?
  • Why is extracting information about this project so difficult?

Until the public gets answers to these questions (and others) we are working in the dark and cannot provide an informed consent to this project (if that was ever an option).

Let’s have some daylight on this, please.