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.
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.
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.