Free and cheap things to do during the summer

Summer time is filled with great weather, festivals and is all in all one of the best times of the year. Days you have nothing to do, however, can feel horrible! Personally, any day that I’m not out doing something fun during this time feels like a day wasted! That’s why I’ve thought of five amazing, fun and cheap things to do over the summer holiday!

Picnic in Weston Lions Park

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Nothing screams summer like a picnic and with an amazing place like Weston Lions Park, you don’t have to go far to have a great one. If you venture into the serene park, past the excitement of the soccer and baseball fields, you’ll find pathways that lead you deep into nature. (or as close as you can get to it in Toronto). You can bask in the sun in a secluded part of the park, look out on the Humber river, and enjoy a relaxing summer day. Bring along a couple friends, family, and some great food, and you’ve got the perfect summer getaway. If a picnic isn’t your scene, you can always hike through the winding (and sometimes steep) paths of the park and enjoy a one to one experience with nature.

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Café hopping

To my fellow coffee enthusiasts: You don’t have to go far to make a day out of your obsession. Weston and Mt. Dennis area have a couple great places to grab a great cup of coffee, tea and an amazing array of baked goods.

 Supercoffee: 1148 Weston Road

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This quaint little coffee shop is the perfect place to sit and have a nice hot, or cold drink and bite to eat. Supercoffee has charming wooden décor, friendly staff and the most amazing French vanilla, and iced coffee I’ve ever tasted.

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 Perfect Blend: 1971 Weston Road

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When I stepped into this adorable coffee shop, I couldn’t believe how nice it was! Perfect Blend has an amazing atmosphere and coffee that’s to die for. They also serve up crepes, baked goods, gelato and an amazing variety of drinks. From lattes to Italian soda, there’s a drink at Perfect Blend for whatever you’re in the mood for!

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Farmers Market

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Every Saturday from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm in the Weston Baptist church parking lot, there is an amazing farmers market. Vendors sell goods such as produce, plants, eggs, maple syrup and countless others! The market filled with amazing things to buy, and a friendly atmosphere, that would make anyone happy. On top of buying locally made and grown products, you’ll get to interact with the people who made and grew them! The Weston farmers market has been going on for 37 seasons and has never failed to bring joy to the community! And if you decide to go on a picnic as I first suggested, this lovely little market could fill your picnic basket.

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Art tour of Weston

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If you love art, you don’t have to go to the AGO to see it. Weston and Mt. Dennis is full of amazing artwork you can see for free. Murals cover the street at Weston road and Eglinton, Weston road and John street and various other places around the neighborhood. You can see all the amazing work done by local artists from UrbanArts, a community art organization. The art is also a great backdrop for any pictures you want to take! Plus, if you really love art, you can sign up to UrbanArts and you’ll get a chance to be a part of their next amazing art piece.

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Bike Trails

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Summer is the perfect time to go out and enjoy the nice weather. Weston and Mt. Dennis are packed with great bike trails, where you can ride through parks and enjoy the outdoors. Whether you’re riding along the Humber river, through Weston Lions Park or just riding down the streets, biking and hot weather go hand in hand! When you get tired of riding your bike, you can pull over to sit and enjoy the outdoors.

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Finding fun things to do in the summer can be tricky, especially if you don’t want to spend a ton of money! Weston and Mount Dennis have a ton of amazing things to do and places to see, that will make your summer amazing!


This post was sponsored by: An anonymous donor

Weston Cultural Hub asking for clients

Artscape is looking for tenants for the new Weston Hub. They are asking for “expressions of interest” from program providers and prospective tenants. 

It’s all a bit complicated, but they say that this is not a rental application. It seems to be an application to apply. Still, if you are interested, you should have at it.

Your humble correspondent would like to see a business lounge, drone flying area, indoor park, brewery, and bakery. You can call me a dreamer.

Sullivan: The Weston Cultural Hub

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 are being published over a four day period. The first topic was Fallout from the election.

The second issue that we discussed is the Weston Cultural Hub.

2. The Weston Cultural Hub

On the Hub itself and the political processes involved:

I’m of two minds (about the Hub).

There are several things that make me nervous about it. One is the extent that the councillor is trying to get local buy-in from community organizations. There are secret meetings between community organizations and the developer and they’re happening outside the public eye. The essence of what I can gather from this scheme is that Rockport gets to build a 30 storey tower without a parking garage so it’s significantly cheaper for them on city land that they’re essentially being given; and they’re getting money.

On the neglect of this corner of Toronto:

The current and former municipal administrations have not paid a whole lot of attention to Weston and Mount Dennis.

This part of the City of Toronto has very few if any city services such as community centres such as city offices -anything that is a community service.

In response to those who claim that the York Community Centre being built on Black Creek and Eglinton will meet Weston’s needs, Sullivan points out its remote and car oriented location.

The York Community Centre
The soon to be opened York Community Centre

The new community centre is not here (in Weston) – that’s a regional recreation centre – you have to have a car to get there – you can’t get there as a pedestrian.

There’s nothing up here and there hasn’t been and there needs to be. There are 10,000 people already who live in the various buildings along Weston road who have no city facilities and we’re going to add another thousand people or more to that already under-serviced group. Where are the city services that come along with this? We’re getting 8000 square feet of community space but what will be its purpose? We don’t know and it will be gone after 50 years.

Sullivan calls 33 King, ‘Weston’s long-term eyesore’ and says that it should never have been put where it was.

“(33 King) is getting the $10million in benefit – they’re getting to make their ground floor into public storage which was never said until late into the game – it is not an appropriate use for a residential neighbourhood despite what Jennifer Keesmaat says. In addition to getting redevelopment of live-work spaces paid for by somebody else that they’ll collect the rent on and city officials are bending over backwards to make it happen. There is absolutely no resistance from any city department or organization despite many perceived and real flaws in this project.”

Sullivan also worries about the increased levels of traffic produced by an extra thousand people who will live in the new 30-storey tower. Residents will park in the existing parking garage that empties onto King Street. He claims that traffic studies of the new Hub ignore the fact that a new 650 student school will be built nearby.

I asked (at the meeting) how it was that transportation services accepted completely without question (the report) provided by the developer which ignored an entire school. St John The Evangelist School apparently no longer exists according to that traffic study. So the answer that came from Transportation Services parroted the report from the developer which was that 33 King has the right to that many vehicles and ignored that there will be 650 kids where before there used to be 200 who will be coming and going at rush hour. …the ramp empties directly onto the street with no signalling whatsoever. I hate to say this but it’s only a matter of time before some young person  is injured or killed because of the dramatic increase in traffic that will come as the result of 370 units having parking in that building that they didn’t have before.

He is concerned that while John Street has been designated a place for Farmers Market vehicles to be parked, it is also a designated fire route.

(at the public meeting) I asked what’s going to happen to the Farmers market vehicles because Frances’ (Councillor Nunziata) plan is to turn the Farmers Market into a street market and so that the vehicles will be on John Street. But in one of the newest incarnations of the site plan, John Street will become a fire route. And therefore you cannot park vehicles on the fire route and that question’s not answered.

Another important issue for Sullivan is the lack of an easement to guarantee that pedestrian access will not be cut off by the owners of 33 King Street.

…the city is planning to make the laneways on the east side of 33 King into a pedestrian passageway. (Dan Harris asked) on several occasions if (the city) would require that to be an easement and the answer from the city is that the owners of 33 King will not give us that – well we’re giving the owners of 33 King $10 million – you’d think you could get an easement out of that, which would then make that walkway a permanent feature. But f they wanted to, the owners could put a fence up and block access at certain times of day. So there needs to be an easement and a re-think of whether we need 30 storeys.

Sullivan is also concerned about the precedent of such a tall building causing other, similar applications that will use a token ‘community benefit‘ to justify breaking the City’s planning controls.

Already other developers have put in feelers to the city about raising their proposed buildings to 30 storeys – Cruickshank apparently started asking the city about 30 storeys and and the owners  at 1775 and 1765 Weston Road who were talking about building low rise commercial in the front are now asking about 30 storey towers. Ms Keesmaat claimed that there would be no precedent as a result of the public amenities that were being provided – you can bet your boots that every developer worth his salt is going to say, “I want 30 storeys too”.  We’re going to have another 4 or 5, 30-storey towers with no services. I’m not opposed to the notion that an art community might be an interesting concept but I think you don’t sell your soul to get it. But I’m afraid that this notion of the 30 storey building and the loss of the Farmers Market is like selling our soul.

Tomorrow: Sullivan comments on Metrolinx

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.

 

Hub bill released: $13 million

The final tally for the Weston Cultural Hub has been released. City staff say they have a “unique funding approach”. The city, province, and developer are contributing $10.2 million toward the Hub’s building costs. A further $3 million will be set aside for operations.

In short, instead of paying fees for parks, recreation, and general community benefits, Rockport will be retaining the money for the Artscape Hub. Other money will come from the city, province, and the federal government.

When developers break density or height rules in Toronto, they pay into  “Section 37“. Rockport, in this case, is retaining the $1,600,000 they would normally have paid.

Other sources of money include

  • $4 million from from the feds and the province for affordable housing for the artists
  • $2 million from the sale of the parking lot
  • $1.2 million in forgone Parks and Rec development charges
  • $750,000 from Rockport
  • $500,000 uncollected for parks
  • A $500,000 grant from the Parks department

Some interesting facts are also in the report.

  • It looks to me like the live-work spaces and the Hub will not pay property tax or school levies.
  • Council earlier approved $1.6 million to expropriate 14 John Street, a long-vacant lot. Another $1 million is being set aside, I think, for compensation and remediation.

Artscape hopes to start with about  $3 million in the bank because the Hub will lose money. Rockport will contribute $1.25 million of this reserve, and Artscape is hoping to fundraise $1.75 million to cover the balance. After 15 years, the “City [may] be required to consider subsidizing operating costs”.

You and yours will be able to rent the Hub cheaply “for selected activities”, at a discount if you are part of a non-profit, or for the full rate for private events. Whatever you pay, you’ll be getting a deal, because revenues won’t cover costs. Artscape says the business plan shows them losing roughly $200,000 a year.