A source tells me that a company by the name of Weston Asset Management Inc. has bought a couple of properties near its recently acquired Greenland Farm property at 1966 and 1956 Weston Road. These are the people who have proposed a 28-storey apartment building with retail at the base. In addition to #1956, the parking and laneway to Lawrence Avenue that comes with Greenland Farm, Weston Asset seems to have acquired 1952 (next to P&Ms) and 1980 Weston Road.
Attempts to find out anything about Weston Asset Management have proved to be futile as the company seems to have no web presence. Any web sleuths out there?
Let’s hope that they will be more forthcoming about who they are and their plans at the next community consultation meeting which should happen this spring.
A few days ago we reported on the Weston Bun Bakery’s proposed reincarnation. Now another coffee shop is about to launch at Weston Road and Little Avenue. The former pizza restaurant at 1986 Weston Road closed last year. Now we’re about to get “Keswick’s Best Coffee”. There was no response at the phone number (416-901-6801) today, but our readers may have more success.
I was able to contact Justin Zielonko, the new owner of the Keswick location and he says that he bought the original Keswick coffee shop from ‘Rose’, who will be opening the Weston store soon; probably within a couple of weeks and that she tries to help people in need with the profits of her business. She’s moving to Toronto to be ‘closer to the people that she’s helping’.
Rose sounds like a lovely lady and we wish her success in Weston.
Update: I found this photo on Facebook of the same address taken over 50 years ago.
Yesterday’s article covered the state of retail in Weston / Mount Dennis.
One of the factors that makes a big difference to an area is the public domain. Anyone who has been to Europe will know how well the public domain is looked after.
Far less public domain money is spent here in Toronto and especially in Weston / Mount Dennis where spending is further suppressed as our BIAs have smaller budgets, our Section 37 money is scarce and our politicians have an unfortunate obsession with keeping property taxes (the lowest in the GTA) at or below the rate of inflation. Spending initiatives that could improve public facilities are often voted down.
As a result, the things that can help iron out differences between rich and poor are suppressed. The homeless are treated with contempt. Public housing is in disrepair; cycling and walking are dangerous, our library, recreation and and parks system are underfunded and garbage and leaf litter, is allowed to accumulate. Cars dominate our streets while the TTC receives the lowest subsidy of any major city in North America. Climbing the social ladder is harder than ever because politicians worry that they’ll be voted out of office if they support tax increases. A recent study by the World Bank has discovered that when inequality goes up, there is a corresponding increase in the murder rate.
What has to change? Our political system is a shambles – more on that tomorrow. We need leaders at all levels of government who understand the connection between adequate public domain funding and helping people move out of poverty. Gentrification is often seen as a solution to our problems in WMD. It’s not. It simply forces poor people to relocate instead of helping them climb the ladder out of poverty.
The answer is more money spent on helping the poor help themselves. More money, for example, to fix the appalling repair backlog at Toronto Public Housing, more money to properly fund our public institutions and spaces. We also need to beautify our streets here in WMD and reduce the enormous amounts of real estate given over to the car. Will it be Weston or Mount Dennis that gets the first traffic free street in Toronto? (Toronto is one of the few cities in the world without a public pedestrian / bike only street.) We also need to find ways to improve access to the beautiful Humber River that meanders through WMD.
In summary, we need to tell our elected representatives that our priority is improving the public domain and not keeping taxes low. Poverty sucks and feeds on itself. It won’t go away without heroic efforts.
The constant, artificial shortage of tax dollars puts the squeeze on the most vulnerable among us; people who traditionally don’t apply political pressure and can’t make generous campaign contributions. Even more insidiously, the constant trimming of budgets is designed to make public institutions fail and the private sector look good by comparison.
Make no mistake, underfunding the public domain impoverishes us all and lowers our quality of life.
As we approach the year end, here are some things that seem to be holding us back locally. This is the second a five part series, which began yesterday.
As always, your comments are welcome.
2. The Retail Experience in Weston Mount Dennis
Believe it or not but Canadians only buy 5% of their non-grocery goods online. The rest is done in brick and mortar stores. Unfortunately, businesses in Weston and Mount Dennis are under-patronized as it often seems easier to jump in the car.
Retail in WMD is a bit like the old weather adage. Everyone complains about our shopping but nobody does anything about it. People use all kinds of excuses for not shopping locally but the bottom line is that if people want vibrant local shopping, they have to encourage local stores that go some way to meeting their needs. Weston and Mount Dennis will not be confused with Bloor West Village anytime soon but there are glimmers of hope that need to be encouraged. There is a symbiotic relationship between patronage, meeting the needs of customers and a vibrant shopping area.
If people don’t like the appearance of the streets or feel threatened, (More on that tomorrow : Part 3 – The Public Domain) they need to talk to the relevant parties such as 311 or Councillor Nunziata’s office. Statistically, we should understand that we put ourselves in the greatest danger when we drive our cars or cross the road.
Landlords: our empty stores need to be occupied. The tax rebate for empty stores will be ending by June 2018. This is a good thing that will provide an incentive to quickly re-let a storefront. Empty stores detract from the ambience of a shopping area and landlords with empty stores should allow non-profit groups to use the empty stores until paying tenants are found. Weston BIA and Mount Dennis BIA should get the ball rolling on this. If landlords are still happy to allow stores to sit empty, the city should go one further and tax vacant stores at a higher rate.
When Greenland Farm supermarket closes, many Weston residents will lose their only walkable source of produce. Is there another store waiting in the wings? The owner / developer of the GF site can promise that a major supermarket chain will be moving into the podium of the new development when it finally materializes on the site. It will be a meaningless and empty promise as the podium space will be leased to whoever is willing to pay. Councillor Nunziata should do all she can to encourage a seller of produce along the lines of the Royal York Fruit Market in the Royal York Plaza.
Banks are disappearing. We need walkable storefront bank branches.
Readers, what businesses would you like to see in your local shopping area? What stops you from shopping in WMD? Which stores have you patronized?
At Weston Web, we occasionally run across things that were once a good idea but now no longer work. One of them was a generous property tax rebate given to landlords of empty stores. We wrote about it back in 2013 and were pleasantly surprised when about a year ago, Mayor John Tory pledged that he would eliminate the break that had ended up doing more harm than good.
The 30% tax discount began during an economic downturn in 1998 when the Province thought it would help Ontario landlords struggling with vacant storefronts. Although times changed, Toronto continued to reward owners after a qualifying 90 day vacancy. The generous plan backfired somewhat as it reduced property tax revenues by about $22 million annually and encouraged longer store vacancies since owners are rewarded only when they hit the 90-day qualifying mark. This lower pressure to find a tenant also encouraged landlords to hold out for higher rents.
In a corner of the city struggling to keep a viable retail sector, ending the rebates may help reduce the number of empty storefronts that plague Weston and Mount Dennis. Property owners have been given notice that as of June 2018, the rebates will end after a phase-out period that began last January. The Province passed the necessary legislation on May 17, allowing the city to come up with the timeline. Well done Mayor Tory and the Provincial Government.
Incidentally, this year, claiming a shortage of money, the city kept Toronto Public Library’s budget increase to a mere 0.9% and Ontario then piled on by reducing the TPL allocation by $700,000 for the next two years.
Let’s hope that with the additional revenue, the library’s budget can now be brought up to where it should be.