Will Weston become a food desert?

 

The Greenland Food Market property has been sold and the business was recently put up for sale. What will become of food shopping in the walkable areas of Weston? The GF supermarket building is large – it once housed a Loblaws and has an excellent selection of produce and ethnic foods and spices. It serves hundreds of people within walking distance. The next nearest supermarket is the Loblaws Superstore at Weston and the 401 which is a considerable way when carrying groceries. The term ‘food desert‘ has been applied to areas in the U.S. where there is a lack of a healthy variety and selection of food. Weston may be in grave danger of becoming a food desert when Greenland Farm closes.

Greenland Farms produce section (file).

The GF site owner and developer has shown some attractive artist renderings indicating that a food retailer may be occupying the ground floor of the proposed high-rise. The bottom line is that the attractive drawings are done purely to attract support for the project. The actual building may be completely different. Without a legal requirement, the developer has neither wish nor obligation to specify the businesses that may lease space in their building.

Let’s hope that our councillor is working to ensure that vibrant and varied food sources are available in the densely populated parts of Weston and Mount Dennis.

Another bank closes

In the ongoing story of banks bailing and gutless governments, the CIBC at Weston and Eglinton has permanently closed and ‘merged’ with a branch 3 km away.

A TD, Scotiabank, and an RBC branch have already closed in York South–Weston. The TD bank at Weston and Church is slated to close by the end of 2018.

The bank closures are not for want of profits: there are at least 15 payday loan shops in the riding.

Santa Claus Parade

The leaves are green and on the trees, but the BIA is looking forward to Christmas. They have announced the date of the best little Santa Claus parade in Toronto. Santa Claus

The Weston Santa Claus Parade will be Sunday, November 26 at 2:00 , snow or shine. The BIA is always grateful for volunteers to help with marshalling and parading. You can also bring food to donate to WAES, our local foodbank.

Bloor Bike Lane Report is out

Karl Jilg/Swedish Road Administration
This cartoon illustrates how much of our streets are dedicated to traffic. Karl Jilg/Swedish Road Administration

Cycling is experiencing a boom in many cities in the world. Here in Weston, other than a short stretch along Eglinton between Scarlett and Jane, there’s no space exclusively dedicated to cycling through our streets. We have ‘sharrows‘ along streets like Weston Road and bike lanes that are simply painted lines but these do little or nothing to improve safety levels for cyclists in a city where people in vehicles have killed 2 cyclists and 28 pedestrians so far this year. Interestingly, when police report that someone has killed a pedestrian or cyclist, it’s the victims of driver inattention who are consistently lectured to wear light clothing and use more caution. Motorists are never asked to be more vigilant. The advent of the mobile phone and lax enforcement of distracted driving laws has made our streets less safe. Transportation Services’ cycling maps are hopelessly confusing and out of date.

Here in Canada, society favours motorists but Europe seems to be re-thinking their cities and many have extensive car free centres.

While Toronto doesn’t even have a single car free street, it is moving timidly in a more car-centric direction and recently set up bike lanes along Bloor street between Shaw Street and Avenue Road as a pilot study. The expectation was that the pilot would fail. Cyclist lanes would be unused, clog traffic and bankrupt the merchants along Bloor.

A report has been delivered to council with the following findings

The negative:

  • Car journey times did increase
  • Merchants had difficulty with deliveries
  • Parking convenience was reduced (longer walks)

The neutral or positive:

  • Increased journey times were reduced 50% with traffic signal adjustment
  • Cyclists felt safer and cycling increased by 49%
  • Motorists felt more comfortable with bikes separated
  • Near miss collisions have been reduced
  • Parking revenues remained steady
  • Most merchants reported increased customers and sales
  • Store vacancy rates were unchanged

As a result of the successful Bloor pilot, the city’s Transportation Services are recommending that the bike lane be made permanent. The report will go before the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee and despite the committee’s car-oriented membership the recommendation will go forward to Council next month because as a result of the report, Mayor Tory supports the bike lanes. T.S. Committee members are: Christin Carmichael Greb, Stephen Holyday (Vice Chair), Chin Lee, Giorgio Mammoliti, Anthony Perruzza and Jaye Robinson (Chair).

Where does that leave Weston / Mount Dennis streets? Still dedicated to the traffic that mainly uses our area as a conduit to other places. Metrolinx is supposed to be investigating the extension of the West Toronto Railpath into our area but inquiries take weeks for a response and answers are vague or simply unhelpful. Even Toronto’s own Transportation Department doesn’t seem to bother to update its cycling information.

Toronto Cycling Map
A detail from the City’s latest cycling map showing our area. They still have the GO station in its old location. Click to enlarge.

Councillors in the suburbs tend to be very car-centric and ours is no exception. Ms. Nunziata’s support base may be called many things but cyclist tends not to be one of them. It remains to be seen if the Mayor’s turnaround will influence other members of Council when it comes to local bike lanes and public car-free areas. If this is his way of not being Doug Ford then long may it last! Perhaps he can also turn his attention to adequately funding the TTC and cancelling that idiotic $3.45 Billion one-stop subway.

TD in Weston is closing, moving to Crossroads

I was recently amazed when I visited a bank teller to take out cash. There were—forgive me here—little old ladies with passbooks in clear vinyl envelopes asking the tellers in salty, sunny, Mediterranean languages about their balances.

I hadn’t seen a passbook in three decades, and I was amazed that people still use them. I was amazed the bank still prints them. And, if I’m honest, I was also infuriated: my god, the line was slow. Do you people not know about apps?

But my fury at the waiting in line will be nothing compared to my anger at not having a lineup at all.

The TD Bank at 1979 Weston Road will close and move to the Crossroads Plaza by this time next year, according to residents. (TD has not yet returned my calls.) This is the latest in a series of closures that are turning downtown Weston into a banking desert: the RBC and TD banks on Jane have closed, as did the Scotiabank at Weston and Lawrence. In two years, we will have gone from six branches (and four banks) to two. Only RBC on and BMO, both on Weston Road, remain.

While the big banks have been moving on, money-lenders and high-fee cheque-cashing businesses have been moving in. There are at least 10 payday loan or cheque-cashing places in Weston. Something is wrong with a community when there are more usurers than ice-cream shops.

I’m not usually the sort of guy who says that the government should meddle in business, but in this case, I think they should. Banks are not meeting their social obligations, and the government has a strong moral reason to regulate minimum levels of service—and the muscle to do so.

Being banked is a critical part of being a citizen; even the government pays by cheque and prefers direct deposit. (You can’t collect Ontario Works, for instance, in cash.) Allowing banks to close forces people into the hands of cheque-cashers, who charge about $3, +3% of the value of the cheque: a whopping $33 on a $1000 payday.

Worse, the people who will pay are those least able to: the poor, less-literate, and less mobile. Being gouged by MoneyMart makes a lot more sense when you’re faced with a 90-minute walk or a $6.50 fare and a snowy hour waiting for buses.

And then there are the knock-on, long-term effects. To open an RESP, get financial advice, or save in a TFSA, you need to have a branch. None of it can be done online. Pulling out banks means pushing people to the financial margins, and that will make our community poorer in the long run. You need to be close to a banker to pull ahead.

Of course some of us—those with cars, $100 cellphone plans, and the wherewithal to direct-deposit our infrequent cheques by photograph—we will all be fine. After all, I didn’t know people still use passbooks because I hadn’t stood in line for years.

But you can’t both curse a bank’s Friday lineup and say we don’t need it.

Prehistoria Museum is so cool

Mount Dennis has the coolest museum in Toronto. InsideToronto profiled them this week.

Prehistoria is a museum devoted to weird and wonderful artifacts from around the world, and its sister store sells many of them, including  cave bear molars, beaver teeth, and human bones and brains. If you’ve ever wanted to own an “overmodelled human skull from the Iatmul peoples of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea”, you may only get one chance.

Prehistoria is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from noon until 6 at 1193 Weston Road.

 

Quick news updates

InsideToronto has the cool story of Mellina Orr, a young woman helping her community and bootstrapping her own non-profit.

Mellina Orr has always had a passion for helping youth and other residents in her neighbourhood: Weston.

“Even when I was younger, my friends used to come to me for help and advice and I used to help them,” she told The York Guardian.  “I find joy in doing so.”


The UPX struck a pedestrian in Weston on Thursday—though quite how this could be possible is a mystery given the fences and walls surrounding the tracks. The man was struck just east of the station.

It’s the second time someone has been struck in Weston.


There were two shootings in the Weston area last week. Two boys were

Firearm violence in WMD
Firearm violence in WMD

shot near Jane Lawrence at a pool. Another young man was shot at Sheridan Mall. Weston and Mount Dennis have had little firearm violence so far this year.


The Alia N Tanjay at the Crossroads Plaza has closed, joining HomeSense Home Outfitters, the Asian Market, and some smaller retailers.