While many church congregations are shrinking or struggling financially, Weston Park Baptist Church is placing its faith in development plans that aim to revitalize its property in the west-end Toronto neighbourhood.
“Our vision formulated [in] 2005,” says church deacon John Frogley-Rawson. “It’s a nice piece of land, and we have developed [a plan] for the property and the community.”
It’s worth reading, because it shows how a development should be done: with community consultation and assent. It also includes much on the fate of churches, and how they will be reused and redeveloped in a secular age.
The south-east corner of Weston and Lawrence will be the home of an interesting project. For the first time in a long time, there’s a proposed development that promises to bring a net benefit to Weston rather than a neutral or a negative. The proposed site includes the Weston Park Baptist Church, its parking lots and the old wedge-shaped Scotiabank building. The organizations behind the scheme are developers Castlepoint Numa and the Weston Park Baptist Church.
Many people who attended the first consultation meeting back in the pre-Covid days of last February 28 were encouraged by development plans for the site and the enthusiasm of the stakeholders.
The development group has opened a website to encourage suggestions and feedback from the community.
Find the community information and feedback site here.
Run by the Weston Village Business Improvement Area, the market was supposed to open in its spanking (if constrained) new Hub location on John Street in 2018 and when the site wasn’t ready, the market was able to survive thanks to the generosity of Weston Park Baptist Church. They loaned their parking lot by the UP Express station.
The 2019 booting out of long time trader (and actual farmer) Joe Gaeta was another setback and then as luck would have it, the following week, city inspectors withdrew the Farmers Market designation because of insufficient, er, actual farmers.
In yet another blow to the WFM, the BIA announced yesterday that the market will delay its 2020 opening until Saturday, July 4 at the earliest.
From the Facebook post announcing the delay:
“On behalf of the board of the Weston Village BIA, I regret to inform you that because of Covid19,and the city’s restrictions with respect to gatherings of 5 and over, we are delaying the opening of the 2020 market to Sat, July 4th or until restrictions are lifted by the city.
The market is a wonderful community gathering place, but, right now, the health and safety of our customers, vendors and market staff are the main priority.
The City has responded to a 36 storey proposal for developing this pair of properties on Weston Road just south of the UP Express station.
The consolidated property consists of a former movie theatre (Biltmore Odeon) now used as a place of worship (Bethel Apostolic Church) and a two-storey mixed use building.
The developer is BSäR Group of Companies with a mostly positive reputation with this exception where in 2017, BSäR pleaded guilty to four counts of recovering possession of a rental unit unlawfully and was fined $14,000. Like many developers, BSäR has a minimal web presence. Established in 2007, its Principal is Tarek Sobhi and its President is Tyler Hershberg. The architects are Turner Fleischer.
Spoiler alert – BSäR wants to erect something too large for the site and build closer to the tracks and neighbouring properties than Metrolinx and the City would like.
Some lowlights highlights of the proposed building:
10,000 square feet (approx) of communal indoor space spread over 3 floors
10,000 square feet (approx) of communal outdoor space on the podium roof.
At grade retail on the first floor.
74% 1 bedroom or bachelor
16% two bedrooms
10% three bedrooms
City Planning Staff Concerns:
Maximum allowed floor plate for tall buildings is 750 square metres; developer wants 820 square metres.
Minimum allowed setback from property lines is 12.5 metres; developer wants to shrink to 10 and 7.5 metres.
There will be strong shadow impacts on the UP Express station plaza.
The development may limit the potential of future development on adjacent land.
Rooftop communal area would be subject to uncomfortable and unsafe wind levels.
There should be fewer bachelor and one bedroom apartments and more two and three-bedrooms.
Section 37 money.
(Section 37 money is a ‘fine’ paid by developers in exchange for crappy architecture or overbuilding on a site.) Here’s where the City thinks the money should go:
Affordable housing or the securing of purpose-built rental housing at mid-range or affordable rent level categories.
An on-site day care facility or funding for one.
A contribution towards the revitalization of Weston Library.
A contribution towards the replacement of the Falstaff Community Recreation Centre (not even close to Weston).
Improvements towards local parks.
Other concerns from the City:
Planners haven’t been told if the BSäR Group are building rentals or condos. They would like a range of affordable rentals / ownership units.
Is the old Biltmore Odeon Theatre worthy of a heritage designation? Planners intend to find out.
Dog relief stations will be needed to ease pressure on local parks.
Staff have told the developer to revise the proposal so that it is more in keeping with the City’s guidelines.
At the moment, City staff are sending notices about this development only to people living within 400 feet of the site. If you would like to comment or to be added to the mailing list, contact City Planner Rory McNeil at: (416) 394-5683 or, [email protected]
About two hundred people attended a veritable love-fest at Weston Park Baptist Church on Monday evening. The long anticipated meeting was arranged to get some feedback on the development of the iconic property that includes the old Scotiabank ‘wedge’ building, the church itself and its substantial parking lot next to the UP Express station.
The meeting started with a history of WPBC and its beginnings at the end of the 19th Century. WPBC stresses that it has chosen to stay in Weston during all these years and has helped the community during that time by setting up community support organizations such as the W.A.E.S. food bank and Frontlines youth centre to name but two. Watching the presentation of the church’s history gave me an impression of some compassionate yet canny real-estate horse traders with the long game in mind. To that end they did a considerable amount of homework before deciding on the developer, Castlepoint Numa – represented at the meeting by President Alfredo Romano and several staff from the company. Mr. Romano’s passion for the project came through loud and clear and it was apparent that this will be something special.
Some interesting information came to light during the presentation; in 2005, the church pitched purchasing and sharing the current UP Express station site (at the time a Chrysler dealership that was up for sale) to GO Transit, the predecessor of Metrolinx. GO turned them down but before a deal could be made with Chrysler, GO came back to the table and partnered with WPBC leading to the current property setup. Plans have been worked on for some time to develop the site and now the church is asking the community for input.
The point of the meeting was threefold: to introduce the community to the church and developer Castlepoint Numa (with whom they recently signed a memorandum of agreement) and lastly to get some ideas from local residents.
The people at Toronto Bell Cote Heritage Preservation are holding an open house and orientation session on Sunday November 24 between 1 and 3pm. The purpose is to encourage high school students to learn about and participate in volunteer opportunities with the charity that looks after this important landmark in our neighbourhood. All Ontario high school students are required to volunteer 40 hours to a community organization in order to graduate.
Incidentally, this building is one of the few in the area using geothermal heating and cooling throughout the year.