Artscape bullish on Weston

Artscape released the results of their feasibility study last month, and they have good news. Artscape thinks Weston would be a good place for a community arts hub.

Tim Jones, the President and CEO of Artscape, spoke to Matt Galloway at the CBC. He said that Weston–Mt. Dennis has very few creative workers now, and this dissuades creative workers from coming: “The area doesn’t have the critical mass of creative people. Nor does it have the services and amenities that would attract creative people naturally.” This is a problem, he says, because creative people “breathe life into a community”.

The problem, then, is how to attract the first few, so rest of the flock will come along.

The solution, according to Artscape, is a “cultural and creative hub”. According to Jones, a hub “will bring together a smaller mass of people in one facility.” A combination of retail and affordable live/work space will “create the anchor and the critical mass of  creative people that will help energize the neighbourhood.”

The presentation on January 26 explained some of the things that make Weston attractive to an artistic venture like this: we’re receptive, engaged, and have good local political leadership. We also have a number of suitable sites:

  • Weston Park Baptist Church Land
  • The new GO Station,
  • Kodak lands
  • The former  Price Chopper
  • Weston Federal Building
  • Green P on John Street.

(The presentation slides mention neither the farmer’s market at the Green P, nor GO’s plans around the church and the Price Chopper.)

Artscape does identify some problems, however:

  • Lower than average employment in the Creative and Cultural Sector
  • Very few Creative Businesses located in the neighbourhood
  • Lack of a single clear vision
  • Fragmented neighbourhood
  • No clear project leader
  • Representation of & perception within the neighbourhood that the area is unsafe
  • Significant economic challenges

Artscape has had considerable experience revitalizing communities. They played a significant role in turning around the Distillery District, and have built facilities similar to what they propose for Weston–Mt Dennis in Queen West, Parkdale, and other places around Toronto. Recently, Artscape transformed the Wychwood Barns into a community and art centre.

Clean Train rally tomorrow

The indomitable Clean Train Coalition is having another rally tomorrow morning outside Metrolinx’s headquarters. The rally is to give one more push for electric trains on the airport link.

Metrolinx is having a board meeting to consider many things; the cryptic item “Procurement” is on the agenda.  Metrolinx has said that they will buy diesel trains soon, then convert them to electric trains 8 to 10 years from now.

The coalition is having none of it, and they are threatening to unseat the Liberals along the track—Laura Albanese among them.

Talking about trees

The Weston Historical Society is inviting all Westonians to a discussion of our natural heritage on Wednesday night, at the Westminster United Church on William St.

Edith George will be discussing  the beautiful trees in Weston and how we can preserve them. The presentation is free, and refreshments will be served.

Heritage Trees

With Guest Speaker

Edith George

Wednesday 2nd February 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

at Westminster United Church Hall, 69 William Street, Weston

Politicians, What Have You Done For Weston Lately?

Weston has had a raw deal in the past few decades. Our ‘village’ has lost nearly all of its industry, historic properties have been demolished to make way for unattractive developments, and the area has become depressed. The once attractive main street has been infiltrated by payday loan/cheque cashing companies, dollar stores, and other detritus of hard times.

Weston gets no respect. The airport link as originally proposed was never intended to stop in Weston. When the TTC wants to save money, Weston services are cut. When Metrolinx needed to expropriate properties as part of the airport link, the way they dealt with homeowners was reprehensible and high handed. Drug related gangs of criminals seem to operate freely without much fear of capture. There is apprehension on the part of many people about being a victim of crime. While there are many beautiful homes in Weston, there is a large amount of ugly low-income housing both public and private.

Throughout all of this process, federal, provincial and municipal politicians have collected their generous salaries and tut-tutted about the sad state of affairs: “What a shame and we’re doing all we can; by the way, don’t forget to re-elect me as I’m really concerned about unemployment—mine.”

With one election under our belts and two more on the way, perhaps it’s time that the citizens of Weston asked our politicians: what have you done for Weston lately? Sitting on committees and attending conferences in glamorous places doesn’t count. What really counts are results bringing prosperity and hope back to Weston and eliminating the conditions that encourage crime, namely unemployment and lack of opportunity.

Here are some of the things that Weston could benefit from:

  • Improved education and workforce training
  • Decent housing
  • Help for struggling retailers and small businesses
  • Doing something about empty commercial properties
  • Police on the ground, not in cars
  • Politicians actively working on our behalf.
  • Encouragement and support for local initiatives such as the Farmers’ Market
  • Community facilities such as an indoor pool
  • Better communication by politicians about what they are doing for the community

There is no desire to malign individual politicians by lumping them together as a group. Perhaps everyone is doing the best they can. It would certainly be appreciated if our individual representatives would take the time to outline plans for Weston to their employers, the people.

You may wish to contact them individually, here are their contact details:

Federal MP Alan Tonks,
2534 Keele St
Toronto ON  M6L 2N8
Phone: (416) 656-2526
Fax: (416) 656-9908
Email: [email protected]

Provincial MPP Laura Albanese
Unit 102
2301 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M6M 3Z9
Tel: (416) 243-7984
Fax: (416) 243-0327
Email: [email protected]

Councillor Frances Nunziata
Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street West, Suite C49
Toronto, ON  M5H 2N2
Phone: (416) 392-4091
Fax: (416) 392-4118
Email: [email protected]

Report from the John St bridge committee

Mark Dos Reis sends the following note along from the John St bridge committee, which is meeting with Metrolinx to help design the pedestrian bridge over the tracks.

John St Pedestrian Bridge Committee Update

As a member of the Community Advisory Committee, we’ve been asked to share the Committee’s work with the Weston community.  The Committee will be meeting on a monthly basis for the rest of this year and have specific milestones throughout the year in relation to the design and final recommendation of the John St. Bridge.

The first meeting took place on Thursday January 20.  The Committee consists of various members of the Weston Community as well as our elected representatives from the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government.  Laura Alabanese and Alan Tonks were in attendance for this meeting, as well as a representative from Frances Nunziatta’s office (she was unable to attend this meeting due to the City’s budget planning meetings, but will be there for the rest of the meetings).  In total there were about 25-30 residents and politicians in attendance representing the neighbourhood.

The mandate of the committee is as follows:

  1. Recommend the content for a design brief for the John St. Bridge
  2. Review of initial design concepts for the bridge (10 in total)
  3. Shortlist the concepts to three which will be shared with the community
  4. Review the results of the community vote
  5. Recommend one design project for Metrolix to implement

Important milestones in 2011 include the finalizing of the design brief in April, the election of the 3 design concepts in July, and the final decision recommendation in October/November.  Its important to note that this committee will only be delivering a recommendation and the final decision on the design of the bridge will ultimately be made by GO and Metrolinx.

Weston Memorial needs your help

The Weston Memorial Annual Fun Fair needs volunteers and donations. The fair will be on June 2, and the planning committees are looking for people to help out both in advance and on the day of the fair.

The school needs people to help with

  • Ideas
  • Raffle Donations
  • Lootbag donations
  • The bake sale
  • Setting up, running events, and tidying up

Last year’s event raised about $5000 for new school computers, and it was a total blast. There were sack races, snacks, bouncy castles, music and more.

If you or your company want to contribute, call Cristine Ramos at (416) 614-7177.