More on the 1705 Weston Road Development

The architect’s 3-D view of the project looking south on Weston Road. (Click to enlarge)

The proposed building at 1705 Weston Road is scheduled for opening in 2022 and as previously reported by Adam will be a 25-storey high-rise that will include a 6-storey podium. It will be a rental building. A total of 240 units will comprise 37 bachelor units, 98 one-bedroom units, 77 two-bedroom units and 28 three-bedroom units. About 1600 square feet of ground-floor retail space will front onto Weston Road as part of the development. A 3 1/2-level underground parking  garage will hold 136 parking spots while above ground, 6 parking spaces will serve visitors and shoppers. 245 spaces for  bicycles will be divided into 24 long and 216 short term spots with the remaining 5 for retail. With 104 apartments going without parking spaces; this would seem to be courting disaster but planners claim that nowadays, fewer people own a car. Unlike downtown, amenities at Number 1705 are not exactly to hand. The closest supermarket (the Real Canadian Superstore) is about 3 km away; 11 minutes by bus, a long walk or a very dangerous bike ride.

Here’s a view in purple of the actual site that was assembled by Stonehenge. It’s just under an acre and adjacent to the southernmost of the GO / UP Express parking lots so it will be handy for commuters who take either option; especially the GO. Four TTC bus routes are close by.

The site is south of the GO parking lot as Weston Road curves southwards. (Click to enlarge)
Toronto Official Plan land use designations in Weston. (Click to enlarge)

As with all such proposals, at least one community consultation will be arranged by Councillor Nunziata.

As can be seen in the land use designation map, the corridor along Weston Road is designated as an apartment neighbourhood. It remains to be seen what the community reaction to the development will be but the City is very keen to focus on intensification, especially around transit hubs. One question of concern might be that the building is a rental rather than a condo. The building may therefore inject more low-income residents into an area that can’t meet its obligations to the people already here. Also, because of the low rent expectations, the build quality may be proportionally lower than say a rental building in mid-town. This is where Councillor Nunziata will have to be vigilant if she is to improve the fabric of our community.

There is a wealth of supporting information on the project, from shadow studies to architectural plans available here.

This site is a compelling case for the future of transit oriented development. There is a crucial need for affordable rental housing and easy access commuting done the smart way. – Old Stonehenge site.

Incidentally, the company behind the proposed development at 1705 Weston Road is called Old Stonehenge. Company founder Michael Dobrijevic has produced several building projects and has been praised for their quality. According to the site, Mr Dobrijevic takes his inspiration from Stonehenge; interestingly, his site shows an image of Callanish Standing Stones (aka Scotland’s Stonehenge) on the Isle of Lewis more than 1000 km north of Stonehenge.

The real Stonehenge. From commons.wikimedia.org

One more thing that should be of concern to all Weston residents…

 “It is noted that none of the ideas and directions arising from the Weston 2021 Design Charrette have been brought forward in the form of amendments to the Official Plan, the Zoning By-law or urban design guidelines.” Bousfield’s Planning Document

Five things that need to change in Weston / Mount Dennis. Part 5.

5. Planning and Development

Adapted from MasterMaq.ca

Council needs to listen to the experts.

Toronto Council consists of 44 councillors and one mayor, each of whom has a single vote when making decisions. There is a huge staff at City Hall which gathers information and makes recommendations to council on topics to be discussed. Smaller committees of councillors, generally appointed by the Mayor, study the issues, receive input from staff and the public and then make a recommendation which is forwarded to a general council meeting. Unfortunately many councillors have varying axes to grind; sadly for the people, the biggest priority of many councillors is getting re-elected every four years. As a result, fact-based decisions often happen by accident rather than by design. For example, the unnecessary Scarborough Subway, panned by experts both here and around the world, will be a costly blunder that Mayor Tory and many suburban councillors (including our own) fully support.

We need to make plans and act on them with support from the city and in conformity with the Toronto Official Plan.

Weston is still only in Phase 1 of its Heritage Conservation District status granted in 2004. Phase 2 was to be studied that same year. ‘Study’, in the language of Toronto politics means delay, in the hope that the issue will go away quietly (which it did). Apparently getting to phase 2 requires time, money and a huge volunteer effort. Rich areas have no problem raising money and help but a district like Weston / Mount Dennis naturally struggles.

There was an official set of plans drawn up around 2005 for some of the more historic Toronto communities. In Weston, developers were supposed to keep future building heights to around 8 stories in our area out of consideration of the historical context and the river’s proximity. Outside of special areas, the Tall Building Design Guidelines should apply but often don’t.

In 2009, plans for rehabilitating the Kodak lands were discussed. Former Toronto Chief Planner Paul Bedford held a planning exercise with his University of Toronto students to explore Weston’s potential and reported on his findings in 2010. That led to a Weston planning ‘charrette‘ back in 2011. The Mount Dennis Mobility Hub Study in 2012 was another planning session.

Some of the ideas that came out of these planning sessions were excellent but somehow the execution has been lacking; for example:

  • create a pedestrian walkway along South Station Street that would connect Weston Village with the GO / UPX station.
  • create generous and clearly defined pedestrian and cycling routes to the station
  • create more accessible access points to the parks along the Humber
  • Fix the uninviting streetscape along Weston Road

BTW, the Charrette didn’t get everything right. One of their key messages was that “Public investment will need to be provided by the private sector.”

It seems that many development deals are worked out in the back rooms before they reach the public. Public commentary then serves to make only minor adjustments. When the 30-storey Weston Hub was in the public commentary stage, people were told that the height was non-negotiable.

in 2016, more planning studies for Weston and Mount Dennis were announced that should have seen the light of day in 2017 but nothing seems to have transpired.

Weston and Mount Dennis are not less worthy of support than more affluent areas of the city but that’s not what happens. The Artscape project at Wychwood Barns received millions in funding from three levels of government. Our own Artscape development at the soon to be opened Weston Hub received a much smaller investment.

As mentioned previously, Europe has car free zones, attractive streetscapes and limits on building height. Our planning in Toronto seems to be centred around strictly regulating development and then accepting relatively small amounts of money to break the rules.

Finally, we have a mayor and his team who deliberately keep city coffers empty because they cannot see beyond keeping taxes at or below inflation. The mayor worries about millionaire homeowners becoming homeless because of property tax hikes:

“a lot of older and younger people counting on us to be disciplined will be forced from their homes, or find it unaffordable to live in the city, if we start taking 5-per-cent-a-year” tax hikes. – Toronto Star December 27, 2017

He’s conveniently ignoring the fact that older and disabled residents can apply for property tax relief. But that’s our current political environment. Facts mean nothing, there’s no money for the public good and it’s all about protecting the rich.

Ever-so-slowly, saner bike rules

Weston may once have been the home of the bicycle, but the bike has long since moved downtown and bought a condo.

Slowly, ever-so-slowly, that is beginning to change. City staff are making the streets a bit friendlier to our two-wheeled friends. In January, they’ll ask Etobicoke York Community Council to remove a daft ban on bikes turning at Little Avenue during rush hours.

At present, no traffic is allowed to turn onto Little from Weston from 7-9 am and 4-6 pm, and the law is strictly enforced (as it should be). This includes bicycles. If the new rules are approved, bikes will be allowed to turn onto Little Avenue.

To be sure, this is a small step, but it’s in the right direction.

 

Five things that need to change in Weston / Mount Dennis: Part 1

As we approach the year end, here are some things that seem to be holding us back in Weston / Mount Dennis. This is a five part series, the first of which begins today.

As always, your comments are welcome.

 1. Our Road System

Pedestrian and cyclist deaths in Toronto are not taken seriously enough and by extension here in Weston / Mount Dennis. Last year in Toronto, 43 pedestrians were killed by people driving cars while 40 of us were killed by people with a gun. Locally, compare the reaction to the man killed in the Shoppers Parking lot last month with the response to the woman killed on Monday 285 metres west of Weston and Eglinton; a particularly dangerous intersection because of its diagonal angle. Traffic engineers deplore diagonal intersections because they are more prone to driver error, yet Weston Road slices diagonally through Ward 11 at several major points without modification.

Weston Road’s dangerous diagonal intersections. Click to enlarge. Adapted from Google Maps.

Weston and Lawrence was the 7th worst Toronto intersection for collisions between 2009 and 2013. Diaginal intersections can be straightened by traffic engineers, often without much disruption.

From waze.com

Pedestrian light timing is too short – especially at the busy transit hub at Weston and Lawrence. There is a seniors’ building at the intersection yet priority is given to traffic rather than pedestrians. In addition, as already mentioned, intersections that are not at right angles are inherently dangerous.

We need red light cameras to stop people from endangering lives in their haste to shave a few minutes from their journey. Red light cameras more than pay for themselves through the fines that they collect. Is it too much to ask for cameras that can make such a difference at dangerous intersections? Although there are 77 red light cameras in Toronto, there is only one in our area, oddly at Jane and Bala / Emmet.

Cycle lanes – according to Councillor Nunziata, her Cycling Committee has met and will be releasing a report soon. Kudos to the councillor for this initiative and let’s hope for some good recommendations. Apart from dangerous sharrows, there is precious little resembling cycling infrastructure in our area. Paint isn’t infrastructure.

Tomorrow: The retail experience in Weston / Mount Dennis.

Ballard: ‘Something special’ going on in Mount Dennis

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Chris Ballard, takes questions from the audience.

Chris Ballard’s father worked at the Kodak plant during the heyday of Mount Dennis and it was fitting that his son would return as Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to lend support to the area’s revival in the post-industrial future. Now living in Aurora, the Minister recognized that there is ‘something special’ going on in Mount Dennis. The size and enthusiasm of the crowd and organizers attested to that fact.

He was speaking in the Mount Dennis Legion to upwards of 80 people who braved last night’s cold to attend the Mount Dennis Community Association‘s AGM. Applauding the MDCA’s Net Zero initiative under way, he commented that their strong organization and forward thinking should be emulated by all communities.

After an opening invocation and ceremony from indigenous leaders, the Minister outlined Ontario Government initiatives designed to reduce energy consumption and promote conservation. He encouraged residents to visit the website greenon.ca to see the financial incentives designed to help people conserve energy. The money for such grants comes exclusively from the cap and trade system recently set up in Ontario.

MPP Laura Albanese and MP Ahmed Hussen (by recorded message from Ottawa) greeted the crowd and Councillor Frances Nunziata announced that the Pinetree Daycare Centre will become a net zero facility and will increase its capacity to 98 spaces, making it the largest daycare in the area. In addition, the Cycling Committee under her leadership will be making a number of recommendations to the community soon.

Opening ceremony led by Anishinaabe Grandmother Vivian Recollet and Mitchell George.
Mike Mattos, Mount Dennis Community Association Chair calls the meeting to order.

All in all, a very impressive showing for the dynamic Mount Dennis Community Association as their initiatives continue to gain momentum on a variety of fronts.

Nunziata votes for bike lanes

Frances Nunziata seems to have had a change of heart about bikes. She joined the overwhelming majority of councillors and last week voted in favour of keeping the Bloor Street bike lanes.

Bike Lanes on Bloor
Photo by Eric Robinson (CC licensed)

In the past, Nunziata has not been resolutely probike. Notably, she voted to remove bike lanes on Jarvis, and wanted to license bikes (can we not re-litigate this? It’s a terrible idea.)

In Nunziata’s own ward, bike lanes remain few and far between, though that will slowly start improving with input from the newly-struck citizen committee on pedestrian safety and cycling.

 

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.