It has been a well-known ‘secret’ for some years that development is coming to the Scotiabank wedge site along with the Weston Park Baptist Church land at Weston and Lawrence. Rumours have abounded for years regarding this mega-site, painting all kinds of scenarios incorporating housing, a community / recreation centre as well as a replacement church. A new home for Frontlines was also mentioned in the rumours.
A ‘preliminary discussion’ meeting has been set up by Councillor Nunziata with the idea of ‘gathering input and ideas’.
WPBC entered into a joint venture with developer, Castlepoint Numa in June last year and according to their website the church was expecting to be shown proposals for the entire site by last fall. Based on that information, I imagine that the ‘input and ideas’ stage has passed – but I then tend to be cynical.
Castlepoint Numa seems to be well regarded however, it was in the news a few years ago after one of their developments in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood failed, disappointing about 150 people who had paid deposits. The building would have been a ten-storey condo. According to the Star, one of the people left high and dry was none other than a son of Mayor Tory. Although the deposits were refunded, buyers were left several years behind in the ever rising tide of Toronto home prices.
The explanation given for cancelling the project was Castlepoint Numa’s inability to obtain financing thanks (they claimed) to the city’s slow approval process. Read more here and here. There is evidence that Castlepoint Numa may have done this more than once.
This will be another important community meeting that will help guide the development of our ‘downtown’. We all know that development is inevitable and probably a good thing if it results in a building that works to enhance Weston rather than detract from it (as so many have done in the recent past).
Date: Monday February 24 Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm Location: Weston Park Baptist Church; 1871 Weston Road.
Frances Nunziata , John Tory, and Councillor Michael Thompson announced yesterday that the proposed budget will include $6 million to curb gun violence by, among other things, “creating new youth hubs [and] opening new youth spaces”—one of which seems likely to be on Falstaff Avenue and one of which may be in Mount Dennis.
I am proud that the proposed 2020 budget includes $6M in additional anti-violence funding. This investment will address the root causes of violence by creating new youth hubs, opening new youth spaces, and providing new Community Youth Violence Prevention Grants. https://t.co/skl7OkHWVx
Toronto is an extremely safe city, but there was quite a lot of gun violence last year, including in York South–Weston. There were 9 murders in 12 Division in 2019, triple the number in 2018. (12 Division includes many other neighbourhoods) There were 490 shootings in Toronto last year—and shootings have increased dramatically since 2014.
The locations for the youth hubs have not been announced, and the funding must be approved by City Council, but that Nunziata and Tory made the announcement at Falstaff is encouraging.
In 2018, library staff also proposed opening a youth hub in Mount Dennis. In 2018, the TPL’s manager of youth services, Lisa Heggum, toldThe Star
The library has always been a space for youth…. Especially in more disadvantaged neighbourhoods, youth rely on access to computers, WiFi, books and other resources. The hub adds another space to connect with teens, she said.
She stressed their role is facilitation not supervision in a space where teens are encouraged to be loud and librarians aren’t shushing anyone.
WVRA Chair Dave Bennett is interviewed in this 18-minute video by local realtor Louisa Bada and talks about the work that goes on at the Weston Village Residents Association.
A few points of note in the video:
The developer of the subsidized rental retirement building proposed for 2346 Weston Road has resubmitted a new design. Bennett says the senior building was to be a ‘mish mash’ of one, two and three bedroom apartments with only one elevator. Now it will have only one and two bedroom apartments along with two elevators and a, ‘floor for guests’ where people can stay overnight. (I looked for the guest floor in the city report but it only mentions 188 square metres (2023 square feet of community space)). There will be a walking path on the top of the building. According to Bennett, it will be a place where, ‘I would put my mother’. I’m not sure if Bennett is claiming credit for the changes.
Bennett, says the City’s 28-page report on the 1956 Weston Road (Greenland Farms) development is a, ‘daunting document’ but the WVRA will put a link to it on their site with their own highlighted notes. Weston Web covered the contents of the report on January 4th -for our summary click here.
Comment: It’s great to see the WRVA opening up about what they do. I’m sure they mean well and do a lot of good in the community but if they are to truly represent all the residents of Weston, their meetings and decisions should be public and transparent. This will avoid the perception that the association is being used by Councillor Nunziata to legitimize questionable developments to the detriment of the public interest. Daylight is a good disinfectant.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions for the WVRA:
Residents should be able to join online.
The Constitution, by-laws and meeting minutes should be online.
Meetings should be publicized and open to any member of the public – especially those where developers and other lobbyists are present.
Over 50 disgruntled Weston residents turned out to a meeting Tuesday, January 28th, held at the Weston Memorial Jr. Public School to voice their concerns regarding construction work being done on several streets to replace aged storm drainage pipes. The construction work currently taking place is part of the city’s Basement Flooding Protection Program.
The local city councillor’s office reported a high volume of complaints coming from residents who were either not informed of the construction project properly or misinformed by city staff or private contractors that the city had hired to do the work.
One resident reported that both his (underground) Bell cable and his Rogers cable had been severed by the all the digging around his driveway and when questioned about who was going to repair it was told by the contractor, “You have to go and ask Bell or Rogers about that.”
Other residents complained that they have yet to be told what the time-frame for completion of the project will be and when they will have access to their driveways and streets on which they live. There was a lot of head bobbing by the four city staff assembled by the councillor’s office to attend the meeting with many “we’ll have to get back to you on that one” kind of answers, but no real strategies put forward to lessen the impact of construction on the Weston streets that are affected.
One resident asked how much of the drainage infrastructure is being replaced throughout Weston, in that there has been a marked increase in homeowners experiencing basement flooding and clogged drains. City staff indicated that “there just is not enough money in our budget to do all that needs to be done, but we are trying to designate those streets that need it the most.”
One resident suggested that if a community meeting had been called prior to the commencement of construction, people would have had a better understanding of the work that was to be done and the time-frame for completion. In response, our city councillor asked the resident: “Would you have even come to the meeting if I had called one?”
One wonders if a similar meeting in a Rosedale neighbourhood would have received such a high handed response from a city councillor.
For some reason, the Weston Village Residents’ Association will be holding private talks with Weston Asset Management, the developer of the mammoth project at Weston Road and Little Avenue. Both the community, and city planners have been highly critical of the project but now the developer and Councillor Nunziata seem to want the stamp of approval (or approved alterations) from the WVRA. This is much what happened with the Weston Hub. The nod from the WVRA was seen as adding legitimacy to the project and cut the legs off opposition along with a push for improvements to the public realm.
I asked to be present at the meeting but a couple of roadblocks were thrown my way. Firstly, membership of the WVRA is open to Weston residents only. Fair enough, I don’t live in Weston Village (I live 100 metres away). Secondly, only the ‘Steering Committee‘ will meet with the developer so Weston residents will not be able to attend even if they decide to join the association.
The WVRA represents a few dozen people at best. It is not a democratically elected body and should not set itself up as a self-appointed architectural arbiter behind closed doors. There was a public meeting where the developer heard from residents. Was that not clear enough? Perhaps it was too clear.
Chair Dave Bennett insists that the WVRA isn’t holding a secret meeting but if it’s unannounced and held behind closed doors by a select few, it’s quacking like a duck, it’s secret, and it’s wrong.
With a housing shortage in Toronto, there is a mentality that the only way to house more people in our city is through high-rise apartment buildings. Logically it makes sense to think that taller buildings provide more density.
Developers, planners and politicians seem to believe it too. Weston is one of the densest parts of Toronto and yet, developers only seem to be able to propose tall buildings for Weston. Politicians are supposed to look out for residents’ best interests but sadly, we don’t have adequate representation at City Hall and it’s cheaper for developers to build a tall building and walk away; especially if they’re allowed to cut corners. There are guidelines but these are often circumvented. Sadly, in the past, politicians and planners approved tall buildings in the name of efficiency. Weston is littered with reminders of this. Europe has seen the folly of high-rise buildings and is replacing them with lower and more humane housing.
Myth 1: High-rise buildings provide better density.
The centre of Barcelona achieves a density of 531 people per hectare – compare this to Weston, which has a paltry 292 people per hectare. Barcelona achieves its higher density with mid-rise buildings. Tall buildings need more floor space devoted to sway prevention, utility conduits, sprinkler systems and dry pipes for fire department regulations. Then there are elevators – taller buildings require more.
Myth 2: High-rise buildings are energy efficient.
High-rises don’t have a low carbon footprint. Glass is a lousy insulator and modern high-rises are covered in it. The best double glazing has an R-value of under 4 (R stands for resistance to heat loss). Triple glazing is better but still loses lots of energy and developers aren’t prepared to pay the extra costs involved. The bottom line: high-rise apartments are poorly insulated, have huge energy losses and are terrible for the environment. High-rise buildings have twice the carbon emissions of low-rise buildings. In fact, the taller the building, the more wasteful it is.
Street-level houses built before the recent focus on energy efficiency have walls insulated to a value of R-13. The higher the R-value of a surface, the better insulated it is). Nowadays, standards are much higher; (R-22 and up for walls) newer homes are much more energy efficient than older ones with far lower heating and cooling bills.
Myth 3: A high-rise is simply a vertical community.
Weston is still a depressed area and placing additional high-rises in areas with disadvantaged residents is not a good idea. Research tells us that even with moderating factors (higher income, larger apartments, better amenities), high-rises are isolating, depressing and poor places to raise children. Studies have shown that behavioural problems are greater in children who live in high-rises. There is also evidence that crime and fear of crime is greater in tall buildings.
Myth 4: High-rises provide more affordable accommodation.
We know that high-rise buildings are expensive to heat and cool but what about maintenance costs? Maintenance and utility costs approach $1000 per month for a two-bedroom unit in an older building. Elevators are highly sophisticated machines and expensive to maintain. They are regularly out of action in some older buildings. As buildings age, they need new wiring, boilers and air conditioners and this is expensive. Bottom line, high-rises don’t age well, or cheaply.
Because of the numbers of residents, security is often needed to monitor people coming and going. In smaller buildings, people are more likely to spot strangers attempting to enter.
Myth 5: High-rise buildings provide a safer and better lifestyle.
Talk to people awakened in the middle of the night by fire alarms or who have been inconvenienced by power and water outages. Accessing an upper floor requires a form of transit i.e. an elevator. If the elevators go out of service, it’s no fun lugging groceries to your unit on the 20th floor. To add to the quality of life issues, bugs and tobacco / vaping smoke and noise can often find their way into neighbouring apartments. Fumigating apartments because of bedbugs or other pests can be inconvenient and also puts residents at risk if the chemicals used are also toxic to humans and pets. This is less of a problem in smaller buildings.
Because residents need to take a form of transit to get outside or to fitness amenities, they are less inclined to go outside; especially those on higher floors. Psychologist Daniel Cappon writes in the Canadian Journal of Public Health that high-rises discourage exercise because of the extra hassle in getting to the ground. He says that high-rises keep people away from, “neighbourhood peers and activities.” leading to life-shortening alienation and isolation that increases with the height of buildings. Children raised in apartments above the fifth floor were found in one study to be delayed in their development.
Myth 6: High-rises add value to a neighbourhood.
There is a reason that wind and shadow studies are performed when tall buildings are proposed. Adding large vertical slabs to a landscape creates wind tunnel effects that are unpleasant for people outside. They also create shadows that can permanently eliminate sunshine from an area. Architects try to get around this by putting thinner high-rises on top of a podium so that shadows are narrower and the wind is deflected at the podium’s base rather than at street level. Thinner high-rises have a lower density (see Myth 1).
As for aesthetic value, let’s face it, many Toronto condo buildings are just plain ugly.
Lastly, high-rise buildings with large areas of glass kill birds in huge numbers, especially if they are built along a migration corridor.