WVRA addresses Greenland Farms development

In a letter to WVRA members, the chair of the organization, Dave Bennett, has made clear the group’s stance on the Greenland Farms development.

Bennett says:

Our hope is that the team presenting this development continues to work with our many local community groups to improve their design so that we can also support the development of 1956 Weston Road.

I read this is as a rejection of the development as it currently is proposed—a rejection in line with those at the community meeting and by the city planner.

In the email to residents, Bennett says, “both owners and renters [are] welcome to join and be represented. And we welcome new Steering Committee members regularly who express an interest in making Weston Village a better place to live, work and play.​”

 

Weston Development (29 Storeys)

At the Community Meeting about the proposal for the development at the Greenland Farms site (Weston and Little Ave.), the developer’s agent tried to justify the immense building on the basis of the province’s plans to increase development around ‘Major Transit Stations’.  Weston GO station (as long as we keep our GO trains) is such a Major Transit Station.  The new provincial plans (now called ‘A Place to Grow’) require a planned density of 150 persons and jobs per hectare (1/100 of a square kilometre) around GO Stations.  From the city of Toronto, this definition:

So, what does this mean for Weston?  First, the 500 metre radius looks like this.

The Greenland Farms development will clearly be within that circle which extends north to almost King, south to part of Sykes, east along Lawrence to Pine, and west to just into Etobicoke.

But the real question is, how much density do we need to achieve the provincial plan?  Do we really need to permit several 29 and 36 storey towers?

The answer can be found in the 2016 Census.  Here is a map of the west part of Toronto with densities in different colours – dark blue being the densest.

The Census data is in persons per square kilometre.  Weston is already the densest part of the west end, with the possible exception of part of Dixon Road.  And the densities of the areas closest to the proposed development are already substantially more than 150 persons per hectare, not counting any jobs which may exist.

By small census areas, here are the actual densities.

35204426 – West side of Weston Road, Little to St. Phillips – Density 153.3 persons per hectare

35204415 – East side of Weston Road, King to John to tracks – Density 181.73 persons per hectare

35204414 – North side of Lawrence to John St, Little to tracks – Density 177.57 persons per hectare

35204413 – South side of Lawrence, Hickory Tree to Weston Rd. – Density 292.12 persons per hectare

35204412 – South side of Lawrence, Weston to Pine and south to Denison – Density 69.19 persons per hectare

35204411 – West side of Weston Rd., Bellevue to Wright – Density 133.72 persons per hectare.

The 2016 census was before the building at 22 John was occupied.  So the density is already greater.  And the count does not include jobs, which takes the count even higher.

Weston is already plenty dense enough.  Developers cannot point to the provincial growth plan and claim a right to make it denser.  Even the legally allowed 8 storey maximum for development on Weston Road would significantly increase the density.

The city can and should say no to any more monstrous buildings in Weston. And defend such decision at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (successor to the OMB) should the developers appeal.  Developers who thought we’d be an easy mark can think again.

Twenty-Nine Storeys and 240 Metres.

At the Jan 8 Community Council meeting, councilors accepted the report of the city planning department regarding the proposed 29 storey twin-tower development at Weston and Little Ave.(the Greenland Farms site). The report essentially said the plans were too much for the current zoning and official plan, but planning will work with the developer on amending the plans. Councillor Nunziata amended the motion to add that another community meeting should be held prior to any new reports about this development being given to the Community Council, with notices to land owners and residents within 240 metres of the development, at the expense of the developer.
Two Hundred and Forty Metres is not very far. It gets south to Lawrence, east to the train tracks, west to the park, and north to King St. No notices to old Weston, nor to the apartment dwellers at the twin towers, nor 5 Bellevue, nor 29 South Station. The councilor did reserve the right to expand the notice boundary.

Staff blast Greenland proposal

Roy will have his own article in a moment, but here is my summary of the city’s report on the Greenland building: Absolutely not.

The report rejects the proposal on many different levels. But, in short, the building is far too big and will hurt, rather than “regentrify”, Weston.

The report will be presented to community council on January 8.

At issue is a proposal for two 29-storey towers joined by a very large podium on a relatively small site at Weston and Little.  The official plan for Weston limits buildings to 8 storeys, and fewer close to the road, so the proposed building is far larger, far denser, and far more imposing than permitted. Indeed, the buildings look like a tornado dropped Toronto onto Weston’s heritage.

The developer’s concept drawing of the finished product. Note the size of the storefronts at the base of the structure. Click to enlarge.

The city report says that the proposed building “would result in a bulky, overwhelming presence”, “fails to address the local and planned context” and “is inappropriate for the site”. Staff say the plan should be rejected and redesigned as a “mid-rise building with a 45 degree angular plane provided from the Neighbourhoods, open space and low-rise areas and that particular attention be paid to heritage features”.

It’s not just the architecture. The building will have effects on community space and infrastructure—perhaps for decades. The report says Weston will need:

  • a new elementary school,
  • a new public community centre and
  • a new child care centre

None of these will be built quickly. St John The Evangelist took 5 years just to build—and months were wasted on legal wrangling over a culvert.  A culvert. Could you imagine what it would take to build a school from scratch?

The developers aren’t only asking to draw down Weston. They’re hoping to provide too few common elements for the future owners. They would like to provide less than half the required amenity space and too few parking spaces.

The city has made it clear that residents and representatives  must reject this proposal and demand it be redrawn, from scratch, with the community in mind.

Some thoughts on development in Weston

I’m not opposed to development in Weston. Nor am I in favour. I think it’s a simple calculation: we should extract as much benefit from development as we can, and if we don’t get what we want, we shouldn’t be afraid to walk away.

Greenland Farms produce section (file).

The Greenland Farms development is a case in point. At their community consultation, the developer’s representatives made it clear that they would meet, but not exceed, community benefit agreements and environmental standards. They also made it very clear that this development was a purely economic decision for them. All for the good.

Let’s make it a purely economic decision for us. They want some things: changed rules and community support. Let’s make a deal.

They would have us change the planning guidelines. They also want to use the roads, the schools, the pools and the playgrounds.  I can’t see any reason whatsoever why we should let them without getting something in exchange.

Rockport provides an excellent inspiration. They consulted and made community benefits a large part of their building. They gave back. I’m sure they made a good buck, and all the power to them. But they realized that good community relations are good business—and the right thing to do.

What shall we ask for?

Off the top of my head:

  • An improved farmers’ market space
  • A community daycare
  • A YMCA
  • Better bike infrastructure, including better bike racks, lanes, and storage spaces at transit stops
  • A scholarship fund for Weston CI students
  • A clothing/tool/computer/food bank at Weston and Lawrence
  • Improvements to the library
  • A recreation space and opportunities for teens and youth

Right now, I get no sense that the developers have any vision for our community—and no, ‘regentrification’ is not a vision. It’s not even a word. Their vision is to make money for themselves.

If they don’t have one, we should sell a vision to them.

What are your thoughts?

Shhh…Community Consultation Meeting November 28 at WCI

Developer, Weston Asset Management Inc. wants to fundamentally change the nature of Weston’s ‘Main Street’ by erecting two 29-storey condos surrounded by a 12-storey podium. On its own the podium would be called a high rise in most parts of the world – or for that matter more genteel (and better represented) parts of Toronto. The site consists of the old Greenland Farms property and several adjacent others. Residents will use Lawrence and Little Avenues to access the complex.

Nearly two years ago, Weston Asset Management purchased a block of properties comprising numbers 1956, 1966, 1972, 1974, 1980, 1986 Weston Road and the adjacent property on 1 Little Avenue. The biggest of the properties is the old Greenland Farms supermarket that was once home to Loblaws.

The properties as they currently stand. Click to enlarge. Image from Google Maps.
Part of the developer’s plan of the project (Weston Road is at the bottom). Click to enlarge.
The developer’s concept drawing of the finished product. Note the size of the storefronts at the base of the structure. Click to enlarge.

Up until recently, this development would have been in direct contravention of the Official Plan for Weston (not that it ever made any difference) which restricted building heights along Weston Road. Not to worry, Toronto’s Official Plan has been updated to remove all references to Weston and pesky Weston Road building heights. Job done!

Ground floor retail space proposed by the developer. No room for a supermarket. Click to enlarge.

For people hoping that a supermarket would return, there is bad news. The average supermarket occupies about 30,000 – 50,000 square feet. Despite the project’s size (there will be about 43,000 square feet of retail, there is no single retail space bigger than 4,300 square feet on the ground floor. Just over 31,000 square feet of retail is planned for the entire second floor but  supermarkets are traditionally built at ground level.

Toronto requires developers to perform shadow studies as sunlight is a fast disappearing commodity thanks to high rise buildings. The opposite side of Weston Road will predominantly be in shadow as a result of the new development. For some reason, the developer hasn’t included shadows during the six months between September and March (when sunshine is most welcome and needed). Incidentally shadows on March 21 and September 21 are identical so why include both?

There’s news for heritage lovers. While the developer has made plans to keep only the facades of 1974 (Squibbs)-1976 (tax preparer) and 1982 -1984 (Humber Condominiums) -1986 (God Bless Canada Coffee), the two other buildings and the hairdressers at 1 Little Avenue will be demolished entirely.

Artist’s impression of part of the proposed retail strip showing the two heritage facades that will be preserved. Click to enlarge.

Curiously for such an important change to our ‘downtown’, there is no mention of this community consultation on Councillor Nunziata’s newsletter or website. Legally, only residents within 120 metres need to be notified but this is a development that will affect residents far beyond those limits and will influence neighbouring development for decades to come.

One can only assume that the councillor would like this event to be poorly attended and that the developer has been told it’s a done deal. Then again, she may be trying to protect the community from an even bigger impact. After the last meeting, held in August 2017 to gather community input, Weston Asset Management felt encouraged enough to double the size of the project. Sad but true.

This extract from a letter to Planning by the developer’s solicitors may provide a clue to the opposition anticipated and the meeting format best able to deal with it..

“In terms of the parties involved, we would suggest that in addition to the typical notice required under the Planning Act, the additional stakeholders who should be invited to the public consultation meeting should include any known residents’ associations in the immediate area as well as representatives of the local BIA. The form of the meeting which we have found most beneficial to the public gaining a full understanding of the proposal, in addition to allowing City Staff to best assess the veracity of the concerns (my bold and underline), is the type of open house where the various city and applicant consultants can review the various areas of interest with individuals and/or groups in a smaller setting. The current notification requirements, which include both the posting of a notice onsite, as well as the typical mail-out to surrounding property owns(sic) and the specific organizations indicated above, is the best manner in which to reach the public.”

That sounds a bit like like divide and conquer.

Read more about the project here. The developer’s application materials can be found here.

If you cannot attend the meeting, and would like to provide input, Rory McNeil at the City Planner’s Office would like to hear from you:

by email: [email protected]
by Phone: (416) 394-5683
by letter: City, Planner, Etobicoke York District, 2, Civic Centre Court, Floor 3, Toronto ON, M9C 5A3.

Planning Application Consultation:
Date: November 28, 2019
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Location: Weston Collegiate Institute; 100 Pine Street.

Greenland Farms update

Weston Asset Management, the builders behind the Greenland Farms development, have released their plans for the site. Count me among the unimpressed.

The developers would like to build two 29-storey towers from a shared podium.  The towers would be built upon the façade of some of the buildings along Weston Road.

To my eye, the buildings are uninventive, large, and rather ugly. I don’t like how they assimilate and loom over the older heritage buildings—it’s too literal an image of parasitic Toronto absorbing Weston for me to stomach.

 

Photos from the application

The building will have “592 residential units and 3991 square metres of non-residential space” with “174 vehicle parking spaces and 463 bicycle parking spaces” below ground.

I’m not designer, but I’d love to see a lower, broader building that looks repurposed from industry. It would be more true to our roots and look unlike the downtown glass canyons.

From StreetEasy