Weston Park: it’s not a community centre…

Back in the halcyon pre-pandemic days of late February 2020, I attended a concept meeting held at Weston Park Baptist Church (WPBC) to discuss development of the lands at the south-east corner of Weston and Lawrence. The development, known as Weston Park will occupy quite a large property stretching from the old Scotiabank building on the corner to the actual church itself including parking spaces currently on loan to Metrolinx. As I said at the time, the meeting was a veritable love-fest with lots of feel-good messages and the promise of a community asset that would incorporate the two existing buildings while emphasizing some of the historical aspects of the Weston community. A promise was made of community consultation through the whole planning process.

The Weston Park Development site. Adapted from Google Maps.

Fast forward to last Monday and a second meeting was held via Zoom (with over 130 participants) to reveal the latest thoughts from WPBC and the developer, Castlepoint Numa.

According to Councillor Frances Nunziata, the project is attempting to enhance the community through the following:

  • Bring in new investment and strengthen community ties
  • Create a vibrant multi-use hub
  • Use high architectural design standards
  • Incorporate a mix of community, retail, commercial and residential use
  • Respect the rich heritage of the Weston Community and the WPBC.
  • Connect to transit, pedestrian and cycling networks.
  • Be a visible gateway to UP Express and GO trains

After preliminary introductions were made, some concept drawings were unveiled. It should be noted that there is no obligation on the part of the developer to actually build what is shown, rather they are a set of preliminary ideas.

The view from Weston Road. Presentation screen shot.
The view from Lawrence avenue on a future foggy day. The old Scotiabank wedge is on the right. Presentation screen shot.
The Sanctuary / Performance Hall with sight lines along Bellvue looking towards the Humber. Presentation screen shot.
The gymnasium. Presentation screen shot.
The Gallery / Atrium. Presentation screen shot.
A bird’s eye view of the development. Presentation screen shot.

What’s in the latest presentation?

It’s still quite vague but that’s understandable at this early stage. Interestingly, part of the site contains a major sewage pipe, so no new development can take place on that part. In order to get around this, the existing church building will be moved down Weston Road to the south-eastern edge of the property. The church’s proposed new location can be seen in the last diagram. The pipe follows a diagonal line from the station.

There are plans for community spaces such as a gym, gallery and sanctuary / performance hall. The latter will feature a huge window at the back of the stage that will look onto Bellvue and the Humber River beyond. The WAES food bank will also be accommodated in the development. There will be retail stores and restaurants on the ground floor of the development. It’s far too soon to know who will occupy the stores.

A Y-shaped woonerf will be incorporated as a multi-use thoroughfare that will link Lawrence and Weston and provide a walkway and sight-line to the station. Pedestrians, cyclists and traffic will mingle freely on this paved area that will be partly covered by the development before it emerges on Lawrence.

Partcipants were concerned that the woonerf will be used as a short cut by cars between Lawrence and Weston. This didn’t seem to have occurred to project organizers.

The elephant in the room was referred to only briefly. What will finance all the community bling? Will there be rental fees for the gym, gallery and sanctuary / performance hall or will they be subsidized by fees from the developer? What will happen to Section 37 money generated by the development?

The answer seems to rest in the two large apartment towers that will set a record height for Weston. The smaller will be 28 storeys while the larger will be 38. The Weston Hub’s 30-storey apartment building on John Street seems to have set a target for future developments. While the hundreds of apartments will constitute the vast majority of the project, there were no apartment layouts or any description of them. Often a development will list numbers of one-bedroom apartments and so on (square footage, ratio of bedroom options etc.). Maybe it’s too early yet but the City will certainly have a say as the trend is to encourage developers to include a bigger ratio of two and three-bedroom apartments.

The developers also haven’t decided if the apartments will be condo’s or rentals.

As in all modern developments, a large issue will be parking. Developing the site will mean the removal of almost 70 existing parking spaces currently used by UPX and GO commuters. Additional parking will also be needed for hundreds of residents, churchgoers, community activity participants and customers of the retail stores and commercial spaces. By necessity, Weston is a car oriented neighbourhood. We’re a long way from being a 20-minute neighbourhood. Where will all these people park and how will commuters be discouraged from using up the development’s spaces? There was no mention of bike parking.

The height of the towers seems excessive. Especially considering the low-rise nature of Weston Road. No doubt City planners will trim them down marginally but once built, they’ll be hugely prominent for decades. If the towers are to be so tall (and they likely will be), what can be done to make them attractive? Other than wispy concept drawings, there was little about the external appearance of the towers. As illustrated they look like what one expects architectural drawings of Toronto towers to look like. There was also little discussion of the effect that hundreds of new residents would have on transportation and infrastructure. Wind and shadow studies will hopefully show minimal effects on the recently renovated community space already existing on the opposite corner of Weston and Lawrence.

With only 90 minutes allowed for the presentation, many things weren’t discussed. One would hope that all flat roof surfaces would be green and accessible. It also would be nice if outdoor restaurant seating could be contained within the woonerf area away from traffic noise and would be a natural draw for pedestrians. Participants expressed concern that there needs to be some thought put into the design of anti-crime features that will keep loitering down once businesses are closed for the day. Also, there probably should be a pedestrian crossing of Weston Road at Bellevue for safety and to encourage the connection to the Humber.

Sidewalks are already very constrained on the opposite side of Weston Road from the project and there is a very busy bus stop on the opposite corner (Weston is a major transit hub). There probably needs to be more thought paid to this. Sidewalks on Weston Road north of Lawrence were recently widened but by far the greater need is south of Lawrence.

In conclusion, when I saw the proposals in November 2020, I was encouraged by what seemed like a partnership literally made in heaven. Now it seems like the devil is in the details: a pair of precedent-setting tall towers with some (admittedly major) goodies thrown in to make the towers palatable. The development may also cause major stress on existing infrastructure including roads, sidewalks, parking and sewers.

It is up to Westonians to make their feelings known and express their opinions on the development. If you haven’t watched the presentation I highly recommend that you do.

As the project stands, much like the Weston Hub, the net community benefit won’t be known for years while the precedent of ever taller towers will be well and truly cemented in stone. The developers used the phrase, our ambition is to make Weston Park the centre of the community, not a community centre. Time will tell if that will happen but great stock is placed by the City in the opinions of residents during the consultation process.

Watch the Zoom presentation here.

Find the Weston Park Development information and resident feedback site here.

Correction: Frontlines Vice-Chair Brigitte Sasche tells me that there are no plans to include Frontlines in the development. That reference has been removed.

Metrolinx meeting on Thursday

Metrolinx will be hosting a virtual meeting to discuss the Eglinton Crosstown West this Thursday, August 19.

The Eglinton Crosstown West extension will run from Mount Dennis Station to Renfrew Drive. As we mentioned last week, it will lead to substantial changes along Eglinton, including in the Eglinton Flats, where a raised train will be installed.

You’re asked to register in advance if you’d like to ask questions.

Metrolinx building elevated tracks at Eglinton Flats

In June, Metrolinx announced their plans for the Crosstown West branch of the LRT around the Eglinton Flats and Fergy Brown Park: They are planning to build a long elevated track from west of Scarlett to east of Jane.

The ‘elevated guideway’ will be 1.5 km long and about 5m (16′) off the ground. (The remainder of the tracks will be underground out to Renforth.)

It’s sure to be controversial, since the LRT will cut through Mount Dennis’ largest area of parkland.

Metrolinx says that they are concerned with minimizing “the visual impact on the surrounding park land, development and streets” and “overlook, overshadowing, noise and vibration, and physical obstructions”. In the presentation, Elmira Moghani said they considered “how it can nicely fit into the environment and the context of Eglinton Flats.” She says the preferred design is a “smaller structure which has less visual impact in the area [and] less constructibility challenges.”

The Mount Dennis Community Association, however, recently detailed several cases where Metrolinx has removed trees, not replaced trees, and allowed erosion in the neighbourhood.

You can use credit cards on the UPX

Ever-so-slowly, the UPX fare boxes are improving. You can now use your credit card to tap on and off.

I’m sure these things are massively complicated, but it seems a bit bonkers that a train designed for airport passengers didn’t have this in the first place. Nobody wants to struggle with tickets in a foreign language while juggling luggage and fighting jetlag. Add it to the list.

While you’re considering UPX fares, be sure avoid a scam. Your correspondent saw $120 “unlimited” Presto cards advertised on a social network. They are allegedly good for three years.

It sounds too good to be true—and it is.

GO and UPX services cut

UPX and GO service will be temporarily reduced as a result of the pandemic. Trains will run twice-hourly at peak periods and hourly in off-peak periods.


The last train to Weston will also leave downtown earlier—at 10 pm. The cuts begin today.

GO Train service to Weston will also be cut. There will be no weekday evening service. The last train will leave downtown at 6:34 pm.

GO ridership is less than 10% of what it was before the pandemic.

Weston ten years ago: November 2010

The new steps at Mallaby Park as they appeared in November 2010.

Here’s a taste of what was happening in Weston back in November 2010.

Some new steps had replaced the wooden ones at Mallaby Park, near St Phillips and Weston Road.

The Weston Farmers Market had wrapped up for another year.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford nominated Councillor Frances Nunziata as Toronto Council Speaker; a powerful position she has held since then. She was being sued by a disgruntled ex-employee and Adam looked at her expenses.

Artscape was investigating the possibility of an arts hub in Weston and where it might be located.

The In Touch Retirement Home was under scrutiny after two residents and later, a third resident died.

A brand new soccer facility in Lions Park was almost complete.

Adam reported on what our local politicians had been up to.

The Clean Train Coalition was battling Metrolinx and rallying over electrification.

More Crosstown Delays

Influential Toronto transit blogger Steve Munro is reporting a significant development in construction of the Eglinton Crosstown Line. Metrolinx has consistently stated that the line will not open until all stations are ready. Now it seems that thanks to various factors, Eglinton Station (at Yonge) might not be ready until May 2022 and a direct connection to the subway will be delayed until fall of that year.

Why the change in plans? Steve points out that, “The expected June 2022 provincial election will bring considerable pressure to provide a ribbon cutting for Premier Ford at whatever cost is necessary.”.

Read his blog post here.

View an interesting take on the line from Reece Martin below:

Update: Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster has called talk of a partial opening as a ‘distraction’. Verster seems unhappy with builders of the line, Crosslink Transit Solutions.

Read more here.