Westmount Army and Navy Club has occupied its present Kingdom Street site in Greater Weston™ since 1938. Sadly, thanks to lengthy closures because of Covid, the club has been losing money for a while as noted back in April last year when they held a fundraiser. At a membership meeting convened today, club members voted to put the 450 x 120 foot site up for sale with the idea that monies raised will clear any debts and provide an income from interest on the capital. The club plans to reconvene in a new leased location. Whatever happens, directors insist that if the club needs to be wound-up, once debts are cleared, all proceeds will go to the charities that Westmount A.N.C. has supported for many years.
The club charter states that it must operate in Etobicoke and members hope to lease and move to a nearby property once the eventual purchaser takes possession of the site. This may not be for a couple of years so in the meantime, now that Covid restrictions have eased somewhat, it’s business as usual with activities such as darts nights being arranged for the fall.
Real estate agents entrusted with the sale process and present at the meeting speculated that a price of up to $3 million was possible for the site which will be sold as one property. The sort of housing that will be built on the land is unknown but the options are likely to be a severance into three 50 x 120 lots, six 25 x 120 foot lots, or a townhome complex.
The building known as ‘The Humber’ on Wilby Crescent is starting to emerge from its basement foundations. This was the view at the site entrance today and also from the Humber footbridge. The 22 storey affordable condos will be ready for occupation sometime in 2023.
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.
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.
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.
The Real Estate News Exchange says that a very large property is for sale in Weston. The property includes the office building at 13–21 John Street, the mechanic’s next door, and 36–40 South Station Street.
The article suggests the property would be suitable for a “30-storey tower with varied podium heights”, about the same height as 22 John, across the street.
The owner of the Tyrrell property at 64 King St has asked the city for permission to sever the property into two lots, one of which would be for a house.
The house would be on the eastern side of the property, where the garage is now.
64 King is one of the most remarkable buildings in Weston. It was once home to the Tyrrell family, and to Joseph Tyrrell, who became an explorer and paleontologist. The building is on the municipal heritage register as a “building of historical and architectural value or interest”.
More recently, it was the In Touch Retirement Home, which was subject to a series of enforcement actions by the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority. (I don’t know what the building is used for now.)
A hearing date has not yet been scheduled for this file.
It’s not strictly Weston related, but the city is proposing a vacant-homes tax that would charge people 1% of their home’s value every year if it is not occupied. The tax is to encourage more housing supply, and it should raise more than $55 million for the city.
It’s a great idea. Vancouver has had a vacancy tax for three years, and it seems to have correlated with a decline in unoccupied buildings. It has also raised about $50 million for the city.
Toronto hasn’t written the laws yet, but Vancouver makes exceptions for homes that are being sold, renovated, or cannot be rented due to condo-boards. If everything goes according to plan, Toronto could have a tax by 2022.
In other affordable-housing news, Toronto bureaucrats took another small step toward allowing ‘garden suites’ (aka granny flats) earlier this month. The city has been moving towards allowing attractive and (more) affordable infill housing.
I love the idea of turning my somewhat tatty garage into home for my kids when they get a little older. (My kids, and my neighbour, may disagree.) They’d have an affordable place to live, and I’d be able to continue to smother them.
A final report by the planning department should be ready by the middle of next year.