Rental apartments – what to do?

From RentSeeker.ca

Weston and Mount Dennis residents may have noticed that our little corner of Toronto seems to be undergoing a boom in real-estate turnovers and new projects. The reason seems to be our newly acquired 7-days a week, frequent, rapid and reasonably priced transportation to downtown and the airport.

Instead of the usual condos, many new development proposals seem to be for rental apartments. The average rental accommodation vacancy rate in Toronto is 1% and Toronto Council is keen to have more rental accommodation citing a need for 8000 new apartments every year in order to satisfy demand. The Rockport apartments on John Street will be market rate rentals when they open next year.

There is a shortage of good quality rental accommodation because developers have focussed on condos over the last few decades thanks in part to rent controls and the higher cost of building rental apartments. Condo developers can pre-sell units before construction starts and therefore need less money. Rental apartments therefore have greater financing costs and in addition are taxed at a higher rate than condos. This is why there are some new financial incentives for rental builders.

The theory goes that good quality rental buildings will attract empty nesters and free up space in larger homes for families.  More rentals will ease the upward price pressure on rents. This is clearly a laudable goal.

Unfortunately, City planners don’t care where they go. They no doubt have a quota in mind and they’re gonna fill it. Guidelines and restrictions seem to be routinely ignored along with a regard for the needs of a neighbourhood. Rental apartments have to be built and they’ll get built come hell or high water. The problem is that even with generous incentives, apartment builders may end up building as high and cheaply as possible.

A rental apartment building that is poorly built will not command market rents and will end up with a single demographic. It’s recognized that good neighbourhoods have a mix of people.

Looking down Weston Road at Weston’s cluster of mostly rental apartment buildings. Click to enlarge. From Apple Maps. Note that Apple hasn’t updated its map since the UP Express line was under construction.

What to do?

There’s nothing wrong with good quality, well-run rental apartments. Back in the stone age I quite happily lived in a few – they were clean, had nice amenities and were state of the art for the time. Even though we have better tenant protections now, there is a danger that a cheaply constructed building will quickly deteriorate.

Councillor Nunziata and the relevant resident’s groups should therefore lobby hard for buildings built to a high standard that will appeal to a wide demographic.

Plus, new buildings don’t all have to be 25 or 30 storeys do they?

Extra credit reading here.

Someone’s playing a game of Monopoly in Weston.

Areas in pink have been acquired so far. (Click to enlarge) Map adapted from Google Maps.

A source tells me that a company by the name of Weston Asset Management Inc. has bought a couple of properties near its recently acquired Greenland Farm property at 1966 and 1956 Weston Road. These are the people who have proposed a 28-storey apartment building with retail at the base. In addition to #1956, the parking and laneway to Lawrence Avenue that comes with Greenland Farm, Weston Asset seems to have acquired 1952 (next to P&Ms) and 1980 Weston Road.

1952 Weston Road.
1980 Weston Road (tall building on left).

Attempts to find out anything about Weston Asset Management have proved to be futile as the company seems to have no web presence. Any web sleuths out there?

Let’s hope that they will be more forthcoming about who they are and their plans at the next community consultation meeting which should happen this spring.

Yet another coffee shop for Weston?

1986 Weston Road at the corner of Little Avenue.

A few days ago we reported on the Weston Bun Bakery’s proposed reincarnation. Now another coffee shop is about to launch at Weston Road and Little Avenue. The former pizza restaurant at 1986 Weston Road closed last year. Now we’re about to get “Keswick’s Best Coffee”. There was no response at the phone number (416-901-6801) today, but our readers may have more success.

I was able to contact Justin Zielonko, the new owner of the Keswick location and he says that he bought the original Keswick coffee shop from ‘Rose’, who will be opening the Weston store soon; probably within a couple of weeks and that she tries to help people in need with the profits of her business. She’s moving to Toronto to be ‘closer to the people that she’s helping’.

Rose sounds like a lovely lady and we wish her success in Weston.

Update: I found this photo on Facebook of the same address taken over 50 years ago.

Photo from Facebook: Thanks to Doreen Elminowski.

96 John appeal rejected as “destabilizing”

The application to sever 96 John Street has been rejected by the Ontario Municipal Board on the grounds that it wouldn’t be in character with the neighbourhood. This may set a good precedent for the village.

The owners had asked to sever the lot and for permission to build a second home. The lots would have been 7.5m wide—unusually small for the community.

The decision is very encouraging if you believe, as I do, that Weston has a unique character that shouldn’t be fiddled with. The OMB based its decision on the size and character of the village’s lots, and said that approving a division would be “destabilizing”.

[The] Weston neighbourhood is currently a very stable neighbourhood that is not undergoing any change in its lot fabric and pattern of lot sizes… In the Board’s view, to allow this consent would thus represent a significant departure from the lot fabric of lot sizing and lot configuration that exists as part of the physical character of the Weston neighbourhood….

Although cases must be decided on their own merit, and although the possibility of establishing a precedent should not interfere with the examination of the merits of any application, in a neighbourhood such as the Weston village, the consequential impact of approving the first severance of this nature cannot be overlooked, nor the potential destabilizing effect that such a precedent might then cause.

The OMB also appeared baffled by the planning department  staff, who initially submitted a single-line email saying “Planning has no concerns” without, it seems, having actually reviewed the facts in the lot study.

 

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

Another coffee shop coming to Weston?

This sign was seen yesterday in the window of the former Weston Bun Bakery at 1947 Weston Road.

There’s no web presence as yet for Mati’s coffee. Perhaps our readers have more information.

Rockport Apartments rise above podium.

The 370-unit Rockport Apartments being built in conjunction with the Weston Hub; photographed on January 6, 2018.