Apologies for the delay in writing this up.
There was a fair crowd at WCI on November 28 to hear the developer’s latest incarnation of a ‘Main Street Weston’ development site of 7 contiguous lots at Lawrence and Little that will set the tone for years to come. Frances Nunziata began proceedings by stating that the developer had been asked to purchase additional properties in order to justify the scale of development, hence the latest application which doubled the podium height and the number of 29-storey buildings.
The audience listened respectfully as City planner Rory McNeill began the proceedings stating that the city’s representatives were there to listen to people’s reactions and that nothing has been decided.
The reason for the meeting is that the developer has applied to be exempt from the permitted standards required for developers in Weston.
Weston is officially on an ‘Avenue’ which means that it is subject to certain styles of building. The Urban Design Guidelines for Weston (yes they still exist) call it a mixed use area which includes retail and residential uses. Weston Road building heights under the guideline are not to exceed 8 storeys with a street frontage of 3 storeys. The western portion of the site is a heritage area and that means visual impacts should be limited. Any new buildings should be ‘designed sensitively within the urban design context’
The residential units will be market price condos. The lawyer for the developer was coy about what price they will go for saying it was too far into the future. He did say that he expected that the development will help gentrify Weston.
- The development is too large and out of scale for the area.
- Appropriate development in Weston is not a bad thing.
- Most tall buildings sit atop a podium that is set back from the street. This one cheats because instead of tapering, the towers spill out on a base that hangs over the podium.
- There were mixed feelings as to the attractiveness of the development.
- The proposed number of parking spaces is inadequate.
- There will be greatly increased traffic issues for Little Avenue and Lawrence Avenue.
A few other random thoughts:
Toronto requires shadow studies (yes, I’m obsessed) on proposed buildings to figure out the shade they will cast on the surrounding area. The City only requires these studies for the ‘Summer’ months i.e. March 22nd , June 22nd and September 22nd. Incidentally, March 22nd and September 22nd are identical from a sunshine point of view. If green space is affected, the City requires readings for December 22nd (the date of the Winter Solstice when sunlight is at its lowest and solar noon shadows are longest). It should be noted that the shadows cast by tall buildings are at their longest between September and March. These are not pencil shaped buildings and even the podium is 12 storeys. In fact they are rather ‘slabby’ and their shadows will be considerable.
The parking lot that currently sits beside the old Greenland Farms and the current pedestrian and vehicular access from there to Lawrence Avenue will be closed by this development.
I was impressed by the people of Weston who attended – they listened politely with open minds as they gathered information about the development.
The developer through their lawyer says that a smaller version of this development will not be economically viable and keeping to the Weston Planning Guidelines is out of the question. If this developer can’t build within the guidelines, perhaps another one can.
This building will create additional traffic issues for people on Little Avenue which currently has restricted access from Weston Road.
The developer was told by the city (and / or councillor?) that purchasing adjacent properties would justify a larger scale development. Now that properties have been added, is there an obligation on the part of the City to grant the exemptions needed? If so, that is irresponsible.
The number of parking spaces is inadequate even by the most bicycle and pedestrian-minded among us. Weston is not downtown. Sadly, a car is needed to have a reasonable quality of life here and I invite anyone who thinks otherwise to tell us how they do it. The average Toronto household contains 2.63 people. The 592 residential units would likely be home to 1500+ people. The developer’s proposed 174 parking spaces for residents, seven (!) for visitors and zero spaces (!!) for retail is as the Brits would say, ‘taking the piss’ and is a transparent attempt to maximize profits at the community’s expense.
View the slides from the presentation here.
The person behind this development is Catherine Bertucci. There’s not much web evidence of her activity but she’s not popular with the Casa Loma Residents Association where a few years ago, she and a partner bought up Maclean House, a heritage building and according to the association,
“The property had been purchased by Catherine Bertucci and John Malcolm Todd via a numbered company and all they proceeded to obtain vacant possession by arranging for all tenants to vacate the premises. Prior to obtaining any demolition or building permits the developers were advised of the heritage interest by the Community and City of Toronto Heritage Preservation Services. While the legal process was underway to determine whether the City would official designate the property as architecturally significant, the developer proceeded to begin demolition of the property including the reckless destruction of many of the significant architectural details of John Lyle’s Maclean House – details that have stood untouched for 100 years.”
It’s still not clear if the developer intends to preserve the heritage buildings near Little Avenue or just the facades.
In conclusion, the developer wants to:
- build and sell buildings nearly seven times taller than allowable,
- not provide the required setbacks from the street
- provide only 33% of the required parking for residents
- provide no parking for retail stores (instead of 127 required)
- provide only 40% of the required amenity space per unit
Every high rise along Weston Road began life as a beautiful concept drawing, sold to the community as a future architectural gem and a much needed improvement on the status quo. This one is no different.
There is no doubt that Weston needs development. It just doesn’t need this one.
Rory McNeil at the City Planner’s Office would like to hear from you regarding this development:
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.