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.
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.
Last month, The Star reported that “Ward 5 (York South-Weston) was the ward with the highest number of complaints” to 311 for apartments.
Of course, that number means nothing at all—wards with more buildings will have more complaints. But it did get me thinking.
The city inspects every large apartment building for the quality of common areas, amenities, elevators, garbage handling, lighting, heating, parking, security, structural features, and cleanliness. They do warn the building owners in advance, but they publish the ‘RentSafeTO‘ information online as part of their open data initiative
How does Ward 5 fare? In a word, quite well. Our apartments are on par with the rest of the city. We got a 71.7% (50.2 out of 70), compared to 72% (50.4 out of 70) citywide.
So TheStar had nothing to complain about. Weston rentals are just fine.
City-wide, Toronto Community Housing buildings also do quite well, which I found surprising, considering the chatter and the recent news about 5 Bellevue (more on that in a minute).
TCHC buildings do perform a little worse than average, but the difference is small. They received 69.6%—again, compared to 72% for all buildings.
One standout, though, is 5 Bellevue, in Weston. Bellevue received a score of 40 out of 70, or 57.1%.¹
This is a quite bad score: according to my calculations, 5 Bellevue is in the bottom 2.5% of all buildings in Toronto. This is not a recent result that came about because of the terrible hot water problems, either. The inspection was in March. Something has been wrong at 5 Bellevue for a while.
The worst sub-scores were for the condition of interior walls and garbage chute rooms (2 out 5). No aspect of the building did very well, though, and the typical result was only 3 out of 5.
I’m not an urban planner or an architect, but this situation makes me worry. To start with, nobody in Canada should be living without hot water. It’s simply unacceptable.
But I also worry about a death spiral. People living in bad conditions may, quite naturally, feel they don’t want to invest time, money, or work into making the community builder. That effort could be better spent moving on. As a result, the conditions worsen, the community deteriorates, and people invest even less.
There’s no reason why Westonians should live in some of the worst housing in the city. There’s certainly no reason why the city should be letting them down.
I’m sure the fix is complicated, long-term, and expensive. All the more reason to start fixing it now.
¹ My scores are a little different from the city’s, because I cleaned up the data and excluded results (such as balcony railings) where many buildings had no score, presumably because they lacked the feature.
Mount Dennis was in the news this week, with a flattering portrait by David Nickle.
Robert Caplan is optimistic about the future of Mount Dennis — and has been for a long time now, even as he admits that right now, the sparse business district at Weston Rd. and Eglinton Ave. W. is not much to look at.
That may soon change. In 2021, the Mount Dennis station on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is slated to open and the owners of the rundown storefronts along Weston will almost certainly make some modifications.
But for now?
“The whole street is waiting for the development to happen — to see what’s going to happen,” said Caplan, who owns Caplan Appliances and is chair of the Mount Dennis Business Improvement Area (BIA).
Only a month ago, The Star published an article that said Mount Dennis is the “most affordable area of the city”.
The city will be looking at part of Weston to determine whether it has a unique character, and whether is should be recommended for conservation and enhancement. The WHCD will be having a meeting on August 21 to discuss the new areas and next steps.
The effort to create heritage districts in Weston has been going on for quite a long time. It started in 2004, and the first phase was completed in 2007, with the creation of a conservation district in two areas around Weston Road.
Phase Two was to include the area between Rosemount, Pine, Church, and MacDonald.
Now, however, the city has taken over planning of conservation districts, instead of leaving it in the hands of community groups. The WHCD says that the city is “ready to proceed with the study of the Weston Heritage Conservation District, Phase II, with the intention to go by the old boundary to Elm Street.“¹
Heritage conservation districts are “historically or culturally significant and require special care and attention in the planning process to ensure that they are conserved.”
A heritage designation limits what people can do with their properties. Construction and restoration must be done with neighbourhood guidelines, and demolition is not allowed under most circumstances—including by neglect.
¹ My emphasis. Also, full disclosure, I live just past Elm Street.
Frances Nunziata’s office says that the derelict houses at 2270 and 2274 Weston road, which have been an eyesore and hazard for more than a decade, will finally be demolished to make way for a 12-storey apartment building.
After years and years of waiting, an application has finally been submitted to the City to demolish the two derelict houses located at 2270 and 2274 Weston Road, which have long been an eyesore in the community for many years. I am pleased to update you that a demolition permit has been submitted to tear down these two buildings. In 2015, the owners received approval to construct a 12-storey apartment building. The project is going through the site plan approval process.
The short story: everybody is on board for a more prosperous, better-connected Mount Dennis. Alex Bozikovic wrote in the Globe:
Spread new growth across the neighbourhood. Focus on jobs and mix up jobs with some housing. Bring lots of people to live near transit. It sounds simple, but would require some changes to the city’s usual planning approach.
Interestingly, many locals are on board with this agenda. Mike Mattos, who heads the Mount Dennis Community Association, says the group largely welcomes the ULI proposals and, in places, development. “We need more people in the area,” he told me. “We don’t think the retail strip is going to survive with the current population. And we need more of the right kinds of jobs.” With all that, and some inventive policy, this could become a more prosperous place without becoming any less interesting.
Options For Homes is a non-profit condo developer with a building called ‘The Humber‘ under construction at 10 Wilby Crescent in Weston. To say that they are bullish on Weston is a bit of an understatement but they have a history of choosing and building in ‘up and coming’ neighbourhoods, calling themselves urban pioneers. Here is their take on the Weston neighbourhood.