The latest take on the Weston Hub

The Farmers Market with lots of room on its old site back in July 2004. (File).

Churchill once said that, “History is written by the victors”. An article in, (basically a public relations organ for the local real estate and development industries) tells a sanitized version of the background story of the soon to be opened Weston Hub.

The article’s author, Dean Macaskill, has been involved in Toronto real estate since 1980 and was with the company given the GO Station parking lot listing back in 2012. The land was put on the market by the Toronto Parking Authority and according to Macaskill, the 5 offers received on the 1.42 acre site were, ‘at rather depressed pricing levels’.

What’s not mentioned in the article are thoughts at the time that the land belonged to the old town of Weston and that it should not be sold. Also, unlike the wealthy Wychwood Barns neighbourhood which received close to $20 million from the City for their Artscape project, poor old Weston received essentially nothing.

The message seems to be that no one wanted to invest in Weston until this development came along and since that time, developers have been falling all over themselves to buy into our community. He neglects to mention that his listing stated, “Area Is Undergoing Significant Change With Other High Rise Condominiums Planned In The Immediate Area.” Also missing in action is any mention of the 370 rental apartments and 40,000 square feet of storage units that came as part of the deal.  The 8000 square foot space devoted to the cultural hub seems rather ungenerous by comparison. Another unmentioned issue of contention is the tight space given to the Farmers Market .

Now that the Hub is nearing completion, we’ll all have to make the best of it and hope it’s a success – but it could have been so much better no matter what shine is put on it.

Just to cheer you up, here’s a Metro Morning  interview with Artscape’s Tim Jones talking to CBC’s Matt Galloway recently on the same topic.

Meeting about severing 135 John

Nunziata’s office will be hosting a meeting to consider whether the owner of 135 John should be allowed to sever the lot and construct two new homes, with 8m wide lots.

The meeting will be at 7 pm on Monday, January 29 at Weston Memorial, . The owners will be there to present their case.

The OMB recently recently rejected a similar case just down the street at 96 John, in which the owners had asked to create two 7.5m lots. That appeal was denied on the grounds that the smaller lots would destabilize the character of the neighbourhood.


Rental apartments – what to do?


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.

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

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

25 Storey building for 1705 Weston

Oldstonehenge, the owners of 1705 Weston Road, have filed their application to develop a 25-storey building on the site just south of the GO and UPX station.

The building described will have a 6-storey base and a 19-storey tower with 240 rental apartments, ranging from studio to three-bedroom units.

1705 Weston today
One of the buildings to be demolished

Two industrial buildings and one house, at 10 Victoria Avenue, will be demolished.

The building, to my eyes at least, is quite attractive, with two interesting rotations of the generally cubic form, each about one-third of the way up.

Architectural drawing


Two long reads worth your time

A couple of long reads worth your time this weekend:

John Michael McGrath weighs in on the ugly-looking process behind the province’s hydrogen-powered GO train push, which could replace the well-developed and reasonable plans for electrification:

Metrolinx is asking for private companies to bid to make something that doesn’t currently exist. The costs are a big question mark. So is the performance. One of the reasons the government was going to go with overhead wires was that electric trains can accelerate faster than their diesel counterparts, allowing a railway to run more vehicles in and out of stations, safely. That means more frequent train service for riders. Can Metrolinx find a hydrogen train vendor that can meet those specs while delivering the number of trains needed by the 2025 deadline?

The Globe’s Alex Bozikovic covers what houses we should be keeping in Toronto, and the broken-down system of heritage evaluation. It’s a mess, and one we struggle with in Weston.

The areas of the city that are facing the most development pressure – and where planning is most open to development – is in and around the downtown core, which is also the area richest in built heritage.

“We wind up asking, What do we want to keep?” Ms. MacDonald says. “And the larger question, a very different question, is, what matters to people? What are the landmarks for different faith communities, for different waves of immigration? Not everyone in Toronto has the same history. We believe that the city’s architectural heritage represents community and social value as well.”