Weston to get new COSTI campus

The long-vacant downstairs at 35 King St will soon host a branch of the COSTI immigrant services organization.

COSTI’s new Weston campus will provide help with career planning, youth employment, settlement, and vocational training. On January 26 from 3:00 to 6:00, COSTI will have an open-house.

While the expansion of COSTI is certainly good news, it probably means the end of a long-hoped-for expansion of George Brown College into Weston. George Brown had studied coming here and moving into 35 King, and local politicians had been boosters. Little has been said about the plan in the past year, however, and the plan seems to have withered.

Council to consider high-rise development at Cruickshank Motors

Developers are putting the final touches on their plans and again asking Community Council’s permission to build a high-rise condo building on the Cruickshank Ford site. The building, if approved, would be 18-storeys tall with 204 condominiums. The condos will be  one- or two-bedroom units, averaging about 900 square feet in size.

City planners have given their nod to the plan, as long as the owners make a few guarantees—among them $150,000 for improvements to Swanek Park and $5000 for the WHCD.

The Cruickshank family has been working  in Weston since the 1850s. They manufactured buggies and horse-drawn carriages, and began selling Fords in 1945.

According to planners, the existing buildings will be demolished to make room for the tower. Chris Fotevski, the General Manager of Cruickshanks, says “the longer term plan is to keep the retail here and keep servicing the community”. They have, he says, “no intention of moving”.


UPDATED: I spoke with Chris Fotevski, and he clarified that Cruickshank’s is no longer family owned. The business will not close, and will, instead, move into the bottom floors of the building.

Airport Link and All Day GO – Implications for Weston Residents

The mainstream press rediscovers the Airport Link every so often and now is no exception. For some reason, the line is back in the consciousness of the media. It’s probably a good time to look at some of the issues and implications for Weston.

Firstly, we have to thank the good people at Weston Community Coalition and the Clean Train Coalition and others who took the time and trouble to yell loudly enough to ensure that the train would stop at Weston at all. When first planned, only one stop was designated along the way at Dundas West.  Labelled Blue 22 because of the anticipated 22-minute journey, the train will now take 25 minutes from Pearson to Union Station with the added stop in Weston. Hopefully it will one day be called the Green 25 but not yet as the trains will be tier 4 diesels – there’s probably no way of fixing that for several years as the Japanese locomotives for the link were a done deal years ago, money is tight and there isn’t likely to be another election soon. It’s a shame but that’s politics for you. Some of the noise will be reduced through barriers and along one section, a tunnel. As for pollution, allegedly these diesels are somewhat less polluting than GO Trains but electric will be far cleaner, quieter and faster when it eventually arrives. The reason for the haste is that the link was promised for the 2015 Pan Am games to move spectators between downtown and the Airport (athletes will have their own dedicated buses and lanes along the 427 and Gardiner).

Because  of the need to reduce noise levels, the tracks near the existing station will be lowered into a tunnel. The station will move south of Lawrence this spring where more parking can be accommodated. Work is already well under way in the new location. John Street will be revitalized.

Also in 2015, our anemic GO Train service will be increased to an all-day service with double the number of trains running.

So to summarize: in 2015, Weston will have an all-day train service to downtown as well as stops along the way and in addition will be served by a separate link with rapid access to Pearson Airport (probably under 10 minutes) as well as to downtown. The new station is being designed with community input (next meeting February 2, 2012 at York West Active Living Centre 1901 Weston Road), will be much more visible, have lots of parking and will be accessible from Lawrence Avenue as well as Weston Road. Although fares will be more expensive than the subway, the added convenience and speed (under 20 minutes to downtown) will be an excellent trade-off.

What are the implications? For real estate developers, having such a rapid portal to two huge places of interest will spark a frenzy of property buying in this area. If the fares are affordable, airport workers from baggage handlers to pilots will love to live with such easy access—easier and faster than just about any other transportation method, as the new Link will connect directly to Terminal One. The range of housing available is stunning, from the mansions of historic Weston to apartments and condos—and at bargain prices too. People who work in downtown Toronto will find that Weston will be an easy commute with flexibility thanks to the all-day service. There will be a building boom in a wide area around the station to accommodate the new travellers and their needs. Apartment buildings will spring up near the station. Another implication: Weston may begin to see signs of gentrification—perhaps a Starbucks and a restaurant chain or two; fewer payday loan companies, dollar stores and vacant properties. Older apartment buildings will spruce themselves up in order to attract a changing demographic, sparking a boom in renovations. Rents both commercial and retail will go up. Condos that have languished for years will be snapped up.

A danger exists that Weston station will be replaced by another location, possibly a mobility hub (note two links) along the way. This will perhaps take years and with vigilance and community activism may never happen.

Man falls from Weston apartment after being Tasered

A man fell from a third-floor apartment after being Tasered by police, according to CTV News. The man, who was wanted for a domestic assault, had climbed down from the 10th floor. He then negotiated with police for several hours before they Tasered him.

The man was in the troubled apartment building at 1765 Weston Rd—the same apartment two men died outside after a shooting in 2010 and in which a police officer was shot in 2001. Another man, Jahmelle Grant, was murdered nearby in 2009.

The building may be expanded as part of Toronto’s “Tower Renewal” project.  The landlord of  1765 and 1775  Weston Road was named one of Toronto’s worst landlords by NOW Magazine.

Weston real estate going gangbusters

While the whipsawing stock market might make Westonians weep, the real estate market should provide some comfort. It seems like the rest of the GTA is starting to appreciate Weston as much as we do. In the most recent figures from the Toronto Real Estate Board, houses in Weston’s area, ‘W4’, appreciated dramatically.

The typical home in Weston’s area sold for  $356,000, a whopping 14.5% increase over last year’s price. In Toronto, homes are typically more expensive ($475,717), but prices increased only half as much last year—though still at a breathtaking 7.4%.

The average price of a detached home in W4 was  $449,856, and the median house was $425,000 (the prices differ because a few expensive houses bring the average price up.) Detached houses in the Weston area, then, are still among the least expensive in Toronto. The typical detached house in Toronto was $550,000.


WHCD wins Trillium award

The Weston Heritage Conservation District group won a large grant from the Trillium Foundation earlier this year. The grant is for $50,000, and will allow the WHCD to do more research about the architecture and heritage of Weston and to progress with the second phase of their heritage plan.

The  group was able to get the westernmost part of Weston declared a conservation district in 2007, a designation that protects the properties and character of the area. It means, among other things, that new buildings should look similar to older ones and blend in according to architectural recommendations  laid out in a series of public documents.

The Trillium money will be spent “researching all of the houses within the phase 2 boundaries, creating files for each house regarding their style, age and other attributes, like who has owned it over its life span—that can be interesting if it is found that it was someone special or of particular note”, according to Suri Weinberg-Linsky. The new area is much larger than phase 1 and will take years to research. Phase two will be between MacDonald and Church and between Rosemount and Pine.

Weinberg-Linsky was grateful for the money; she said, “We are very lucky in that people believe in the District and have participated in our efforts!”

Design conference feedback released

A conference planning the future of Weston was held last month, and the report summarizing community feedback has now been released. It discusses 10 messages from the community, none of will surprise residents, but any of which, if acted upon, would make Weston a better place to live.

In short, the recommendations were:

  • Weston Road could be nicer if it had better design and more varied retail
  • The tracks and Lawrence are physical barriers that separate us
  • Weston is a culturally and economically diverse village, with few ties between communities
  • Don’t touch the Farmers’ Market, but make the surrounding area better; make the GO Station area better, too
  • Convince developers to pay for everything—don’t make taxpayers
  • Tall buildings are generally undesirable; rental high rises are especially undesirable
  • Community arts and spaces are good. A movie theatre would be good too.
  • Weston is not an intersection. It is a village with history.
  • The schools could use some help—especially St John, which is crowded and threatened by the train
  • Some parts of Weston feel unsafe

You can download the entire report, which has much more detail, here: Weston Charrette Community Feedback Summary

A proposed redesign of Weston Rd