The City has responded to a 36 storey proposal for developing this pair of properties on Weston Road just south of the UP Express station.
The consolidated property consists of a former movie theatre (Biltmore Odeon) now used as a place of worship (Bethel Apostolic Church) and a two-storey mixed use building.
The developer is BSäR Group of Companies with a mostly positive reputation with this exception where in 2017, BSäR pleaded guilty to four counts of recovering possession of a rental unit unlawfully and was fined $14,000. Like many developers, BSäR has a minimal web presence. Established in 2007, its Principal is Tarek Sobhi and its President is Tyler Hershberg. The architects are Turner Fleischer.
Spoiler alert – BSäR wants to erect something too large for the site and build closer to the tracks and neighbouring properties than Metrolinx and the City would like.
Some lowlights highlights of the proposed building:
10,000 square feet (approx) of communal indoor space spread over 3 floors
10,000 square feet (approx) of communal outdoor space on the podium roof.
At grade retail on the first floor.
74% 1 bedroom or bachelor
16% two bedrooms
10% three bedrooms
City Planning Staff Concerns:
Maximum allowed floor plate for tall buildings is 750 square metres; developer wants 820 square metres.
Minimum allowed setback from property lines is 12.5 metres; developer wants to shrink to 10 and 7.5 metres.
There will be strong shadow impacts on the UP Express station plaza.
The development may limit the potential of future development on adjacent land.
Rooftop communal area would be subject to uncomfortable and unsafe wind levels.
There should be fewer bachelor and one bedroom apartments and more two and three-bedrooms.
Section 37 money.
(Section 37 money is a ‘fine’ paid by developers in exchange for crappy architecture or overbuilding on a site.) Here’s where the City thinks the money should go:
Affordable housing or the securing of purpose-built rental housing at mid-range or affordable rent level categories.
An on-site day care facility or funding for one.
A contribution towards the revitalization of Weston Library.
A contribution towards the replacement of the Falstaff Community Recreation Centre (not even close to Weston).
Improvements towards local parks.
Other concerns from the City:
Planners haven’t been told if the BSäR Group are building rentals or condos. They would like a range of affordable rentals / ownership units.
Is the old Biltmore Odeon Theatre worthy of a heritage designation? Planners intend to find out.
Dog relief stations will be needed to ease pressure on local parks.
Staff have told the developer to revise the proposal so that it is more in keeping with the City’s guidelines.
At the moment, City staff are sending notices about this development only to people living within 400 feet of the site. If you would like to comment or to be added to the mailing list, contact City Planner Rory McNeil at: (416) 394-5683 or, [email protected]
Metrolinx considered raising fares on the UP Express because it is too successful as a commuter line, according to the Toronto Star.
If you’re new here, a brief recap: the UP Express was designed to be an executive-class ride from the airport to downtown. There were jazz bands, an in-ride magazine, cheese and wine pairings, and a fashion show. I’m not making this up.
It should have been a scandal up there with e-Health and the gas plant bribes.
Everyone said it would lose money, including the private partner and the Auditor General. It went on to lost not just money, but gob-smacking amounts of money—more than $50 per rider.
But, before the line completely bled out, the Liberals dropped fares, making it a swish ride downtown for the proles like you and me. We get first-class service on a cattle-class budget. Unfortunately, the first-class airport passengers get cattle-class service because we get our sweaty pits right in there.
The good news: the UP Express now loses about $6 per rider, instead of $52. That may be because they cut the in-ride magazine, but it’s more likely to be because there are more riders, so the same subsidy is spread out over more people.
Now, according to The Star, Metrolinx was considering raising fares to $20 chase that business-class traveller again (never mind the fact that she is taking an Uber to her hotel). The plan was not—ugh—”actioned” according to the spokesperson The Star spoke to.
A Toronto Star article published today sheds light on a leaked internal Metrolinx document from February of this year that proposes huge changes to the UP Express. The document proposes that when the Kitchener line is electrified in 2025, the airport train would become part of the GO system and use the same new rolling stock. The current UPX stop at Union Station will also be relocated because of increased numbers – at the cost of at least $77.4 million and some inconvenience to passengers – according to the planning document.
The plan leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Where will airport travellers store their luggage on commuter trains built to maximize numbers of people? What will happen to the separate UPX and GO platforms at Weston Station? What will become of the existing UPX trains which were designed to be converted to electrical power? Will the UPX airport platform need revamping to accommodate the new and larger trains? When will the changes take place?
It’s clear that the change won’t happen for at least five years. On the bright side; there’ll likely be two changes of the provincial government between now and then so anything can happen. My bet is that Doug Ford’s austerity regime will modify it severely or put it (and electrification) firmly on the back burner for a future government to tackle.
Update: According to CP24, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Akins has stated that the $77.4 million needed to enable relocation of the Union Station platform is no longer ‘necessary’. The money would have been spent on a pedestrian bridge initially proposed thanks to the platform’s southerly relocation.
The austerity prediction didn’t take long to be borne out. Read more here.
Update #2: The UPX platform specifically designed for UP Express trains will become redundant once the move is made to electrified GO trains. According to the Globe and Mail,
“…the Union Pearson Express will load in a different part of the station – leaving the soaring Zeidler-designed wood space where the train now stops to find a new use – and its unique rolling stock will be replaced gradually by regular GO trains.”
Presto – Because of the ‘exclusive’ deal signed with Galen Weston’s Loblaw Inc., Metrolinx will be firing the three dozen small retailers who currently sell TTC tokens and passes in our neighbourhood. Only the two Shoppers Drug Marts will sell TTC fares (Presto tickets and cards). It’s a huge reduction in accessibility for our part of the city. There’s lots else wrong with Presto, and TTC is not happy about it.
UP Express and GO fares – The previous government promised to lower GO fares to $3 within the city. The new government told Metrolinx to lower them to $3.70. Metrolinx left UP express fares at the old higher level, and removed the $1.60 discount for transferring to TTC, for those using UP from Weston (or Bloor). The province gave Metrolinx money to provide the discount for both UP and GO. I wondered if Metrolinx had returned any of the money, but the folks at the Ministry of Transportation could not answer that question. I’ve asked Metrolinx but I’m not holding my breath.
Tier 4 Trains – The Minister ordered GO to use Tier 4 diesel trains on our line (now called Kitchener line) once they had bought some. Tier 4 are about 8 times cleaner than the locomotives now in use. They now have 8 locomotives. But they initially advised they would not be using them on Kitchener. When challenged, they said they’d check again. Still waiting.
Noise Walls – The original Environmental Assessment demanded walls along the curve at the end of Holley where it meets Parke. None were installed. Metrolinx claimed it was too difficult given the size of retaining wall they built. But their own consultant on the EA warned them to make sure they built walls strong enough to hold the noise walls. If they didn’t that’s on them, and we deserve something. In addition, the EA demanded a wall between the tracks and Rosemount south of John. Nothing installed there. No excuse given. And they promised walls behind Brownville and Arthur streets. Still nothing, though they claim it is due to property negotiations with landowners on those streets.
Government Regulators – It took some doing but I found persons at both the Provincial and Federal Ministries of the Environment who could speak about the now ten year old Environmental Assessment. Provincially they didn’t think there was anything they could do to force Metrolinx to live up to the promises in the EA. Federally they were quite shocked, as Metrolinx had recently sworn out a ‘solemn declaration’ claiming they had lived up to all the EA commitments, in order to get the final payments from the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
In addition, the Province relieved Metrolinx of its responsibility to monitor air quality. Metrolinx claimed that the implementation of the UP Express had not seriously degraded air quality. Trouble is, it is GO Transit operations if not Tier 4 (see above) that will adversely affect our air quality.
The federal folks are questioning Metrolinx about the noise walls. We shall see what happens next.
The Weston Farmers Market closed for the season yesterday and there was a good turnout despite the rainy and cool weather. Next year the market will return to John Street after an absence of three years and will open its 40th season on Saturday, May 11 at the new Weston Hub location.
Dave Bennett is a busy man with deep ties to the Weston community. Apart from helping raise a family of four, he has been active as a volunteer in Weston for quite a while having been a member of the Weston Residents’ Association for many years and is now the chair. He is past president and current board member of the Weston Heritage Conservation District, volunteers with Weston Minor Hockey, has coached house league for almost 15 years, has supervised a division for 9 and has been a VP for the past few years.
His role as a parent at St John the Evangelist Catholic School has now ended (his youngest child graduated last year) and Dave is now community relations advisor to its Parent Council having been chair for many years. As a result of his knowledge and experience, he feels he can make a contribution in terms of the way schools are run in York South Weston and has entered the race to become a school trustee with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. When asked about his chances of winning, Dave feels that his chances are pretty good. This is not a surprise considering that Mr. Bennett is used to achieving things in his life.
Dave says that the new school was long overdue and tells me that the old (now demolished) building was really two additions joined together. The original school at 23 George Street was added on to when more space was needed and later when enrolment increased, the older building was replaced with yet another addition. In later years the school needed twelve portables to accommodate students. The new building will be almost twice the size of the old one and will even have room for 36 day-care students. He modestly points out that many people are responsible for the new building’s existence, including former MPP Laura Albanese. He is obviously proud of the new school and easily rattles off facts and figures along with other details of its unique construction. At the moment, SJTE students are being accommodated a few minutes’ away at St Philip Neri on Beverly Hills Drive near Jane and Wilson.
He proudly points out that the new school field rests on a styrofoam base inside a giant concrete container covering the UP Express and GO Train tracks. The styrofoam helps reduce the load on the tunnel while not being deep enough for the field to float during heavy rains .
While his children are now too old to attend the new school, he feels some satisfaction in knowing that future generations of Westonians will enjoy the new facilities which will open in September 2019.
Getting back to his passion for hockey, Dave says his neighbours are always impressed by the timing of the Bennett annual backyard rinks, built following Farmers’ Almanac winter forecasts. Dave says that the Almanac hasn’t let him down yet. Based on their forecast, expect to see the family rink by mid-December at the latest.