Today in Weston May 13, 2017

Today was a busy one in Weston. The Weston Farmers Market was open with a few stalls. Next week will be bigger and better. According to vendors, business was brisk. Everyone I spoke to was pleased with their sales.

Weston Farmers Market begins the second of three seasons at its UP Express location.
Sebastian Capatina from menos.ca with some artisanal olive oil and bread samples.
Emi Burnham from Pinkyz Bath Bombs with some actual bath bombs.

The Farmers Market wasn’t the only activity happening today.

At the Weston Library, Ameer Shaikh (L) and Laurent Ho from ADL Process Electronic Recycling collect old electronics for, well, recycling.
At 2125 Weston Road, (the former St. John’s Anglican) Pastor Felix Ayomike helps out at the barbecue during Victory Assembly’s open house.

Down in the Humber Valley, exercise was on the minds of many.

At the Weston Sports Complex, soccer, tennis and baseball players do their thing.

Mount Dennis sees a bright future

An artist impression of the future Mount Dennis Station at 3500 Eglinton Avenue West.

Just as the UP Express is beginning to make a difference in Weston, according to an Inside Toronto article, people in Mount Dennis are anticipating a boost to their area as a result of the Eglinton Crosstown and the new Mount Dennis Station. The 19 km line with a 10 km underground stretch between Keele and Laird is set to open in 2021 after ten years of construction.

Incidentally, without former Premier Mike Harris, we could be riding a different version of the line today. This is a map of the subway line that Harris buried (and not in a good way) in 1995.

The subway line that we could be riding today if Mike Harris hadn’t killed it in 1995.

The Eglinton West Line would have run from Eglinton West Station all the way to Renforth along a right of way that had been reserved for the Richview Expressway (killed in the 1970s). Sadly, the Eglinton road allowance was sold for small change by Rob Ford in 2010 but nobody thought to tell John Tory as he was putting crayon to napkin for his SmartTrack plan. The allowance is now being filled in with some spectacularly awful townhomes.

Gratuitous side note: right wing politicians claim to be able to lower costs but their penny wise antics often end up costing us more in the end.

The latest iteration of an Eglinton line.

The new Mount Dennis Station will adapt the old Kodak Recreation Building and will be part of a transportation hub connecting with buses and the UP Express lines. Let’s hope that combined with the end of the vacant property rebate, the new transportation infrastructure will actually breathe fresh life into the area.

The shrinking Farmers Market

There only seems room for about 11 traders in this image from Artscape.

I know it’s just an artist’s drawing but the image posted on Artscape Weston’s site does not give the impression of a big enough space available for the market. Will it be possible to shoehorn the traders from the 2016 market into the 2018 one in the new Hub location?

The Market in its UP Express location off Weston Road in August 2016.

My suspicion is that the space will not be sufficient leading to either a loss of traders or the market simply moving to another location.

Here’s an overhead look at the old market.

An overhead look at the market a couple of years ago before moving to the UP Express lot. More than 40 stalls were being rented. (Apple Maps)

The market was to have been an important component of the Hub. Traders cannot be forced to use the space if they believe that it won’t be worth the effort, or if there is no room to set up an adequate space. Additionally, in the past, stall holders were able to overflow their pitches without penalty. If space is tight, such flexibility will be impossible.

Major Weston Property Deal Being Cooked…Ramifications all round

Ever since Scotiabank pulled the plug on its Weston and Lawrence location, speculation has been mounting regarding the future of the corner site. It’s a bit of a historic building in its own right and might even be preserved in some form when redevelopment inevitably takes place.

When the discussions (Charettes) around planning for the UP Express were taking place back in 2011-12, the site was bandied about as having a possible future institutional use – perhaps a community college (George Brown) or a YMCA facility – later deep-sixed by the YMCA themselves. George Brown’s objection was that without all day GO Train service, the location would not be considered. Now that we have (a sort of) all-day service and as an added bonus the newly affordable UP Express, perhaps the college will reconsider but it may be too late.

Next door to the Scotiabank site, the Weston Park Baptist Church (WPBC) community has made no secret that they would be interested in selling up, together with their parking lot received as a donation several years ago. They also expressed an interest in being part of any new development of the site. Incidentally, the WPBC parking lot saved the Farmers Market’s bacon earlier this season when in spite of years of advanced notice, Metrolinx puzzlingly fell mute on permission to use the UP Express parking lot on Saturdays. At short notice, Weston Park’s minister saved the day and the market was able to operate on WPBC land until Metrolinx’s vast bureaucracy was prodded into spitting out the necessary paperwork.

Added together, these two locations plus any land that Metrolinx throws in, would form a site with considerable development potential. In the original Charette plans, it was deemed that the street frontages of any new buildings on Weston and Lawrence would be low to mid-rise while anything built further back from Weston Road near the tracks could go higher. Rumour has it that a deal has been in the works for some time and that once the details are carved in stone, the public will be invited to comment.

IMG_0002
The site as imagined in 2012.

We all know by now that City building guidelines go out the window whenever a developer offers a few crumbs to the community so cynical readers will know to expect some tall residential buildings on that corner. Add a rubber stamp from the ever-so-accommodating Weston Village Residents’ Association (representing a tiny fraction of the thousands of people in Weston) and yet another golden opportunity will have been lost.

One side-effect of having the WPBC parking lot out of commission is that in 2018, the Farmers Market will be dragged kicking and screaming back to a much smaller space in the newly built and pristine Weston Hub. Unlike the current set-up, space will be at a premium so traders’ vehicles will have to be parked relatively far away. Traders are very unhappy about this. Removing the WPBC parking lot as an alternate site will reduce the possibility of a mutiny on the part of these traders, a feisty and vociferous bunch who have enjoyed increased sales at the more visible Weston Road location and are murmuring about boycotting the new Hub site. This lack of an alternative location will be a win for Councillor Nunziata who would have some ‘splainin’ to do if the ‘Farmers’ were able to boycott the new digs. It still remains to be seen whether or not the traders (some of whom are actual farmers) will be able to fit into the smaller spaces more suited to selling pickled condiments than pumpkins and unshucked corn.

Whatever happens, you can guarantee that the people who actually live, work and shop in Weston will be the last ones to be consulted or informed.

Kodak Building move is temporary

Lots of people made standing room only bus trips this morning to witness the Kodak building’s big move of about 200 feet. Built in 1939, Building 9 as it is known, contained a gym and cinema / theatre among other things. It is the last of the buildings to survive and the community pressed hard for its preservation in some meaningful form. The stars aligned, politicians and Metrolinx listened and plans are under way to make Building 9 (now basically an empty shell thanks to vandalism) a key feature of an LRT station and mobility hub planned for Mount Dennis.

Buses were chartered from the TTC by Metrolinx in response to the anticipated demand to see this famous local landmark being prepared for a starring role once more.

It's standing room only in the shuttle bus.
It’s standing room only on the 8:30 am shuttle bus.

A large crowd filed onto the bleachers that had been set up for the occasion. On this warm and steamy morning, there was an added promise of lunch after the move.

Councillor Frank DiGiorgio, MPP Laura Albanese and Councillor Frances Nunziata watch the move from the bleachers.
Councillor Frank DiGiorgio, MPP Laura Albanese and Councillor Frances Nunziata (front row L to R) watch the move from the bleachers.

One thing not made clear by recent articles and certainly not clear to me until today (is it me?) is that the Kodak Building will return  to its original location.

The building moving along the path to its temporary location.
The building inching towards us along rails to its temporary location.

The idea is that the building’s current basement is inadequate for its future role as the main access point for the Eglinton LRT, UP Express and a bus terminal. The building is being moved off to one side while the old basement is demolished and a new one built from scratch. Once the work is done, the Kodak building will return to its old location on the new foundation.

The reason for the move today is to build
The reason for the move today is to build transportation infrastructure into a brand new basement. Click to enlarge. From thecrosstown.ca

Today, many former Kodak employees were in attendance along with Weston and Mount Dennis residents and the mood was one of celebration. A large contingent from Metrolinx helped with making sure everything went smoothly.

Metrolinx workers pose to mark the occasion.
Metrolinx workers pose to mark the occasion as the building moves along slowly.
The building inching along its rails.
The building inches along its rails.

There are many more fascinating details of the plans for Building 9 and how it will be part of an exciting transportation future. Read all about it here.

The preservation of part of Mount Dennis history is a mark of respect for an alert and politically active community. No doubt we’ll be doing the whole thing in reverse in about a year when the basement is completed.

Well done to Metrolinx for organizing a great day and allowing the community to celebrate the occasion.

John Street bridge to be closed for another month. At least. 

Frances Nunziata has followed up with more information about the John Street bridge. It turns out that it’s a bit more complicated than we thought.

Laura Albanese’s circular said that Metrolinx and the city were trying to hash out who would be responsible for the upkeep. Not so. There isn’t even an agreement “because Metrolinx has not yet drafted one”. 

The real hold up, Nunziata’s office says, is that Metrolinx hasn’t installed safety barriers. They are “on order” and should arrive in a “month or so”. 

The bridge was supposed to open in 2014.

Planning Studies in the works for Weston and Mount Dennis

At the recent Etobicoke York Community Council, two strikingly similar motions were passed. Both give the go-ahead to Toronto City Council to review the current planning framework for two stretches of Weston Road, receive input from the community and report back with recommendations. Here is an extract from the Parke to Wilby stretch:

That Etobicoke York Community Council:
1. Request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to:

  1. undertake a review of the current planning framework for the study area including: built-form, density, height, and public realm of the properties on Weston Road between Parke Street and Wilby Crescent/Wright Avenue;
  2. consult with the community, including landowners and other stakeholder groups, together with the Ward Councillor, to understand the community’s concerns and to develop a vision for future development in the study area; and
  3. report back on the findings of the review and to provide recommendations for changes, if necessary, to the planning framework for the study area.

2. Request that the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning prioritize this planning study on the work program for 2017 or earlier.

Pic 1
Weston Road from Parke Street to Wilby Crescent
Weston Road from Ray Avenue to Humber Boulevard.
Weston Road from Ray Avenue to Humber Boulevard.

Both reviews are at the prompting of Councillor Frances Nunziata. Read the letter regarding Weston Village here and the one for Mount Dennis here.

According to the councillor, we need to re-visit the planning frameworks because of transportation changes like the UP Express and the Crosstown Line’s new Mount Dennis station.

Call me a cynic but we had a very nice plan for the northern section of Weston Road corridor keeping building heights to between 3 and 8 storeys but it was easily circumvented when the Weston Hub was approved.

Why bother coming up with a ‘vision’ and planning by-laws when these things are carved in jello and so easily put aside?