Empty buildings plague Weston.

If there’s one thing that isn’t in short supply in the Weston and Lawrence area it’s empty buildings. Residents who have lived in Weston for many years think back nostalgically to the days when Weston had a bustling ‘downtown’ with supermarkets, jewellers, tailors and so on. Nowadays it seems as if there is little else but convenience stores, hairdressers, fast food outlets and payday loan companies.

Empty buildings in a shopping area are like litter. They tend to accumulate if ignored.

Let’s look at a couple of the more prominent offenders.

The old Beer Store. The only thing this building has produced in the last fifteen years is its annual crop of noxious weeds. It’s an eyesore.

The former Beer Store on Weston Road.
Welcome to Weston. The former Beer Store on Weston Road.

The Federal Building. This used to be the home of the Post Office in Weston and was closed in 2011.

The old Federal Building. No trace of its former tenant remains.
The old Federal Building. No trace of its former tenant remains. Graffiti not by Banksy.

There’s no penalty for property owners who pollute the landscape with derelict dumps. Not only can owners let properties sit idle for extended periods of time, they actually get a property tax rebate of 30% after three months of vacancy. This rebate continues year after year. Taxpayers pay good money to maintain infrastructure around these properties. Not only do the properties not deliver their fair share of taxes, their dilapidated state and associated problems such as vandalism and graffiti reduces other merchants’ sales. In addition, property values (and consequently tax revenue) become depressed throughout the whole area. Someone has to make up the shortfall in taxes that these people are avoiding. Guess who that is? Yes, it’s us.

What can be done? Someone on Toronto City Council should introduce legislation to penalize owners who sit on idle properties.

1. Property tax rebates should be limited to a set period of time. It’s understandable that a landlord may need time to acquire new tenants but the old beer store has been unoccupied for going on 15 years. If there was a real intent to lease this place the sign would be visible.

2.  After a period of vacancy, let’s say two years, the city should supervise an auction of the property to someone who will develop and use it. The owners (if they don’t choose to bid) receive the proceeds of the auction minus expenses incurred by the city.

3. There are viable businesses in Weston but they need encouragement. Residents should patronize these businesses. Not only will walking there do us all good but we might find signs that things are finally starting to turn around. If we want a vibrant Farmers Market for example, we need to patronize it.

4. Owners of derelict properties should only be able to receive a tax rebate if the building is occupied by a community group such as an artists’ collective or similar organization. This is not an original idea but it has been shown to work elsewhere.

Lastly this smaller property at 1919 Weston Road has sat in its current sorry state all year. Unfortunately, it belongs to the chair of Weston’s Business Improvement Area, Massum Hossain. According to the BIA site major renovations are happening and it will be ‘ready to lease in 3 months’. There appears to be very little sign of the major renovations. Perhaps committee members might discuss this at their next meeting.

Big M Discount.
Closed for months: the unattractive storefront of Big M Discount.

 

 

5 thoughts on “Empty buildings plague Weston.”

  1. Derelict buildings get a tax rebate? Whose interests are served in this? The idea of encouraging community groups and businesses by using these spaces is excellent, and the BIA could be a force to help this happen. We want a community, not new dollar stores and payday loans and fly-by-night phone companies: let’s use these empty buildings!

    Thank you Roy for the research and the information, as well as the ideas. The BIA has made the Farmers’ market a success; how about Roy’s ideas and get the other empty buildings available for new businesses?

  2. The question is how does Francis Nunziata manage to get reelected time and again. I first went shopping in the weston area in the 1980s, my search for a particular book took me to Squibb’s. I became reacquainted with the area in 1992 when I moved close by. The deterioration of the Weston and Lawerence area astounded me. Nothing had improved, it had all become markedly worse. Since 1992, I have watched the weston road business section deteriorate even further. Is not part of a counsellor’s job, to improve her area? Ms Nunziata appears to be satisfied with passively watching Weston’s deterioration. I don’t live in her area, thank goodness, so I can only shake my head in disbelief as what appears to be a total incompetent remains in office.

  3. 1. the beer store has legal issues as there is toxic waste underground and may in the ground water due to illegal disposal of oil products decades ago.
    To my understanding whoever picks up the beer store has to clean up the problem which has oozed underneath Ward’s parking that used to be the access to the lawn bowling area.
    2. I have also heard that the post office has “enormous” amounts of asbestos on the 2nd floor.
    3. Big M is dealing with insurance issues and to my understanding will be renovating soon and is actively looking for tenants

    I agree, Weston has suffered long and hard and has been neglected as we watched CCM Moffats Kodak Dominion Bridge and others disappear.

  4. Thanks for shedding some light on this Peter. There must be some environmental money somewhere to clean this up, surely. Many government agencies will have an interest in getting this cleaned up, not to mention the loss of tax revenue for the City of Toronto. Perhaps one of our elected representatives or even the Weston B.I.A. could take an interest and get the ball rolling.

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