Pelmo Park to get some extra money

Pelmo Park and community centre will likely be getting some extra money—though just how big the cheque will be, and when it will be written, is a little hard to say.

The money will come from a strange place: West Park Healthcare Centre. The centre, near the intersection of Jane St and Weston Rd, is starting a redevelopment to add “new mixed-use, senior-focused residential developments to the east portion of the site.” The development will happen over the next 20 years, as funding becomes available. West Park’s plans were approved with amendments by Etobicoke York Community Council on Tuesday.

The city makes all residential developers create park space or pay ‘cash-in-lieu’, and though West Park is exempt from some of the requirement because it is a healthcare institution, it will still be made to pay part of the levy. The bylaw states that some of the cash-in-lieu must go towards creating or improving parks in the vicinity of the new development. And although West Park is within a kilometer of five other parks, city staff recommended the far-distant Pelmo Park.

It is beyond the capabilities of your humble correspondent to figure out just how much money will be involved or why staff chose Pelmo Park when other parks are so near; the staff document does not explain. The payment should come sooner rather than later, though; the developers have to pay before the city will issue them a building permit.

New stoplight on Jane at Wright Avenue

Etobicoke York Community Council decided yesterday to put a new stoplight at the corner of Jane St and Wright Ave. The new lights will cost $130,000.

According to Transportation Services, the stoplights are needed because  pedestrians and traffic find it difficult to cross Jane St. The nearest existing lights are quite far away.

There were four preventable collisions at the intersection between 2007 and 2009. One of the collisions involved a bicyclist.

The TTC opposes the installation because it will slow traffic on Jane. However, the new lights will be on-demand and change only when there is a car or pedestrian waiting.

Transportation Services had considered a pedestrian-only crossing, but found Jane St to be too wide.

The intersection of Wright and Jane
The intersection of Wright and Jane

Good news, bad news in Weston real estate

There were big changes in the Ontario real estate market last month. The introduction of the HST is being blamed for plummeting home sales in Ontario and BC, and sales were down in Weston as they were elsewhere.

In Weston, there were 30% fewer sales in July than there were in June, and prices fell 10%, from $346,000 to $315,000 for the typical home. For owners, that compares poorly to the rest of the city. Sales citywide were down 20%, and prices in Toronto as a whole fell only 1.5%.

The year preceding had been very good for Weston homeowners, however. The median price of a home here went up 13% in the 12 months between July of 2009 and June of 2010. So even with the sharp decline last month, homeowners broke more-or-less even last year.

UrbanArts holds Culture Shock festival

UrbanArts held its 6th annual Culture Shock festival today. Poets, visual artists, musicians, and dancers entertained audiences all through the afternoon and into the evening.

Artists performed in several places around the high school. Highlights included a fashion show, the York Lions Steel Drum band, and performances by local dance groups.

UrbanArts is a youth arts organization on John St in Weston. It is one of four ‘local arts services organzations’ in Toronto; LASOs work in priority neighbourhoods to make “the arts, in all its diverse forms, broadly accessible and affordable.” As well as preparing for the Culture Shock festival, this summer UrbanArts has been hosting camps and running a graffiti prevention project.

GO Transit opens a community outreach centre

GO Transit has opened a community office in Weston. It held a grand opening tonight at the converted house at the intersection of Denison and Weston Road.

GO and Metrolinx have had a terrible relationship with the residents of Weston. Steve Munro, a transit blogger, says that early “proposals to slice through Weston … infuriated local residents.” According to Munro, “GO runs popular services, and as a provincial agency it is used to getting more or less what it wants. Public participation and accommodation have not been GO’s strong suits.”

Kathryn Hanford, the Team Lead, says, “GO realized that we were kind of shy of resources. We’ve got more resources now.”

Manuel Pedrosa, the manager of community relations, also said that things are changing. “We’re mindful that there’s a large infrastructure project in the community. We want to make sure we’re available to the community to answer questions and concerns.”

According to Pedrosa, the community office will be in Weston until the project is completed in 2014. Pedrosa says that they want “to ensure that the community is informed, to give them an opportunity to engage in the project.”

While the staff seemed sincere, Metrolinx has remained somewhat tone deaf to community needs. Not one staff member is from Weston, though Hanford did grow up nearby. Pedrosa said “we do have an initiative to ensure that some of the jobs come from the community”, and Hanford said they had been receiving résumés; nonetheless, none of the dozen-or-so employees at the open house was from Weston. In the last census, Weston had an unemployment rate 120% of Toronto’s, and 25% of residents live below the poverty line.

Neither Harford nor Pedrosa had any information about how Metrolinx’s recent takeover of the Air Rail Link project would affect Weston residents.

The Hub will open in September

Weston’s new ‘hub’ will open in September, according to Matt Brubacher, the Community Engagement Coordinator.

The hub will be a place where the community can find help with employment, women’s and youth issues, parenting, and health care. It will be in the old Food Basics on Jane St, and has been planned since at least 2008. York Community Services, the agency behind it, had said that the centre would open in June of this year.

Brubacher says that the hub is opening in Weston because it is one of 13 ‘priority neighbourhoods’ identified by the United Way. The United Way has plans to open eight hubs in total; the first one opened in January in Scarborough. When it is completed, Weston’s hub will be only the second or third.

Brubacher said that the priority areas generally have “higher levels of poverty, lower levels of service, and safety issues as well. Hubs are one thing that they’re doing to support the neighbourhoods”. The United Way says that these priority neighbourhood are in the inner suburbs, and are characterized  growing levels of poverty, few services, growing numbers of youth, and an increasing need for newcomer services.

Brubacher said that  they’ll be having events and “holding monthly gatherings to start talking about what [the community] would like to see happening at the Hub and once we’ve been open for a little bit, we’ll have a big opening celebration as well.”