Man pulled from Humber today

According to Toronto Police, a 75 year-old man was pulled from the Humber River near Hickory Tree and Lawrence this morning. The rescue was made using a pole to lift the man up to the riverbank. Efforts to revive him were made at the scene and he was transported to hospital in life-threatening condition. It is not yet known how the man entered the water. Read more here.

City to 1821 Weston developer: Try again.

The subject properties at 1821 – 1831 Weston Road. From Google. Click to enlarge.

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 site and proposed development from the Toronto Planning document.

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:

36 storeys
6-storey podium
454 apartments
261 resident parking spaces
29 visitor parking spaces
5 retail parking spaces
463 bicycle parking spaces.

Spaces:
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.

Apartments:
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.

Bottom Line:
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]

Large crowd at WPBC development meeting.

The consolidated property. Adapted from Google Maps. Click to enlarge.

About two hundred people attended a veritable love-fest at Weston Park Baptist Church on Monday evening. The long anticipated meeting was arranged to get some feedback on the development of the iconic property that includes the old Scotiabank ‘wedge’ building, the church itself and its substantial parking lot next to the UP Express station.

Steve Rowley leads the meeting on behalf of the church. Click to enlarge.

The meeting started with a history of WPBC and its beginnings at the end of the 19th Century. WPBC stresses that it has chosen to stay in Weston during all these years and has helped the community during that time by setting up community support organizations such as the W.A.E.S. food bank and Frontlines youth centre to name but two. Watching the presentation of the church’s history gave me an impression of some compassionate yet canny real-estate horse traders with the long game in mind. To that end they did a considerable amount of homework before deciding on the developer, Castlepoint Numa – represented at the meeting by President Alfredo Romano and several staff from the company. Mr. Romano’s passion for the project came through loud and clear and it was apparent that this will be something special.

 

Some interesting information came to light during the presentation; in 2005, the church pitched purchasing and sharing the current UP Express station site (at the time a Chrysler dealership that was up for sale) to GO Transit, the predecessor of Metrolinx. GO turned them down but before a deal could be made with Chrysler, GO came back to the table and partnered with WPBC leading to the current property setup. Plans have been worked on for some time to develop the site and now the church is asking the community for input.

The point of the meeting was threefold: to introduce the community to the church and developer Castlepoint Numa (with whom they recently signed a memorandum of agreement) and lastly to get some ideas from local residents.

A few ideas were also proposed by the church, one of which was to extend an invitation to the YMCA to operate out of the new development. This has been an idea for many years now.

Some of the ideas for Weston from the charette held in 2011. File. Click to enlarge.
File. Click to enlarge.
File. Click to enlarge.

Developer Romano expressed his wish that there be a retention in some form of the two iconic buildings on the site.

Residents at the meeting were asked to ‘vote’ for their preferred options using supplied red dots.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

The church has promised many more consultations before anything is decided.

Another local cannabis store announced.

This distinctive building at Weston and Eglinton is soon to be the home of another retail cannabis outlet under the Hobo Cannabis Company brand. The company seems to be based in Western Canada. The Weston location is one of fifteen Ontario outlets announced today by the company.

The latest cannabis store will be at 1161 Weston Road. From Google Maps.

I’ve always wondered about the purpose of the glass structure on the front.

Air pollution an issue in YSW.

Megan Delaire has written an article about traffic related air pollution (TRAP) in toronto.com today and the accompanying gif is a telling reminder of why the shift to electric vehicles cannot come soon enough for the health of people living in Toronto near major highways and downtown.

The article uses a gif that rotates a series of four images showing the levels of four pollutants measured and published in 2017.

The gif showing the four maps.

Here are the four individual maps in a static format so they can be viewed more easily. York South-Weston is outlined in red. It’s clear that the greater volumes of traffic on the 401 and downtown create more TRAP. The first two maps show particulate matter in two sizes. Small particles are insidious because they can irritate the lungs. The smaller the particles, the bigger the risk to health.

Read more on particulate matter here and here

 

Nitrogen Dioxide is a pollutant that irritates the respiratory system and can trigger asthma.

More on Nitrogen Dioxide here.

 

Benzene is a particularly nasty chemical associated with gasoline. More on benzene here.

It’s clear from the maps that living near major highways provides a greater exposure to contaminants. Noise is just one of the toxic by-products of major highways. The faster we can move to electric vehicles, the better for our health. More on TRAP from the University of Toronto here.

Megan promises a follow-up article describing what can be done to reduce TRAP levels. Read the article here.

 

What does a good apartment building look like?

If you’re in the market for a condo apartment or just deciding whether a proposed condo will be good for the neighbourhood, here’s a look at the features a good apartment should have in the 2020s.

Weston and Mount Dennis are seeing a flurry of building proposals, most of which involve apartment towers. Weston is in the unenviable position of already having some great examples of what not to build. Hopefully we can learn from these examples and do better.

Apartment interiors:
A one-bedroom apartment should provide a minimum of 500 square feet of year-round living space, a two-bedroom apartment 750 square feet and a three-bedroom above 1200 square feet. A good open-plan layout with ample space and a fully-featured kitchen is the preferred design these days. Bedrooms used to be placed in their own section with a corridor. Nowadays, thanks to space constraints, corridors have gone and bedrooms are often scattered around the living room rather than in one area. Bedrooms should be designed to accommodate student study spaces.
There should be in-apartment storage space for things like a stroller or mobility scooter.
An in-unit washer and dryer is a major convenience.
Balconies can be a great feature of an apartment, allowing access to sunshine, fresh air and perhaps some vegetables in the summer.
Apartments should allow for flexibility so that they can adapt as a family’s needs change.

Noise and odour proofing:
Noise is a big issue in many buildings. Back in the last century I lived in an apartment building where my upstairs neighbour could often be heard using the bathroom – right down to the last squirt. Not great when you’re having dinner with friends. Hardwood / vinyl / laminate floors are preferred to carpeting these days – they’re better from a cleanliness and allergy standpoint. Carpets were once part of the soundproofing system for apartments and now that they’re passé, builders have to put more thought (and money) into keeping noises from escaping. This costs money. Sealing off apartments so that air is contained also helps with odour control. Unfortunately it’s hard to know how good a job builders have done until moving in.

Generous common / amenity space:
Amenity spaces help create a community inside a building by providing areas where people can meet and interact.

  • Lobbies that promote interaction
  • A play area for children
  • Day care facilities
  • Fitness centre / Yoga studio / Library / meeting room
  • Swimming pool / sauna
  • Storage
  • Ample parking for deliveries
  • Lockers where delivery people can leave packages for residents.
  • Large item storage lockers.
  • Secure / gated access
  • Pet friendly with accommodation for dog toilet needs to ease the burden on local parks.
  • Outdoor common space with wifi.
Click to enlarge. From https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2017/pg/bgrd/backgroundfile-103920.pdf

Parking:
Secure, covered and adequate vehicle / bicycle parking is a big deal. Parking is expensive for developers as the only way to provide it to dig. The more parking the more digging. Developers like to skimp on parking claiming there is less demand for it.  Weston is a long way from being a car-free community. Unlike downtown Toronto, we can’t walk and cycle everywhere for our needs. We don’t even have any decent bike lanes inn Weston. There should be one parking space per apartment otherwise the parking problem just spills out into the neighbourhood. Parking spaces can always be adapted for other uses once transit becomes adequate and the neighbourhood provides a better variety of retail and cultural experiences. Charging stations for e-vehicles should be provided.

Security.
Security costs money and having someone monitor residents and visitors is expensive but necessary for peace of mind.

Energy efficiency:
The cost of energy is likely to rise in the future. Keeping costs down is important along with eliminating the use of fossil fuels such as natural gas.

Electrically powered heat pumps are one of the best and most energy-efficient ways to heat and cool an apartment. More costly to install, they keep resident’s fuel expenses low and use less energy.  A 4-pipe heat pump system can respond quickly to daily and seasonal changes and will allow heating and cooling simultaneously in the various parts of the building (some buildings can have only air-conditioning or heating at any one time and the switch-over date is a contentious one).

Bottom line:
We can build bare-bones and quick profit dwellings that don’t adapt well to future needs or we can build communities where people can thrive.

It’s up to us and city planners to hold developers to account so that history doesn’t repeat itself. Toronto has written a set of draft urban design guidelines that considers the needs of children and families growing up in an apartment community. They are well worth a read.

Two youth hubs for Weston and Mount Dennis

Frances Nunziata announced some very good news: both the Weston and Mount Dennis libraries will be receiving youth hubs.

DJing
From the TPL

Youth hubs are

a welcoming place for teens after school and in the summer, where snacks, fun activities and helpful staff are always available. Drop in to connect with friends in a supportive environment and get help with your homework.

The hubs include gaming systems, iPads, computers, and specialized equipment. Tutors are  available to help with homework.

Nunziata also announced that Pelmo Park will be getting a splash pad.