Selling off taxpayer assets.

This week (Monday) we will have a meeting concerning the land, some of which was donated to the town of Weston for what became Humber River Regional Hospital back in the 1940s. We will also have a residents’ meeting (Wednesday) to hear citizen input regarding the Weston Hub on John Street. In both of these cases, taxpayer funded entities sold or are looking to sell valuable public land to developers. The Toronto Parking Authority sold off the old GO Station parking lot with little fanfare and now HRRH effectively wants to sell its entire site to developer/s.

On the one hand, we have been told by Councillor Nunziata and others, it’s essential for a tower to be built as part of the Weston Hub on the GO site but according to Inside Toronto, she is quoted as being opposed to one on the hospital site,

“The people from the community are very concerned because it is an 11-acre site, it is zoned institutional and they were concerned the hospital was going to try and sell it to the highest bidder and build towers, residential, which they didn’t want.”

I would guess that those same citizens of Weston aren’t cheering about a 31– 30 storey* rental tower on the old GO parking lot but it looks like they’re getting one. Why is the HRRH site any less vulnerable? Answer: it’s probably not.

As the old saying goes, there is only one taxpayer. Why are (often hard fought) public assets compromised by the need for taxpayer funded agencies to raise cash? Surely our cities deserve better and more deliberate planning than this?

One more thing… Farmers Market traders have been concerned for a while that because their new site is so much smaller, they won’t have room for their vehicles. Superimposing the approximate new space allocation (black line) over a satellite view of the Market in full swing is quite telling and may explain traders’ anxiety. This much smaller space may work well with stalls selling selling pickled artisanal mushrooms and the like but it probably won’t be the same for many of our current traders who need their current freedom to spread out.

Farmers Marketl space allocation after the Hub is built.
Farmers Marketl space allocation (black line) after the Hub is built.

Parking may be an issue too as that will be in the lower part of the green space at the bottom of the image.

*Update: Etobicoke York Council minutes have changed (from the original agenda) to now state that the Hub rental apartment will be 30 storeys. Hopefully it was just a typo on the part of clerical staff.

John Street / Hub / 30 Storey Rental Apartment / Storage Locker Meeting – Date Changed.

The date of the John Street residents’ meeting to discuss rezoning for the Cultural Hub, Farmers Market, 30-storey rental apartment building (and now storage locker) is incorrect according to Councillor Nunziata. The original date given by City staff was September 16th. No word from the councillor as to the new date. The matter will still come before Etobicoke York Community Council on September 8.

They’re deciding on three things at the September 8 meeting:

1. Staff be directed to schedule a community consultation meeting in September 2015 for the lands at 22 John Street, 33 King Street and 2 Elsmere Avenue with the Ward Councillor.

2. Notice for the community consultation meeting be given to landowners and residents within 120 metres of the site.

3. Notice for the public meeting under the Planning Act be given according to the regulations of the Planning Act.

The public consultation will be at a date TBA and the big decision is now apparently happening in December.

Weston Web will post details of the public meeting as soon as they are announced.

Hub rezoning community meeting.

The old GO Station parking lot, existing rental tower and unused podium.
The old GO Station parking lot, existing rental tower, unused ground floor and multi-level parking.

An item up for discussion at next week’s Etobicoke York Community Council Meeting concerns the Weston Hub and surrounding area. At this meeting, City staff will be directed to invite residents within 150 metres of the Hub to a consultation meeting. Presumably this will be to listen to residents’ suggestions and concerns about the project. As yet a location and hour have not been announced but the date will be Wednesday, September 16. (The meeting is being rescheduled – WestonWeb will publish the date once it’s known.) In attendance will no doubt be the major players in this endeavour including Councillor Frances Nunziata. As with all such consultation meetings, any member of the public is eligible to attend.

The tower.
An artist’s impression of the proposed 30-storey rental tower (from Rockport).

In order for the project to go ahead, approval must come from the Community Council at their November 10th meeting. It will then go to Toronto City Council for final approval (rubber stamp) and enactment.

From the Preliminary Report Summary:

This application proposes to amend the Official Plan, the former City of York Zoning By-law No. 1-83 and City of Toronto Zoning By-law 569-2013 to permit the development of a 30-storey, 370-unit rental apartment building, seven at-grade townhouses and a 1,200 m² outdoor community open space at 22 John Street, which will be used for a Farmers Market and public open space.  A 794 m² Creative Cultural Hub with 26 affordable live/work artist units is also proposed at 33 King Street and 2 Elsmere Avenue, with 70 new Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) parking spaces on the lands municipally known as 14 John Street.

 

In addition, 3,897 m² of vacant ground floor space at 33 King Street is proposed to be converted to a self-storage facility.  Parking for the proposed development at 22 John Street would be provided in an underutilized parking garage located at 33 King Street.

 

The Weston community has been identified as one of the City’s 31 Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIA’s). The proposed development, along with local expansion of public transit by Metrolinx and GO Transit, will contribute to an area-wide social and economic revitalization.

 

This report provides preliminary information on the above-noted application and seeks Community Council’s direction on further processing of the application and on the community consultation process.

 

A community consultation meeting arranged by staff in consultation with the Ward Councillor has been scheduled for September 16, 2015.  A Final Report and statutory public meeting under the Planning Act to consider this application is targeted for the  November 10, 2015 meeting of Etobicoke York Community Council provided that all required information is submitted by the applicant in a timely manner.

Coming soon to Weston?
Coming soon to Weston? Yuuuuup!

I don’t recall prior mention of almost 4000 square metres (43,055 sq feet) of rental self-storage as part of previous Hub discussions. Surely self-storage doesn’t belong in or near a cultural hub? This dwarfs the less than 800 square metres (8,611 sq feet) of creative programming space also on the vacant ground floor of 33 King. In other words the ground floor community space will be 83% self-storage. Since the apartment building will have no parking spaces, tenants will be sharing parking space with the storage and Cultural Hub folks in the existing multi-level parking garage. The number of rental apartments in the 30-storey building seems to have been nudged about 6% upwards from Artscape’s claim of 350 to 370. Flatteringly, Artscape reckons that Weston is, “a neighbourhood that has not seen new private investment since the 1970s”.

It just gets better.

N.B. This article has been edited to reflect that the meeting will not be held on September 16 but on another date. The Etobicoke York Community Council Agenda had this as the date but according to Councillor Nunziata it is incorrect. WestonWeb will publish the date once it’s known.