TD in Weston is closing, moving to Crossroads

I was recently amazed when I visited a bank teller to take out cash. There were—forgive me here—little old ladies with passbooks in clear vinyl envelopes asking the tellers in salty, sunny, Mediterranean languages about their balances.

I hadn’t seen a passbook in three decades, and I was amazed that people still use them. I was amazed the bank still prints them. And, if I’m honest, I was also infuriated: my god, the line was slow. Do you people not know about apps?

But my fury at the waiting in line will be nothing compared to my anger at not having a lineup at all.

The TD Bank at 1979 Weston Road will close and move to the Crossroads Plaza by this time next year, according to residents. (TD has not yet returned my calls.) This is the latest in a series of closures that are turning downtown Weston into a banking desert: the RBC and TD banks on Jane have closed, as did the Scotiabank at Weston and Lawrence. In two years, we will have gone from six branches (and four banks) to two. Only RBC on and BMO, both on Weston Road, remain.

While the big banks have been moving on, money-lenders and high-fee cheque-cashing businesses have been moving in. There are at least 10 payday loan or cheque-cashing places in Weston. Something is wrong with a community when there are more usurers than ice-cream shops.

I’m not usually the sort of guy who says that the government should meddle in business, but in this case, I think they should. Banks are not meeting their social obligations, and the government has a strong moral reason to regulate minimum levels of service—and the muscle to do so.

Being banked is a critical part of being a citizen; even the government pays by cheque and prefers direct deposit. (You can’t collect Ontario Works, for instance, in cash.) Allowing banks to close forces people into the hands of cheque-cashers, who charge about $3, +3% of the value of the cheque: a whopping $33 on a $1000 payday.

Worse, the people who will pay are those least able to: the poor, less-literate, and less mobile. Being gouged by MoneyMart makes a lot more sense when you’re faced with a 90-minute walk or a $6.50 fare and a snowy hour waiting for buses.

And then there are the knock-on, long-term effects. To open an RESP, get financial advice, or save in a TFSA, you need to have a branch. None of it can be done online. Pulling out banks means pushing people to the financial margins, and that will make our community poorer in the long run. You need to be close to a banker to pull ahead.

Of course some of us—those with cars, $100 cellphone plans, and the wherewithal to direct-deposit our infrequent cheques by photograph—we will all be fine. After all, I didn’t know people still use passbooks because I hadn’t stood in line for years.

But you can’t both curse a bank’s Friday lineup and say we don’t need it.

Ginger Pho—you should go

The family and I finally had a chance to get to Ginger Pho, on Weston Road across from the Super Store, which opened about three weeks ago. (We’ve been travelling a lot, and boy are we glad to be back!)

In short—it’s great! You should go. We stuffed ourselves for $42, before the tip, including pop and appetizers. And it was good. We had leftovers and left-behinds, too.

The highlight, for me, was my wife’s vegetarian vermicelli with fried tofu and a spring roll on top. I loved it. The tofu was perfect (neither wet nor greasy, and marinated in something good), and the spring roll was great. The veggies were fresh and crispy, and the whole thing was a balance of healthy and sinful—and a steal at about $8. There are other vegetarian options, too, including a veggie pho, made without a meat broth.

We started with cold rolls ($5) which in the future, I’d skip in favour of the superb fried rolls. The kids’ chicken phos ($6 or so) came with some, for which they handily defeated me in chop-stick battle. What little I could prise from them was really great—not at all like your typical mass-produced rolls cooked from frozen; these had shredded chicken and a crunchy, blistered skin. Superb.

I had beef pho ($9), the server’s recommendation. The slightly-sweet, cardamom and cinnamonny broth was the same as the kids’, but I got bean sprouts, which would have been wasted on the little ones. The beef slices were nice, and the basil was pretty: flowering and purple. A little lime and a single chili added some colour. I got the large, which was a mistake. Even I couldn’t finish it.

The restaurant is lovely, and modestly busy. The service is great (though they did bring my wife’s meal a minutes before the rest of ours), and the menu is extensive and interesting, with lots of room for regulars to explore. There is draft lager and a few more adventurous options, including a cider and a Belgian.

 

Greenland Farm Update.

Thanks to a lapse in memory, I wasn’t able to attend Tuesday’s meeting to hear plans by the owner of 1965 Weston Road. Marion at Weston’s BIA, helped out by getting me in touch with Grenville Dungey who was there and kindly shared his impressions. Here are some of Gren’s take-aways of the proposal.

The proposal is in its very earliest stages. There was a conceptual drawing but nothing else. The basic idea is for a 6-story podium building with 4 floors residential and 2 floors of retail. On top of the podium would be a residential tower that would have a smaller footprint taking the height up to 28 storeys. Residential units would be mainly one and two-bedroom with some bachelor apartments. The owner said that wind tunnel tests would be performed on models of the tower to make sure that the building didn’t create undue wind patterns.

Gren got the impression that the owner is very keen to have community input but the owner also said that if the numbers don’t work, it won’t get built. (I’m interpreting that to mean the height of the building). There would be underground parking for residents which would be accessed from the Lawrence Avenue entrance to the site.

The next meeting with more concrete ideas will be sometime next spring. If building starts it will possibly be around 2020 before anything gets started and the construction might take between 30 and 36 months.

My Comments:

What does the City of Toronto say about that part of Weston?

Back in 2004, the City put into place guidelines for Weston, designed (among many other things) to stop further deterioration of Weston Road into a high-rise corridor. It stipulated that new buildings along the Weston Road Corridor where the GF building now stands, should be limited to a maximum of 8 storeys. Reading the guidelines almost makes one despair at the lost opportunities as they have been totally ignored in the intervening years.

No doubt the current owner bought the site for the purpose of making money by developing to a height far beyond the guidelines. When people spend money on a property, they perform some due diligence to make sure that their plans are achievable. It seems there must be high confidence that 28 stories will pass muster at council.

Incidentally, the Greenland Farm people no longer own the building and have put the business up for sale.

The current listing for the business. From realtor.ca

 

GTA Transit Planning Revealed.

From bms.co.in

The latest news of how transit gets built in this area comes as no surprise to most people in the GTA.  In the latest outrage, straight from the manual of how to operate a corrupt government, Provincial Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca possibly acting in a craven bid to keep his own seat, seems to have pressured Metrolinx into approving two unnecessary GO stations. One in his riding and another $25 million station which was (literally) forged into existence, in order to satisfy (Rob Ford in sheep’s clothing) Mayor Tory’s ill-conceived SmartTrack needs. With a wink and a nod to voters in next June’s election, Del Duca could point to the $100 million GO station as a reason to re-elect him. One might speculate that the March resignation of Bruce McCuaig was a reaction to this nonsense, knowing that the truth would eventually come out.

This chart illustrates the weekly passenger loads on TTC lines and routes. The downtown relief line would serve four times as many people as a Scarborough Subway. Click to enlarge. From reliefline.ca

The $3.35 billion, one-stop Scarborough Subway is another example of how transit planning is perverted by politicians for their own re-election purposes. Torontonians will be paying for that white elephant for the next 50 years while knowing that a much better LRT was already planned and paid for. Line 1 is overcrowded with 731,000 passengers weekly. Line 3 has only 40,000. In the meantime, politicians like Glenn de Bearemaeker and John Tory stick to the same nonsense that Scarborough deserves a subway. Even our own councillor, Frances Nunziata supports this obscenity presumably because she wants to Tory to keep her on as Council Speaker.

Closer to home, the UP Express was originally designed to be built privately and run non-stop to the airport. It was going to cost taxpayers nothing while barreling at high speed through our neighbourhood. Luckily the community got involved in the form of the people of Weston and the Clean Train Coalition. As a result of community pressure, Weston got its own station and a tunnel was built to put some of the line below grade. In spite of common sense, we’re still stuck with the CP tracks not going in the tunnel with the other lines, broken links between streets like John Street and a sell-off of the old GO parking lot for development without any community input. On the plus side, we now have an inexpensive, quick and frequent train to the airport and downtown but in fairness, no politician planned this; it was forced on them by community pressure.

Sadly, most politicians will do whatever they need to do in order to get elected. Public vigilance and pressure is the only answer. Being well informed and vocal is in every citizen’s best interest.

From Smart Citizen Engagement – Power to Sense: Dr Mazlan Abbas. Keynote Presentation at Asia Pacific Smart City Forum 2016

There is an old saying that war is too important to be left to the generals. Along the same lines, governing is too important to be left to politicians. Demanding and participating in community consultation events has never been more important. Especially since there is about to be a huge surge in redevelopment in Weston. Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat’s resignation on Monday will only serve to stress the importance of informed citizen input.

Greenland Farm to develop old Loblaws site.

Greenland Farm Supermarket in January 2016 (File).

Greenland Farm at 1956-1966 Weston Road is a one-store supermarket that occupies a site once used for the same purpose by Loblaws many years ago. If you like fish, or a wide variety of products from all over the world, then GF is a great place to shop. It has for example, more types of hot sauce than you would find in a lifetime of searching through any chain supermarket.

It turns out that the owner would like to develop the site which is quite large as it includes the supermarket itself and a fairly substantial parking lot also fronting onto Weston Road. According to the latest newsletter from Councillor Frances Nunziata, there is interest in, “…redeveloping the site with commercial uses at grade level and residential above.”

Greenland Farms occupies a large site and parking lot in downtown Weston (from Google Maps). Click to enlarge.

In many ways, this is a vote of confidence in Weston but the quality of the proposal, the appropriate use of land and the height of the residential component will need to be carefully scrutinized.

A meeting will be held to discuss the owner’s thoughts and for residents to provide feedback so that a submission proposal can eventually be drawn up and presented to the City (which will be represented at the meeting).

In the formative stages of this idea it’s probably a huge opportunity for Weston residents to make their ideas and opinions count.

The meeting will be held at the York West Active Living Centre, located at 1901 Weston Road.

  • Date: Tuesday, August 29
  • Time 7:00 pm
  • Location: 1901 Weston Road

Wasted Weston part 1

This is the first in a hopefully-short series on waste in Weston: wasted opportunities, wasted money, and wasted space.

Today, a wasted opportunity. The 85-year-old and very pretty Satin Finish office was torn down this week, in exchange for a ‘beautification agreement’¹ with the builders.

Former Satin Finish buildingYour correspondent had other, better plans. It could have been a small rec or youth centre, with after-school programming for the many kids in the new development. Imagine a sunlit space with oak beams and hardwood floors—a nod to its history—with an AV lab, a homework space and a videogame room, where kids could go and play LAN games.

We could have had an institutional daycare—there hasn’t been one since the Weston Village Childcare closed up more than 4 years ago. Or perhaps it could have had a meeting space or a job centre, where we could go, network, and post and find work.

Instead, it will be townhomes.

 

 


¹ Nobody knows quite what that means.

 

 

Another idea for Weston / Mount Dennis

Like Weston and Mount Dennis, Parkdale was devastated by changing circumstances in the 1950s and 1960s. Recently, Parkdale has been gentrifying and residents have formed the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust in order to have some control over the current boom in development.

Last month using fundraising and grants, the trust purchased land that had been denied building permits. The Trust had already received permission to garden on the 5000 square foot site. Ownership will mean that future gardening at that location is guaranteed.

More details here.