Weston Cultural Hub – the issues, Part 2.

This is the second of a three-part series on the proposal to build a Cultural Hub in Weston.

The community of Weston

Housing:

Weston is awash in apartments. A walk along Weston Road will give an idea of how plentiful they are. Anyone currently looking to rent an apartment in Weston has a huge number to choose from. Prices are very reasonable for Toronto.

IMG_0445
The Westlaw – 1920 Weston Road. 1 Bedroom: $ 925. 2 Bedroom: $1125

 

2190 Weston Road.   1 Bedroom:    $ 880.   2 Bedroom:    $1065
2190 Weston Road.
1 Bedroom: $ 880.
2 Bedroom: $1065

At 2304 and 2336 Weston Road newly renovated apartments start at $1075 for a one-bedroom and $1250 for a two. There is lots of choice.

There are a few condominiums available near Weston Village. Just off Weston Road on Hickory Tree for example, nicely constructed apartments sell for about $180,000 for a one-bedroom and $220,00 for a two. In short there is an ample supply of (for Toronto) low-cost housing.

There is also an enclave of beautiful older homes and buildings which deserve a heritage designation but for reasons which are not clear, the political will is lacking. For more than 10 years, Weston has been waiting for Heritage District status. Why has it taken so long to achieve such an obvious designation? Who knows. Delays in granting this status are puzzling and only serve developers rather than the people living here.

Transportation:

Weston is a transportation hub. Huge numbers of people travel through or switch routes in Weston. Next month, as a result of strong citizen involvement, Weston will become a stop on the much discussed UP Express. We will have all-day (if expensive) and rapid service to downtown. Airport workers will be able to use this service at a discount and with this transit link, and especially when all-day GO Train service begins, demand for real estate in Weston (and prices) will increase accordingly. Astute home buyers, investors and developers have already been quietly buying properties here in the knowledge that Weston is turning a corner. There will be a medical centre opening this summer in the old Federal Building. The same developer is proposing condominium townhomes for the old Beer Store property and restaurants and stores are upgrading their facilities. Payday loan companies seem to be on the wane.

Planning for the future:

About 6 years ago, a University of Toronto planning course led by former Toronto Chief Planner, Paul Bedford looked at ways to revitalize communities through planning. Weston was used as an example since it was a priority neighbourhood and the UP Express was coming. During the course, some bold ideas were explored. One was to

“encourage a broader mix of residential buildings through the development of co-ops and condominium buildings to create a stronger long term commitment of apartment residents to Weston.”

Another of the ideas was to develop the podium of 33-35 King Street so that it became a campus of George Brown College. Unfortunately, that plan along with many of the ideas failed to gain traction but the exercise led to further thinking about Weston’s future involving the community in a planning ‘charette‘. Many of the ideas that came out of the charette revolved around the squalid state of apartment accommodation along with how the new Weston GO and UP Express station would fit into the community.

A look into the cavernous space of 35 King Street.
A view of the cavernous and under-used podium at 35 King Street.

For quite some time, the City of Toronto Planning Department has been in discussion with developers, land owners, the Toronto Parking Authority and Artscape in the hopes that some form of community centre / cultural hub could be built on the old Farmers Market site while incorporating the Farmers Market, allowing accommodation for artists and space for community groups.

Proposed Development

The tower.
The proposed 30-storey rental apartment that will form part of the Cultural Hub.

A proposal, recently approved in principle by the City of Toronto is to build 26 subsidized live-work artist accommodations around the podium. The 8600 square foot interior will be converted to community group space leased out on a break-even basis and the Farmers Market will stay but move closer to the tracks. Read more here.

The money for this will come from:

  • City of Toronto: waiving city fees and charges, selling the parking lot to a developer
  • Artscape: $2 million through fundraising and a mortgage
  • A developer, Rockport will set up a $2 million endowment in exchange for building a 30-storey 350-unit apartment building on the current Farmers Market site.
  • federal-provincial Investment in Affordable Housing program

Total cost: $10.5 million – with no direct impact on City of Toronto budgets.

It is not known what contribution the owners of the podium at 35 King Street will bring to the table.

Tomorrow: A direct comparison of Artscape’s Wychwood Barns and Weston Cultural Hub projects.

 

5 thoughts on “Weston Cultural Hub – the issues, Part 2.”

  1. Bought a home in weston, 5 years ago. I’m seeing the improvements to the area as you described in your blog. I’m hanging in, hoping that weston is up and coming, and may soon become the next junction.

  2. I am against adding more and more rentals to an area already full of rental units. From what I understand the local BIA and the Farmers are opposed to the building. I am a little surprised that the WVRA supports this development simply because of Artscape. If 25 years this rental building will be left a mess just like all the other rentals that line Weston Rd.

    You want change, then clean up Weston Rd and put in place a proper development plan. Bad planning example: Why are we building townhomes right next to Ward Funeral Homes?

    I would also like to hear more about why the Heritage District isn’t complete yet.

  3. First of all, we do have a Weston Heritage Conservation District Phase 1. It was started in 2004 because of a threat to a particular home and when it was completed in 2007, approximately 125 homes were included on a number of streets along with a portion of Weston Road. You can see the full report and boundaries on http://www.heritageweston.com. Secondly, Phase 2 of the study began out of another threat to another property inside the core Village area. There was an OMB fight which was lost on technicality and from that, the size of Phase 2 study area more than tripled to approximately 550 homes to encompass the homes that seemed the most threatened. It takes both time and money along with support from the City to complete the task of the study and enact the bylaw. We have raised, to date, over $20K and have a grant from the Trillium Foundation for $47 of which is spread over 5 plus years. This is with a core group of about 5 -10 people who are volunteers. We have asked for more help from the community which would help in the task but have not had overwhelming success. The City has now changed their direction with regards to how Districts are ‘picked’, ‘processed’ and ‘passed’. We are at their mercy along with our ability to do all the research, hire the consultant who then writes the report, has it vetted by the City and then it goes to Council.

    Roy, to say this statement: “There is also an enclave of beautiful older homes and buildings which deserve a heritage designation but for reasons which are not clear, the political will is lacking. For more than 10 years, Weston has been waiting for Heritage District status. Why has it taken so long to achieve such an obvious designation? Who knows. Delays in granting this status are puzzling and only serve developers rather than the people living here.”, says to me that you don’t truly understand the difference between Heritage Designation for specific buildings and a Conservation District. They are mutually inclusive and exclusive of each other. If we told you how many applications that we have addressed over the past number of years only to have the City pass them, you would be astounded. Some are within Phase 1 and some are in Phase 2 and 3 and until the bylaw is passed, we have no rights. None of this is as black and white as you have stated. There are many layers that need to be dealt with and if we could snap our fingers and have all this done already, we would have. It would have saved a lot of grief and anger. And you, as a resident, have to WANT to have your building designated and it must meet criteria.

    If more people actually came out to the meetings that we and others do hold, they might understand why it is taking so long. To spread rumours or make statements that are not factually true does a disservice to those of us who have been working on it for quite some time now. And it gives those reading a false sense of what is truly happening behind the scenes.

    1. Suri, there was no reference to individual buildings in need of conservation and I linked to the City’s Heritage Conservation District page for readers who wished to investigate further.
      WestonWeb is happy to publicize your efforts as many readers will no doubt be interested in assisting with the process that seems to have been under way since 2004. Perhaps Councillor Nunziata can be of assistance.

  4. She actually has been since 2004. In fact, she has been pretty supportive in a number of ways to our efforts… And I stand corrected on the first point, mea culpa. As I noted, it’s far more complicated to get a Conservation District bylaw passed and when you have City departments who change the rules and don’t tell you or don’t recognize that you are working on it. This is not the forum to go into all the details either… suffice to say, we have been doing the work and others have not been. And without enough hands on deck, it takes much longer to catalogue, research and describe over 550 homes.

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