Our website needs writers

Dear Neighbours,

As you can see, there have not been any updates on this site for a few months.  This is mainly because I do not have the time to stay on top of the updates and then write about them.

I’ve received complaints, so I am looking for help.  Please leave a comment on this post if you are interested to take on the community journalism responsibility.

Breaking the Suburban Status Quo at St. Clair and Keele

Trinity Development Group has purchased the prewar vegetable oil processing plant currently operated by Bunge. The trains will no longer rumble on the other side of the great wooden wall, and the image of the hub of silos bathed in saturated orange and yellow light at night will fade to black. Whatever will replace it, will “at least be better than industry”. But in a decade, how many people will still readily say that?

Proposed is another development dominated by a parking lot. It is an extension of the suburbanism brought courtesy of Home Depot and Canadian Tire in the late 1990s. Today’s trucks will be replaced by hundreds of cars. This kind of inefficient development is no longer acceptable in the urban environment of the city of Toronto. When the first big box retailers arrived in the area, the development was met with delight, even from yours truly. Gone were the smelly Ontario Stockyards in favor of shiny new retail. Two “big box” stores went up, pungently anti-urban in design though few cared to notice. The project put up a wall on St. Clair Avenue West without any entrances for pedestrians. Indeed, the only way to access it by foot is to walk around and through the parking lot’s access road.

The property at Weston Road and St. Clair is at more than a literal crossroads or intersection. This community can accept more car oriented development detrimental to the environment, or demand better. This project has the potential to set an urban precedence for redeveloping, for example, the empty half of the Home Depot parking. Communities with easy pedestrian access to retail and compact urban design such as Queen West or Roncesvalles, are among the more desirable communities in Toronto. They are vibrant and engaging, rather than sterile and generic. However, it is not necessary to recreate them. If there is a demand for big box retail, let us accommodate it. It is in our community’s best interest that development be efficient in land use. We are getting a heavy upgraded streetcar line, and urban focused development will be even more imperative in the future, especially in encouraging others along St. Clair to ride rather than drive here.

Let us not access the status quo. Fundamentally, every store that will neighbour Gunns, St. Clair or Weston must have an entrance facing the street, not the parking lot. Midrise residential condominiums should be added on top of the retail. Parking should be all underground. Any leftover space ought to be used for parks. It is this kind of development that will enhance the community. This may seem foreign as an urban interpretation of traditionally suburban style retail, but it is already planned for Queen West.

Ultimately, only this kind of redevelopment be better than trains, trucks, smoke and silos. The “anything is better than industry” mantra became inept the day Home Depot opened.

Stock Yards History: SWRA Holiday Special

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Can you believe that the bottom left of the photo is the intersection of Symes Road and St. Clair? Yes, the above photo is a view from Symes facing East to Keele.

Sometimes with all the work we have to do to move our community ahead and deal with all the issues, we forget that we are a part of one of the most historical parts of Toronto. In fact, once upon a time, the Stockyards and the Junction were the city’s most bustling area and the center of Toronto’s nightlife. Here is a link to a great site that I discovered recently where you will find the entire story and lots of rare and historical photos of the land that each and everyone of you owns: http://www.trainweb.org/oldtimetrains/stockyards/stock.htm

On behalf of the executive team at the St. Clair West Residents Associations, Happy Holidays.

Symes Road Closure: SWRA Update

We are in the final stretch here (in city time that may mean another year).  But the good news is that the design for the closure is in its final stages.  Here is the update I received from Councilor Nunziata’s office:

Frances met with staff today, and were informed that the design phase of this project is nearing completion.  The plans will be available early in 2008 for viewing at the York Civic Centre, and possibly George Bell Arena.  Notices will be placed in 3 newspapers to alert the community.  Frances has indicated to staff that this is a priority item.

New York Pork: SWRA Update

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Here is a note that we received from Councillor Nunziata’s office to keep us up to date of the very complex situation:

With respect to your question regarding the New York Pork Lands, please find attached a Motion that was passed by Councillor Nunziata earlier this year.  We have been informed that Staff will report back early in the new year on this matter.  In brief, the Motion asks that the Solicitor contact the provincial government to address the outstanding liens against this property.  As you may be aware, the lien prevents New York Pork from delivering clear title to their property to prospective buyers, and has created a “limbo” situation.  Our office has also contacted the office of Laura Albanese, MPP, and requested that they contact the appropriate provincial bodies to request that these matters be resolved as expeditiously as possible.
The problem at the New York Pork site has been compounded by the fire that occured in 2006.  There is a criminal investigation into this case, and arson is believed to have been the cause.  From a legal standpoint, we have additional problems, mostly due to insurance reasons.

BUNGE: SWRA Update

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The vegetable oil processing plant has been purchased by Trininty Development Group.  Councillor Nunziata met with Trinity recently, and was informed that they plan to use the space for a retail development.  At this time, we do not know what type of outlets/stores will be located there, but they have told us that retail is their intention.  Please be aware that they have not submitted an application to the City yet, but have indicated what they are planning.  You may want to view their website at http://www.trinity-group.com/index.php?q=node/432.  Frances addressed the issue of the spur line and asked them to provide a letter, advising that they will no longer require use of the line.

Skate Park Voted Down in Community Meeting

Sometimes I wonder why the city invests so much time and effort in studies that are dead before they start.  In this case, the planned skate park was studied, planned and a meeting held taking up a great deal of time and effort.  When it was clear from the beginning that the community does not support a skate park.

At any rate, the meeting was held on Tuesday, October 9 and everyone, except for some unknown skate board dude, voted against a skate park.   Thank you to everyone who showed up.