Kew Gardens plan has fans and detractors
Re: ‘Kew Gardens ‘help’ not necessary,’ Letters to the Editor, Dec. 1:
On March 18, 2014, there was a public meeting at the Beaches Rec Centre about updating Kew Gardens. Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon invited a few youths to this meeting, including ourselves. We attended with a few friends.
It was made perfectly clear that there was no plan yet as to what was happening, but that we were to give ideas at the meeting that could possibly be included.
Some people at the meeting were very concerned they wouldn’t have their opinion heard. They thought the park would be totally ruined, like Jean Cochrane’s recent letter in Beach Metro stated: “the current plan would obliterate the flower beds we all admire.”
We were at the meeting to give our ideas, like adding more flowerbeds to the park, which was one idea given and considered.
While some felt their voices were not being heard, we stood up and said that the point of the meeting was to hear the public’s ideas and use those to improve this park we already love. We also pointed out that the plan was not set in stone, and was being formed at that very moment from our input. At this statement some narrow-minded participants said audibly, “What do they know? They’re only kids.”
Young voices in the Beach are arguably the most important for this type of subject. We will enjoy the park for the rest of our lives. Maybe one day we’ll even bring our own children to this park, and be able to show them how we helped our community to be the great place it is.
Many councils within the Beach are run by adults and seniors. Our young voices might not be viewed as the most important or knowledgeable, however we have strong ideas that are important, and take a fresh view of our community.
Ultimately, we are the ones who will be experiencing these changes in the long run.
Daisy Schuller and Pascale Desmarais
There have been several letters to Beach Metro News critical of the proposed renovations and changes to the 25m-deep strip of Kew Gardens bordering Queen Street. I think it’s important to look at Jean Cochrane’s and Carole Wilson’s concerns a little deeper.
The decision to choose this project over others was made by Councillor McMahon, city staff and the Beach Village BIA in 2013 without any community input. The cost was to be between $400,000 and $500,000, split between the BIA and the city’s economic development and parks departments. The city hired an architect long before the first public meeting in March 2014.
At that meeting, many people expressed views similar to those of Cochrane and Wilson, such as not wanting to see the flower beds altered. The architects had people do some activities with maps and bits of clear plastic, but most left bewildered by the entire experience.
The architects developed a design, shown at an open house a few months later. Despite criticisms, this design has not significantly changed since.
The design includes things such as trees and a “belvedere” that will block views of the library. Most of the strip will be hard paved surfaces instead of grass and flower beds – more like a plaza than a park.
The cost had escalated to $650,000 by June 2014.
Beach Metro News once noted that this project “was instigated by the Beach Village BIA, which hopes to draw more traffic up to Queen Street from the beach. Creating a better interface between the street and the north portion of the park is seen as one way to do that.”
This makes no sense, because people using the boardwalk will have no way of seeing or knowing that these improvements to the north end of Kew Gardens will have been made. The real problem is that the south end of Kew is a mess with no obvious entrance to the park. To address this I proposed a new park path and entrance arch to the west of the snack bar.
So, despite complaints and criticisms, Councillor McMahon and the BIA continued to support the project, and a few weeks ago the tender was finally awarded. The final cost is $1,033,000, on top of the $105,832 cost for the architects – so this $1.1 million project that many people didn’t want is costing double the initial estimate.
This money could have been used to make improvements to Queen that people actually want and would improve the aesthetics and experience of shopping, such as removing telephone poles and burying the wires.
McMahon says she won’t run in 2018. I know many people who strongly believe that by then the Beach will have been irreversibly changed for the worse.
Queen Street an ongoing concern
The letters about the condition of Queen Street send a strong message.
In the fifties, when we moved here, the stores were quite different. The shops served the community and were mostly owned by people who lived here.
Rumour then was that someone planned to make Queen Street like Yorkville. They bought up property and the rents soared. We lost a bakery, a butcher, a wool shop, a jeweller, a toy store, a health food shop and a Woolworth’s.
With the building of condos and building on the old Woodbine Racetrack, businesses are now moving west. Some call this progress! To quote letter writer Paul Romanuk, “the Beach deserves better.”
Businesses not the community’s responsibility
RE: A challenge for readers: let’s do something positive, Letters to the Editor, Dec. 1:
However well Martina Rowley means in her encouragement to improve an appalling view of the empty stores on Queen Street, she is confusing the issue and discharging the appropriate individuals of their responsibility in the matter.
It is an issue to be intervened in by the councillor of this ward and the BIA, regarding bylaw 629 of the Property and Standards Code.
If rents are uncommonly high, they reflect taxation, and it is again the BIA’s and the councillor’s responsibility to address this issue with the municipal government.
Additionally, property owners of vacant stores can apply through the BIA for the commercial facade improvement program, as well the streetscape improvement program.
Under no circumstances should residents accept store owners’ responsibilities, at any cost.
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Just to clarify on this from Lela Gary “If rents are uncommonly high, they reflect taxation, and it is again the BIA’s and the councillor’s responsibility to address this issue with the municipal government.”
What is called “Gross Rent” includes taxes, the income earned by the owner, and any expenses the owner won’t cover in the lease, like utilities – what the landlord gets is called “Net Rent”. Taxes rates on Queen are set the same as every other retail building in the city, except that property values (assessments) are high. This is all provincial law.
Landlords want high rent, not just for the income itself, but a high rent increases the value of the building if they sell it. We have many small landlords who are willing to have retail buildings vacant because their view of market rents is unrealistically high, so stores sit vacant and the landlords lose money to carry the empty space. (In the 1980s recession, many office buildings were rented for zero “net rent”). These small investor type landlord also don’t like to invest in renovating their buildings. We also have high turnover of businesses because this is a seasonal tourist area and many who try to open stores lack experience or capital.
There is one change that might force landlords to rent out space at a lower rent. Currently, if a building is empty the taxes are reduced, but this has the impact of discouraging leasing. The City/province could change this rule, which would push landlords to rent…
I hope these renovations are more thought out than the all new boardwalk. It has been elevated and has a ker-plunk style step to get off of it now. Ouch , there go the knees. Boom, there goes the toddler off the edge.
OR how about the wide road/path that runs along the tennis club. Transport by wheels speed along expecting no pedestrians on a road. The pedestrian ambles along not expecting wheels on a path. Not a good mix.