Residents’ associations in Bloor West area galvanize communities to make change

News Mar 27, 2014 by Lisa Rainford Bloor West Villager

The construction of twin 29-storey residential towers at the north east corner of Dundas and Bloor Streets West in the mid-1970s was the catalyst for the creation of an area residents association, according to its one-time chair and longtime former member.

Just prior to the residential/commercial project’s completion, community members banded together to discuss how they could be better prepared for such a development, said Duncan Farnan, former chair of the group now known as the West Bend Community Association (WBCA). Initially proposed as an apartment/hotel, ‘The Crossways’ was a predecessor to the condominium, he said.

Founded more than two decades ago, the WBCA has had a few incarnations. Bounded by Keele Street to the west, Bloor Street West to the south and the railway line to the east and north, in the 1990s it was known as the Dundas West Residents Association.

“It became quite active around the amalgamation of the City of Toronto. There was quite a lot of opposition across the city,” Farnan said. “I think the issue around amalgamation got neighbours more involved than they ever were before.”

The only snag, he recalled, was that they were not part of Roncesvalles Village, nor High Park, nor the Junction or the Junction Triangle.

“We felt that ‘Dundas West’ didn’t say who we were. We sat back and said, ‘Do we know who we are?’ We did a bit of a branding exercise,” he said.

Because the neighbourhood used to be part its own known as The West Toronto Junction, the group wanted to retain ‘West’ in its name. The ‘Bend’ refers to how the neighbourhood sits in the curve of the railway line that links the city to the rest of Canada – east and west.

Farnan said he believes community groups play a key role during elections.

“Very early on, when I started to get involved, we felt it was important our organization sponsor and host candidates debates.”

Residents groups serve to convey the community’s concern to its local councillor, Farnan said.

Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette agrees.

“As a councillor, I love them all dearly,” Doucette said. “They’re invaluable to me – they hear things on the street. They can bring information back to me. I think it’s vital we work together.”

Farnan recalled a particular incident that demonstrates the crucial role residents’ groups can play in a neighbourhood. In the 1990s, a child was killed on Keele Street after getting off a bus.

“We lobbied for years for a traffic light at Humberside and Keele,” he said. “Within six weeks of the accident, it was done. This was one of the things that galvanized people, that a residents’ association meant something. City staff and councillors began to pay attention to what residents said.”

The WBCA exists to express and reflect the interests of the local community and interact with all levels of government to make sure its collective voice is heard, says its current chair Des McComish. Its goal is to create a sense of community while promoting a healthy, happy and safe living environment.

“We work on creating and maintaining local gardens, monitor local developments for appropriateness and discuss traffic and pedestrian safety,” McComish said. “We provide a forum to gather and express neighbourhood concerns and work on projects that benefit the local area. We will partner with local organizations, such as the BIA to get things done. We are in contact with all levels of local politicians.”

As is its neighbour to the west, the Junction Residents Association (JRA), whose boundaries include the railway tracks to the north, Keele Street on the east, Runnymede Road to the west and Humberside Avenue to the south. Chair Linda Clements was instrumental in resurrecting the group in 2008 spurred by an unresponsive councillor at the time and a need for a new playground structure in Vine Avenue Parkette. Flyering the neighbourhood, as many as 25 people turned up for the inaugural meeting.

“Everyone should join their local residents association to stay informed and to get involved in their community,” said Eleanor Batchelder, an executive member. “We provide that conversation between different groups of people. It’s important people feel they’re being heard.”

An issue both JRA and WBCA are looking into is the movement of potentially hazardous materials through the West Toronto Diamond – Canada’s busiest rail intersection. Electrification of Metrolinx’s Georgetown South line “is and always will be an issue” for area residents, said McComish.

For further details or to join these groups, visit www.junctionra.ca and thewestbend.ca

Residents’ associations in Bloor West area galvanize communities to make change

News Mar 27, 2014 by Lisa Rainford Bloor West Villager

The construction of twin 29-storey residential towers at the north east corner of Dundas and Bloor Streets West in the mid-1970s was the catalyst for the creation of an area residents association, according to its one-time chair and longtime former member.

Just prior to the residential/commercial project’s completion, community members banded together to discuss how they could be better prepared for such a development, said Duncan Farnan, former chair of the group now known as the West Bend Community Association (WBCA). Initially proposed as an apartment/hotel, ‘The Crossways’ was a predecessor to the condominium, he said.

Founded more than two decades ago, the WBCA has had a few incarnations. Bounded by Keele Street to the west, Bloor Street West to the south and the railway line to the east and north, in the 1990s it was known as the Dundas West Residents Association.

“It became quite active around the amalgamation of the City of Toronto. There was quite a lot of opposition across the city,” Farnan said. “I think the issue around amalgamation got neighbours more involved than they ever were before.”

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The only snag, he recalled, was that they were not part of Roncesvalles Village, nor High Park, nor the Junction or the Junction Triangle.

“We felt that ‘Dundas West’ didn’t say who we were. We sat back and said, ‘Do we know who we are?’ We did a bit of a branding exercise,” he said.

Because the neighbourhood used to be part its own known as The West Toronto Junction, the group wanted to retain ‘West’ in its name. The ‘Bend’ refers to how the neighbourhood sits in the curve of the railway line that links the city to the rest of Canada – east and west.

Farnan said he believes community groups play a key role during elections.

“Very early on, when I started to get involved, we felt it was important our organization sponsor and host candidates debates.”

Residents groups serve to convey the community’s concern to its local councillor, Farnan said.

Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette agrees.

“As a councillor, I love them all dearly,” Doucette said. “They’re invaluable to me – they hear things on the street. They can bring information back to me. I think it’s vital we work together.”

Farnan recalled a particular incident that demonstrates the crucial role residents’ groups can play in a neighbourhood. In the 1990s, a child was killed on Keele Street after getting off a bus.

“We lobbied for years for a traffic light at Humberside and Keele,” he said. “Within six weeks of the accident, it was done. This was one of the things that galvanized people, that a residents’ association meant something. City staff and councillors began to pay attention to what residents said.”

The WBCA exists to express and reflect the interests of the local community and interact with all levels of government to make sure its collective voice is heard, says its current chair Des McComish. Its goal is to create a sense of community while promoting a healthy, happy and safe living environment.

“We work on creating and maintaining local gardens, monitor local developments for appropriateness and discuss traffic and pedestrian safety,” McComish said. “We provide a forum to gather and express neighbourhood concerns and work on projects that benefit the local area. We will partner with local organizations, such as the BIA to get things done. We are in contact with all levels of local politicians.”

As is its neighbour to the west, the Junction Residents Association (JRA), whose boundaries include the railway tracks to the north, Keele Street on the east, Runnymede Road to the west and Humberside Avenue to the south. Chair Linda Clements was instrumental in resurrecting the group in 2008 spurred by an unresponsive councillor at the time and a need for a new playground structure in Vine Avenue Parkette. Flyering the neighbourhood, as many as 25 people turned up for the inaugural meeting.

“Everyone should join their local residents association to stay informed and to get involved in their community,” said Eleanor Batchelder, an executive member. “We provide that conversation between different groups of people. It’s important people feel they’re being heard.”

An issue both JRA and WBCA are looking into is the movement of potentially hazardous materials through the West Toronto Diamond – Canada’s busiest rail intersection. Electrification of Metrolinx’s Georgetown South line “is and always will be an issue” for area residents, said McComish.

For further details or to join these groups, visit www.junctionra.ca and thewestbend.ca

Residents’ associations in Bloor West area galvanize communities to make change

News Mar 27, 2014 by Lisa Rainford Bloor West Villager

The construction of twin 29-storey residential towers at the north east corner of Dundas and Bloor Streets West in the mid-1970s was the catalyst for the creation of an area residents association, according to its one-time chair and longtime former member.

Just prior to the residential/commercial project’s completion, community members banded together to discuss how they could be better prepared for such a development, said Duncan Farnan, former chair of the group now known as the West Bend Community Association (WBCA). Initially proposed as an apartment/hotel, ‘The Crossways’ was a predecessor to the condominium, he said.

Founded more than two decades ago, the WBCA has had a few incarnations. Bounded by Keele Street to the west, Bloor Street West to the south and the railway line to the east and north, in the 1990s it was known as the Dundas West Residents Association.

“It became quite active around the amalgamation of the City of Toronto. There was quite a lot of opposition across the city,” Farnan said. “I think the issue around amalgamation got neighbours more involved than they ever were before.”

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The only snag, he recalled, was that they were not part of Roncesvalles Village, nor High Park, nor the Junction or the Junction Triangle.

“We felt that ‘Dundas West’ didn’t say who we were. We sat back and said, ‘Do we know who we are?’ We did a bit of a branding exercise,” he said.

Because the neighbourhood used to be part its own known as The West Toronto Junction, the group wanted to retain ‘West’ in its name. The ‘Bend’ refers to how the neighbourhood sits in the curve of the railway line that links the city to the rest of Canada – east and west.

Farnan said he believes community groups play a key role during elections.

“Very early on, when I started to get involved, we felt it was important our organization sponsor and host candidates debates.”

Residents groups serve to convey the community’s concern to its local councillor, Farnan said.

Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette agrees.

“As a councillor, I love them all dearly,” Doucette said. “They’re invaluable to me – they hear things on the street. They can bring information back to me. I think it’s vital we work together.”

Farnan recalled a particular incident that demonstrates the crucial role residents’ groups can play in a neighbourhood. In the 1990s, a child was killed on Keele Street after getting off a bus.

“We lobbied for years for a traffic light at Humberside and Keele,” he said. “Within six weeks of the accident, it was done. This was one of the things that galvanized people, that a residents’ association meant something. City staff and councillors began to pay attention to what residents said.”

The WBCA exists to express and reflect the interests of the local community and interact with all levels of government to make sure its collective voice is heard, says its current chair Des McComish. Its goal is to create a sense of community while promoting a healthy, happy and safe living environment.

“We work on creating and maintaining local gardens, monitor local developments for appropriateness and discuss traffic and pedestrian safety,” McComish said. “We provide a forum to gather and express neighbourhood concerns and work on projects that benefit the local area. We will partner with local organizations, such as the BIA to get things done. We are in contact with all levels of local politicians.”

As is its neighbour to the west, the Junction Residents Association (JRA), whose boundaries include the railway tracks to the north, Keele Street on the east, Runnymede Road to the west and Humberside Avenue to the south. Chair Linda Clements was instrumental in resurrecting the group in 2008 spurred by an unresponsive councillor at the time and a need for a new playground structure in Vine Avenue Parkette. Flyering the neighbourhood, as many as 25 people turned up for the inaugural meeting.

“Everyone should join their local residents association to stay informed and to get involved in their community,” said Eleanor Batchelder, an executive member. “We provide that conversation between different groups of people. It’s important people feel they’re being heard.”

An issue both JRA and WBCA are looking into is the movement of potentially hazardous materials through the West Toronto Diamond – Canada’s busiest rail intersection. Electrification of Metrolinx’s Georgetown South line “is and always will be an issue” for area residents, said McComish.

For further details or to join these groups, visit www.junctionra.ca and thewestbend.ca