So much attention is paid to our beloved Church Street that the other main drag -- Wellesley -- sometimes seems like a second thought. As part of our 10 year anniversary, CWNA is giving some TLC to our oft overlooked east-west corridor.
We're focussing on small, doable improvements that will come together to make Wellesley a more pleasant street to walk.
There are ten concrete street planters between Yonge and Jarvis. Over the years, most have been neglected. Two, by Paul Kane Park, are cared for by Parks and Forestry. Two others, at the intersection of Church, are planted each summer with annuals by the The Village BIA. CWNA will be improving the remaining planters, so that within a few weeks all ten will be in fine form. Check out our web page to learn more about the Wellesley Planters project.
We'll also be weeding the beds of street trees along Wellesley and notifying the city of any sick trees that need replacing.
Piece by piece, the placemaking volunteers of CWNA are doing their part to make Wellesley wonderful!.
As reported previously, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven vulnerable populations, who would normally access an already overburdened shelter system, to living outdoors. While the City has taken significant steps to find alternative housing options and has started to help move people from tents to buildings, there are still many encampments throughout the city. In the Village, the largest encampments have been in Barbara Hall Park and George Hislop Park.
Because of the pandemic, the municipal government had placed a moratorium on encampment evictions. However, the encampments have led to their own set of safety and security issues for both those living outdoors and residents in the surrounding community: effective COVID-19 prevention measures like social distancing and regular hand washing are difficult to implement; basic sanitation has been a challenge; and there has been an increase in anti-social behaviour. Some residents who live near the parks feel unsafe; others who would normally use and enjoy the parks, avoid them. For all these reasons, exceptions are being made to the no-evictions policy.
In early June, the encampment at Barbara Hall Park was successfully cleared, with individuals offered assistance in moving to much safer and fully serviced accommodations. As of June 18, there are no tents in Barbara Hall Park. More residents are now using the park as intended and there have been two Sunday morning community clean-ups.
The encampment at George Hislop Park and the adjacent private property, owned by Sanctuary Ministries, has so far not been cleared. While some people have been successfully relocated to better accommodations, more tents soon appear in the vacated park spaces.
The longstanding failure of federal, provincial and municipal governments to prioritize housing affordability, homelessness, mental health and addiction has led to the current encampments situation. CWNA supports the measures taken so far to address the immediate crisis, but much more needs to be done.
[For news on the homelessness and encampments situation, see Ward 13 News Updates (usually under the title 'Encampments' or 'COVID 19 Updates']
Summer 2020 should have been the beginning of a Church Street Renaissance. Through 2019 and early this year many vacant storefronts had been renovated and found new tenants. Scaffolding came down, new paint jobs freshened up exteriors and heritage facades regained their former glory. The future looked especially bright with a long-awaited plan to redesign Church Street getting underway.
Then COVID-19 happened.
As in the rest of the country, the pandemic has had a profound effect on Church Street businesses. Non-essential retail operations have only recently been allowed to get back up and running with curb-side service. Restaurants have been reduced to take-out and delivery orders, and are still waiting for the go-ahead to start patio table service. Bars haven't been open for months, and many have been boarded up to prevent break-ins. Businesses hoping for a break on their rent have been out of luck, with landlords opting not to take advantage of the federal commercial rent relief program.
So what can we expect on Church Street this summer, usually the busiest and more festive season of the year?
With summer underway, the street is looking cheerier, thanks to splashes of colour from floral hanging baskets and planters freshly filled with annuals, courtesy the Church Wellesley Village BIA. And those boarded up windows are now in the process of being transformed into eye-catching murals, another BIA innovation.
Most important, more people are coming out on the street, taking advantage of the warmer weather and offering a hint of that familiar Church Street vibe. To accommodate social distancing, some of the street parking lanes have been temporarily converted to pedestrians only through the CurbTO program, and there may be more pedestrianization in store. The provincial and city governments are cutting red tape so that, when restaurants and bars start serving again, they can more readily get extra patio space.
Everyone, especially those whose income hasn't been affected by the pandemic, can help by patronizing local restaurants for take out and delivery and by making an extra effort to shop Church. While Church Street will not be the same this summer, if we all do our part the Village main street will endure -- and flourish another day.