Community Centre “on track” according to city budget

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Photo of old linseed factory in afternoon light

The City purchased the old Canada Linseed Oil Mill site in 2000 as the home for the new Wabash Community Centre

New City of Toronto budget documents show the Wabash Community Centre project at Sorauren Park is “on track” as the city’s Budget Committee and, eventually, City Council work to approve the annual budget and 10-year plan in February.

The public documents appear to have been prepared earlier in 2019, as the city subsequently announced the architects for the project, Diamond Schmitt Architects, have been hired from a short-list of four firms.

A table from the city's capital budget and plan showing the $40 million total project budget and indicating project is on track
From Parks, Forestry and Recreation 10-year Capital Budget and Plan, 2020-2029

The documents reveal an assessment of the condition of the existing building at 40 Wabash Avenue (the old linseed mill) has been completed, along with a Draft Cultural Heritage Evaluation and environmental studies. These reports have not yet been released to the public.

The budget indicates the city invested $285,000 in the project in 2019, presumably on these studies and project management costs. A further $1.084 million is budgeted in 2020, for design costs. The total project budget is $40 million.

Though the documents indicate the project is “on track,” expected completion has been pushed from 2023 to 2024.

No updated design plans have been released for the centre. The last feasibility study, with concept plans, was completed in 2009, thanks to collaboration between the City and Friends of Sorauren Park. However, those plans did not include a pool. A pool was subsequently added to the program plan in the city’s 2017 Facilities Master Plan for recreation facilities across the city.

Illustration showing a gym and hallways with light streaming from the top
Artist’s rendering of gym and first floor of community centre from 2009 feasibility study

The Friends of Sorauren Park expect the city will announce public consultations with the architects this year. The Friends have already started a consultation process, and more than 1,000 residents have completed a Community Centre survey. The Friends will publish the full results later this winter.

“The community has had more than twenty years now to envision what this great building could become. The Friends of Sorauren Park is passionate about continuing its role as the voice of our neighbourhood on this. We look forward to working closely with world-renowned Diamond Schmitt to bring our community’s vision to fruition,” said Joël Campbell, chair of the non-profit Friends.

Preliminary results from the survey show overwhelming support for preserving the park’s Town Square. The community centre project puts the Town Square at risk as it has been identified as within the “development zone” for the new centre. The Friends of Sorauren Park stands for preserving the Town Square as the “outdoor community centre,” supporting the Farmer’s Market, outdoor movies, festivals, pumpkin sales, and other active and passive uses. (See the video.)

Design Excellence:

Supports Design Excellence
Supports sustainable/regenerative building and energy systems
Supports top-floor event space as proposed in the 2009 concepts plans, Green Feasibility Study
Supports preserving the existing trees in Sorauren Park

Heritage:

Supports preserving the industrial heritage of the site as much as possible
Supports preserving the chimney as an iconic feature (used in our logo) and potential chimney swift habitat
Supports preserving the train shed

Aquatic Facilities:

Supports aquatic facilities at the WCC
95% of 2005 survey respondents (500+) supported aquatic facilities

Programming:

Supports all-ages accessible programming
Supports programming that reflects the needs and make-up of the community, e.g. large number of artists
Supports creation of Community Kitchen (Commercial Kitchen for community use)

Governance/Operations:

Supports Community Key Access, a principle that (for example) allows the FOSP to operate the natural ice rink, outdoor bake oven, gardening and other programs, in accordance with City policies such as booking and permit requirements

Building/Park Integration:

Supports preserving the Sorauren Fieldhouse and enhancing its functionality (e.g., as the “headquarters” and winter location for the Farmers Market) by integrating needs into the new Community Centre, e.g. park-level storage

Naming of Community Centre:

Supports a discussion around the naming of the Community Centre that reflects the community and its heritage.

Diamond Schmitt Architects hired for Wabash Community Centre

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Photo of old linseed factory in afternoon light

The City purchased the old Canada Linseed Oil Mill site in 2000 as the home for the new Wabash Community Centre

The City of Toronto has hired one of Canada’s best-known architecture firms to design the new Wabash Community Centre at Sorauren Park. Diamond Schmitt Architects was awarded the work after an open bid process. Councillor Gord Perks confirmed the news at the November meeting of Friends of Sorauren Park.

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Your input matters: Community Centre survey

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Interior view from ground-floor level down to basement level. Concept plan from 2009 Wabash Green Feasibility Study.

The City of Toronto will soon hire architects to work on the final design for the Wabash Community Centre at Sorauren Park. This is exciting news, and the Friends of Sorauren Park is asking for your input on what you’d like to see at our new community centre.

Please take a moment to complete our survey.

This survey has been created by the Friends of Sorauren Park, a non-profit volunteer group dedicated to the completion and enjoyment of Sorauren Park.

The intention is to collect community input that can help inform the design process and construction of the new community centre planned for Wabash Avenue adjacent to the park. The survey is just one consultation initiative of the Friends of Sorauren Park to help identify community needs and desires.

You can read the positions taken by the Friends of Sorauren Park here. The City’s consultants will also be undertaking consultations, which FOSP looks forward to participating in.

Construction of the $40-million community centre is to be completed by the City of Toronto and is slated to open in 2023.

Thank you for completing the Friends of Sorauren Park community centre survey.

Regards,
Joël Campbell
Chair (Volunteer), Friends of Sorauren Park

What we heard: Wabash Community Centre consultation

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More than a dozen people sitting and standing around a consultation table in a meeting room at the Sorauren Fieldhouse.

Community members debate options and ideas at one of four tables during the community centre consultation. Each table focused on different themes.

What does the community want in the new Wabash Community Centre (WCC) coming to Sorauren Park? After 20 years of lobbying and fundraising for park development, the Friends of Sorauren Park and the Wabash Building Society have developed more than a few thoughts on this!  But first, FOSP wanted to hear from the community.

So, in January, it held a public open forum to collect ideas and seek consensus on development plans for the new $40 million centre to be built by the City of Toronto.

The January forum was just the first of several opportunities to have your say through this independent, community-led process. The City will conduct its own consultations, which FOSP looks forward to participating in.

Here’s what we heard in January – distilled into 10 main themes (in no particular order):

1. More than ever, there is an overwhelming consensus that the community wants the construction of a pool but also wants more details on how that would affect the building design, Town Square, and park. FOSP position: Supports aquatic facilities at the WCC.

2.  The Town Square is where we enjoy the Farmers Market, Outdoor Movies, and festivals.  It’s where kids learn to ride their bikes and play ball hockey and is in integral part of the neighbourhood. FOSP position: Protect the Town Square, built through FOSP advocacy and fundraising, as the “outdoor community centre.” Supports the Farmers Market and other Town Square programming including outdoor movies, festivals, pumpkin sales, informal gatherings and play.

3.  The existing building is an important part of the industrial heritage of the neighbourhood.  FOSP position: Supports preserving the industrial heritage of the site as much as possible. Supports preserving the chimney as an iconic feature (used in our logo) and potential chimney swift habitat. Supports preserving the train shed.

4.  Great interest in sustainable building design and successful integration of the new community centre into Sorauren Park and its existing infrastructure, amenities and programming. FOSP position: Supports Design Excellence.  Supports sustainable/regenerative building and energy systems. Supports preserving the existing trees in Sorauren Park, many of which have been cared for by volunteers.

5.  The community is very excited about the prospect of a foot bridge connecting Wabash to the West Toronto Railpath. FOSP position: Supports the southern extension of the West Toronto Railpath and future bridge connection into Sorauren Park, connecting communities.

6.  Community Access and partnership arrangement – community-based governance. FOSP position: Supports Community Key Access, a principle that (for example) allows the FOSP to operate the natural ice rink, outdoor bake oven, gardening and other programs, in accordance with City policies such as booking and permit requirements. Supports keeping the Fieldhouse as a base for many park activities and ensuring the new community centre also supports park life, e.g. with grade-level storage for park needs.

7.  Many great opportunities for unique programming with many special interest groups keen to be involved – Dance, Argonauts Rowing and water polo, to name a few. FOSP position: Supports all-ages accessible programming.  Supports youth programming and engagement.

8.  Youth have a special interest in quiet “hanging-out” spaces and also in creative and educational style maker labs, cooking classes and other so-called “dirty studios”. FOSP position: Supports programming that reflects the diverse needs and interests of the community, not necessarily the “cookie cutter” commmunity centre program.  Supports the new SParkLAB Youth Council (Sorauren Park Leadership Advisory Board)

9.  Diversity and cross-generational inclusion. FOSP position: Supports diversity, inclusion and accessibility for all.  Supports incorporating indigenous history/art/culture in the spirit of truth and reconciliation

10.  Excitement about the inclusion of amenities such as a commercial-grade community kitchen, a retail café, and a roof-top event space. FOSP position: Supports creation of Community Kitchen and various spaces for events, conferences, and/or meetings. Supports a discussion around the naming of the Community Centre that reflects the community and its heritage.

Capturing ideas.

Next Steps

In the coming months, Friends of Sorauren Park will conduct a community survey to gauge additional feedback. The City will also be hiring a public engagement company to hold consultations as part of the design process, which will be led by an architectural firm to be hired by the city through open tender. For alerts to add your voice, subscribe to Sorauren Park News email newsletter and follow SoraurenPark on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Have Your Say Now

Send us your thoughts and we’ll compile them for our next report.

City hiring architects for Wabash Community Centre

bannerbuilding

The old linseed factory site at 40 Wabash Avenue in Sorauren Park will soon be home to the new Wabash Community Centre. The banner was erected in 2004 after the first fundraiser.

The City has issued a formal Request for Proposals for architectural services for the new Wabash Community Centre at Sorauren Park, a milestone in the decades-long campaign to bring a community centre to the site.

“The neighbourhood has evolved since the original leaders started lobbying for this, and the need for a rec centre has continually increased,” says Joël Campbell, Chair of the non-profit Friends of Sorauren Park. “We’re thrilled that our time has come and are so looking forward to identifying, cultivating, and pursuing our community’s vision for this exciting project.”

Proposals from bidders are due May 14. The winning bid will be chosen by the City after a qualification check and evaluation of many factors including past experience and price. A viewing copy of the 155-page RFP is available on the City’s purchasing website.

The RFP essentially asks architectural firms to send in their resumes. Firms must have experience building community centres, aquatic facilities, and also have heritage experience because of the existing buildings on the site. The City also intends the building to be Net Zero Energy: “a building that produces as much renewable energy as it consumes when measured at the site on an annual basis, while maintaining an acceptable level of service and functionality.”

The scope of work for the winning bidder will include several community consultations. Only after this process starts will actual design options be put forward, for further community review. The process is expected to take until mid-2021 before construction begins later that year, according to the RFP document. Final designs will also be evaluated by the City’s Design Review Panel.

In addition to the City-led consultations, the Friends of Sorauren Park has been holding consultations, which will continue in the months ahead. The results of the first FOSP-held community consultation have been published. FOSP will soon issue a community-wide survey, and comments are welcome any time through our comment box. FOSP meetings are also held the first Thursday of every month at the Sorauren Park Fieldhouse at 7 pm, all invited.

City Council approved the budget for the community centre in 2017, currently pegged at about $40 million.

The first community fundraiser for the Wabash Community Centre was held June 2004 (not a typo) at Lula Lounge on Dundas. It raised funds to pay for the banner on the old linseed factory at 40 Wabash Avenue, the property purchased by the City in 2000 for the purposes of the community centre. The banner helped stake a claim. The claim is soon about to pay dividends.