Proposed City budget includes Wabash Community Centre

Gym on basement level of Wabash Community Centre, from 2009 study

Gym on basement level of Wabash Community Centre, from 2009 study

The City of Toronto’s proposed capital budget for 2016 and beyond appears to have good news for the future Wabash Community Centre by Sorauren Park.

The “40 Wabash Parkdale CC” community centre project remains in the proposed Parks, Forestry and Recreation budget for the years 2017 to 2023. Final design studies would start in 2017, with shovels in the ground by 2020.

40 Wabash refers to the street address of the old linseed oil mill by Sorauren Park, purchased by the City 15 years ago for repurposing into a new community centre.

The proposed budget still needs to be approved by City Council at its meeting starting Feb. 17.

The budget reinforces the commitment made by Ward 14 Councillor Gord Perks at the annual general meeting of the non-profit Wabash Building Society in April 2015. The total cost of the community centre is estimated at $34 million, including design and construction. The City has already invested about $3 million in the site, with the property purchase in 2000 and environmental remediation in 2004.

The community centre has been a line item in the City’s budget since at least 2000. The dream for a community centre by Sorauren Park goes back to the late 1980s, prior to the opening of the park itself in 1995. The first feasibility study was conducted 12 years ago, following several years of community advocacy and needs assessments.

Since that time, thousands of new people have moved into the area through redevelopment, with thousands more expected in coming years. In the city’s 2004 Recreation Facilities Report, the Wabash Community Centre was listed as the No. 7 priority, with a proposed completion “in the 2005-2009 timeframe.” Of those seven projects, four have been completed and two are under way, leaving Wabash as the last.

The most recent plan is contained in a 2009 report, Wabash “Green” Community Centre Feasibility Study, prepared by Oleson Worland_Taylor Smyth architects in joint venture for the City and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Building on previous studies, the 2009 plan would mostly retain the footprint, exterior and layout of the abandoned 40,000 sq. ft. linseed oil mill on the Wabash Avenue site, adjacent to the park. The interior and mechanicals would be completely rebuilt.

The plans include a gym space, several large and small multipurpose rooms, recreation and culture rooms, dance studio, youth space, cafe, and third-floor event space with walk-out terrace.

“This is great news, and we look forward to kick-starting the design process with the community in 2016,” said Joël Campbell, volunteer chair of the Wabash Building Society.

Other portions of the linseed site have been redeveloped thanks to community efforts led by the Wabash Building Society. WBS campaigns have raised or leveraged approximately $750,000 since 2006, to create the Sorauren Park Fieldhouse (2008) and Sorauren Town Square (2014-2015). These successful developments once again prove the need for a new community centre in a rapidly growing and diverse community.

The fence on the old industrial site is now pushed back to the old linseed oil mill, leaving one piece of the Sorauren Park vision to be completed.

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