Community Centre “on track” according to city budget

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.

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