2003/2004 Archives

December 2004
Wabash site clean-up!

Another important step towards the building of the Wabash community centre has been taken with the completion of the site clean-up.

Councillor Sylvia Watson, with wide community support, was able to secure $1.2 million in the last city budget for the clean-up. Asbestos and PCB ballast in old light fixtures in the old linseed oil factory on site has been removed. Two fuel storage tanks, a boiler and a steel storage silo have also been removed, along with contaminated soils.

Meanwhile, the city continues to explore ways to build the community centre in a partnership with a third-party developer. Watch for an update soon.

Thanks to resident Günter Ott for taking the photos of the clean-up this November.

27 October 2004
City receives 8 development proposals for Wabash; remediation to begin on site

Ward 14 Councillor Sylvia Watson reported last night that the City of Toronto has received eight proposals from third-party developers interested in the Wabash site. She was speaking at the monthly meeting of the Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents’ Association.

The proposals are a response to the City’s “Request for Expressions of Interest” process announced earlier this year. The deadline for proposals was Oct. 15 (extended from Sept. 30).

The City is exploring alternative ways to develop the Wabash site that would provide, in addition to any other development on the property, a community centre on the site. (See the Archives for the full story.)

City staff in the Economic Development, Culture and Tourism department are currently reviewing in the eight proposals. A community meeting will be called to review proposals that meet the requirements of the City’s expression-of-interest process. Councillor Watson wasn’t sure when that will take place.

Meanwhile, work is expected to begin next week on environmental remediation at the Wabash site, Councillor Watson reported. The councillor, with community support, was able to secure $1.2 million for site clean-up in the last city budget. Asbestos and PCB ballast in old light fixtures in the old linseed oil factory on the site will be removed. Two fuel storage tanks, a boiler and a steel storage silo are also slated to be removed, along with the removal of contaminated soils.

The remediation is required whether or not the old factory is saved for
community centre use.

25 August 2004
City calls for “expressions of interest” on Wabash site

In a call for expressions of interest by the City on August 19, the next critical phase of the development of the Wabash Community Recreation Centre has been launched.

Respondents have been asked to demonstrate their capacity to provide options for the redevelopment/revitalization of the Wabash site—to include a community recreation facility—as part of any development concept. The tender only applies to the construction of the facility—no operational options are included. The deadline for submission of proposals is September

Following a review by the City, the next stages planned for this fall will involve a short listing of candidates and a community consultation where the leading proposals will be presented for input. The consultations are expected to take place this fall and will be widely publicized.

Expressions of interest are not binding, but are intended to generate development ideas that also meet the goals of building a community centre. Any organization, private or public or non-profit, can submit proposals, which must be compatible with surrounding land uses, particularly Sorauren Park. Last April, City Council approved this approach for the Wabash site (see the archives for story).

Also last April, following efforts by residents and the Build Wabash Now committee, Council approved funding for site remediation. A soils engineer has been hired and is currently finishing the remediation specificiations. Once the specification is complete, the City will issue tenders for the work, which is expected to begin in early September, and last approximately two months. However, this may vary depending on site conditions which will only be known once the work starts. The community will be advised when work is to begin.

Meanwhile, the Build Wabash Now committee, following the successful Father’s Day Brunch Bash fundraiser (see the archives for story and pictures), is working on a banner to hang at Sorauren Park, probably on the tennis court fence, which is the most visible location. Watch for the banner this fall.

Any group interested in submitting an expression of interest regarding the Wabash site can pick up the necessary documents at City Hall, 17th floor, West Tower, during office hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. There is no charge for documents. The official title is Request for Expressions of Interest No. 9157-04-7320 (Revitalization/Redevelopment Initiatives 40 & 50 Wabash Avenue).

June 2004
Brunch Bash a big success!

By all measures the Build Wabash Father’s Day Brunch Bash at the Lula Lounge was a great success, with some residents calling it “the best Father’s Day they ever had.”

About 200 residents chowed down on tasty brunch selections from the Lula kitchen while being entertained by three terrific musicians who live in the neighbourhood. Dan Kershaw, Donne Robert and Jane Bunnett, who along with their bands donated their time and talents, played consecutive sets to tremendous applause.

More than $1,500 was raised for the Build Wabash Now campaign, which is now gearing up for the next budget season at City Hall, as well as more fundraising events.

The funds will be invested into campaign projects such as new large banners to be hung at the Wabash location, our web site, printing and other items necessary for the all-volunteer campaign, run under the auspices of the Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents’ Association.

In the City budget approved last April, $1.2 million was allocated to the Wabash Community Recreation Centre for site preparation and remediation. But every year the community has to speak up for the project.

Ward 14 Councillor Sylvia Watson attended the Brunch Bash and said the event and other demonstrations of community support help her promote the Wabash centre at City Hall. “It makes my job easier,” she said.

A big thanks to the Build Wabash Now fundraising committee, especially Jowi Taylor (who emcee’d the event) and Susan Vandendam, our great musicians, and also to the Lula Lounge and our ticket vendors, the Film Buff, Sukha Health Spa and Alternative Grounds. Thanks also to NRI Industries, Parkdale LibertyNewspaper, Chander Chaddah and The Toronto Symphony orchestra for support.

The famous green Build Wabash Now kiosk will appear next at the Sorauren Park Festival on July 17. Drop in to buy your Wabash buttons and t-shirts, and to learn more about the project.

And watch this space for news of more community meetings on the project, to take place this fall.

The well-entertained crowd at the Lula Lounge

Donne Robert (white shirt) belts out a tune with guitarist Madagascar Slim and band

Dan Kershaw (in middle with guitar) and his band being introduced by Jowi Taylor

Jane Bunnett demonstrates what she's famous for

24 February 2004
Small steps forward for Wabash, but still a long way to go

The Economic Development and Parks Committee of City Council has passed two motions that keep the Wabash project moving forward, but we’re still a long way from getting our new Community Recreation Centre fully approved and built.

The Build Wabash Now Committee asked the ED&P Committee to approve funds for final design and construction in the City’s capital budget. That didn’t happen, but campaign organizers are pleased that Wabash at least remains on the agenda and is moving forward.

Following impassioned speeches from residents at a Feb. 2 ED&P meeting, and the submission of almost 1,400 names on our petition (see the Archives for the full report and a picture), the ED&P committee passed two motions submitted by Councillor Kyle Rae on behalf of Ward 14 Councillor Sylvia Watson. (Watson represents our ward but does not sit on the ED&P Committee).

The two motions are:

1. That the Economic Development & Parks Commissioner (Joe Halstead) in consultation with others investigate opportunities for the development of a public/private partnership for the development of the Wabash Community Centre and report back to the ED&P Committee before June, 2004 and

2. That an amount be restored to the 2004 capital budget sufficient for site preparation for the Wabash/Sorauren Community Centre.

While the motions passed, it does not mean they will get full City Council approval. The recommendations of the ED&P Committee must be approved by the Budget Advisory Committee before a final vote by City Council on the new city budget, expected in mid April. (Councillor Watson sits on the Budget Advisory Committee.)

“We do view the decision by the ED&P Committee as a step in the right direction because it puts the Wabash CRC back on the capital budget agenda. The alternative was that no action would be taken in any regard before 2007 at the earliest,” said Peter Elson, chair of the Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents’ Association.

“It is our view that any private-sector component or any contribution to the construction of the centre, whether through Section 37 funds (from money given to the city by developers), donations or the like, has to be fully compatible with municipal control, operation and public use of the centre. Otherwise we are developing a centre which is counter to the very direction residents and the ED&P Committee itself has clearly indicated it wants to move; that is, toward full parks and recreation control of its facilities and programs.”

The Build Wabash Campaign Committee is actively seeking a meeting with local MPP Gerard Kennedy to assess opportunities for provincial capital funding.

Meanwhile, the budget process continues at City Hall and is being monitored by Wabash committee members. “We need to stay vigilant,” said Elson.

The Wabash committee is also working on fundraising ideas. Anyone interested in volunteering time, energy or ideas to the campaign is more than welcome… please contact us through this web site, and check back for updates on the campaign.

Writing letters to the mayor and other officials listed on this site is also essential to keep Wabash front and centre. Mayor David Miller recently said the city needs to put more emphasis on the prevention of youth crime rather than after-the-fact law enforcement… just one more great reason for new community centres!

3 February 2004
Residents make powerful presentations at crucial City Hall committee meeting

With adults clapping and kids cheering, residents in support of the Wabash Community Recreation Centre made impassioned pleas to city councillors on Monday Feb. 2 at a crucial meeting of the Economic Development and Parks Committee.

Too much waiting! Kids and adults show their support for the Wabash Community Rec Centre at City Hall on Feb. 2, where seven residents gave deputations to the Economic Development and Parks Committee.

A petition signed by 1,368 residents over the last few freezing weeks at the Wabash “kiosk” on Roncesvalles Avenue was also presented to the committee.


THIS IS A HUGE WEEK IN THE HISTORY OF THE WABASH PROJECT. The Economic Development and Parks Committee, now that it has heard our deputations, will be making its final budget recommendations to City Council on Monday, Feb. 9.

City Hall was swamped with requests from residents to make deputations in support of Wabash at the Feb. 2 meeting. Normally one person per group is allowed to make a deputation, but the Economic Development and Parks Committee made a special ruling to allow seven residents to speak.

The residents were supported by the “Wabash gallery” in Committee Room 1, made up of a dozen cheering children and 30 adults, all sporting the bright “Build Wabash Now!” buttons.

Former Ward 14 councillor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski kicked off the deputations by outlining the “painful” 15-year history of the project. Once No. 2 on the list of new community centres to be built, Korwin-Kuczynski noted that the No. 1 centre, St. Jamestown, is now nearing construction and it’s time to start Wabash. “The members of this community have waited long enough,” he said.

Peter Elson, chair of the Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents’ Association, presented the petition to committee chair Brian Ashton. He also submitted letters of support from the Roncesvalles Business Improvement Association, the Parkdale BIA, and MPP Gerrard Kennedy.

“The 1,368 residents who took time over the past month to sign this petition are a genuine reflection of the seniors, young people, street people, and families of all ages and backgrounds which make our working neighbourhood interesting, diverse and in need of a sense of place which brings this diversity together, and builds on its strengths, in our community,” he said.

Two 14-year-olds, Patrick Borowy and Claire Lewis, also spoke. “Please make our community stronger, allow us to have a place where we can be ourselves and always feel welcome,” they said after presenting a list of reasons in support of Wabash.

Other deputants included Sandra Molyneaux, representing St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School, where Holly Jones was a student for most of her life; Doug Bennet, Chander Chaddah and Susan Vandendam. They all gave strong speeches from their points of view on the need for Wabash, to wild applause from the Wabash gallery and smiles from councillors.

Five-year-old Eliza Bennet submitted a written deputation—a picture of her in the future Wabash pool, with the caption, “Please Build Wabash Now.”

But it is an uphill battle. Prior to the deputations, city staff outlined the dire financial situation in the underfunded Parks and Recreation department. Once again Wabash has been bumped off the list of staff recommendations for new projects—not because they don’t support it, but because they are not given adequate resources to support their programming.

Parks and Rec receives 5% of the city budget, compared to 22.3% for the police department, the single biggest budget chunk. (The police department has asked for a $54 million increase in its budget, which over three years would be $162 million in extra funding on top of a base budget of $2 billion if approved. Estimated costs for the Wabash project are $21 million over three years.)

IT IS A POLITICAL DECISION. Politicians listen to your vote and arguments! Please take the time THIS WEEK to fax or e-mail your letter in support of the Wabash Community Recreation Centre to these councillors on the Economic Development and Parks Committee:

(To save time, you can fax one letter to the Economic Development and Parks Committee office, and cc all the councillors who are members.)

Economic Development and Parks Committee
Fax: 416-392-2983
E-mail: clerk@toronto.ca
1st floor, West Tower
Toronto City Hall
100 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Councillor Brian Ashton
Chair, Economic Development and Parks Committee
Fax: 416-696-3658
E-mail: councillor_ashton@toronto.ca

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby
Vice-chair, Economic Development and Parks Committee
Fax: 416-696-4138
E-mail: councillor_lindsay_luby@toronto.ca

Councillor Maria Augimeri
Fax: 416-392-7109
E-mail: councillor_augimeri@toronto.ca

Councillor Mike Feldman
Fax: 416-392-7299
E-mail: councillor_feldman@toronto.ca

Councillor Suzan Hall
Fax: 416-696-4207
E-mail: councillor_hall@toronto.ca

Councillor Peter Li Preti
Fax: 416-696-4144
E-mail: councillor_lipreti@toronto.ca

Councillor Case Ootes
Fax: 416-392-4123
E-mail: councillor_ootes@toronto.ca

Councillor Kyle Rae
Fax: 416-696-4300
E-mail: councillor_rae@toronto.ca

Also send letters to our councillor, who sits on the important Budget Committee:

Ward 14 Councillor Sylvia Watson
Fax: 416-392-0398
E-mail: councillor_watson@toronto.ca

… and also:

Councillor David Soknacki
Chair, Budget Committee
Fax: 416-392-4006
E-mail: councillor_soknacki@toronto.ca

Councillor David Shiner
Chair, Budget Advisory Committee
Fax: 416-397-9290
E-mail: councillor_shiner@toronto.ca

Mayor David Miller
Fax: 416-696-3687
E-mail: mayor_miller@toronto.ca

Keep checking the Build Wabash Now web site for updates. We still have a long way to go…

14 January 2004
Speak out at City Hall Feb. 2!

Deputations are being heard by the Economic Development and Parks Committee on Monday February 2nd at City Hall. This committee must recommend that the funds for building the Wabash Community Recreation Centre be approved by the full city council in the new city budget due in late March/early April.

This is a crucial meeting!
To make a deputation call Betty Henderson as soon as possible at 416-392-8088. She is the clerk for the Economic Development and Parks Committee.

We need seniors, couples, singles, parents, teenagers, and children to all speak out. Click on the “why wabash now” button at left for some of the arguments for the rec centre… you can use this material in addition to your own impassioned plea for our long-overdue facility.

But your passion will come from speaking from your heart. Get your children to make a poster about the recreation centre to present to Council. This is a centre which will benefit everyone!

If you do sign up to make a deputation let us know through the website “contact us” window or call Doug at 416-536-7560 or Peter at 416-588-1195.

If you don’t want to make a deputation, but can show up at the meeting to wear our new “Build Wabash Now” buttons and show support for our project, please come! WE NEED HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE FROM OUR COMMUNITY TO SUPPORT THE PEOPLE MAKING DEPUTATIONS!

Watch your e-mail and the website for details, but it will take place on February 2nd at City Hall. This is the best way to make the biggest difference. We are visiting councillors and talking about the Centre, but it will be your attendance at City Hall which is most important.

If you have connections to any community, school or church group who would want to attend, please call Kathy Allan at 416-531-2189.

14 January 2004
Sign the petition and volunteer at our campaign kiosk

Drop by the new Build Wabash Now kiosk most Sundays at Roncesvalles and Fermanagh Ave. (beside the Royal Bank) to sign the petition and learn about the latest news in the campaign to build our neighbourhood’s community
recreation centre.

The kiosk is open for business most Sundays from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (weather permitting).

Sign the petition urging City Council to approve the funds for the Wabash Community Recreation Centre in the next city budget, to be approved this March/late April. Tell your neighbours to come, too.

At the booth you can also see copies of the feasibility study commissioned by the city.


We are looking for volunteers to help staff the kiosk. Please contact Doug Bennet at by filling out the “contact us” form on this web site, or 416-536-7560 if you are able to help out for a couple of hours on Sundays. It’s a great way to meet your neighbours!

14 January 2004
Write a letter to the right officials

If you can’t make any of the public meetings — or even if you can, and want to do more to help — you can write a letter to the key politicians and city officials who will determine the fate of the Wabash Community Recreation Centre.

Click on the “write these officials” button on the web site for a full list of the key people to write.

To help compose your letter, you can use some or all of the text below:

Dear ______

Build Wabash Now!

Support a caring, dynamic and sustainable Toronto —- approve $21 million in the 2004- 2007 capital budget now!

. Enhance city liveability and appeal.
. Ensure the city is a desirable place for business location.
. Promote strong and healthy neighbourhoods and communities.
. Provide accessible City services that improve community well-being.
. Improve social and economic inclusion within our communities.
. Deliver high quality public services.

Ward 14 has a population 54,000, 75% of whom are renters with an average income of $49,000, 30% below the city average. The population of Ward 14 grew by 3.4% between 1996 and 2001, 25% being new immigrants to Canada, making Ward 14 among the highest need areas in the city of Toronto without a corresponding number of recreational opportunities, with no dedicated indoor public pool owned and operated by City of Toronto Parks and Recreation.

Our children, adults, and seniors in this neighbourhood need readily accessible indoor recreation, fitness and community programming. Senior Parks and Recreational officials have told us that the TDSB deal “is not cutting it” after many years of trying to make it work. A more cost-effective long-term investment is city-owned and operated recreation

The Wabash site, bought by the city for the purposes of building a recreation centre, sits derelict in the heart of a neighbourhood that is in the process of revitalizing itself. To quote Mayor David Miller in his inaugurual address to City Hall, Dec. 2, 2003: “So, as a Council, let us leave Toronto a cleaner place. Let us commit to beautifying our neighbourhood parks. Is there any reason why a city of Toronto’s wealth should not have clean, beautifully landscaped parks.”

From the beginning, plans for the Wabash Recreational Centre have focused on
the need to build a “new heart of the community.”; The recreation centre will become more than just a fitness facility. It will become a community-meeting place, a place for the arts and community events, a hub of life, tied to Sorauren Park and building on the continuity of community activity from High Park and Roncesvalles Village on the West to the new rail line bike path on the East.

We have waited 15 years for this community centre. Countless volunteer hours have been invested in getting it built. The children of many residents have grown up and missed out on the opportunities afforded by a community centre. We cannot let another generation of children grow up in the neighbourhood without adequate and accessible recreational facilities.

The property at 40 Wabash Avenue, adjacent to Sorauren Park, containing an old linseed oil factory, was selected as the site for the new community recreation centre. The city has purchased the property and took possession at the end of 2000.

Last year, funds were approved for a site assessment and feasibility planning by architects Oleson Worland and Taylor Smyth. The new city capital plan called for $2 million to be spent in 2004 for site evaluation and remediation; $8.2 million for design and construction in 2005; and $4.4 million in 2006 for construction.

We need your support for a healthier and sustainable Toronto — a Toronto where our children, new Canadians, seniors and young people alike will have a place to be creative and active in the highest need area of the city.

On Oct. 7 and Nov. 25, 2003, more than 120 families attended neighbourhood meetings to give the Build Wabash Now committee a clear mandate to ask you to support allocating $21 million to Build Wabash Now! More than 1000 residents have participated in prior consultations regarding this community centre — are their hopes and dreams for a community centre to be ignored?

Please help us build a healthier, safer Toronto by voting in favour of allocating $21 million in the capital budget for the Wabash Recreation Centre.

For more details, visit: http://www.buildwabashnow.org

CONTACTS: Peter Elson, Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents’ Association Chair (416) 588-1195; Kathy Allan, RMRA Executive Member (416) 531-2189; Doug Bennet, Build Wabash Now! Communication Committee Chair (416) 536-7560.

8 December 2003
Community mobilizes to fulfill 15-year-old dream

Parkdale residents and organizations are preparing for the final push to have the long-awaited Wabash Community Recreation Centre approved by the new city council.

The project is now near the top of the priority list for the Toronto Parks and Rec capital budgets, but it requires wide community support and lobbying to get it finally approved.

That was the message at a community meeting at Fern Avenue Public School in October, where city officials and architects from two of Toronto’s top firms presented conceptual drawings and budgets to an engaged audience of residents.

The same presentation was given to residents at the Nov. 25 meeting of the Roncesvalles-Macdonnell Residents’ Associations.

Three scenarios were set out by the joint-venture architects Oleson Worland and Taylor Smyth for the site on the north side of Wabash Avenue, adjacent to Sorauren Park:

• In one scenario, the old linseed oil factory on the site (built in 1915) would be completely refurbished into a gym and other facilities. A brand-new aquatic centre would be built immediately west of the old building, adjoining the old building with an enclosed lobby and viewing area. The estimated budget for this approach is $20.7 million.

• Another scenario would see the old factory demolished and a completely new building erected with all the same facilities as the first scenario, but with more flexibility for design. Estimated budget: $21 million.

• A third scenario calls for renovation of the old factory only into a gymnasium, meeting rooms and other recreational facilities, but with no pool or new buildings. Proposed budget: $13 million.

The Roncesvalles-Macdonnell Residents Association, at its Nov. 25 meeting, announced a new committee to coordinate the next phase of the campaign, carrying on the momentum built by previous groups dating back to the early 1990s. (For a history of the project, click on the button at left.)

In addition, this web site, http://www.BuildWabashNow.org, has been established as a central clearing house for information on the project and the campaign to build it. The site will be updated regularly as new information becomes available. For e-mail alerts on the latest developments, click on the “join our campaign” button.

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