The Junction is one of Toronto's most interesting neighbourhoods. Untouched by gentrification until relatively recently, the area which is home to a broad mix of blue collar and professional types, and which supports one of the most eclectic arts scenes in the city, has recently seen a major upwelling of community spirit as many improvements have come to its main retail strip along curving Dundas Street West.
Yesterday the Junction Commons Project (JCP) held the second of five community meetings to discuss the redevelopment of 209 Mavety Street, the former home of Toronto Police Division 11, into a community hub for the Junction. The meeting, held at the West Toronto Masonic Temple, was well attended by residents and organizers from the neighbourhood. A member from the City department responsible for community revitalization as well as MP Peggy Nash and MPP Cheri DiNovo for the Parkdale-High Park riding were in attendance.
The meeting was held to discuss the results of the feasibility study that the JCP, which was recently granted not-for-profit status, used its Ontario Trillium Grant to fund. The first half of the meeting was spent presenting the results of the findings and the second half left the floor open to comments and questions from the audience.
The evening began by addressing the three major questions that the study sought to answer: Is it feasible to turn 209 Mavety into a community hub; how much would it cost to do so and; is there sufficient community interest in the project. The answers were all positive. According to the study, carried out by UrbanMetrics and ERA Architects, it is feasible to convert the two-storey modernist building, it would cost $3.5 million to do so, and there is sufficient community interest in the project.
The presentation then moved on to discuss the need for a community space in the Junction. The Junction has been growing at an unprecedented pace in the past few years with new developments like the coming DUKE Condos as well as a growth in new businesses, restaurants, bars and shops, on the Dundas West strip. This growth means that more of the neighbourhood has become privatized—even the space for the weekly farmer's market is on privately owned land that is in jeopardy of being developed at any time—and this makes the need for a truly public space is more important than ever.
The JCP organizers said that based on the study, the five most important uses for the hub—according to community opinion—were Arts, Food, Health, community building, and local exchange. These "5 Pillars" were extracted from demographic analyses, stakeholder meetings and feedback from an online survey and the previous community meeting held in November of 2013.
On its path to redevelopment, the JCP has looked to two of Toronto's other 24 community hubs, citing the Centre for Social Innovation, Artscape Wychwood Barns, and the East Scarborough Storefront as models. The JCP wants to incorporate a public community space, similar to the Centre for Social Innovation's first Annex location's ground floor cafe. They hope to have the same level of involvement as the Scarborough Storefront, and a self-sustainable model like St.Clair's Wychwood Barns.
The plan for the redevelopment of 209 Mavety is still in its early stages, but the two-storey, 20 000 square foot building has a good deal of potential. Although there is no fixed plan for how the new building will look, students from Ryerson's School of Interior Design have developed a collection of renderings for how the hub's renovation could be realized.
While the form is still in flux, the function of hub is much more concrete. The JCP has decided to designate the second floor of the building as an income-generating area where the hub's tenants would be housed. Potential partners are University Health Network, Canadian Mental Health Association and Bento Miso. The ground and basement levels would be community space that could be rented at a low cost or used free of charge. This multi-use design would give the hub a variety of community functions which would help to draw community members and also provide a self-sustaining way to pay for the hub's revitalization.
Before these ideas even considered, the JCP still has to acquire possession of the former police station. Currently, the JCP is considering signing a 100-year lease with the City instead of buying the property outright which would be considerably more expensive. There is still time to decide how to proceed since the City has decided to not to touch the property for one year.
Following the presentation the floor was open to questions, most of which centred around financing the redevelopment and the JCP's choice of potential partners were raised. The Good Food Box was also presented as an initiative that the hub could house. During this period Parkdale-High Park MP Peggy Nash, and MPP Cheri Di Novo, gave their support of the project. Sarah Doucette, the councilor for Ward was not in attendance, but has expressed her support of the project as well. Other community partners include Four Villages Community Health Centre, Junction Farmer's Market, Junction Residents Association and the Junction Business Improvement Area.
At the end of her short speech, MPP Cheri DiNovo praised the members of the audience by saying, "I know you will succeed, not because you have the money or a plan in place, but because you want to succeed." Judging by the level of support this project has garnered, both from within and beyond its community, at this early stage in the project's development more than supports this statement. It also speaks to the spirit of community and innovation that has come to define the Junction.