Squinting in the June sun, a diverse group of politicians, artists, developers, and students gathered in a Weston Village parking lot. Gathered next to Mayor Tory, Councillors Frances Nunziata and Giorgio Mammoliti were joined by Rockport CEO Jack Winberg, Artscape CEO Tim Jones, various community business leaders, the 'Hammer Heads' skills-training students, spoken word artist Paulina O'Kieffe, and DJ Elegance.  

22 John Street, Toronto, by the City of Toronto, Rockport Group, ArtscapeBreaking ground, image by Stefan Novakovic

At midday, the ceremonial shovels hit a manicured block of dirt emblazoned with "I  ♥ Weston," officially kicking off construction of a project that strives to become a hub for the community. Developed via a partnership between the City of Toronto, the Toronto Parking Authority (TPA), Rockport, and Artscape, the mixed-use complex will feature a Graziani + Corazza-designed 30-storey, 370-unit rental tower, a public space, and a new hub for Artscape. As part of the Artscape hub, 26 affordable live-work units will also be provided to artists with families.

22 John Street, Toronto, by the City of Toronto, Rockport Group, ArtscapeThe 30-storey rental tower, with the new public space seen at front, image courtesy of Artscape

Introduced on UrbanToronto earlier this month, the 22 John Street complex will replace the TPA parking lot that currently occupies the site. At the heart of the development, a 12,400 ft² public community space will provide a new home for the popular Weston Village Farmer's Market, with the new Artscape hub housed in the reconfigured podium of the neighbouring tower at 33 King Street East.

22 John Street, Toronto, by the City of Toronto, Rockport Group, ArtscapeThe rear of the 33 King East tower's podium will be reconfigured into a community hub, image by Stefan Novakovic

Animating the rear facade of the 26-storey 33 King East apartment building, the Artscape Weston Hub will bring some 8,200 ft² of indoor programming to the under-utilized podium structure. Spaces for classes, community events, and a flexible variety of independent programming, will be developed in partnership with local non-profit organizations. Additionally, part of the existing podium will be retrofitted to become a self storage facility, while an empty lot adjoining the site will become a replacement TPA parking lot.

22 John Street, Toronto, by the City of Toronto, Rockport Group, ArtscapeA closer look at the ground level, image courtesy of Artscape

In celebrating the project, Tory hailed Weston Village as "one of those solid, real communities." Though Tory praised the social fabric of the community, he lamented that the community "has not always had the opportunities it deserves," citing the area's higher-than-average unemployment rate and historic lack of access to services.

22 John Street, Toronto, by the City of Toronto, Rockport Group, ArtscapeAerial view of the site, image courtesy of Artscape

Tory was joined by local councillor Frances Nunziata (Ward 11) and Ward 7's Giorgio Mammoliti—representing the TPA—as well as a number of local business leaders and community representatives. Together with the Artscape and Rockport CEOs, the assembled speakers lauded the project's transformative potential.

22 John Street, Toronto, by the City of Toronto, Rockport Group, ArtscapeSite plan, image courtesy of Artscape

Yet, while the development's positive impact was universally hailed, the day's last speaker also issued a potent rejoinder. Delivering a poem written specifically for the occasion, spoken word artist Paulina O'Kieffe celebrated the amenities to come, but railed against the patronizing characterizations—particularly relating to poverty, unemployment, and crime—that sometimes accompany discourses of urban renewal.

22 John Street, Toronto, by the City of Toronto, Rockport Group, ArtscapeThe popular farmer's market will occupy the public space on Saturdays, image courtesy of Artscape

There are "nuggets of gold" hidden behind the negative statistics, O'Kieffe reminded the audience. There's already a vibrant community in place, already a neighbourhood with strength, resiliency, and spirit. In a place "that is so, so rich, it's hard to feel as poor as they make us out to be," she declared. It put the development in context. The project's mandate will not be to fix what's "wrong," but to better nourish the energies that already define the community.  

22 John Street, Toronto, by the City of Toronto, Rockport Group, ArtscapeThe way behind the hoarding, the new tower will rise to the left of the existing building, image by Stefan Novakovic

We will keep you updated as construction begins, with the project targetting a 2018 completion. For more information, make sure to check out our associated dataBase file, linked below. Want to share your thoughts on the project? Feel free to leave a comment in the space below this page, or join in the discussion on our Forum.