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CAMH Queen Street Redevelopment | ?m | ?s | CAMH | KPMB

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Archivistower

Guest
A long-reviled place gets a trendy new face
Extreme makeover to transform city's premier mental health centre and Queen West
HAYLEY MICK - Globe & Mail, October 3

For most of 156 years it has been mocked and reviled as the place where they keep the crazy people.

Now, in a bold attempt to banish that stigma, Toronto's premier hospital for the treatment of mental illness and addiction plans to transform itself into the next hot Queen West neighbourhood.

Construction begins Thursday on a $382-million plan to chop up the sprawling seven-hectare property lining the south side of Queen Street West and home to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, into eight new city blocks.

They're building a village; one that planners say will erase physical barriers separating patients from society, and the stigma afflicting mental illness and addiction, too. They predict its success will be twofold: better health care for patients and a revitalized community for everyone.

But the ghosts of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum, as the institution was called when it opened in 1850, may be difficult to evict. Some local business owners, frustrated with the unique clientele of their biggest neighbour, say it will be tough to attract investors.

John Williams, a general contractor who has worked in the area for years, put it like this: "If you say, 'Queen and Ossington,' the automatic thought is, 'Oh, by the nuthouse.' It doesn't matter where you are in Toronto, everybody knows it."

The CAMH facility, a looming concrete structure surrounded by lush green grass, picnic benches and old deciduous trees, has more than 600 beds for in-patients, employs close to 300 physicians and is overseen jointly by the Health Ministry, which provides most of its budget, and the Attorney-General's Office.

The new design, the result of years of community consultation and research on other community-based mental health facilities in Europe, was inspired by urban thinker Jane Jacobs, who argued that "eyes on the street" create safe, functional neighbourhoods.

In the plan, Fennings Street, Brookfield Street, Ossington Avenue and Givins Street, which all now stop at Queen Street, will extend south through the hospital property. A brand new street will bisect the property, running east to west. Adelaide Street will also be lengthened westward.

About half of the new buildings in the new grid will be CAMH-related, including apartments for in-patients and hospital facilities. The rest will look like any other neighbourhood, and include retail stores, coffee shops and homes.

"This is about fitting into Queen Street West, with a hub here," said Dr. Paul Garfinkel during a recent tour of the facility. "This is where we integrate our functions, but in smallish, plain buildings. But they'll be functional. They'll be helping people recover."

Dr. Garfinkel winds through narrow hallways and cramped rooms where in-patients sleep on plastic mattresses. He pauses inside a brightly lit room that is about twice the size of the others and furnished with a homey desk and lamp and a single bed with a red duvet. On Thursday, construction begins on three buildings that will each contain 24 similar rooms: phase one of the neighbourhood plan.

"I have to say, we're really proud of this," the bespectacled psychiatrist said with a smile.

Each of the project's other four phases must be approved individually by the province, which will cover about two-thirds of the cost. If they're all approved, the entire project should be complete by 2020.

While it is expected that the apartments will be done in about a year, it will take about four years to complete the first non-CAMH-related buildings. Planners are mulling over the types of businesses they want to attract. (A liquor store would be a bad idea, Dr. Garfinkel said.)

Most shop owners along the north side of Queen Street West, across from the CAMH site, say they welcome the plan. They hope it will breathe life into the street, which is lined with art galleries, cafés and independent boutiques. But in sharp contrast to portions of Queen West to the east and west of it, there are also several boarded up windows, vacant stores and For Sale signs.

Some predict the new retail space will be tough to fill.

Joe Domingues owns a two-storey corner building at Queen and Brookfield Streets, which was recently renovated and reopened last month as Wicked, a swingers club. The building has been home to drinking establishments for decades.

He estimates that 60 to 70 per cent of potential renters turn away when they realize a mental institution sits across the street.

"[The patients] walk back and forth in front, sometimes they scream," he says. "If the hospital was not there, it would be much, much better for the street."

Gallery owner Bernie MacNab, 47, scoured Toronto before settling on a second-floor gallery space near the corner of Queen and Ossington. He's happy with his choice, but since Solé Gallery opened a month ago, his daily routine includes shooing away CAMH patients dozing on his stoop. "They just move along quietly, but it's a little bit of a problem," he said.

Jay Comentan, who serves lattes and muffins at Barako Coffee, said his patrons are periodically disturbed by scenes on the street, or people wandering in, asking for change. But for the most part, it's business as usual, he said. "If you treat them nice, they'll treat you nice. It's like any neighbourhood; sometimes you have to be careful," he said.

Frank Lewinberg, a registered professional planner and architect whose company, Urban Strategies Inc., was master planner on the CAMH project, is confident those worries will be trumped by the lucrative allure of Queen Street West.

"There's no question they will come, because they want to be on Queen Street," he said, pointing out the recent residential buildings popping up in the area.

"Just think about it. On the corner of Shaw and Queen is the Candy Factory. On the south side of Adelaide are a whole lot of townhouses. None of them are having any problem selling their units. Who cares what side of Shaw you're on?"
 
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cdl42

Guest
So now they start, just after I move out of that neighbourhood. And I was looking forward to see work start the whole time I lived there. Ah well.

The effect of the patients at CAMH on the local neighbourhood is grossly overrated. I can honestly say without the slightest exaggeration that in 17 months of living at Queen and Shaw, I had fewer sightings and run-ins with mental patients and panhandlers than I would have in one average day while living at Jarvis and Gerrard. Seriously.

As the article points out, what the place does have is reputation. People do know what "Queen and Ossington" means (many locals will state "Queen and Shaw" or "Queen and Dovercourt", even if they're closer to Ossington), and the place is a landmark. I have no doubt that this redevelopment project will help erase this serious issue from people's minds.

My prediction: 20 years from now, if you mention "1001/999 Queen West" or "CAMH on Queen West" or "the mental hospital" (if these terms aren't taboo by then) to an average Torontonian, their response will be "I thought they closed that place down and demolished it?". But it will still be there, erased not from existence but from people's minds. And that's the way it should be.
 
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spmarshall

Guest
I think I get what you are referring to, that the stigma will be erased from people's minds, so living next to it would be similar to say living next to St. Joseph's Hospital just down the street. That will hopefully be the result.

I don't think we want to go the "out of sight, out of mind" route though for mental health. I think the detox centre across the street on Ossington is likely part of the issue as much or more than CAMH itself.
 
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building babel

Guest
What a shame they demolished John Howard's huge domed building, destroyed the gardens and the big fountain, and took down the vast walls that protected the inmates from prying eyes. This place was every bit as extraordinary as the old Don Jail.

I think they've been moving in entirely the wrong direction with the development of this site for the past thirty years, and the latest scheme will only make things worse.

If I was a raving lunatic I'd want a room of my own, with a complete range of Napoleon costumes, and plumed hats, and "servants" in white coats - not mood enhancing pills and a day pass to visit the art galleries on Queen and admire the art of the insane.
 
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AlvinofDiaspar

Guest
babel:

There is so little of the original complex left, the latest scheme wouldn't have destroyed anything since there is nothing there to begin with.

AoD
 
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spmarshall

Guest
Yeah. I would have loved the retention of at least the Howard Central building, with the demolition of the old wings as a compromise. The tragedy was that Howard's building was ahead of its time and so humane when it was built - it was only overcrowding and neglect that doomed it.
 
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ganjavih

Guest
If I was a raving lunatic I'd want a room of my own, with a complete range of Napoleon costumes, and plumed hats, and "servants" in white coats
You may get your own room (with nice padded walls) but I don't know about the Napoleon costumes... perhaps a nice jacket with the sleeves in the back.
 
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andreapalladio

Guest
I have a nice bicorne hat in the collection - though it's from a Privy Councillor's uniform, not one of Boneys.
 
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spasongs

Guest
I live on Sudbury and can't wait for this to happen.

I used to live in Whitby and you saw more " Challenged" folk on the street there than around the Queen and Oss.

It is so obvious when you walk around there. THe area is booming except out front of the place. So anything would be an improvement.

The retail for me is really exciting.
 
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building babel

Guest
I remember the old domed building. In the summer of 1973, while a student, I worked where MOCCA is now housed, opposite "999" ( or 1001 as it had become ) Queen. The new facility had just been built and, if I remember correctly, the big wall was still in place. Nothing about that dreary neighbourhood in those days would have indicated that this part of town would evolve as it has since done.

The famous spiral staircase in the dome was lifted out during demolition in 1976 and I think it was re-installed in the new building.

ganja: When you're overseeing the mental health of Ontario I hope you'll push for humane reforms - so that delusional people can not only dress up as who they think they are, but run bus tours and dress-up parties once a year during Nuit Blanche. Everyone should be able to release their inner Napoleon for a few hours, and maybe their inner Privy Councillor and Cardinal Richelieu too.
 
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Archivistower

Guest
I think my inner is a bureaucrat writing a briefing note. Wah!
 
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andreapalladio

Guest
Among Napoleon-worshippers, maybe this kind of hat will do?
I have a biretta already - though it's for a bishop, not a cardinal - and the matching zuchetto.
 
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building babel

Guest
Do you don them in public? Or throw small ecclesiastical fetishwear parties for adherents to your obscure sect?
 

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