This week, construction officially began on Ontario's first purpose-built Indigenous Hub, providing critical health care, spiritual, employment, training and family support needs for the local Indigenous community. The mixed-use project on Block 10 of Toronto's West Don Lands is a legacy of the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, being built on lands transferred by the Province to Anishnawbe Health Toronto, partnering with Dream, Dream Impact Trust, Kilmer Group and Tricon Residential to co-develop the site.

West Don Lands Indigenous Hub, image via submission to City of Toronto

With the plans having evolved over recent years, the multi-building complex has celebrated the start of construction with a virtual ground breaking ceremony. Hosted by Andre Morriseau, Chair of Anishnawbe Health Foundation, the event was virtually attended by over 700, livestreamed to minimize COVID-19 risks. Monday's ceremony included a sod-turning with ten unique shovels designed and painted by five Indigenous artists, and remarks by Marian Jacko, President of AHT; Krystal Abotossaway, President of Miziwe Biik; pre-recorded remarks from Chief R. Stacey Laforme of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation; Mayor John Tory of the City of Toronto; Parliamentary Assistant MPP Robin Martin with pre-recorded remarks from Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott; Ken Tanenbaum, Vice-Chair of Kilmer Group; and Stephen Diamond of Waterfront Toronto.

Ground breaking for West Don Lands Indigenous Hub, image by Red Works Photography

The photo above includes (L-R) Pete Keshane, Healer; Andre Morriseau, Chair, Anishnawbe Health Foundation (AHT); Stephen Diamond, Chair, Waterfront Toronto; Mayor John Tory, City of Toronto; Joe Hester, Executive Director, AHT; Nancy Martin, Executive Director, Miziwe Biik; Marian Jacko, President, AHT; Parliamentary Assistant MPP Robin Martin; and Ken Tanenbaum, Vice-Chair of Kilmer Group.

A statement released by Joe Hester, Executive Director of AHT, reads "Today's ground breaking is a major milestone, years in the making. The site will be a gathering place for the Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and a home to support the reclamation of culture and identity. In fact, this project will advance on many fronts including the restoration of traditional medicines and green space to this block that has an industrial past; implementing architectural guidelines for Indigenous design developed for this project; and to land ownership and lease agreements with development partners that will guide and support the Hub forward for seven generations and more.

Ground breaking for West Don Lands Indigenous Hub, image by Red Works Photography

The multi-building complex is designed by BDP Quadrangle in collaboration with Stantec and Indigenous-owned Two Row Architect, and will be made up of buildings of 5, 11, and 13 storeys. Two Row is acting as design consultant overseeing the entire project, which will adhere to eight Indigenous design guidelines honouring knowledge, history, and values. To create a landmark presence, special attention has been paid to such details as the movement of the sun and materiality.

The complex is to contain the four-storey, 45,000 ft²  Anishnawbe Health Toronto Community Health Centre, offering holistic health programs and services that combine Indigenous and Western methods. Next to the health centre, the Miziwe Biik Training Institute will serve as the complex's employment and training partner, and is set to contain a new early learning and childcare centre for 49 children along with an Indigenous EarlyON Child and Family Centre. The City of Toronto contributed $7,809,000 towards the funding of this childcare centre.

"The Miziwe Biik Training Institute is an opportunity to realize the full potential of the GTA's Indigenous community and provide the local population with the skills and credentials to attain good paying jobs. The Institute is an investment in the future prosperity of the Indigenous community living in the GTA and will contribute to Canada's economic recovery," reads a statement issued by Nancy Martin, Executive Director of Miziwe Biik.

The entire eastern and southern portions of the site will be occupied by a residential building with conjoined towers of 11 and 13 storeys, to be a mix of condominium and rental units.

"It's been an honour for Dream, Kilmer Group and Tricon Residential to partner with Anishnawbe Health Toronto on this significant project and we are grateful to have been entrusted to help carry this vision forward. This milestone is a major achievement showing how open dialogue and collaboration can help achieve common goals. We look forward to seeing the Indigenous Hub become a vibrant, welcoming place for all. This is a place that will meaningfully reflect Indigenous values, history and stories, and supports the future of AHT and the Miziwe Biik Training Institute for generations to come," reads a statement from Ken Tanenbaum, Vice-Chair of Kilmer Group.

Ground breaking for West Don Lands Indigenous Hub, image by Red Works Photography

The Health Centre component is scheduled to open by the end of 2022 while the rest of the Indigenous Hub is targeting a 2024 completion.

You can learn more from our Database file for the project, linked below. If you'd like to, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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Related Companies:  BDP Quadrangle, Dream Unlimited, Jablonsky, Ast and Partners, NAK Design Strategies, RWDI Consulting Engineers and Scientists, Terraprobe Inc, Tricon Residential