Block 31 school, rec centre to open in 2019

Dennis Hanagan–

In a few years, CityPlace residents, especially families with children, will finally welcome a new community recreation centre, a day care, a year-round market space and two elementary schools to their neighbourhood.

Artist rendition looking southwest from Fort York Blvd and Brunel Crt.

Artist rendition looking southwest from Fort York Blvd and Brunel Crt.

The site, called Block 31 south of Fort York Blvd. and west of Brunel Crt., will include public and Catholic schools for kindergarten to Grade 8, each accommodating about 550 students. It will have a city-run, not-for-profit day care for 52 children.

A 2-year construction period is expected to start in 2017 with completion in 2019. It will have 74 parking spaces for school staff, a bus drop-off on Brunel, although most children are expected to walk to school, and devices such as rooftop solar panels to save energy between 25% and 35 %.

The 3-storey project is divided into a north and south wing with an east-west walkway in between. The community centre and gyms, for student and community use, will be in the north wing while the schools and day care will be in the south wing.

Peter Duckworth of ZAS architects on nearby Wellington St. W. noted the site is on the former railway lands and next to Lake Ontario’s original shoreline. With that in mind some building materials, such as wood (wharfs) and steel (rail lines), will try to “express” that history, he said.

Designers have taken into account ways to maintain privacy issues on the Brunel Crt. side that has town houses just across the street and also to mitigate Gardiner Expressway noise on the south side. He described those ways in terms of a veil or shield.

Duckworth said making the building on the Fort York Blvd. side “transparent” is important “so that this building feels active when you walk down the street at night” and the people inside become “the façade” of the building.

An active roof and a green one are hoped to make the view more attractive for condo dwellers looking down. The active roof could feature a community garden, a running track, maybe a basketball court; the green roof could feature characteristics that change with the seasons.

Ward 20 Councillor Joe Cressy said the city wants to make condo towers, termed vertical neighbourhoods, attractive for families with children.

“We need to have the social infrastructure to support you as a family to live here. If you’re living in a condo the park becomes your backyard. The community centre becomes your playroom,” said Cressy.

He mentioned a new park will open in 2018 north of the Fort York library. It will be called Mouth of the Creek park, the name alluding to the ancient Garrison Creek that still flows underground.

Funds for the project have taken years to accumulate, coming from the construction of new condos in CityPlace. “That’s why it’s taken so long,” Cressy explained.

Lynda Macdonald, manager of planning for the city’s West Section, said affordable housing was originally planned to be part of the project, but that didn’t happen.

“We found that trying to fit everything on the site meant that everything was just compromised. We felt a better solution was for us was to come up with a community complex.

There will be more affordable housing coming in the future in the railway lands,” said Macdonald.

The project, immediately adjacent to Canoe Landing Park, is designed to allow the schools to make use of the park.