Representatives from youth focused charity Free the Children shared their plans to transform 345 Queen Street East, the former site of notable furniture dealership Marty Millionaire, into the WE Learning Centre for “global learning and empowerment” with the Corktown Residents and Business Association (CRBA) at their May 3rd meeting.
The projected centre will feature dedicated technologically equipped learning spaces, giving young people the space and tools to develop and maintain the technological skills they will need to thrive. “We work with a lot of students who are young social entrepreneurs and want to test out ideas,” said Free the Children Executive Director Scott Baker, “We want to be able to facilitate that.”
While the community had some minor concerns regarding how and how often students would be transported to and from the site, most are optimistically anticipating the center’s projected opening in July 2017. Many had feared the site would become another condo development and showed a great deal of interest in Free the Children’s mission.
Additionally, Free the Children expressed an intent to build with a respect for the building’s heritage and is working to restore some of the original features.
“The first site was built in 1912 and the adjoining one was built in 1920. We’ve been able to get a lot of information from the city in terms of the history associated with it,” said Barker, “Our intention is to strip it right down to the bricks. We’re really excited to build a stronger relationship with the community. We have a lot of staff members who live in this area and we’re excited to move here.”
Attendees also heard from City Parks Ambassador Troy Ford who presented the current findings on homeless encampments in local parks and responded to the community’s concerns, particularly regarding the high number of encampments in the Don Valley.
“Every spring and fall, we do a blitz of the encampments [in the ravines]. We just did one in the Rosedale valley and some accepted services, but some didn’t. Those who didn’t, moved to the Don,” said Ford, “We will have a time set to deal with the Don. There’s a lot of hidden nooks and crannies in these green spaces. Those who are entrenched in our ravines are the ones who have the most severe mental health issues, so they take more time.”