Wellesley pool plans are going swimmingly

Eric Morse –

Eight years in the fundraising, the Wellesley Community Centre swimming pool is about to enter the planning and construction process, councillor Pam McConnell told a kickoff town hall meeting Dec. 10.

Originally budgeted with a pool at $15 million, a last minute budget cut meant a $10 million community centre which opened in 2006 with McConnell’s promise that the pool would come as Phase Two.

“The pool was originally budgeted at $5 million, then we needed $7 million, then we needed $11 million,” McConnell told the gathering which was also attended by fellow Toronto Centre councillor Wong-Tam. “Now thanks to the Section 37 contributions from the new condos being built [on the west side of Sherbourne St and in the Howard St. and Glen Rd. area] we have the money we need, we have a design team, and we expect to begin construction in 2015. And then we will know that we have our community centre, our library and our pool all in one place.”

The aquatic complex will be located in the northern portion of the current green space to the east of the community centre toward Bleeker St. Several participants in the consultation expressed concern that the green space and canopy in the community was being eroded. McConnell countered that there will be a parks consultation process to bring together and make better use of the remaining green space in the St James Town area.

The centre as envisaged will have a lane pool, a warm pool, a kids’ pool, a “universal” change room with showers on the pool deck,  plus private change cubicles (like the old change booths at classical beaches) and separate lockers.

The footprint will be about 17,000 square feet, somewhat smaller than the Regent Park centre, but will have about 26,000 square feet of usable space including the multipurpose level.

Design is being undertaken by MJM Architects under David Miller, who designed the existing community centre, as well as the new Regent Park Aquatic Centre.

Miller drew attention to the “luminous wall” concept which fills the building with natural light in the daytime and becomes a light-filled feature at night.

There was strong input from young people. Naomi Dojo-Socandi of St James Town Youth Group asked whether the facility would be a replica of Regent Park pool (there will be similar facilities in a smaller footprint). John Wong expressed concern in one discussion group that shower/change facilities be designed to allow for personal hygiene use by homeless persons.

The lane pool is not proposed to be the Olympic-standard 50m; instead, the Wellesley lanes will probably be 25m. McConnell noted—in response to a question—that international level aquatic facilities are conceived to be regional in scope. The St James Town facility is designed for the neighbourhood. Participants did stress that they wanted facilities that could give young residents the opportunity to launch themselves into competitive sport careers.

Two participants asked whether preference in construction hiring could be given to youth or skilled tradespeople in hiring for the project. City staff responded that this is a request often heard, but in fact trying to respond to it would contravene city policy on non-discrimination in hiring.

The use of cleaning systems that minimize chlorine odour was raised, and one group noted that, because St James Town is a vertical community where kids have to be accompanied by parents effectively at all times, the facility should be designed to accommodate family group traffic.

A spa (steam room preferred) and snack bar also featured on the list of requests.

A second town hall meeting will be held in the spring of 2014, when architects’ drawings will be available for comment.