After more than 20 years in the making, construction is underway on the massive Canoe Landing multi-use community facility in downtown Toronto, which will feature two elementary schools, a community centre and a child care centre in one complex.
Dignitaries and members of the project team were on hand Sept. 13 to mark the start of construction for the approximately $78.2-million project.
"What is probably most unique about this project, it's one of those public sector partnerships where several large public sector governments or agencies have come together to build one integrated multi-use community centre and schools complex," said Paul Stevens, owner and principal architect at Toronto-based ZAS Architects, the prime consultant on the project.
The City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) entered an agreement to develop the property years ago and it's now coming to fruition.
"The community has been waiting for this centre for a long time so the city and the school boards definitely want to make sure the design reflected all the things that the community was expecting and is expecting now because this community has matured quite substantially since the first time that this was planned 20 years ago," said Stevens, who has been involved with the project since 1994.
ZAS Architects designed the exterior and interior spaces and The Planning Partnership has designed the landscaping elements. Colliers Project Leaders are the project managers of the site and The Atlas Corporation/Buttcon Limited Joint Venture is the constructor.
According to the project website, in 1994, the City of Toronto entered into agreements with the Canadian National Railway, the TDSB and the TCDSB for the purpose of collecting development levies to fund the construction of a community centre, a child care centre and an elementary school for each board.
"It has been planned long before any of the condominiums were planned in the CityPlace neighbourhood," said Stevens, adding rather than use three separate blocks of land that are highly valuable in Toronto, the city and the school boards combined resources and finances to build a comprehensive community complex with shared amenities. "This piece of property was set aside as being the one property where all education and community facilities would come together on one integrated block."
The city will continue to own the land while the two school boards hold leases.
"It really shows co-operation on the part of the school boards and the city to come together to develop something, which is not easily done especially when each group has their own way of doing things," said Stevens. "It's like anything, anytime you work together you've got to make some compromises but ultimately everybody sees the benefit that comes with this kind of partnership. They are going to get a really wonderful state-of-the-art facility."
The property is located at the corner of Fort York Boulevard and Brunel Court adjacent to Canoe Landing Park, in the area known as the Railway Lands. There will be two buildings on the site connected by an enclosed pedestrian bridge. The north building will house the recreation centre and the south building will house the two elementary schools and the child care centre. The total building area is approximately 160,000 square feet.
The complex will include the Canoe Landing Community Recreation Centre, Canoe Landing Child Care Centre, which will serve 54 children from infants to preschoolers. The schools, Bishop Macdonell Catholic Elementary School and Jean Lumb Public School will each serve 550 children from kindergarten to Grade 8. Completion of the schools is scheduled for fall 2019.
"This unique project creates a combined social, recreational and educational facility in a high-density urban neighbourhood as an example of a mixed-use hub richly embedded in the community," said City of Toronto project manager Suzanne Cooke-Wooland.
"Some unique project features include: shared gyms and outdoor play space, an active roof with a track and basketball court and large indoor playscape room in the community centre and an emergency generator which will provide energy during power outages. The project has incorporated many sustainable features such as solar panels, a green roof, a high energy performance building envelope, occupancy and daylighting sensors and LED lighting throughout."
One of the challenges has been developing the building on a small site in the middle of the busy city.
"The biggest challenge for us was just the whole process of designing a very complex building where we're trying to maximize sharing," said Stevens. "Anytime you're developing close to your neighbours you've got to be a little more aware than if you're building on a big sprawling suburban site. There's a lot of eyes on it and there is a lot of anticipation as well from the community."