Waterworks Revitalization Announcement

Earlier this week, City Council granted approvals for an innovative partnership with the YMCA, Artscape, Build Toronto, MOD Developments and Woodcliffe Landmark Properties to launch a comprehensive revitalization of the historic Waterworks Building at Richmond and Augusta (505 Richmond St W). After almost 2 years of work, I couldn't be prouder of the work we've done as a community to build this diverse and critical partnership.

This is a unique opportunity to deliver desperately-needed facilities to a rapidly growing area with a shortage of community and recreation spaces. A new not-for-profit YMCA facility will offer a range of services that is similar to other YMCAs in Toronto, including a swimming pool. I have committed $19 million of local funding to cover two-thirds of the cost of building the new YMCA, and as a condition of this contribution the YMCA will sign a Community Use Agreement that secures enhanced youth programming, local access, and membership subsidies.

City Council also agreed to partner with Build Toronto to invest a combined $2.4 million in 15 new affordable housing units in the revitalization. These units will be administered by Artscape.

The Waterworks revitalization will also include expanding Saint Andrew's Playground to reclaim the west parking lot, extensive heritage restoration and conservation, and new commercial uses that will animate and bring life back to the Waterworks Building. In addition, a 50-bed youth shelter (Eva's Phoenix) is already under construction at the Brant Street end of the building.

The next step of the revitalization is for a re-zoning application to be submitted, and following the standard process, the application will need to be reviewed by the community and City staff before considering final approval.

Please join me at a public open house in the fall to learn more and meet the revitalization partners.

Date: Saturday, September 10, 2016

Time: Noon to 3 p.m.

Location: Great Hall of the Waterworks Building (enter from Maud Street)

To receive regular updates about the Waterworks revitalization including a reminder of the open house nearer to the date, please email my office at councillor_cressy@toronto.ca.

Read on for some additional details about the Waterworks revitalization.

The urgent need for community facilities in King-Spadina

The King-Spadina area in which the Waterworks Revitalization is located has grown dramatically in recent years, and more development has been approved or is under construction. When all these approved projects are finished, it has been estimated by City Planning that the King-Spadina area will be home to roughly 50,000 residents. It is also estimated that the number of jobs will increase from 36,000 today to 54,000 when all approved commercial developments are finished.

But the lack of community facilities in this area will become a serious challenge to the economic vitality, social health, and liveability of the area. The City commissioned a Community Services and Facilities study in 2013 and it was found that nearby community centres have little or no capacity to accommodate further expected growth. Locally-based service agencies are also being squeezed by rising land values and rental rates.

Securing these facilities for King-Spadina is a top priority for me.

Partnership with the YMCA

Partnering with the YMCA means that we can deliver desperately-needed community services without delay. It could take decades to secure the capital and operating funding necessary for a new City-run community centre. In the meantime, the population in King-Spadina is growing rapidly without adequate local services, and community facilities in surrounding neighbourhoods are overloaded by demand.

Because this is a top priority, I am committing local funding to make it happen. Up to two-thirds of the capital budget ($19 million) will be covered by existing and future community benefit levies ("Section 37" funds) from developments approved in the King-Spadina area.

An additional attraction of this partnership model is that a YMCA facility would not require ongoing operating subsidy from the City. Rather, the YMCA's "Gym and Swim" financial model is a sustainable way to provide access to those Toronto residents who need assistance, because their memberships will be subsidized by individuals and families who are able to pay the regular cost.

As a condition of the $19 million that I have committed to the construction cost, a Community Use Agreement has been negotiated with the YMCA to enhance programming and accessibility. This includes:

-       Free daytime summertime membership for local youth

-       Free access for local teens one night per week

-       Youth Leadership Development Program offered throughout the year

-       Free community access to the entire YMCA Centre, including the pool, six times per year

-       Access to the YMCA Centre will be available to non-members through day passes

-       A community room will be available to non-members for meetings and other activities

Affordable Housing & Artscape

City Council has agreed to partner with Build Toronto to invest a combined $2.4 million in 15 new affordable housing units in the revitalization. These units will be administered by Artscape and offered to lower-income artists and their families.

Ensuring that all residents have safe and affordable housing is an essential priority of mine, and of so many of our neighbours, and we need to work hard to ensure we're building affordable housing across our City.

Funding for these new affordable housing units is being provided by all three levels of government as well as Build Toronto. The units will be constructed by the Waterworks Revitalization private development partner and administered by Artscape.

These new units will be "affordable ownership." The $2.4 million of funding will be used to provide each family with a second mortgage. Families will not be required to make any payments on the second mortgage, effectively reducing the purchase price by about 40%. The second mortgage will be administered by Artscape and the funding will remain with the home, providing affordability over the long term.

Artscape has a long and successful history of partnering with the City of Toronto to deliver affordable housing for artists in a variety of creative projects. This helps lower-income artists and their families to stay in rapidly-changing communities like King-Spadina, where rising rents encourage many to move elsewhere. Purchasers of these units will be selected form a pre-approved list of eligible buyers managed by Artscape. Purchasers of these units will be selected form a pre-approved list of eligible buyers managed by Artscape.

Saint Andrew's Playground expansion and improvements

Saint Andrew's Playground and the Waterworks Building have a shared history dating back to the early 1800s when this entire block was set aside for a public market square called Saint Andrew's Market. It would have been this area's equivalent of Saint Lawrence Market, had the market not fallen into disuse and been demolished as part of a Depression-era program to provide work for the unemployed.

In 1909, the City of Toronto dedicated the southern portion of the market square for Toronto's first supervised playground designed for children. This was an entirely new concept for the use of public space in urban neighbourhoods, providing equipment and programming for sports, exercise, dancing, and other group activities. More than a century later, Saint Andrew's Playground still has play equipment for children and this idea has spread to many other parks across the city.

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As part of the Waterworks Revitalization, parking will be provided underground and this means the parking lot to the west of Saint Andrew's Playground can be converted to parkland. This will make the park 25% larger! It is also an opportunity to refresh any parts of the park that are worn or add new amenities that may be missing from area parks.

I hosted a public meeting in January 2016 to launch this process with the neighbourhood and Parks staff. You can visit the project web page to learn about the history of Saint Andrew's Playground and, in the future, any updates specific to the park will be posted there. The work to expand and improve Saint Andrew's Playground is being closely coordinated with revitalization of the Waterworks Building so that changes to the building and the park are complementary.

Heritage conservation

The Waterworks Revitalization will respect and conserve the heritage significance of the Waterworks Building, which was built in the 1932 as part of a program to provide work for unemployed people. It is an important public works project designed by City Architect J. J. Woolnough in the Art Deco style with a high degree of craftsmanship and unique features that stands as a local landmark in the neighbourhood.

The Waterworks Building has been "designated" for protection under the Ontario Heritage Act. The City of Toronto has also secured a heritage easement agreement over the property to legally protect the important heritage feature in perpetuity.

The private development partners that have been selected for the Waterworks Revitalization have extensive experience working with heritage buildings in a sensitive and respectful way. Woodcliffe Landmark Properties in particular is known for the restoration of North Toronto Station on Yonge Street near Summerhill, as well as the Flatiron Building at Wellington Street and Church Street.

Youth shelter & Eva's Phoenix

At the east end of the historic Waterworks Building, the organization Eva's Initiatives for Homeless Youth is currently renovating the space to become a new home for their youth shelter program called Eva's Phoenix.

Eva's Phoenix provides housing for 50 youth, between the ages of 16 and 24, for up to a full year. Using an integrated, holistic approach, they provide youth with the skills they need to find and maintain housing and employment so they can be self-sufficient when they leave. 

Next steps

Please join me at a public open house in the fall to learn more and meet the revitalization partners.

Date: Saturday, September 10, 2016

Time: Noon to 3 p.m.

Location: Great Hall of the Waterworks Building (enter from Maud Street)

To receive regular updates about the Waterworks revitalization including a reminder of the open house nearer to the date, please email my office at councillor_cressy@toronto.ca.

The next step of the revitalization is for a re-zoning application to be submitted, and following the standard process, the application will need to be reviewed by the community and City staff before considering final approval.