New YMCA/City of Toronto partnership coming to downtown

You might have heard me say at a community event, development consultation, or just in and around the neighbourhood that as our City grows we must focus on building liveable neighbourhoods, rather than just adding density.  I was proud to announce yesterday that after months of hard work with the local neighbourhood, our dedicated City staff, BUILD Toronto and the YMCA, the City's Executive Committee will consider a plan to build a brand new YMCA community facility, in partnership with the City, in the heart of downtown Toronto. To read the report, click here.

Since 1996 the population of King-Spadina has grown from 1,000 residents to nearly 30,000 today. Once all the previously approved and proposed developments are constructed, more than 40,000 people will call this area home. The numbers are staggering, and every week I hear from developers with even more proposals. 

In a 2013 Community Services and Facilities Study commissioned by the City, it was found that nearby community centres had little or no capacity to accommodate further expected growth and a gap was identified for local aquatic facilities.  Given the pressing needs in the community, I sought early on in the term to work with BUILD Toronto to secure a community facility at 505 Richmond Street.

The proposed YMCA will be located in the Waterworks building at 505 Richmond Street West, a designated Heritage structure and BUILD Toronto property.  BUILD has been working over the past few years to develop a holistic plan for the property, which will include residential development, heritage restoration, and a link to the neighbouring Saint Andrew's playground.  The new 50,000 square foot YMCA facility, which will include program space and a full-size swimming pool, has been included in the overall plan for the building.

To help achieve this partnership, I have committed existing and future funds from community benefits levies (Section 37/45) to cover two thirds of the capital costs required for the facility.  This partnership with the City will leverage the YMCA's operating model, which focuses on inclusiveness and accessibility to people of all ages and abilities, and pair it with guaranteed public access.  City staff are working closely with BUILD Toronto on the project, and with the YMCA to design programming that will support and serve the local community.

If City Councillors endorse the proposed YMCA facility this month, it will signal a new direction for our downtown neighbourhoods. It will demonstrate that we are willing to work and invest to ensure we are creating healthy communities, and building a city that supports families both today and in the future.

Yesterday, the Toronto Star published my Op-ed on this new and exciting project - read it here.

The truth is that, although this YMCA is going to make a big difference, it cannot be the end of our efforts. There is a lot more work ahead of us to keep our communities liveable. We need stronger heritage preservation, greater protection of cultural sector jobs, municipal control of planning and urban design, and the acquisition (and if need be expropriation) of land for much-needed parks.

This is a first step towards ensuring that we are not only building a liveable community in King-Spadina, but that we are prioritizing healthy, equitable and well-serviced communities in each and every neighbourhood, and on each and every development, in our Ward.

I look forward to continuing this work together.