Councillor Josh Matlow

City Centre Mirror: Underground parking at new Davisville Junior Public School means area to get Midtown Community Hub

Three-storey school will also feature aquatic centre, community rooms and double gym


July 19, 2016

Justin Skinner

City Centre Mirror


Underground parking garage at new Davisville Junior Public means a Midtown Community Hub is coming to the area. Here, Councillor Josh Matlow at a coffee shop in Davisville. Photo: David Nickle

Years of hard work and determination have finally paid off with firm plans in place to build a community hub in the midtown neighbourhood.


Residents in the area, Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow (St. Paul’s) and Ward 11 TDSB Trustee Shelley Laskin have long been working to negotiate an agreement to build community space on the site occupied by Davisville Junior Public School.


With the school set to undergo large-scale renovations to increase its capacity and upgrade its facilities, the timing was right for such a plan, but the challenge was in finding a solution that would meet the needs of students and the general public alike.


The key to the plan was the creation of underground parking on the site, opening up more room for the new school building, the long-hoped-for Midtown Community Hub and play space for students at Davisville.


“It’s a very tight urban site, but by providing funding for underground parking and by agreeing to a three-storey school, the city was able to minimize the footprint there,” Laskin said.


Work on the new 731-student school, which will replace the outdated and run-down existing Davisville Junior Public School, is expected to be completed in 2020, at which time work on the Midtown Community Hub will begin. The school will feature all the same programming as the existing school, including an English stream, French immersion and Spectrum Alternative School for middle school-aged students.


The hub is slated to feature a three-storey, 30,000-square-foot aquatic centre and an all-purpose community room, with the public slated to have access to the new school’s double gym and some community space. Laskin said she hopes the school also has daytime access to the aquatic centre’s pool once that facility opens.


John Hiddema and Lisa Kelleher of Midtown Hub, a community group that has been pushing hard for the Midtown Community Hub concept, said they were thrilled when news officially came down late last week that their hopes were set to be realized.


“So far, it looks like we’re getting our wish list – more infrastructure in the school, a double gym, community rooms and an aquatic centre,” Kelleher said. “It’s a great way to make the best use of that property.”


Even as they celebrated the partnership between the TDSB and the city, both Hiddema and Kelleher said the group will continue to look for new locations where community spaces can be built in the midtown area.


“We’re trying to meet with everyone we can – planners and developers,” Hiddema said. “We don’t want to understate how big a win this is, but there’s always a need for more space and we’ve been the only ward in the city without a designated community centre for a while.”


That’s even more true given the massive development in the area, with many large-scale condo developments either in the works or on the horizon. Matlow noted the dearth of public space in the area coupled with the anticipated growth made the Midtown Community Hub a must for the area.


“It can’t just be about condos,” he said. “Davisville was the ideal site because there was an opportunity there to do something really very special for the community.”


Kelleher said she hopes the pairing of the school board and the city will change the way community projects are approached in Toronto, noting the model used to secure the Midtown Community Hub could be rolled out in other neighbourhoods to help create public space elsewhere.


“If we can help create something – a new paradigm that can help other communities, we’re happy to do that,” she said.


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