Toronto City Council has approved the proposal of an approximately $10 million construction project to support the revitalization of the Weston community made possible by a public-private partnership between Artscape, the City of Toronto and private developer The Rockport Group, together with its development partner Woodbourne Capital Management. The project has been championed during the past six years by area City Councillor Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South-Weston).
The Artscape Weston Village community cultural hub, located at Weston Rd. and King St., will include creative programming space, affordable artist live/work housing and an outdoor area for public gatherings that will be designed and programmed in consultation with the local community, a news release says.
The development will involve the revitalization of a surplus parking lot at 22 John St. and under-utilized ground-floor space at an existing high-rise apartment building at 33 King St. that has sat incomplete and partially tenanted for 35 years, in a community that has not seen new private investment in nearly 40 years. The Artscape Weston Village community cultural hub will have three components:
- The 8,600 sq. ft. creative programming space on the ground floor of the existing high-rise building at 33 King Street will be designed and programmed in consultation with the local community and constructed by The Rockport Group
- 26 affordable live/work housing units for artists and their families located alongside the creative programming space at 33 King Street and constructed by The Rockport Group
- A The 12,400 sq. ft. outdoor area adjacent to the creative programming space and artist live/work housing will serve as a community gathering place, hosting the popular and long-running Weston Farmers’ Market and other community uses
Artscape will be the leaseholder and operator of the community cultural hub under a 50-year lease agreement with the City. At nearby 22 John St., The Rockport Group will be constructing a 300,000 sq. ft. new purpose-built market rental apartment building, stepping from four to 30 storeys, comprising approximately 350 rental units.
“I am thrilled with the development of the Artscape Weston Village Community Cultural Hub,” Toronto mayor John Tory said. “I believe community cultural hubs help connect people to jobs, opportunity and each other, so any investment the city can make to promote economic growth and healthier neighbourhoods is the right thing to do.”
“Residents of Weston have long awaited a catalyst for the revitalization of the community and I believe this is it,” Nunziata said. “With the strong support from the local community and a team of dedicated individuals in The Rockport Group, Artscape, and at the city, this project is the start of a new and exciting chapter for the Village of Weston.”
“The project is a first major step toward our goal of proliferating the development of cultural space outside Toronto’s core,” said Tim Jones, CEO of Artscape. “This has been an extraordinary effort to bring together the public and private purpose and capital to make it possible, and we believe Artscape Weston Village will have as much revitalizing impact as Artscape Wychwood Barns has had on its community.”
“This Council approval is a most welcome endorsement of the outstanding efforts of the Toronto Parking Authority, Artscape, the City staff and the Rockport team over the past two years creating the vision for Weston,” said Jack Winberg, president and CEO of The Rockport Group. “We are pleased to now move forward with our partners to bring the project to life.”
Support for the project has been expressed in the Weston community during public consultations held over the past six years by Artscape, the City of Toronto and The Rockport Group. A feasibility study prepared by Artscape for the City of Toronto in 2011, along with a community design charrette and report by the Urban Land Institute’s Technical Assistance Panel, further supported the strategy of leveraging the power of culture to assist in the revitalization of the area. As a result, the city developed its Weston 2021 Revitalization Strategy (2012), which outlined the benefits of a project involving creative programming space, along with live/work units for artists, studio space, community space and the farmers’ market.
The Weston community has been identified as one of the city’s 31 Neighbourhood Improvement Areas, with unemployment at a higher rate than the city average, a lack of affordable housing and under-served status in terms of access to services and amenities. Artscape Weston Village will leverage the power of arts, culture and creativity to serve the interests of the Weston community. This year, Metrolinx’ UP Express, the new rail link to Pearson International Airport, will stop in Weston at a newly-constructed GO Transit station. These transit-based stimuli are being pursed with other community-level initiatives with a range of partners to re-energize the area and transform it into a vital, vibrant community.
The cost to build Artscape Weston Village is projected to be $10.05 million, with an additional operating fund of $3.25 million to ensure the viability and accessibility of the community cultural hub over the first 15 years of operation. There will be no direct impact on City of Toronto operating and capital budgets.
In 2015, Artscape will work to shape the vision for the community cultural hub through community engagement and consultation sessions, supported by a community steering committee. The project is anticipated to be complete by 2018. Those interested in receiving updates on Artscape Weston Village can subscribe to a mailing list at a mailing list at www.torontoartscape.org/artscape-weston-village.