Official Groundbreaking

All photos by Mauricio Calero Photography. Scroll down for photos of some of the ceremony’s highlights.

 

On June 22, 2016, Artscape joined its project partners – Rockport Group, City of Toronto, Toronto Parking Authority, and Woodbourne Capital Management – to celebrate the groundbreaking of a vibrant new community development project with Weston community members and City of Toronto Mayor John Tory.

Co-hosted by Rockport CEO Jack Winberg, and community champion, City of Toronto Councillor Frances Nunziata, the ceremony previewed how the proposed site will be re-envisioned as a lively gathering place for the community.

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Groundbreaking Co-Host and Rockport Group CEO Jack Winberg greets the enthusiastic crowd and introduces City of Toronto Mayor John Tory.

Currently, the site is a parking lot and adjacent high-rise between King and John Streets (the north-east are of Lawrence Avenue West and Weston Road).  For the first time in over 40 years, the neighbourhood will receive significant private investment towards its renewal.  “Over time, Weston has been one of those communities that has not had full access to the full range of opportunities that the community deserves” stated Mayor Tory as he began the day’s speeches.  “We are beginning the process of renewal . . . It’s about building a great city.  A compassionate city.  A city that includes the arts and showcases it as an important part of growing the economy.”

Slated to open in 2018, the project was approved by Toronto City Council in December 2015 after extensive community consultation and engagement.  This new development will operate as a dynamic place for the Weston community – 8,200 square feet dedicated to arts, cultural and community events programming, with an additional 12,400 square feet of outdoor publicly accessible space for community gatherings and farmers’ markets.  New housing will also be added to the area with 360 rental apartment units and 26 affordable live/work spaces for artists and their families.  The development is a new model for project partnerships that invest in community-led transformation.  Mayor Tory announced that the project is “one of the best examples that I’ve seen of public-private partnership.”

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Mayor John Tory begins the day’s speeches.  “The transformation of the Weston community shows how we can reimagine Toronto and build up the city when we work together.”

Arts, culture, and community-led programming will be central to this new publicly accessible place.  The portion dedicated to both indoor and outdoor arts and culture programming, as well as artist spaces will be managed by Artscape.  The Artscape Weston Hub will operate as a social enterprise, similar to Artscape’s other community cultural hubs like Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park and Artscape Youngplace in West Queen West.

Artscape CEO Tim Jones shared, “We are so excited about the potential here in Weston, about what this project can do.  The way that it can help foster a more vibrant and dynamic cultural community.  The way it will be a catalyst to help attract other interest and investment in this community.”

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“Artscape is thrilled to be collaborating with the City of Toronto, Rockport, the Toronto Parking Authority, local residents and businesses and many others to build a community cultural hub in Weston,” said Artscape CEO Tim Jones.  “Culture has proven to be a powerful force in community development and we hope this project will become a model of how to generate positive change in all parts of the city.”

The groundbreaking demonstrates concrete steps toward making these improvements a reality.  The community is already feeling the impact.  Weston Residents Association Chair, Dave McBride, and Weston Village Business Improvement Area President, Masum Hossain, shared with attendees that the start of the hub’s development, has generated a rise in business for local establishments.  Community members, like local participants of the Central Ontario Building Trades Hammer Heads Program, will also be engaged in the project’s construction as part of their skill and employment-based training.

Community artist, Paulina O’Kieffe, ended the ceremony by wowing the crowd with a spoken-word piece she wrote that captured the spirit, strength, and hope, of the community.  She graciously allowed us to share below her powerful poem.

An Ode to Weston by Paulina O’Kieffe

Statistics say Weston is in one of the poorest wards in this city
But if you look beyond the surface
You are sure to find nuggets of gold glistening in these streets
Pearly white teeth of happy kids
Dancing, or drawing, or singing their way through life
Beat boxing, beat making or beating eggs for baking

You’re sure to see color
From boldly decorated storefronts
To beautifully decorated wall murals
Eye catching street parades
To creatively curated programming
Bringing out the best in this community

Friends believe me when I tell you … Weston is rich!
Rich In artistry
Rich In heritage
Rich In history
Weston is rich in talented young people carving out futures
Through the statistics
From young potential fathers, to those on the Frontlines to those engaged in Urban Arts
Weston is rich in cultures
You can smell it in the distance
From the jerk chicken to samosas

Weston is an old town with consistently new faces
So Weston is always redefining itself
Reshaping its image
And always thriving
From nail shops to beauty shops, even I come all the way up here to get my hair done
Every bank, every library, every church, every corner store
Is a cornerstone
Of the foundation that makes up this community of character
Weston is not a stranger to changes and welcomes it each time with open arms
You see cultural collaborations happening just walking down the street
So happy is the day

Happy is the day
To break ground
To start the construction of our hub
A space where we can all dance to the same beat our drums
Through Artscape we have an arts space with
Walls splashed with the colors of our community
As we unify and come together in the heart
Where farmers markets thrive
And artists come alive
Where more business opens up
And more housing helps us welcome more members of our family

How could you ever call Weston poor when as a community
When we hold so much wealth
I mean we even got Frances Nunziata in the council chambers reppin Weston herself
We hold wealth
In our knowledge
In our understanding
In our skills and talents
We are on the brink of solidifying the foundation
Laying down the bricks and mortar to build tall towers of success
Towering over the statistics which are far beneath us
We are on our way up
Breaking ceilings as we go
They call us the Wild West
But we are only wild in our ambitions to make this home a better place for all
Sometimes a few bad apples try to spoil our bunch
And they mainly get the attention of the new stations
But our family tree is rooted in love
And we know the strength of our foundation

And now as we prepare to resurrect the next step in our future
I can only see great things coming from our community
Spilling out into the streets spreading more joy and laughter
More coming together
To work together
To coexist together in a place where so many of us call home
A home that is so rich
It’s hard to feel as poor as they want to make us out to be

-Paulina O’Kieffe

Here are more of our favourite moments of the day:

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In less than 15 minutes, the Union Pearson (UP) Express shuttled attendees to the Weston station, which is only a five-minute walk to the hub’s site.
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Welcome-signs greet attendees at the Weston UP station.
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DJ Elegance welcomed community members, project partners, media, and Mayor John Tory.
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Amongst the crowd were Central Ontario Building Trades Hammer Head program participants from the Weston community with City of Toronto Councillor Frances Nunziata.
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Groundbreaking Co-Host and local Councillor Frances Nunziata shares her passion for the Weston community.  “All eyes will be on this development in the years ahead to see how this innovative, public-private partnership will help bring new life to Weston Village and I am happy to have been a part of it.”
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Toronto Parking Authority Board Member and City of Toronto Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti.  “It is a prime example of how communities can benefit when public and private sectors work together on joint ventures.”
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Weston Residents Association Chair Dave McBride shares the residents’ excitement about the new hub.
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Weston Village BIA President Masum Hossain represents the local businesses.
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Mayor Tory presented with an “I love Weston” t-shirt.
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Spoken Word Artist Paulina O’Kieffe closes the ceremony with her poem, An Ode to Weston.
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The inaugural moment of shovels hitting the ground, hard-hatted Mayor Tory surrounded by project partners and community representatives ready to dig.

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