Toronto’s Moss Park neighbourhood is in store for an upgrade, with plans for a shiny new community centre and a revamped park in the works. Last week, the City of Toronto submitted an application for a 7,544.3-sq.-m community centre to replace the existing John Innes Community Centre at Queen and Sherbourne (150 Sherbourne Street). The current adjacent park will also undergo a transformation.
According to the City of Toronto, the initial reimagining of Moss Park began in 2015 as a partnership between the City of Toronto, The 519, and a philanthropic partner. After community consultation and analysis, however, this partnership concluded that the project, as envisioned, was not feasible at the time.
Fast forward to 2019, when the Toronto City Council adopted the implementation strategy for Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan, which included recommendations for an updated plan to replace the John Innes Community Recreation Centre, remodel the Moss Park Arena façade, and improve the park. And, many would argue, it’s about time. The underserved neighbourhood’s public amenities have seen better days.
But, in anticipation of the upcoming Ontario Line – which will slice through the neighbourhood with a station at Queen and Sherbourne Streets – revitalization and modernization is now at the top of the agenda. Due to technical concerns regarding the upcoming Ontario Line, however, plans to move forward with the revamped community centre and park were delayed in 2021. After recent public consultation, an application was officially submitted on January 19.
It details how the existing playground, splash pad, and community centre will become things of times past, demolished to make way for a fluid and futuristic community space.
“The project provides an opportunity for a holistic redesign of the park and community recreation centre, which will lead to better outcomes for the community,” reads the City of Toronto website. “The aim of the project is to create welcoming, safe and accessible spaces for all, including the most vulnerable members of the community.”
Moss Park. (City of Toronto)
A new, design-forward facility (that will inevitably become the neighbourhood’s crown jewel) will feature a 25-m, six-lane lap pool, a leisure/tot pool, a double gymnasium with a mezzanine running track, fitness and dance studios, communal spaces, service spaces, and universal washrooms and change rooms. According to current plans, the community centre will either house a green roof or a rooftop with community access. The building’s main entrance will remain on Sherbourne.
The surrounding greenspace offered in Moss Park will see significant improvements in terms of amenities, accessibility, and safety. This will include passive and active recreation amenities including playground, splash pad, community gardens, off-leash dog area, and walking paths, with other features to be determined such as tennis, basketball, etc. On the safety front, things like improved sight lines, lighting, and animation will create more eyes on the park.
According to the City, the forward-thinking park will feature flexible multi-use spaces for different activities. Thoughtfully designed, this will take into consideration food security and urban agriculture. An Indigenous place-keeping approach will input artworks from local Indigenous communities. Naturally, environmental considerations will also be top of mind, with plans to enhance the ecological and social sustainability and resilience of the park.
The existing Moss Park Arena will remain, and the tennis courts will be rebuilt, along with new basketball courts. The plans however do not call for the baseball diamond to remain.
The preferred design for Moss Park.(City of Toronto)
According to timelines offered by the City, the community centre will be completed by 2028, and construction on the park will finish in 2030.
The Moss Park neighbourhood’s transformation isn’t limited to the upcoming subway station, community centre, or revamped park. A Staples, a parking lot, and a pair of heritage buildings may soon be transformed into a new purpose-built rental building at the corner of Richmond Street East and Berkeley Street.
Furthermore, thanks to two mixed-use developments, two new parks will grace the Moss Park neighbourhood – one on Richmond Street East, and one on King Street East. From now until January 28, the public is invited to offer input about these future parks via an online survey. Although not large in square footage – one is compared to the size of a hockey rink, and the other, a tennis court – these spaces will undoubtedly breathe new life into the neighbourhood.