Moss Park redevelopment provokes strong reaction at public meeting

Proponents of LGBT-friendly recreation centre proposal trumpet consultation process amid fears runaway gentrification will push out low-income residents and marginalized users of the park

The City of Toronto, along with representatives from the 519 Church Street community centre, took another step in a proposal to redevelop Moss Park, hosting a public consultation at the John Innes Community Centre Monday night, June 6.

In the midst of completing a feasibility study for a new $125-million recreation centre for the park, the 519 recently hired MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, whose credits include the Regent Park Aquatic Centre, as the design lead for the project, which has been marred in controversy over how the new facility will include marginalized users of the park, including homeless people, drug users and those involved in the sex trade. 

Strong reaction continued Monday at a second public consultation in a week. About 100 people attended. 

Queer Trans Community Defence, a group organizing opposition to the project, handed out literature at the meeting saying, “It is vital that any designs and plans be opposed to further gentrification of the area.” 

While originally pegged as an LGBT sports centre, backers have since broadened the parameters of the project to include more potential users. 

“We’re not trying to push people out, we’re trying to make it better for everybody,” says David Miller, one of the architects on the project.

In addition to public meetings, the 519 says it has already consulted with some 800 different stakeholders from various organizations on the project.

Maura Lawless, executive director of the 519, says they’re focused on getting input from people who might not attend community sessions.

“We have a very large team getting out and meeting people where they’re at,” she says.  

Area Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who has faced criticism for her support of the project, says she’s spoken with city officials about including housing in the redevelopment, but has been told zoning won’t permit it.

When questioned about the changes the project would bring to the neighborhood, Wong-Tam insisted, “Gentrification does not include broad community consultation with 800 people.” 

“I’m not pro-development,” she added. “I believe in building responsible, inclusive, sustainable neighbourhoods. [But] there is very little that I can do to stop development.”

Development is exactly what will be coming to the area, with three new condos proposed for the southeast corner of Queen and Sherbourne reinforcing the fears of opponents that Moss Park redevelopment will push out current low-income residents.

The consultation process continues throughout the summer, with a plan to present a feasibility study to City Council before the end of 2016. | @nowtoronto

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