From sustainable food to LEED gold to artist housing, Wychwood reno scores.
It must be nice getting up in front of people when you know you've done something right.
That's certainly how Councillor Joe Mihevc must have felt Monday, November 17, introducing the Wychwood Barns, the mostly completed multi-use community centre at St. Clair and Christie.
The Barns, so called because the 5-acre site used to be maintenance barns for TTC railcars on St. Clair, were abandoned in 1978.
"Many people thought the only natural thing to do with these boarded-up buildings was knock them down," recalls Mihevc of initial community reaction.
After asking the city for funding, he was told to try again in 2015. So other fundraisers were called in - the feds, the province, charitable donations and private financiers. Nice that they didn't sell naming rights. BMO Barns wouldn't sound the same.
The community did partner with Artscape, the non-profit that has worked for affordable spaces for artists for over 20 years. It's always a step ahead of developers - securing artist live-work spaces on Queen West, Liberty Village and in the Distillery District long before the condo developers sell them off. But don't think for a second that the Artscape Wychwood Barns, redeveloped at a cost of $21.2 million, will be another Distillery.
"With the Distillery District," explains Artscape president Tim Jones, "one of the objectives was attracting visitors. What we work with here is creating a resource for the community without overwhelming it with parking traffic and noise."
So no brewery, hip clothing shops or artisanal chocolate?
"This is not a commercial hub," says Mihevc, noting that there will be a cantina for juice and coffee, but St. Clair is steps away. "You might buy a piece of art, but the galleries won't be selling here - we want this to build the commercial strip on St. Clair."
What about all the cars? "There are no parking spaces on site, and there will be no parking spaces on site," says Mihevc. "It was a transit facility, so you come by public transit."
The Barns will also have a serious food component. The Stop Community Food Centre will run the Green Barn, a 10,000-square-foot space consisting of a garden and bake oven, a covered courtyard, commercial kitchen, 3,000-square-foot organic greenhouse and compost demonstration centre.
"We'll increase consciousness about food and food literacy," says The Stop exec director Nick Saul. Really, really impressive. And so are the other 11 enviro and arts organizations that will have offices on site, including Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF), Latin American Canadian Art Projects and b current (a performing arts company focusing on African-Canadian work).
The Studio Barn is home to 26 live-work units for artists and their families and 15 work-only studios. A farmers' market, natural ice rink and off-leash area complete the oasis.
Sure, it's a lot like the Brick Works- in fact, the same architect, Joe Lobko, is responsible for both. He says the Barns will be the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold-certified heritage facility in Canada.
"Old buildings like these are incredibly adaptable and resilient," he says, pointing to the fact that cisterns will collect rainwater to flush the toilets and irrigate the park. The geothermal ground source pumps will heat and cool the site.
Heritage preservation, sustainability and low-income housing for artists, a focus on rejuvenating the local retail strip, encouragement of public transit, food awareness - and no Coke machines in sight. Rad.3
Councillor explains how the community was vital to the Artscape Wychwood Barns.
Joe Lobko Architect behind Artscape Wychwood Barns.