Built in the 50s, Seaton House was never meant to help the mentally ill.
Ambitious plans to revamp the George Street stretch of Cabbagetown north of Dundas, including demolishing Seaton House and replacing it with a new-look long-term care facility, passed Toronto Community Council Tuesday (November 10).
Local councillor Kyle Rae calls it "a great opportunity." All he needs to do now is get it by the full council. But that's a battle for another day.
Rae says Seaton House has outlived its usefulness. Anti-poverty activists agree. More money for shelter infrastructure and rehab is badly needed, especially in the neighbourhood anchored by Seaton.
Built in the 50s, the 580-bed facility was never meant to house and help men with complex mental health and addiction issues.
Seaton - indeed our entire shelter system, it can be argued - has become much more than a refuge of last resort. Designed to provide a temporary emergency safety net, shelters have become referral services for prisons, hospitals and emergency rooms.
The wear and tear is beginning to show.
There's only one elevator at Seaton House, despite the mobility issues faced by some residents. The ventilation system doesn't meet TB control guidelines.
At one low point in the 1980s, the shelter held as many as 900 beds.
Current plans to build a long-term care facility, shelter and mixed housing on the site were floated by developer Spike Capital Corporation after it bought up all the properties between 295 and 311 George.
Conceivably, the revamp could contribute to George Street's revitalization. At least that's Rae's hope.
Ignoring Filmores, the world-famous strip club on the corner, George does have its share of arresting architecture.
Anti-poverty activists are supportive. Jonathan Kearns, the architect chosen for the project, has proposed some interesting ideas.
Seaton is only the tip of the iceberg. The city has asked for appraisals of all emergency shelters for possible Seaton-like renos.
The one concern: the city has no capacity to relocate Seaton users during the reconstruction.
The good news for heritage-ophiles: Two circa-1850s homes with heritage designations will be preserved.