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NEWS: New park at Monsignor Fraser (Spring 2018)

May 1st, 2018 · No Comments

Concrete yard to become shared greenspace

By Geremy Bordonaro

A concrete school yard at Monsignor Fraser College is set to be redeveloped into a park that will be shared by the school and community under a 21-year joint use agreement between the City of Toronto and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB).

It will be paid for with funds from the city’s parks and recreation budget, and the city will be responsible for maintaining the greenspace once it has been developed.

“We have identified $300,000 through my office to turn it in to a public greenspace,” said Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina). “The school will have access to it for use of its students during school hours. Outside of school hours, before and after school and on weekends, it will be a public park.”

The plan dates from 2016 when the TCDSB and the school first had a meeting with the community about greening the space.

“It was all a local and TCDSB initiative for the school. The site used to be an elementary school, St. Peter’s Elementary School, [and] it has now been an alternative high school for some time,” said Jo-Ann Davis, the TCDSB trustee for Ward 9 and a candidate for the provincial Liberal nomination for University-Rosedale. “Given that there was all this space at the south end of the site that wasn’t really being used by the students, the students and the local community wanted to look at what they could do to green it and incorporate school programming.”

The revised plan for redeveloping the large concrete yard at Monsignor Fraser College into a greenspace that will be shared by the school and the community. The plan includes removing the fence and adding community gardens and an outdoor classroom. COURTESY THE CITY OF TORONTO

The school and board initially sought funding from the Ministry of Education, but could not get the money. They also approached the community and tried to find independent sponsors, again to no avail.

“Given that it wasn’t something that we could fund, we initially — the fall before last — had a meeting with the community and said that we really wanted to be doing something with the space and had applied for various grants but weren’t successful,” Davis said. “We told them that this was the kind of thing that we would like to do and asked what their suggestions for potential partners were.”

Davis and representatives spoke to Cressy at that meeting about whether the city could help.

“At that meeting we invited the city and Councillor Cressy to attend. He was excited to hear about the types of things we wanted to do,” Davis said. “We asked him at that meeting about whether or not the city would be able to be a partner. As a result of our invitation the city has since responded and, through parks and recreation, has been able to find funds in order to make this shared-use greenspace a reality.”

It was a natural fit for Cressy, who advocates for the need to have more greenspace in the ward and sees the potential of this type of arrangement.

“This is an exciting project. Here we have, in the heart of Seaton Village, on [Toronto] Catholic District School Board land, a giant piece of concrete. Asphalt that is fenced in,” Cressy said. “It’s not serving the students, the community, or the environment.”

The design was initially chosen in 2016 by stakeholders, the school board, and Cressy, though some updates have been made since then.

“This is just a wonderful example of different public entities working together. Far too often opportunities like these aren’t seized because of finger-pointing over who owns the land,” Cressy said. “At the end of the day it is all public land and I don’t care if it is the city or the school or the province who owns it. It’s public land so we need to do a better job working together to ensure that is used in the public interest.”

“As you know, in downtown Toronto we don’t have a heck of a lot of greenspace so how can we bring in a new space, especially in that part of town,” Davis said. “It’s something that especially the community welcomed with open arms.”

 

READ MORE:

FOCUS ON EDUCATION: Monsignor Fraser College needs help to go green (Dec. 2016)

NEWS: A $9.4-million school with a view (June 2016)

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