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NEWS: Huron-Washingon Parkette relocates while UTS expands (Spring 2019)

April 23rd, 2019 · No Comments

Concerns expressed about future of playspace

A rendering by architects Diamond Schmitt of the new east face of University of Toronto Schools on Huron St. south of Bloor St.
COURTESY SHANE GERALD, CITY OF TORONTO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND CULTURE

By Ahmed Hagar

In December Councillor Mike Layton announced the closure of the Huron-Washington Parkette to residents on his website, stating that it will be moved from 420 Huron St. and relocated to 406 Huron St. The parkette is now closed, but concerned residents are being assured that this closure is only temporary.

“Eventually the new park will be placed back at the old site, albeit in a slightly smaller space due to the presence of the gym under the ground of the park,” says Layton. 

The Huron-Washington Parkette is temporarily closed due to construction at U of T Schools, with the playground equipment having been removed in January.

The closure of the park is part of the University of Toronto School’s (UTS) Building the Future campaign. The 371 Bloor St. West location is undergoing a major renovation as a condition to the new affiliation agreement signed with U of T in December 2015. The campaign states that prior to this agreement, the school’s future was uncertain with the school being at risk to losing both its name and location.

The project will increase the school space by 33 per cent to 120,000 sq. ft., and will include new facilities such as a 700-seat auditorium, a sky-lit atrium, new science and media labs, and a restoration of the historic facade. UTS has a temporary location at 30 Humbert St.

The school also raised $51.6 million for their campaign from alumni, parents, and other donors, which is about 86 per cent of their $60 million-dollar goal. 

Huron-Sussex Residents’ Organization co-chair Julie Mathien says that the park and the playground are “very important” for the community.

“Throughout the planning process with the University of Toronto and UTS, we were very clear how important it was,” she said. “And they agreed.”

Mathien says the residents have worked with U of T, UTS, and councillors Joe Cressy and Mike Layton for two years on the development.  

“We were concerned about the loss of trees,” she said. “The underground double gym would have taken up all of the space that is above ground in the park.”

After consulting with residents, UTS changed their plans regarding the underground gym, reducing its size to accommodate the parkette. The gym was also moved to avoid “crowding out the houses”, according to Mathien.

Mathien and the HSRO took part in a public consultation about the parkette last spring. She says that green space and playground equipment are important factors for the community.

“One of the things that needs to be understood is that it is not just green space but a place where children can play,” she said. “We are going to need equipment and amenities for a playground.”

Mathien says that the councillor’s office, U of T, and UTS were upfront and “willing to consult” with residents during public consultations and meetings.

Councillor Layton says that Huron-Washington Parkette will be redesigned and that there will be a public consultation in the near future, with no specific date yet.

“The city will be hosting consultation with the Huron-Sussex Residents’ Organization and U of T in the coming years as we plan the new space,” he said, adding that the parkette will re-open temporarily in the spring.

“The major thing we are looking for now is that everything is ready to go once the bad weather stops,” she said. “The city would need to have certain kinds of weather and soil conditions to move the equipment and we do not want to have any hold-up.”The new parkette will open when UTS completes their work, which is estimated to be in three years’ time.

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