Notes of the Open House session from Regal Heights residents who attended
A MESSAGE FROM KATIE PELLIZZARI AND ELIZABETH CINELLO
We live in the Regal Heights neighbourhood and on October 30, 2018 we attendant the last Open House community meeting for the new Wallace Emerson Community Centre and Park. Here are our notes.
By Elizabeth Cinello and Katie Pellizzari
Below is a brief description of our likes and concerns on this massive project at Dupont and Dufferin Streets. Please take a look and send your comments in. Please forward to anyone you think would be interested.
The new community centre and park is tied to the redevelopment of the Galleria Mall. Together, these two projects are called Reimagine Galleria and will drastically change the Dufferin/Dupont area. In addition, the multi-year development project will affect the everyday life of surrounding communities for years to come.
Download information presented at the open house here:
Although the November 13 deadline to submit your comments has passed, we urge you to click on the following links and submit your views. A quick note would suffice. Prior to the deadline, the firstname.lastname@example.org email address was bouncing back. Send your comments to Katy Aminian and Coucillor Bailão.
The website says, “Once all feedback is received, a summary report of feedback will be uploaded to this website. The design team will review and consider all feedback before refining the design concept and submitting an application to the City’s Site Plan approval process.”
Email your feedback: email@example.com and to
Councillor Ana Bailão:
There is an office at the Galleria Mall:
Reimagine Galleria Kiosk
Galleria Mall, 1245 Dupont Street
(Between the Happy Bakery and LCBO)
Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Katy Aminian, Community Centre and Park related questions
For decades, our families have made use of the Wallace-Emerson Community Centre and the parkland behind it. We participated in swim programs, sports programs and exercise programs.
We are excited about the community centre’s redevelopment and would like to share some of our thoughts. We hope that as the project takes shape people will stay engaged and help shape our new centre.
What we heard
The proposed design concept was detailed through a presentation of drawings and schematics; round table areas with representatives from the developers and the architectural firm. Councillor Ana Bailão was also in attendance. It incorporates ideas put forward by community members at previous meetings.
The Galleria Mall site and the city-owned community centre and park will be developed in several phases over a 15 year period. The community centre will be built in Phase One of the construction schedule, to begin in about a year. The park will be completed in the last phase.
We were overwhelmed with the scope of the development project. It has been approved for eight mixed-use condo towers, the tallest will be 35 storeys, the shortest, fronting Dufferin Street at Dupont, will be 18 storeys, and the rest will be in the mid 20 storeys.
There will be over 2,800 units; 150 of which will be slated as affordable housing rental units. The development will have 50% 1-bedrooms, 40% 2-bedrooms, and 10% 3-bedrooms. Several new streets and a walkway will be constructed between the buildings.
The Park and Community Centre
Generally, we were impressed with the various elements of the park. It will be a busy urban park next to the development. The park is divided into three major areas described as ‘hearts’ – the Nature Heart, the Play Heart and the Community Heart. At capacity the community centre and park can accommodate a maximum of approximately 1,200 people.
Wherever possible, space is designed as flex-use space enabling multiple functions, “social connection and inclusive and equitable design for all users”. The presentation referred to best examples of community use space already existing in other parks. Ultimately, the Parks and Recreation budget will determine what actually goes on in the park and community centre.
What we like about the community centre and park
– Lots of areas for different uses year round
– Skating area for hockey shinny; separate skating paths
– BMX & skateboard park with sound proofing
– Toboggan hill
– Places to sit
– A daycare in the community centre for 62 children (although it would be nice if it could be bigger)
– The community centre will be 75,000 sf., twice the size it is now
– The park will be 7.81 acres
What we don’t like
The new location of the Community Centre
Currently, the front entrance to the community centre is off Dufferin Street. The new location is set back at the furthest end from Dufferin Street, where Dupont Street curves just before the gasoline station. The new location of the community centre means a long walk from Dufferin along Dupont or diagonally through the development (once the development is finished in 2030). For those of us who live east of Dufferin, this relocation means an extra very long walk. For us, it places the community centre even closer to the existing Piccininni Centre.
There is concern about the laneway in this area shared with houses and its use as a service laneway to the community centre.
The new universal change rooms designed by the City of Toronto
By 2025, the City of Toronto must conform to the provincially mandated ‘Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005’. In response, many public places are now offering universal bathrooms.
What is a universal bathroom
A universal bathroom is understood to be a private bathroom designed to be used by families, people who need assistance and people in the transgender community. In other words, it is designed to allow anyone to use a bathroom, comfortably and safely. This is a good thing.
What’s wrong with universal change rooms in the pool at the new Wallace Emerson Community Pool?
A Universal change room is not the same as a universal bathroom.
Currently, as the city renovates and constructs new community centres it eliminates the male/female change rooms and replaces them with universal change rooms. The city has done it at several locations including Regent Park, the J. J. Piccininni outdoor pool change rooms where it has received negative reviews from users, and the York Community Centre on Black Creek Drive. The city is planning its version of universal change rooms for the indoor pool at the new Wallace Emmerson Community Centre.
We don’t like the way the city is incorporating universal change rooms into the pool area of the community centre. We have heard from women who have used the new universal change rooms at the Piccininni outdoor pool and they felt unsafe and uncomfortable. Men have also said they would feel uncomfortable using these change rooms. We heard enough criticism that we decided to look into the matter a little deeper.
Here’s how a universal change room works
Everyone, men and women, children and teenagers use the same common change room. You go into individual stalls to change into bathing suits and come out into the shared common area. Before going to the pool and after leaving the pool, everyone must shower, side by side – women, men and children. Some universal change rooms have showers on the pool deck.
Users will no longer be able to remove their bathing suits to wash off chlorine. At Piccininni, where the showers are in the change rooms and not on the pool deck, men shower next to children; women have to shower next to men.
We were told at the community meeting that the city believes people showering together is the same as people entering a pool to swim. It also says that other cultures do this, specifically in northern Europe.
Our culture is not accustomed to this and showering together is not the same as being in a pool. A pool is a public space; a shower and a change room are private intimate spaces where people get undressed, where people wash their bodies and groom themselves.
The universal change rooms at Piccininni Community Centre
Female users of the Piccinini outdoor pool have complained of feeling uncomfortable and unsafe in this environment. They noted children are particularly vulnerable, especially those who go swimming without their parents. A wall separates the shower area into two sections so that you cannot see what is happening in the area around the corner of the wall.
Seniors felt unsafe. In one incident a group of teenage boys entered the change room with teenage girls; one of the boys suddenly started to kick in a stall change door. On another occasion, a young woman suffering from mental illness, wrapped herself in a towel and flashed her naked body to anyone who passed by.
The Universal Change Rooms at York Community Centre
We recently visited the York Community Centre on Black Creek Drive to see what the new universal change rooms at Wallace Emerson might look like. This is a new facility with universal change rooms that open onto the aquatic centre.
We spoke to two staff members and we asked them what they thought of the change rooms and if patrons gave them any feedback. They said there was great confusion at the beginning when the centre opened. They also said there have been incidents and inappropriate behaviour in the change rooms. They said they had to monitor the rooms frequently but don’t have the staffing in place to constantly be there. To us this does not appear to be a safe environment for anyone and especially for women and children.
We also asked the staff about showering. They did say that there were two gendered change rooms where one could take a shower without bathing suits but that there is no direct access to the pool deck from these change rooms. Patrons have to exit the universal change rooms with towels and go across a busy hallway to the other change rooms to shower. This does not make sense to us.
We then spoke to a mother who was in the universal change room with her young daughter. She said her daughter frequently uses the centre for swimming and she does not feel her daughter is safe left alone in the universal change rooms. She recounted many incidents of children and adults walking into stalls where there were other patrons changing. She said that many of the stall doors aren’t always closed as they should be. We noticed that rows of lockers create hidden areas.
She also said that if her daughter wanted to shower completely without a bathing suit she had to exit the universal change room and cross the busy hallway. She noted there should have been direct access to the pool deck from the Men’s and Women’s change rooms. The mother also said the toilet stalls were usually a mess.
In a time when our politicians are sexting photographs of themselves and others are accused of sexual assault; when not even teachers in public grade schools are allowed to enter a washroom with a student (in some schools they are not even allowed to hold a child’s hand) why are we asking kids to shower next to adult strangers of the opposite sex. It doesn’t make sense. The situation is not only difficult for women but for men too. What happens when a man accidentally touches someone or is accused of staring at someone in the shower or in the open change room?
The Vancouver model is a better model
We prefer solutions adopted elsewhere such as in the city of Vancouver. As seen here.
The Vancouver Park board enlisted a trans* and gender variant working group who in 2014 who issued a report to that city with the number 1 recommendation being to include “in the development of all new change rooms in aquatic facilities, 3 separate change rooms: Universal (U), Women (W), and Men (M).”
See page 19, in this report.
We prefer this option rather than eliminating the current male/female change rooms and forcing everyone to use one change area and one set of showers. If the city of Vancouver has done this (see also the new West Vancouver Community Centre, where there are three change room spaces, including women’s, men’s, and universal change rooms that open onto the pool deck), why can’t the city of Toronto?
Our suggestion then is that the design of any change booths and toilet stalls in the new Wallace-Emerson Centre incorporate door locks that indicate ‘vacant’ or ‘occupied’ and that there be 3 change rooms and that all 3 change rooms: Universal (U), Women (W), and Men (M) have direct access to the pool deck.
Has the city done any studies to see if providing only one universal change room is working out for patrons in the centres that have them? From our anecdotal feedback, women do not like universal change rooms because they do not feel safe in them. Are there emergency buttons in these new change rooms? We didn’t see any at the York Community Centre.
Pool water — why not provide a healthier choice instead of a heavily chlorinated pool?
At the October meeting we asked whether the pool will be salt-water. We were told it will not. Why not have a salt-water pool? This is an opportunity for the city to have its first salt-water pool in one of its centres. The JCC (Jewish Community Centre) has a salt-water pool and gives lessons and provides aqua-fit classes, etc., in its pool.
If this is really not an option, will the pool use an ozonated water treatment process that means chlorine levels are lower than in standard pools? This type of water treatment is used in the West Vancouver pool; see this information.
This type of pool water is better for asthma sufferers and people who have developed an allergic skin reaction to chlorine. When we walked into the open design at the York Community Centre we could smell the heavily chlorinated pool water everywhere we went. York Community Centre was a lost opportunity for the city to be more forward looking. Why let this happen to Wallace-Emerson?
The park and shadow effects from the towers
There was no mention of shadow effects from the tall buildings of the Galleria development on the park and what can be done about it. There was mention of wind effects having been studied but not shadow effects. Are the towers being constructed with this in mind?
There is no parking at the community centre. We were told that users of the community centre who drive there will have to pay for underground parking in the private development. There would be very limited street parking within the new development. Why not have underground parking in the new community centre just like the underground parking at North York Memorial Community Centre? We would rather pay Parks and Recreation for parking and not a private company.
Katie suggests that a small café be installed in the centre. Many non-profit community fitness centres, like local YMCAs and the Columbus Centre have cafés with healthy food choices for their patrons. Why can’t the city do this here?
Can the developer incorporate a vertical forest or other greening trends in their plans for the eight condo towers?
The final design of the private development is not known.
Can the massive development next to the park connect to the park and the community through greening?
Two interesting techniques have been adopted in Europe – a new cement smog-eating coating on buildings, paving, roofing tiles and for road construction is used in new developments. It was first tried on the façade of a church just outside Rome. Imagine that here.
Click here for a short article about it
And here for some more information from the Smithsonian
A vertical forest, at least on the lower terraced levels of the new development would enhance its connection to the park and make the development more attractive. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have vertical forests and smog-eating facades on new buildings all along Dupont Street?
Click here to see the very first vertical forest which was built in Milan
Click here for a Toronto Star article
Click here for a Globe and Mail article
How about a Vertical Field developed in Israel for growing food plants?
What will the site look like during the 15 years of construction? How will the developer make the Dufferin/Dupont corner and the massive development more neighbourhood friendly during this period?
What plan does the city have to deal with the disruptions caused by not only this development but the construction all along Dupont Street and at the corner of Dufferin and Bloor streets where another massive development is planned?
We were told at the presentation that the affordable rental units would be built in phase one along with the community centre. However, the project web site says the units will be built in phase four – the last phase scheduled for 2030. See http://reimaginegalleria.com/project/
In general we ask ourselves how will this massive development affect pedestrians on Dufferin Street and Dupont Street; how will it affect transit both public and private; what will the site look like visually? What plans are in place to deal with dust and other debris, noise, and vibrations? What action will deal with the displacement of rodents – a common problem when demolition occurs on large sites such as this one?
PHASING, FROM CITY OF TORONTO WEBSITE:
Phase 1 – Confirm Design and Consultation Process
Mid-February 2018 to March 31, 2018
Phase 2 – Initial Concept Directions and Program Development
Phase 3 – Community Consultation and Design:
April 2018 to early November 2018
Phase 4 – Conceptual Design
May 2018 to August 31, 2018
Phase 5 – Develop Detailed Design
September 2018 to November 30, 2018
Phase 6 – Site Plan Approval
December 2018 to start of construction
Phase 7 – Construction Start
Expected to begin in late 2019