When the Toronto Police Service moved out of 209 Mavety Street, local residents saw an opportunity.
The building at 209 Mavety Street, the former home of Toronto Police Service’s 11 Division, has stood empty since last fall, when the force was relocated to a new building. Built in the 1950s on a residential west-end street, it’s the kind of low-slung property developers love to get their hands on, but there’s a local community group aiming to do something a little different with the space.
The Junction Commons Project has been meeting weekly since November, hoping to figure out how to transform the empty building into a community hub. They’re taking their lead from other Toronto success stories. “We see this as a smaller Wychwood Barns,” says committee member Lynn Bishop. Other members are talking about an adult day care, a community garden, or a training kitchen for educating young people. The building has people excited. “It has a courtyard, and the basements are full of light,” says member Karin Kowalski. “It’s pretty amazing.”
The group is in its early stages, but the next few steps are crucial: the organizers need to get the City to agree to put a stay on any decisions about the building.
If the City cooperates, the stay will give the Junction Commons Project time to conduct a feasibility study, a process that can take up to nine months. The study will answer questions about what upgrades the building needs, and what services the neighbourhood wants.
Bishop hopes to have an answer soon, since the group is already applying for grants to help fund the study.
The project has letters of support from MP Peggy Nash and MPP Cheri DiNovo, as well as a recent petition with over a thousand signatures from people in the Junction. The organizers are well aware that they can’t move forward unless they have their neighbours on-side.
Mavety Street residents were recently invited to come share their thoughts with the committee. A handful of cautious yet open-minded locals attended the March 20 meeting. They were concerned about how a community centre would affect their property values and the flavour of the neighbourhood. “That area already has a lot of community infrastructure,” pointed out resident Damian Salter, referring to a nearby fire station and a correctional centre.
The message from Junction Commons Project members was that, far from being set in stone, plans for the former police station would evolve over the next few years. “We plan on holding a series of brainstorming sessions,” explained Bishop.
The Junction Commons Project includes local business owners, residents, architects, and non-profit experts. Committee members quote Jane Jacobs and use buzzwords like “community animation.” It’s clear they have momentum. The group posts its meeting minutes online, along with encouraging profiles of other neighbourhood projects in Toronto. As Bishop puts it: “We need to ask the community where we’re at. We love the neighbourhood, love the colour. This is something we want to make for us.”