Globe and Mail features Block 31 development project

Two schools planned on Toronto waterfront to share one building

It’s hard to build a new school in Toronto these days, but it may be impossible to do it alone, as the city’s public and Catholic boards are learning.

A school is finally coming to the high-rise community of waterfront condos southwest of downtown, near Spadina Avenue and Fort York Boulevard. Rather, it will be two elementary schools housed in one building, along with a community centre and daycare. Architects unveiled images of their newest plans this week.

The shared space is the result of an early-nineties financial agreement that set aside money for both school boards, but it’s also the newest of a small handful of similar projects. The joint schools can pose logistical challenges, and the waterfront schools aim to be the most integrated yet with the help of features such as removable crucifixes.

“I just think it was an evolution,” said Angelo Sangiorgio, a top planner at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. “I don’t know if it’s better or worse. I just think that there are opportunities.”

The two school boards say they are getting better at squeezing the benefits out of joint or mixed-use school buildings. And honing that system will come increasingly handy in Toronto’s densifying urban core, where more than 100 high-rises and skyscrapers have been under construction at any given time in the past few years. Toronto is growing vertically more quickly than any other North American city, according to Hamburg-based research firm Emporis.

Accommodating burgeoning neighbourhoods isn’t easy for any of the city’s school boards, which are either cash-strapped or land-strapped or both, but the TCDSB and Toronto District School Board are getting a break on the waterfront. And they say the mixed-use plans will provide more for students than either board could provide alone.

The architects are also meeting an unprecedented need in Toronto, where large-scale condo living is relatively new, so Mr. Cressy organized a series of public meetings for design feedback. Peter Duckworth-Pilkington of ZAS Architects knew from friends in Vancouver what it’s like to raise three children in a 500-square-foot loft.

“The only way to survive was basically to be out as much as possible,” he said.

He and fellow architects designed a building whose C-shape will help shield it from the noise of the Gardiner Expressway while connecting it with the existing park across the street. Parents asked them to go a step further.

“One of the big things that came out of the community meeting was the need for kids to burn off some steam in the winter,” he said. “So we added an indoor playground space.”

They increased the size of lobbies to create meeting places. People with backyards take some things for granted, said Mr. Duckworth-Pilkington: “places to have birthday parties for your kids, these kinds of things.”

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Source: Ross, Selena “Two schools planned on Toronto waterfront to share one building” The Globe and Mail, 2015-06-24