Public consultation for the future of St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts

Toronto City Council has “endorsed the replacement of St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts with a new reimagined centre that is a state-of-the-art cultural and civic hub for the city’s creative communities and the community at large.”

The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts redevelopment project is a longer-term infrastructure stimulus project that aligns with the mayor’s plan for recovery. The current investment in the project is minimal and focused on community consultation and planning, and doesn’t draw from much-needed immediate recovery funding. The project will deliver on four main pillars highlighted in the report from the cultural roundtable for the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Support and Recovery:

1. Provide equitable and inclusive access;
2. Invigorate the arts and culture work force;
3. Provide 21st century digital infrastructure; and
4. Strengthen a diverse neighbourhood.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for better digital tools for arts organizations across the city. STLC will be the first digitally enhanced 21st century facility in the country that will capture livestreaming, recording, and broadcasting.

STLC is in a poor state of disrepair and is not AODA compliant. The building condition audit estimates over $40 million worth of repairs and needed AODA fixes. The current building has not kept current with industry-wide standards, is inaccessible, and lack of public space. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the need to not only assist the recovery of the arts and culture sector but to invest in the City asset to redefine its use for the community and the city at large.

The newly imagined STLC will answer the long-term goal of providing an accessible, uniquely flexible civic cultural centre with plenty of public spaces that will serve the broad cultural sector and serve the neighbourhood and communities of Toronto. The consultation was designed to determine the community’s needs and create a business plan that will meet these needs. A key focus of the consultation was making sure STLC can provide space, diverse programming, and access to the arts while being financial sustainable.

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA)

We recognize the importance of bringing inclusion, diversity, equity, and access into every area of the STLC redevelopment project.

On September 15, 2020, Dr. David Mowat and Saäd Rafi submitted their report COVID-19 Impacts and Opportunities to the City of Toronto. The report contains a series of recommendations to focus the City’s recovery and rebuilding efforts, including applying an equity lens to place-making.

The authors note that “various governments have recognized that investments in infrastructure will be critical for Toronto’s and Canada’s recovery to COVID-19. Any stimulus funding for infrastructure should support Toronto’s effort to build back better and prioritize investments that support key priorities–all through an equity and resilience lens.”

We support this vision and commit to a public consultation process that is transparent, respectful, and welcoming to all, with a focus on engaging underrepresented communities.

Public engagement

TO Live and CreateTO were directed to engage in a public consultation process to reimagine STLC and report back to City Council with a building program, business model, and funding strategy to support an inclusive and visionary civic solution.

KerrSmith, an independent third-party facilitator, assisted in developing and executing a community engagement, facilitation, and communication strategy that would help the public understand the process for this project. Feedback received through this process will support the creation of a vision, design principles, and design brief that will inform the building program.

TO Live is in a key position to help in the recovery of both the arts and culture sector and the economy at large as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and focus on restoring, rebuilding and reimagining the city. This is a very timely opportunity to start a transformational project that will excite the cultural community and stimulate the local economy and neighbourhood businesses, creating a cultural corridor from Yonge to Parliament streets.

For more information about the City Council decision, please refer to the staff report:

http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2020.EX12.6

Broad project goals

The purpose of the consultation is to create a preliminary building program for a reimagined St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

The process will deliver a design brief that includes:

  • Project vision
  • Design principles
  • A functional building program
  • A demonstration plan and a site plan

STLC site overview

The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts property is a 0.4-hectare site in downtown Toronto located on Front Street opposite Berczy Park. It is in a high-density, mixed-use neighbourhood with access to nearby transit facilities, particularly Union Station. Bounded by Front Street East to the north, Scott Laneway to the south, Scott Street to the west, and historic Financial District to the west, it is a cornerstone in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood and represents a transformational opportunity to imagine a cultural corridor for the city.

The current St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, is a 9,300-sqaure-metre facility that houses:

  • a proscenium stage with 868 seats;
  • a 499 seat town hall space;
  • a 111-square-metre rehearsal hall for workshops, classes, and small events; and
  • two lobbies and one lounge with licensed bars for receptions.

Some of the most interesting architecture in the city can be found in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. Close to STLC is the notable Flatiron Building landmark. Toronto’s first city hall was built on the southwest corner of King St. East and Jarvis Street. This building was damaged by fire and replaced in 1854 by the elegant neoclassical St. Lawrence Hall.

This neighbourhood is a mixed-income, ethnically diverse community that includes a mix of affordable and subsidized rental housing, co-ops, condominiums, and single-family homes.

The St. Lawrence neighbourhood is located in Ward 13 Toronto Centre and is represented by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

 

Project partners

TO Live

TO Live is a non-profit charitable arts organization and an agency of the City of Toronto. Our venues include Meridian Hall (formerly the Sony Centre), St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, and Meridian Arts Centre (formerly Toronto Centre for the Arts). TO Live is at the heart of creative Toronto, presenting an unmatched breadth of entertainment, spaces for artistic expression, and a commitment to Toronto’s diverse community.

Our mission: TO Live believes that the arts are crucial to creating healthy, vibrant, and engaged diverse communities. TO Live strives for excellence in everything that we do. We are stewards of landmark City theatres and activate our spaces through programming and rentals. We are a creative hub for audiences, artists, and all those who work with us.

Our vision: To build a better city through the arts.

 

CreateTO

CreateTO was formed in 2018 as the City of Toronto’s new real estate agency. The organization brings together stakeholders, partners, and community members to ensure the best use of the City’s real estate assets for today and tomorrow. CreateTO manages the City’s $27 billion real-estate portfolio, develops City buildings and lands for municipal purposes, and delivers client-focused real estate solutions—ensuring a balance of both community and economic benefits.

Neighbourhood partners

The engagement process included consultations with three groups.

St. Lawrence neighbourhood residents

Toronto’s St. Lawrence neighbourhood has a vibrant and diverse population with mixed- use spaces and a mixed-income community. This family-friendly area of downtown features apartments and subsidized rental accommodations, with co-ops, condominiums, and individually owned houses. It is an engaged population with a wide range of interests, concerns, and civic involvement.

The St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood Association is the local neighbourhood association.

www.slna.ca

“The St. Lawrence neighbourhood is a vibrant and thriving neighbourhood…We look forward to what is next for the St. Lawrence Centre Centre for the Arts for increasing programming for the city as a whole….Locally speaking, these venues are an anchor for the public realm and stitch together Berczy Park and the St. Lawrence Market. This an important gateway for our community.”

Suzanne Kavanagh, Chair, St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association

 

St. Lawrence neighbourhood businesses

Over the years, the St. Lawrence neighbourhood has transformed from its early industrial era to a hub for culture, entertainment, business and real estate. This urban pocket blends commercial and retail, local and global, old and new, resulting in an animated, eclectic atmosphere that draws an equally diverse crowd. This area features lively restaurants, hotels, shops, artists’ hubs and the famous St. Lawrence farmer’s market attracting worldwide visitors.

The St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood BIA is a representative of the local business community.

www.stlawrencemarketbia.ca
www.oldtowntoronto.ca

“The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood has been blessed to have two of the city’s premier theatres within our catchment area…Their presence has a large influence on all aspects of our area and BIA: tourism, restaurants, retail, residents, new developments and commercial properties to name a few…We need them, and we need them operating at capacity. They are an integral part of recovery that will respond to the task by getting artists and arts companies back to work and reconnecting with their audiences.”

Al Smith, Executive Director, St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood BIA

 

Performing Arts and Culture Community in Toronto

Toronto is a global centre in the creation, production, and performance of the performing arts.

No other city in Canada has the same variety or breadth of offerings. The community is a very important contributor to the economy and cultural landscape. The performing arts is a vital sector to the people of Toronto and its economy with 70% of Torontonians regularly attending, volunteering, or donating to the arts. Many performing arts organizations offer programs for the community, including youth, artists, adults, and at-risk/equity groups.