Public Consultation for the Future of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
Toronto City Council has “endorsed the replacement of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts with a new re-imagined centre as 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 and aligns with the Mayor’s plan for recovery. The current investment in the project is minimal and focused on community consultation and planning thereby not drawing 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 enhanced digital capabilities for arts organizations across the city. The Centre will be the first digitally enhanced 21st century facility in the country that will capture live streaming, recording and broadcasting.
The St. Lawrence Centre is in a poor state of disrepair and is not AODA compliant. The building condition audit for the STLC is in excess of $40M worth of repairs and needed AODA corrections. The current building has not kept current with industry-wide standards, is inaccessible and has a massive deficiency in 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 usage for the community and the city at large.
The newly imagined Centre will answer the long-term goal of providing an accessible, uniquely flexible civic cultural centre with ample public spaces that will serve the broad cultural sector and serve the neighbourhood and communities of Toronto. The consultation Is Intended to determine the needs the community In order to determine a business plan that will deliver on these needs. Consultation includes provision of space and diverse programming to balance access with financial sustainability.
Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA)
We recognize the imperative to include representatives from under-represented marginalized communities and to view this consultation through a lens of inclusion, diversity, equity and access.
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 opportunities.
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 designed to be transparent, respectful and welcoming to all with a particular emphasis on engaging underrepresented communities.
TO Live and CreateTO have been directed to engage in a public consultation process to re-imagine the Centre and to 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, has been retained to assist in developing and executing a community engagement, facilitation and communication strategy that will assist the public in understanding the process for this undertaking. Feedback received through this process will support the development of a vision, design principles and design brief that will inform the building program.
TO Live is in a key position to assist 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 an extremely timely opportunity to begin a transformational initiative that will galvanize the cultural community, as well as 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: