A new Rec Centre in Toronto links three neighborhoods

Community engagement impacts its design and programming.

July 17, 2017 |

The Toronto York Recreation Centre serves three communities that participated in a number of design sessions with the project's Building Team. Image: Tom Arban Photography

The 72,000-sf Toronto York Recreation Centre in Ontario, which opened officially on April 23, is situated at the intersection of three neighborhoods: Mount Dennis, Keelesdale, and Rockcliffe.

The centre, which is owned by the city of Toronto and operated by its Parks, Forestry, and Recreation department, is free to the public. And since April through early July 10,000 people had signed up for its various programs. “We see this centre as a catalyst for growth,” says Duff Balmer, OAA, NSAA, MRIAC, Design Principal for Perkins +Will Canada Architects, which designed the building.

The rec centre cost 27.147 million Canadian dollars (US$21.45 million) to build. It was one of the initiatives that sprang from Toronto Mayor David Miller’s Strong Neighborhoods Task Force. It includes a 25-meter, six-lane indoor pool, double gym, fitness studio, weight room, indoor track, kitchen, five multipurpose rooms, and universal change rooms.


Lots of natural light streams into the rec centre's double gymnasium. Image: Tom Arban Photography


P+W engaged in “extensive” community outreach during the design process, which to Balmer’s surprise attracted a lot of younger people. Those sessions led to the inclusion of the track, a viewing gallery for the pool, a dance studio, and a music room.

“We also heard a lot about the need for safety,” says Balmer, which translated into streaming more natural light into the spaces. (The gym is the most obvious manifestation of this.)


The site of this 72,000-sf facility is complicated by being on the banks of a ravine for the Black Creek River. The landscape architect was Fleisher Ridout Partnership. Image: Tom Arban Photography


Prior to the rec center, this site had been underutilized. It had a raggedy baseball diamond, and its access area had devolved into a dumping ground that needed to be remediated before construction could begin.

The site is located on the west bank of a ravine along the Black Creek River, and the building needed to be positioned outside of the river’s floodplain, which limited the amount of land it had to work with.


A 25-meter, six-lane pool is one of the rec centre's features. Image: Tom Arban Photography


On the positive side, a vehicular bridge built over the river connects the rec centre to Keelesdale Park. And the facility, which is about eight miles from downtown Toronto, will be located near a train station for the new Metrolinx Eglinton Crosstown light-rail line, which is currently under construction.

The rec center was substantially completed last December and had a soft opening on February 18. The project’s hard and soft costs totaled C$33.27 million. The Building Team included Bondfield Construction Company (GC), the city’s Capital Projects unit (project manager), and Fleisher Ridout Partnership (landscape architect).

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