CityPlace isn't supposed to be just for condos. Long-planned schools coming ... eventually
Official plan calls for two schools, child-care facilities, community centre, library and public space
A Toronto councillor says the approval process for future condominium developments should require that the social infrastructure — schools, community centres and parks — be built at the same time as the high-rise towers after residents of CityPlace have been forced to wait years for the promised amenities.
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When some families moved into the complex, they were told about the other aspects of the community that were part of the official plans approved by the city: two child-care facilities, two large parks, a library, a community centre and two schools (one public, one Catholic).
Even though those plans were finalized in the 1990s, the land on which the complex is to be built remains an empty field. The developer and the city say work will begin soon, with completion scheduled for 2019.
But for some parents, it may end up being too late.
Samantha Lee's children are eight and 10. One attends school at Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West, and another near Bathurst and College streets.
Her family moved into the neighbourhood because they wanted to enjoy the benefits of living downtown and walking to work.
When they visited the CityPlace sales office 14 years ago, they were drawn in by the idea that one day, a school would be nearby.
"It was like, 'Great, we could live here,'" Lee told CBC Toronto.
The family lives directly across from the land that will house the school.
"The ultimate wish is just to walk across the street," Lee said. She added that it would be a great way for other parents and families to get to know one another in a community that will eventually be home to 20,000 residents.
"It would create a more family community," she said.
Dad Mike Farinaccio has seen the plans for the complex and said he's glad to hear the plan is moving forward. His children go to another school, but he would consider transferring them to a CityPlace school.
"I live across the street, so it would make a big difference in terms of picking up the kids and dropping them off," Farinaccio said.
'There's no hold-up'
Coun. Joe Cressy, whose ward includes CityPlace, said the plan always called for the complex to be completed once sufficient funds from development levies were collected. That means CityPlace had to be nearly complete before work on the complex could begin.
"There's no hold-up," Cressy told CBC Toronto.
The city, the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board and other stakeholders have worked with residents over the years on the design of the complex, he added.
The 2019 completion date corresponds with completion of the final two blocks of the CityPlace site.
But if he had been involved in the negotiations back in the 1990s, Cressy said, he would ensure that the residential and social infrastructure be completed on a similar schedule.
"There's a lesson to this, though, which is that the social infrastructure needs to come alongside the tower infrastructure," Cressy said. "It should not be towers before social infrastructure. They should come on board at the same time."
Marj Poole has lived in CityPlace for seven years, and now has a 14-month-old daughter. When she moved in and saw the empty lot, she assumed high towers would be going in.
She said she likes raising her young family at CityPlace, with amenities like grocery stores within walking distance. A Toronto Public Library branch opened at Fort York Boulevard and Bathurst Street opened in 2014.
Poole was happy to learn that two schools are planned for the area.
"I'd love to send her there," she said of her daughter. "It would be so convenient."
With files from Ali Chiasson