Future downtown centre will 'raise the profile of Indigenous presence,' architect says

Preliminary designs and space ideas for the Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ICIE) were shared with the public Thursday. The space is meant to support Indigenous entrepreneurs looking to build businesses.

Plans for the Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship were revealed at a public meeting Thursday

The city is working with the local Indigenous community to develop the Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, set to open downtown by the end of 2020. Plans for the building were revealed at a public meeting earlier this week. (Natalie Valleau/CBC)

Members of the public caught a glimpse of design plans for a centre set to open in downtown Toronto next year — a space that will provide resources to Indigenous entrepreneurs. 

Initial designs and space ideas for the Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ICIE), which will be located at the corner of Jarvis and Dundas Streets, were shared on Thursday at a public meeting.

The building will provide a home for Indigenous entrepreneurs looking to access resources, advisory support, and workspace for their ventures, the City of Toronto said in a news release. 

The centre is set to open by the end of 2020. 

Ryan Gorrie, one of the architects on the project, said the design reflects the way Indigenous people gather — and who they are as people.

Ryan Gorrie, who's an Anishinaabe architect from Winnipeg, said he's helping transform the space to be more reflective of Indigenous culture. (Natalie Valleau/CBC)

"We're doing all that we can to help to transform the spaces in the public realm and, you know, really raise the profile of Indigenous presence," said Gorrie.

He said the building will have a multitude of options for entrepreneurs, such as desk rentals, meeting rooms, and opportunities to showcase work at artisan markets.

"We wanted to create a space where connectivity can happen, where resources are centralized," Gorrie said. "Where you can actually go to a space and connect with others and share your ideas." 

Architect Ryan Gorrie says the space will include both curved and linear designs. (Natalie Valleau/CBC)

One of the key features, he added, will be a traditional lodge that will act as an event space for gatherings and meetings.

"It allows an Indigenous sense of space to be present, as well as [playing] an important role in reminding us and connecting us back to some of our traditional typologies that we still use today," Gorrie said. 

'There is a lot of anticipation'

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam is involved with the project, and said Thursday's meeting received excellent feedback.

"You can't go wrong when you ask people what they want and they're pretty clear about the things that are important to them," she said. 

"I think that having indigenous knowledge and values informing the design and outcome is important."

Wong-Tam said that Indigenous leaders, elected officials, entrepreneurs, and academic institutions outside of Toronto are interested in the outcome of  the centre. 

"There is a lot of anticipation that will set the pace for what happens afterwards, and one of the results could be a network of these ICIE centres across the country," she said

'The right partners are involved'

Jarret Leaman is an entrepreneur from Magnetawan First Nation, who now runs multiple businesses in Toronto and has been involved in the development of the ICIE.

He said he's excited by the progress he's seen regarding the future of the space. 

"The thing about this building and this organization is that it will really help be a convener, so that way we can have appropriate conversations around Indigenous inclusion in technology and innovation," Leaman said.

Entrepreneur Jarret Leaman is the founder of the Centre for Indigenous Innovation and Technology. (Natalie Valleau/CBC)

Leaman is involved in the tech industry, and said a space like this means more recognition for Indigenous people — and more Indigenous presence in general.

"A lot of the times when I'm out for business or I'm at conferences speaking I'm kind of the only Indigenous person seen in the tech space," he said.

"I think that this building will really help start those conversations moving forward and I think the right partners are involved."