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$24M pledged for arts centre in Toronto's Regent Park

Ontario and the federal government have pledged $24 million to create a new arts and cultural centre in Regent Park, a low-income Toronto neighbourhood that is undergoing revitalization.

Ontario and the federal government have pledged $24 million to create a new arts and cultural centre in Regent Park, a low-income Toronto neighbourhood that is undergoing revitalization.

Federal Transport Minister John Baird and provincial Culture Minister Aileen Carroll announced funding for the 68,000 sq. ft. project at a news conference Wednesday.

Ottawa and Ontario have each put forward $12 million, and the centre is to be built on land owned by the Toronto Housing Authority.

The centre is part of a 15-year redevelopment project to bring mixed-income housing, parks, stores and social services to the inner-city neighbourhood, which in the past was known primarily for poverty and crime.

"The old social housing projects didn't really have a strong cultural platform," said Tim Jones, president of Artscape, one of the project partners. "In the newcomer community, we think that culture plays a really important role in introducing people to each other and breaking down barriers."

The arts centre will include office space and studio areas for arts groups and a performance space suitable for festivals, celebrations and other events. Construction will begin in early 2010, with completion expected by March 2011.

"The vision for it has grown right out of the community, and we really engaged with local groups currently in Regent Park and the surrounding area to understand what the needs and interests and aspirations were and put them together into a multi-faceted performance, rehearsal space," Jones told CBC News. "There'll be programs for youth, all kinds of things going on."

Dance company Coleman Lemieux already makes Regent Park its home.

The city began its plan to replace low-income housing in Regent Park in 2005. The first families moved into mixed-use housing this May.

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