York Recreation Centre

Toronto, Ontario

At the centre of three multi-generational and multi-cultural low-income neighbourhoods in North Toronto, a unique parcel of land along the Black Creek ravine at the corner of a high-traffic intersection remained derelict and disconnected. The small, restricted site presented an opportunity to provide a facility for residents of these underserved neighbourhoods, many of whom routinely travelled to other pockets of the City in search of space for athletic programming and social gathering.

Through an extensive public consultation process with residents and the City, we collaborated to create a vibrant centre that hosts a diversity of spaces that serve the needs of individual and connecting programming. The new Recreation Centre is a catalyst for social, environmental, and urban growth. It is now a hub for the community that includes flexible multi-use spaces, a gymnasium, aquatics centre with gender-neutral universal change rooms, a recording studio, and a community kitchen.

In its first month of operation, the Centre was immediately embraced by the community with more than 10,000 residents signing up for its various programs and activities.

Protecting Ravine Ecology
The concept places strong emphasis on not only protecting the existing floodplain and ravine ecology, but also on improving this natural feature through the removal of invasive species, and armouring its embankments from further erosion.
Urban Renewal

Environmentally responsible from the start, the Centre was developed on a brownfield site, lessening the pressure for development on greenfield sites. Closely tied to the future Eglinton Crosstown LRT line, the project marks an important first step in the ongoing urban renewal of this once industrial zone of the City, becoming an important symbolic landmark for surrounding communities. Several challenges were successfully addressed in the project design including the remediation of its brownfield site and close integration with the environmentally-sensitive ravine.

“The community was integral to the development of this phenomenal facility that will serve as a space for residents to gather, learn and play together for many years to come.”

John Tory, Mayor, City of Toronto

Programming for the people
All programs run at the facility – including registered programming – are free.

Advocating a green approach to both the site and the building, the project employs several energy and water conservation features in its design. A large future green roof serves as a prominent feature, which also doubles as a rainwater collector and sunlight harvester. Remediation of the site involved the installation of an underfloor venting system to exhaust methane in the soil, indigenous drought resistant plantings, and extensive bio-swales at parking areas. The building employs smart lighting systems, heat recovery from the pool dehumidification system, a high-performance envelope (including a green roof) and a large PV array to reduce overall energy consumption by 40% better than the MNECB.

Community programs
Programming of the centre includes flexible multi-use spaces, a gymnasium, aquatics centre, a recording studio and community kitchen.

Universal change rooms, in lieu of the standard mix of gender specific and family change rooms, provide an open space concept that can be more easily supervised and maintained, while offering additional privacy for diverse users.

Community Hub

Using bold colours and generous glazing, the building blends with its natural ravine setting, while asserting a strong presence to the streetscape. This reinforces the Centre’s important civic function as a new community focal point for three distinct neighbourhoods.

Project Team

Duff Balmer
Phil Fenech
D’Arcy Arthurs