City land may not be used for recreation centre

“Doug” says he won’t be surprised if north-east Scarborough has to wait for another eight years before it gets a new community centre.

The Malvern resident, who wanted to stay anonymous because he has “exchanged some unfriendly e-mails with the [city] council,” said at a recent public meeting designed to get public input on the possibly facility there’s a great lack of recreation facilities in the region.

“When we moved in 19 years ago, there were not a lot of communities here, but you don’t have to be a genius to know all these things will be filled up,” Doug told the meeting on Oct. 25.

With a burgeoning population and a great diversity of immigrants, the communities of north-east Scarborough are currently trying to get a new centre built. However, concerns have surfaced that land allotted for building the new centre won’t be used for that purpose.

The region, bounded by Steeles Avenue in the north, the Pickering Townline in the east, Highway 401 to the south and Markham Road to the west, has a population of about 79,000, which will grow to 97,000 in the next 14 years.

The area is also home to a large number of new Canadians, with Malvern boasting the largest numbers of visible minority youth in the city.

According to Jim Morgenstern, Principal in dmA Planning & Management Services, the area’s limited community space is disproportionate to its soaring population.

“We need gymnasiums, large and small multipurpose rooms, classrooms, training facilities, youth lounges, multimedia centres, pre-school rooms and multi-purpose kitchens,” Morgenstern said of the facilities needed in a new community centre. “And it will be big enough. It’s not a room with only a ping pong table.”

The estimated cost of the new centre is over $11 million. Since the north-east Scarborough Recreation Facility Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study was launched a year ago, Village Securities North and South near Morningside Heights was designated as a potential building site.

The city had bought the property for $17 million in June.

“We urged the city to spend money to save the land so hopefully we can build a community centre on it. It’s not easy, and we did that,” said Ward 42 Councillor Raymond Cho.

However, no one can guarantee the land will be used to build the community centre.

“The city bought the land, but said they haven’t decided whether the community centre would be built on it,” said Riita Upshall, president of the Morningside Heights Residents Association. “Because they just spent $17 million on [the land], they don’t want to spend another $12 million [actually building the centre].”

Building the centre, won’t be on the city’s budget books for another five years, says the study group.