News
2 min

Groups expected to scramble for 519 space

Community Centre nears start of phase two renovations

Renovations at the 519 Community Centre are going to continue until mid-2008, as executive director Alison Kemper forecasts a “horrible, horrible year” in 2007.

“It’s going to be a miserable year and we have to be very kind to each other,” Kemper told members at the centre’s annual general meeting last week. “If we can all take care of one another over the next year or year and a half, we will be very happy to work together on this thing. And let’s not kill each other in the meantime.”

Phase one of the $6-million renovation opened in June, and though the new wing is unfinished, has been used for various shows and meetings. But the new wing will need to be closed early this winter to permit work on its interiors. Once that work is finished, the centre’s operations will move over to the new wing, so the original building can be extensively renovated and restored. The original structure is slated to be rewired, receive new foundations and have the walls and floors repaired.

The 519 provides space to dozens of groups like Crystal Meth Anonymous, the Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee, Rainbow Ballroom Dancing and the Older Women’s Book Club. During renovations, many programs will continue to be held within the building, but some may be moved off site.

“We want to make The 519 the jewel of Church St, of the whole community,” Salah Bachir told AGM attendees. The chair of the capital campaign for the renovations, Bachir was elected to the 519 board at the meeting. “We’ve had people from all over the world say, ‘Wow, you guys are so lucky to have this.'”

The meeting also marked the end of a five-year tenure for board chair Michelle Douglas, who is leaving to chair Free The Children, an international children’s development organization. Douglas says one of her greatest accomplishments, was “to get the support of the community and to get the kind of financial resources needed to build this beautiful building.”

The new chair is TV personality Mathieu Chantelois.

STRETCHING ITS MISSION?

The board of the 519 Community Centre is asking Torontonians whether the centre should expand its mandate to specifically mention service to “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered/transsexual, queer communities.”

Though many people consider The 519 to be something of a queer centre, it’s not explicit in its mission statement, which defines its users as being a part of the “vital and varied downtown community.”

“We’re not finished collecting all the information yet,” Joan Anderson, vice-chair of The 519 board, says of the survey, which will continue till the end of October.

The 519 is also asking people whether the boundary of its catchment area should be expanded. Right now anyone living in Toronto can use the programs and services there, but only those living in the catchment area are allowed to vote or become members.

The boundaries now run from Bay to Parliament, Bloor to Gerrard. A new proposal would move the boundaries to include Queen to the CP tracks in Rosedale and University to the Don Valley Parkway.