1 min

Sitting pretty

Can it be a coincidence that a design for a new step-less version of Church St’s famous steps was circulating the same week as a new amply-stepped design for The 519 Community Centre? One hand giveth steps while the other taketh away.

At the Village Centre, the buildingon the south-west corner of Church and Wellesley, some tenants have not been happy with the people hanging outon the steps the last couple of years. They’re younger, more drug-addledand generally more abrasive than the people-watching (read: man-ogling)gay men who first started hanging outin front of the Second Cup back in the early 1980s.

And so Signature Property Management has drawn up a renovation proposal that would extend the front wall of the street-front businesses rightto the sidewalk. There would be narrower steps going up to each business, but barely room anywhere to lounge and gab. The same would happenat the building to the south, which houses Reither’s and Baskin Robbins – business windows would be right on the sidewalk.

Signature’s Dane Fader sounds tentative about the reno plan, hoping that an upcoming initiative with more lighting and late-night classical music will be enough to discourage motley crews. Fader doesn’t want to upset the neighbourhood homos: “The last thing we want to do is affect that historical use of the steps. But if changing the steps doesn’t cause a negative perception, we’d look at going ahead.”

Former steps-sitter Bob Tivey says losing the steps would be a sad thing and hopes they’ll experience a revival.

“To me, it felt like a community there,” says Tivey, who now goes to Timothy’s to hang out. “It’s sad, but I guess everything changes.”

Meanwhile up the street, the official launch last week of the capital campaign for the 519 Community Centre showed a $5-million expansion with lots of steps out front.

“We wanted to create a place on Church St that would address the street in a more direct way,” says architect John Shnier. “I’m all for giving public spaces. We live in a city that’s taking it away.”

The plan, which drops a three-storey modern extension into the south side of Cawthra Square Park, also moves the café to the front of the building and gives it a patio.