The Wendat name Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ (pronounced Etta-nonna wasti-nuh) translates to “where they had a good, beautiful life.”—a fitting name and vision for the City of Toronto’s latest Community Centre and Library, which hopes to add joy and happiness to the lives of those who use it.

“It’s an aspiration of the new community centre and library is to help the community to have a good and beautiful life for many years to come,” says Mario Pecchia, Program Manager, Capital Projects Design and Delivery from Parks, Forestry and Recreation at the City of Toronto.”

Indeed, the new facility will meet the needs of approximately 10,000 to 12,000 residents living in the surrounding community. The facility is slated to open this July for recreation programming and will offer summer CampTO programs – and spaces are still available. The official City of Toronto ribbon cutting ceremony will take place later this year.

To say the local community is excited is an understatement. The facility will replace former distribution and warehouse site and bring in a multi-use Community Recreation Centre with an Aquatic Centre, Child Care Centre and a Toronto Public Library branch—with much needed services and programs that will contribute to the wellbeing of the community now and for future generations.

“The project was advanced in order to respond to the high level of population growth and increased density, resulting from the redevelopment of a in this area of Toronto,” says Pecchia. “The official plan framework for the redevelopment of the lands was set out in the Sheppard East Secondary Plan.”

The site is adjacent to a significant Huron-Wendat archaeological site, the Moatfield Ossuary and village, where inhabitants live long and healthy lives in relative peace. “City staff have engaged the Huron- Wendat Nation throughout the project and as the project nears completion will continue to engage in dialogue regarding programming initiatives, as well as the selection of indigenous art pieces that will be installed in the building,” says Pecchia.

“In 2019, the City of Toronto’s Indigenous Affairs Office engaged the Huron-Wendat Nation and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation to understand how the City could commemorate the site and foster dialogue between current residents and Indigenous communities.”
Ultimately, the Wendat name, Ethennonnhawahstihnen’, was suggested by the Huron-Wendat Nation, which means, as stated above, “where they had a good, beautiful life”.

In October 2019, North York Community Council approved renaming the street and adjacent park (formerly called “Woodsy”) to Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ Lane and Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ Park. Public consultations at the time showed strong support for the renaming which was considered a meaningful recognition and Indigenous placemaking, as well as a step towards the advancement of reconciliation.

In 2021, the City further engaged the Huron-Wendat Nation to understand their interest in extending the name Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ for the new community recreation centre and library facility. In March 2022, the Aboriginal Affairs Advisory Committee endorsed the name, says Pecchia.

As any project of this size and scope, some challenges in the construction process were inevitable, for example, finding more ground water than expected during the underground parking evacuation. “We were able to work through them methodically and in a collaborative fashion,” says Pecchia.

The building site itself is long and narrow with high-density mixed-use towers to the east, single-family homes to the west and an existing public transit station to the north. The design was influenced by the topography which lent itself to a split-level stacked building program. The architects designed two bar-shaped volumes of unequal heights: to the west a lower, narrower bar allows for a nine-metre setback facing the single-family homes, buff¬ered by a landscaped area of terraces and a playground for the childcare centre (the western bar also houses meeting, art, and game rooms, and a teaching kitchen).

The upper levels of the taller four-storey eastern bar are split into two volumes of unequal height. The east¬ern bar features full-height windows along its primary façade for transpar¬ency to an interior gymnasium and running track, multipurpose activity room, and dance and fitness studios. Both volumes intersect with a street level aquatics centre and library via a 4-storey atrium that includes a main feature stair.

A vegetated roof canopy colonnade lead toward the main entrance along the east side of the building stretching from Sheppard Ave to the parking garage entrance provides pedestrians with covered walkway at grade, says Pecchia. 10 per cent of the facility’s power had to be generated on site and the roof was topped with pho¬tovoltaic panels. Some of the facility’s other sustainability measures focus on the site’s water strategy, including bio¬swales and stormwater drainage and retention; additionally, passive light and temperature control was incorpo¬rated both inside and out.

A project like this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it will service the community is many tangible ways, both predicted and delightfully unexpected.

“Overseeing the delivery and being involved in a project of this magnitude has made my entire career as a public servant feel rewarding,” says Pecchia. “My role provides me the unique opportunity to work with a large team of dedicated individuals, whose work directly contributes to the long-term health and wellbeing of residents who use and love the facilities we build. It incredible to see a project through the many stages; planning, design and community engagement, and into to the construction process. To see the vision come to reality is very fulfilling. Knowing that I had a small part in changing the urban fabric of the city and ensuring the community will be well served with a facility that will last for many generations to come, is truly a legacy in one’s career.”

For more information about the new facility and the program offerings, please visit the facility website.