West Queen West Condos

What's next for West Queen West (besides condos)

Last week, the top-floor windows of The Great Hall were illuminated by the West Queen West Neighbourhood Party. Helmed by Active 18, the event served up cocktails, snacks, beats from DJ duo Muscle and Heat, and most importantly, an opportunity for the neighbourhood to mingle. The evening also saw the public presentation of several proposed artist-directed projects in the heart of West Queen West, chief among them a park and an artist's centre.

First, why did such an old and storied sector of Toronto need a meet-n-greet? Because its population is swelling, vertically, thanks to its cresting wave of condo developments. Active 18 launched six years ago when the West Queen West triangle was first set to become saturated with condos. Organized as a quick-fire response to what the members saw as a drastic interruption of the local artistic ecosystem, the group made headlines with its efforts to save 48 Abell, the 19th century warehouse that was finally knocked down earlier this year. It's been a dramatic saga in the area — one that's seen them take on the Ontario Municipal Board. A spokesperson for the group says it was born out of developers' tendency to "treat a space as if it's empty, when it isn't."

Here's a closer look at two of their current projects, neither of which is finalized:

The Park

This project aims to transform an abandoned parking lot and part of a development site into a space that's as multimedia-friendly as it is green. Jeremy Craig, senior designer for Victor Ford and Associates, landscape architects for the project, says this won't look like Trinity Bellwoods. Instead, he envisions "visible architecture to allow artists to activate art in different ways." The park will be serviced throughout with power, interactive lighting and various plug-ins for sound systems. The planning stages began early last year and while the City's been remarkably pliable thus far, even increasing their budget, Craig anticipates some challenges once the design is finalized. They're hoping to put shovels in the ground summer 2013.

TMAC (Toronto Media Arts Cluster)

The idea of TMAC was born in 2004, with a mission statement declaring a need to "establish a modern-arts facility that will increase the visibility and accessibility of Toronto's media-based artists' organizations." It's an interesting off-set to the evident erosion of the local artist community as they're currently in talks to install the project on the first 2 floors (comprising almost 40,000 square feet) of a condo. Talk about sleeping with the enemy. TMAC aims to operate under a creative cluster model with shared amenities and will serve as home to about 10 media groups as well as a theater.

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