metrolinx jane and finch

Province says Jane-Finch community hub will happen despite cancelled land donation

Metrolinx is facing mass censure this week, and not for the usual reasons like LRT construction delays or the impact that its long-running projects are having on local businesses — but because the Crown agency backed out of a promise to donate property for a much-needed arts and culture centre.

The parcel of land near Jane and Finch will be the location of a maintenance and storage facility for the forthcoming 18-stop Finch West LRT, and Metrolinx had told local politicians that the remainder of the lot could be used for a community hub, which neighbourhood organizations have as a result now spent years making plans for.

But then Humber River—Black Creek Councillor Anthony Perruzza received an email from the agency saying that it had decided to instead sell off the property to the highest-paying private purchaser.

Perruzza and Humber River—Black Creek NDP MPP Tom Rakocevic are among those concerned citizens who are calling for Metrolinx to honour its initial commitment, or for the province to step in and intervene to put "community before profit."

Peruzza was in attendance at a press conference Monday afternoon where the Jane Finch neighbourhood demanded further action in the situation.

The councillor told The Star last week that he feels as if the community has been "duped" and "misled," and that the City will "never be able to outbid developers" for the 100-foot-wide lot.

Premier Doug Ford and his team, meanwhile, stated at a media briefing today that he'll ensure the centre is built no matter what.

He and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney penned a letter to the chair of the Metrolinx board, as well as its CEO, reiterating the importance of the project and their desire to see it through.

"It's unfortunate to say the least that it wasn't formalized," Mulroney said about the initial promise, adding that the province is now waiting for Metrolinx to provide alternative options on paths forward. 

"This community hub will be built, it's part of the plan," she said. "We're just waiting for options."

Many have pointed out how desperately the neighbourhood, like most lower-income regions of the city, is in need of more public space for community activities.

But with transit ridership significantly down due to the health crisis and the economy in a recession, the donation of prime real estate might not be feasible for any business or Crown agency at the moment.

With pressure from the public mounting, it remains to be seen whether Metrolinx will reverse back to its original course, and if not, how plans for the centre will come to fruition.

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