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Ontario government agrees to donate Metrolinx LRT land for Jane and Finch community hub

Click to play video: 'Rally held in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood over Metrolinx land for community hub' Rally held in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood over Metrolinx land for community hub
WATCH ABOVE: Community members and stakeholders held a rally calling for answers after Metrolinx allegedly 'reneged' on a deal to donate a parcel of land for the Jane-Finch Community Hub – Jul 27, 2020

Months after residents in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood rallied at the site of a proposed community hub and called on the Ontario government and Metrolinx to come through with the land needed to build the centre, officials confirmed that the land will indeed proceed.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney made the announcement in a statement Thursday afternoon, noting the government “recognize(s) the importance of recreation, arts, education and community-building.”

“That’s why we are providing the land at no cost to the city so area residents can have a vibrant community hub and arts centre that will offer a variety of services and programs,” she wrote.

Read more: Jane and Finch neighbourhood rallies in support of community hub, urges Metrolinx land commitment

Coun. Anthony Perruzza, who represents the neighbourhood on Toronto city council, said he’s “grateful” for the announcement and that planning for the 65,000-square-foot Jane-Finch Community Hub and Centre for the Arts can continue into the next phase.

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“Today’s announcement fulfills a longstanding commitment to the neighbourhood for a local project that will meet the community’s needs,” he wrote in a statement Thursday afternoon.

In July, residents and Perruzza called for a commitment to transfer the property.

They said Metrolinx staff told them the land in question, located on Finch Avenue West between Jane Street and Highway 400 and part of a larger parcel of property beside the Finch West LRT storage facility that will be sold off after the transit line opens, would be donated to the community and the City of Toronto.

Click to play video: 'Future of community hub in Jane and Finch neighbourhood remains unclear' Future of community hub in Jane and Finch neighbourhood remains unclear
Future of community hub in Jane and Finch neighbourhood remains unclear – Jul 23, 2020

Perruzza said at the time he was told the whole parcel of property — potentially worth millions of dollars — was going to be sold on the open market, raising concerns that the land value would effectively end development of the community hub.

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“We’ll never be able to outbid developers … that’s not possible, that’s not doable. That’s why we need to hold their feet to the fire and they need to honour their commitment,” he said.

Butterfly GoPaul, who lives and works in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood and helped organize a rally to advocate for the property, pointed to a lack of social and recreational infrastructure in the area.

Read more: Jane-Finch Community Hub project’s future uncertain as Metrolinx looks at land sale options

“Given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our already underserved and under-resourced area, a significant increase of social infrastructure investments in our community is urgently needed,” she said at the time.

At the time, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said the agency is supportive of the community hub plan. However, he noted that staff were looking at ways to increase development on a larger parcel of the land aside from the community hub.

Mulroney previously said she and Premier Doug Ford advocated for the land to be used for community purposes.

On Thursday, officials said the community hub could also have “economic empowerment programming” and other services under the province’s Black youth action plan.

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