Students have say on YMCA

Virginia Dimoglou of the Kingston Road YMCA gets design ideas from students in the Grade 12 architecture class at Neil McNeil High School. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Virginia Dimoglou of the Kingston Road YMCA gets design ideas from students in the Grade 12 architecture class at Neil McNeil High School.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Students in Neil McNeil’s Grade 12 architecture class recently got an inside tip from the people designing a new YMCA on Kingston Road.

Think flexible.

Across the city in the century-old West End Y is a former bowling alley that turned into a weight room, said Virginia Dimoglou, assistant manager of the Kingston Road Y.

Today, she said, it’s a childcare centre.

When it opens two years from now, the Kingston Road Y will have six storeys of condos stacked above it and three levels of parking below.

That means support columns for the building have to clear a large gym and a pool, but still allow for tiered parking and some 95 suites.

As architect Andrew Filarski put it, with such a mixed-use building, “You’re dancing around what’s above and below you.”

While it still has some ways to go, Filarski said the latest design software does make it easier for architects to get those moves right.

Eventually, he said, such software will produce a scale model so detailed that an engineer or tradesperson can work straight from it, rather than having to draw up separate plans.

Even then, Filarski said architects will need to consider not only the final product, but also how crews will actually construct each part of the building.

Too often, there is a “disconnect” between designers and builders, he said.

Alex Versluis agrees.

Now vice president of real estate for the Toronto YMCA, Versluis worked as a carpenter before he became a civil engineer and design consultant.

“Being part of constructing a building was so valuable when I started on the consulting side,” he said.

Neil McNeil teacher John Scalpello said he often tells students that designing and building are two sides of the same coin.

“You should understand how something goes together – you can design it more effectively,” said Scalpello.

Scalpello said some students learned that the hard way during a recent assignment that had them build wood models of their dream homes.

“What they found is some of their designs just didn’t work – like a basketball court in the middle of your living room,” he said, laughing. “They’re already designing their own YMCAs.”

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“When it opens two years from now” ???

This building has not yet been approved by city council, since it requires a rezoning AND an Official Plan Amendment.

That being said, it will likely be approved because Councillor McMahon and other have bought into this, despite it violating many of the “guidelines:” that are supposed to be maximums.

There is no justification for a building this large on this location, and the fact that the Y will be in a small part of the building is no justification for letting a private developer get the extra height and density. In addition, the Y is asking for money from governments and from the private sector.

As someone with an architecture background myself, these design design is less driven by the designer and more by planning rules and economics – maximising profit. So this condo will have a massively huge wall permanently towering over the tiny CIBC, which will never be redeveloped given the tiny lot.

This is the wrong place for the Y – it is hard to get to by transit for immigrants and people needing social services – the Y was not set up to primarily benefit soccer mums and rich kids.

No doubt, the students only got one side of the story here. The Y and the developer are pulling out all the Public Relations stops to get this rammed through!

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