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The Globe and Mail

Heritage schools repurposed for arts, culture and the public

Here are two examples - one in Toronto and another in Calgary - of decommissioned schools that have been given a new life after arts groups, private developers and communities worked together

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Artscape Youngplace has reinvented the former Shaw Street School in Toronto’s West Queen West neighbourhood. After a $17.5-million renovation, the four-storey heritage building reopened this week as a new space for artists, cultural organizations, a children’s centre, coffee bar and public lounge.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

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Before: the wide hallways of the former public school which closed in 2000. The property sits on 0.7 acres and was sold for $1.5-million to Artscape, a not-for-profit developer of affordable space for artists in Toronto.


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After: The broad hallways now showcase artwork at Artscape Youngplace. Here the hallway is prepared for the building's opening.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

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Before: The wide stairwells in the former Shaw School.


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After: An art installation by Seth Scriver entitled “Ookie Ookie’s Trip (Nude Ball Descending a Staircase)” now captivates stair climbers at Artscape Youngplace.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

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Turn left from the main entrance and the hallway pays homage to the building’s former life with an installation of school clocks. All the clocks stopped at about 8:30, when the power to the public school was cut in 2000.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

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Turn right from the main entrance and tree trunks and blocks of wood animate the hallway space and invite the community in. On the mezzanine level, in the space that formerly housed the guidance department, is the Artscape Coffee Pub. It is connected by a short staircase to the Urban Living Lounge on the main floor. Both places are intended to welcome the public.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

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Tim Jones, president of Artscape, in a former classroom. Artscape will offer market and below-market leases to a variety of tenants, with fundraising and other revenue sources to ensure the new hub is sustainable.

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The Koffler Centre of the Arts is one of the new Artscape Youngplace tenants. In addition to administration offices, it has room to display art in the Koffler Gallery.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

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A piece by Adam David Brown entitled “New Order” is displayed in the Koffler Gallery. The group took over what was once the library of the former Shaw Street School and its first exhibition, entitled “We’re in the Library” was inspired by the room’s original use.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

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A work by Barbara Astman entitled “The Fossil Book” is displayed in the exhibition, curated by Mona Filip.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

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In Calgary, the former King Edward school in the southwest neighbourhood of Marda Loop is also being repurposed.

Angus Mackenzie

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The public school board sold the King Edward school to cSPACE Projects, a non-profit developer of affordable space for artists and social entrepreneurs. At the east and west ends of the property, cSPACE sold 1.4 acres of rezoned land to two developers for single-family, medium-density and seniors housing.

cSPACE/Nyhoff Architecture

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The organization purchased the heritage sandstone building, vacant since 2003 at 1720 30th Ave. S.W., for $8-million.

cSPACE/Nyhoff Architecture

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The land sales of $9.5-million will defray the $22-million renovation. “We worked very hard with the local community about what good density would look like,” says cSPACE president Reid Henry.

cSPACE/Nyhoff Architecture

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cSPACE King Edward will reopen in 2015 as an arts hub and incubator, with 10 live-work units for artists. Read the full story about these two projects at the link below: School’s out – and reinvented spaces are in.

cSPACE/Nyhoff Architecture

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