From a Police Station to a Community Hub

Many diverse people standing around a sign that reads East Scarborough Storefront
Celebrating 20 Years of Community-Building
7 January, 2021 – by Nadia Heyd, The Storefront’s Donor Relations Coordinator

Did you know that 2021 marks the 20th Anniversary of East Scarborough Storefront? To celebrate this milestone, we’ll be sharing a piece of The Storefront’s history each month throughout the year right here on our blog!   

Today marks the day that The Storefront moved into our current location at 4040 Lawrence Avenue East back in 2007.  Prior to this day, we had been operating from the former Morningside Mall (but that’s a story for another time…)  

If you know our building, you probably think of it as a vibrant and welcoming space.

Bonus points if you know the building’s history (it used to be a police substation…very different-looking!) 

The first time Storefront staff stood in the building, we were introducing a group of local partners to the space.  There was no electricity and no heat. It was a chilly day and everyone wore coats, but 27 people showed up. The floors were concrete, and the walls were a weird grayish-pink shade, that can still be seen on the walls in the back hallway. Words that were used to describe the space were stark, institutional and depressing. 

Fast forward a few years: through the work of our Community Design Initiative, local youth – mentored by architects, planners and designers – reimagined the space.  They learned about engineering and architecture, developed their knowledge about functional design, and made all practical decisions about the redevelopment of the space.

They learned about things like load-bearing walls, foundational integrity and accessible design. The way our founder tells the story “As long as the decisions were functionally sound and supportive of the work that gets done in the space, youth were given decision-making power.” 

Though a global pandemic is keeping us out of our space at the moment, we are proud of the community meeting place and social services hub that our building has become. In 2019, we logged over 48,000 visits from local residents, who used the space to connect to services, supports and each other. The building contains a computer lab, an employment centre, a commercial grade kitchen that gets used by resident groups, partners and local entrepreneurs, meeting rooms and community offices. Our outdoor spaces include sports courts, a gathering space, and community gardens.

Due to the pandemic, our building is currently closed and we’re doing our best to support community members by phone and online.  We’re also working on ensuring that our space is as safe as possible for when we can open again.  We’re looking at upgrading some of our windows to the kind that can be opened, and installing some medical-grade air purifiers.  If you’re one of the generous people who responded to our 2020 year-end appeal in support of improved ventilation and indoor air quality, thank you!

We’ll be back next month to share another slice of The Storefront’s history.  If you have a Storefront memory to share, I hope you’ll reach out to me at nheyd@thestorefront.org to let me know! You might see your Storefront memory featured in a future blog post, or if you want to contribute a guest post, we can talk about that, too!

Nadia

P.S. If you didn’t get a chance to contribute to our year-end campaign to help us improve our building’s ventilation and air quality, and you would like to, you still can! Please visit thestorefront.org/donate/

4 Comments on “From a Police Station to a Community Hub”

  1. All of the people that I have had the pleasure of interacting with at East Scarborough Storefront were encouraging and accepting in a way that allowed me to grow and learn so much about myself, you helped me to realize the value in every individual, making me a better human day by day. I am only one person who spent only a few months with you and therefore can not imagine how many people’s lives you have improved over twenty years. Thank you for everything you do for the people of East Scarborough as well as all the others you have touched without even knowing. I look forward to keeping a strong relationship with the amazing people I have met while participating in the WPSS program.

    1. Verna, thank you so much for your kind comments! We are so glad you had a great experience with the WPSS program at The Storefront. We look forward to building community together with you! Let us know the best way(s) to keep in touch. Feel free to connect directly if you like. I’m at nheyd@thestorefront.org.

  2. Pingback: The Storefront's first home - East Scarborough Storefront

  3. I am pleased to be part of the WPSS program. The facilitators are very knowledgeable, everybody in the class is resourceful. Thank you for sharing the history of the storefront. It is a brilliant lesson for us the readers and participants. From a police station, I can imagine nobody would wish to go to a police station. However, now that you came up with a big idea of empowering the community and all residents show up for community activities they feel involved and there is a sense of belonging. well done on the employment, women and youth, and settlement services. I look forward to joining the grass-root hub. Thank you for changing lives.

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