Expansive $400M+ vision presented for the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts Redevelopment

Daryl Gonsalves –

The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (SLTC), with its rich 52-year history dating back to the 1970s, is a beloved Down­town East institution (Google reviews average 4.5 out of five stars). However, the SLTC has become outdated and inflexi­ble, leading to a decline in us­age. The pandemic highlighted challenges facing the cultural sector, emphasizing the need for accessible, adaptable and flexi­ble spaces.

The decision to transform the STLC comes after recognizing the limitations of the current facility, in terms of its physi­cal condition, and its inability to meet modern standards and municipal codes for performing arts spaces. This is echoed by generally positive Google Re­views with one positive review noting it is finally time for the STLC to be ‘spruced up’.

In January 2020, Toronto City Council endorsed replacing the STLC “with a new reimagined …state-of-the-art cultural and civic hub,” and directed Crea­teTO and TO Live to engage in public consultation. This piece will provide updates on what residents in the Downtown East can expect and what I heard at the community engagement session delivered on March 26, 2024.

TO Live, which is overseeing the STLC project, is a City of Toronto agency that manages its major theatres, including next-door Meridian Hall (previously the Sony Centre), and the Me­ridian Arts Centre (previously the Toronto Centre for the Arts) in North York.

Since January 2020, TO Live says it has hosted sur­veys, roundtable discussions, research, consultations with Indigenous communities and engagement with community stakeholder groups. On March 26, TO Live and the design team of Hariri Pontarini Archi­tects and LMN Architects, with Smoke Architecture and Tawaw Architecture Collective, pre­sented design concepts to the community.

The redevelopment, estimated to cost more than $400 million (in 2026 dollars according to a City Report from June 2023 ), is expected to begin construction in 2026 and finish by 2030. The reimagined STLC aims to be active throughout the day and night. There will be renewed cultural spaces and gathering spaces to anchor the STLC as a cultural hub along Front Street. To ensure the arts remain acces­sible, TO Live’s website states there will be affordable access to state-of-the-art facilities for the performing arts sector and the wider community.

So what will be delivered for $400 million? The new STLC will offer a range of facilities, including:

● a main stage in a flexible performance hall (750-1,000 seats)

● an intimate acoustic hall (400+ seats) with direct view of the CN Tower

● rehearsal/multi-purpose spac­es

● artist and media/recording studios

● a kids zone/community space and a café/restaurant

● public areas, including in­door and outdoor green spaces

● a bridge to Meridian Hall with a goal to turn the neigh­bourhood into an interconnect­ed arts district.

Architectural rendering of the proposed SLTC. Designed by Hariri Pontarini. Image courtesy of LiveTO

Asked by community mem­bers about impacts to Scott Street on the centre’s west side, TO Live responded that part of Scott Street will be pedestrian­ized. A building design plan on the TO Live website notes that Scott St. will transform into a public plaza greened by native plants.

When the City of Toronto first assessed the STLC in 2020, a staff report said it would cost $42 million to bring the build­ing to a state of good repair and enhance its accessibility. With the new development vision po­tentially costing more than $400 million, TO Live will seek pri­vate and corporate contributions as well as provincial and federal funding.

For more about the STLC pro­ject and to watch a video of the March 26 public session, visit www.STLCnext.org.