It’s reserved for youth, led by youth, largely designed by youth and claims to be authentically “youth-governed.”
Perhaps best of all, The SPOT - the name stands for Success Power Opportunity Teamwork - is, for the moment anyway, a place where young people can write, dance, design, edit, record or just hang out for free.
Doors open Thursday, Jan. 17, afternoon at the 3,770-square-foot youth centre expansion of the Malvern Toronto Public Library branch the northeast Scarborough neighbourhood has waited nearly five years to see.
The place “has a really great vibe” and an “absolutely beautiful” wall of windows letting in natural light, a feature young advisors on the project supported, said Femi James, The SPOT’s co-ordinator.
“There’s so much buzz and so much excitement.”
Besides a 2,000-square-foot ProTech Media Centre, there’s a dedicated performance space for dance or theatre and professional-level recording studio, James said Wednesday.
The SPOT, staffed by youth assistants and facilitators, is a safe space where young people, particularly artists and entrepreneurs, can express themselves and develop their skills, she said.
It is meant for people ages 14 to 25, but may include programs for tweens if there’s enough demand, said James.
The centre at 30 Sewells Rd. will open for business at 1 p.m. but from 5 to 8 p.m. visitors can see “demos” by spoken word artists R.I.S.E. Edutainment and The Gods, the dance moves of local choreographers and videos by the Read 2 Rap program, which will launch there later this month, James said.
People in Malvern, one of the City of Toronto’s underserved “priority neighbourhoods,” had said in 2008 they wanted such a place. During the following year, the province’s Youth Challenge pledged $1.8 million and the city $1.1 million for the $2.25-million project.
The Toronto Public Library system will pay The SPOT’s operating costs.
City libraries have ProTech Centres in some branches, including at Kennedy and Eglinton, but The SPOT is unique, said Magdalena Vander Kooy, TPL district manager. “We’ve always know there’s a lot of young people in the area that can really benefit from this resource,” she added on Wednesday.
The front entrance to library was also transformed during the project into a “public plaza” usable for markets and other gatherings. Organizers of The SPOT expect to host a grand opening this spring, when the outdoor space can be fully used.
James said the youth centre’s board must still figure out how to make space available to groups, and whether groups will be charged fees. Right now, there are none.
Hours for the SPOT are 1 to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, but James said spaces are available on weekends if booked by a group. Again, the hours may change to meet community needs, she said.
Advocates in Toronto are calling for more dedicated youth spaces in the city. Last June, the city opened a 3,100-square-foot youth space, including a performance space, media room and an office of the African Canadian Legal Clinic’s youth justice program in a renovated former gun range at Don Montgomery Community Recreation Centre on Eglinton Avenue East.