I just received a notice that brightened up my day: After almost a decade of sitting vacant, Artscape has been given the go-ahead to convert the old Shaw Street School -- formerly known as the Shaw-Givins School -- into a huge arts complex. The plan, like with other Artscape properties, will see the old school's 70,000 square feet of space repurposed for community arts groups and artists' studios.
Needless to say, this is a huge boost for a local arts community that has been all but run out of the neighbourhood in recent years by skyrocketing property values and the ongoing upscaling of the Queen Street commercial corridor. I don't know how many units 70,000 square feet will yield, but when you consider some of Artscape's other studios, like the small handful above Gallery 1313 in Parkdale, this is gargantuan. In terms of actual habitable space, it even dwarfs Artscape's most recent reclamation project, the Wychwood Art Barns; that project counts 60,000 square feet, but most of that is community centre, not studio or living space.
Artscape started a feasibility study for converting the school back in 2006; it has now officially purchased it. Next month, there'll be a call for applications from the public for what I imagine will be some of the most highly-coveted space in the city. In finest Jane Jacobs-ean fashion, when it's finished in 2012, the Shaw Street School will give an old building new life, and the influx of vitality in the neighbourhood will be instant and palpable. Congratulations to them.