The Artscape Wychwood Barns Project Team

At Artscape, we have learned that a strong project management team is essential to take on the development of complex, multi-dimensional developments. Built around a small number of dedicated individuals who bring a range of leadership, skills and experience to the project, the project management team comprises champions, visionaries, activists, facilitators and enablers.

Champions: Community Leaders, People With Influence
As a councilor, Joe Mihevc had a great deal of power and influence over what gets built in his ward, both of which were needed to ensure that the Artscape Wychwood Barns’ vision would become a reality. The barns project required Councillor Mihevc to become the public face for a project and a vision that was controversial.

From the first TTC meeting at which he resisted attempts to demolish the barns to the opening party of the re-imagined facility, Councillor Mihevc was involved at every stage in the project’s development. As a champion of the barns, he rallied support on council and helped to direct what funding he could toward the project. Being able to work closely with city departments and engage a political base to support the project had a significant impact on maintaining project momentum.

“There are hills that you have to know you might die on, and I was willing to say ‘this is what I want, this is the right thing for the community, and if I win then great, if not, then obviously I have the wrong dream.’ I was willing to die on that hill.”
–Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc, Ward 21 St. Paul’s
“The councillor was like a dog with a bone. Without Joe Mihevc there would be no Wychwood Barns.”
–Lori Martin, Senior Cultural Affairs Officer, City of Toronto

Visionaries: Dreamers and Risk-takers
As the president and CEO of Artscape, Tim Jones helped guide the visioning process for the barns. In consultation with residents and experts in a host of fields, Jones created and advocated a vision for the facility that would transform the forgotten structures into a neighbourhood arts and environmental hub. Crafting a vision that is exciting yet realistic, and innovative yet feasible is essential, to create momentum. Without a clear articulated shared vision that motivates the team and the community, a project cannot hope to succeed.

“I remember when Tim Jones came to one of our little regular meetings and said ‘I have half a million dollars.’ That got everyone really excited and [we began to think] about how to make this happen.”
–Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc, Ward 21 St. Paul’s

Joe Lobko, architect with du Toit Allsopp Hillier, already had years of experience working with Artscape and heritage projects when he was asked to investigate restoration of the Wychwood Barns. At certain points, without the necessary financing and funding in place to move forward, the project seemed to be nothing more than a fantasy, but Joe remained steadfastly committed to his vision of what the Wychwood Barns could be. He understood that the peculiar shape of the buildings was their greatest advantage, and that conservation and environmental innovation would be central to the re-imaging of the AWB. His design was so engaging everyone wanted to be a part of it, and this helped to bring an ever-widening circle of funders and partners to the table, which ensured the project’s success.

“There were a lot of surprises with this project. Heritage buildings can be like that… [Joe Lobko and I] made a conscious decision to go for LEED gold certification. As the budget became challenged, we decided that that was such an important piece of the project and the story that we decided not to jettison it.”
Tim Jones, Artscape President and CEO

Activists: People With Energy and Enthusiasm
The activist plays the role of agitator and influencer from outside the halls of power. It was the tireless support of a dedicated few that made the difference and turned the tide against those opposed to developing the barns. Peter McKendrick, known by those in the Wychwood community as “Lord of the Rink”, played a pivotal role in garnering community support by providing a winter skating rink on the site of the barns before redevelopment began. Cookie Roscoe Handford was one of the leaders of a group called Friends of a New Park (FNP) that supported the development and helped to rally the community to oppose the naysayers. A transparent approach and positive attitude helped to sway public opinion towards her camp. Handford and others helped to galvanize the community around the Wychwood Barns project through an impromptu community skating rink, a community pizza oven and tours of the dilapidated buildings.

The essential step in the activist role is to be able to take the community support that has been built and use it to put pressure on the decision makers. At every council or committee meeting dealing with the barns supporters, these activists, led by Handford and others, would make their voices heard.

Click here to read more about the Community’s Role in the Creation of the Artscape Wychwood Barns.

“Another lesson was the power of community advocacy. Without the Roscoes of the world…..and a whole crew of folks, this would not have happened. These are the people who went to all the meetings, lobbied the councillors, created what we call cheat sheets which identified who was supporting it on council and who wasn’t. All those things were critical to the project’s success.”
–Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc, Ward 21 St. Paul’s

Facilitators: Mediators and Helpers
Lori Martin, senior cultural affairs officer at the City of Toronto, led the movement to support and assist the project within City Hall. Working at the City of Toronto’s culture office and previously in the planning department, Martin helped to guide the project through the bureaucracy. To ensure that everyone was on the same page and that there was forward momentum, Martin organized regular meetings with the AWB’s project management team and representatives from any city department who could help. If there was a parking issue, someone from transportation would be there one week; if there was a permit problem, the licensing department would send a representative.

“Every month, sometimes twice a month, we would have a meeting. I would prepare an agenda that was nothing more complicated than ‘where have we been, where are we, where are we going?’ All the departments at City Hall would be there. My joke was that it involved every department at the city except animal services. But then we had a raccoon problem and we [ended up] needing them.”
Lori Martin, Senior Cultural Affairs Officer, City of Toronto

Click here to watch Tim Jones, President and CEO of Artscape, discuss Building a Project Team for the Artscape Wychwood Barns.

Click here to watch Cookie Roscoe Handford in “Barn Raising: The Community’s Role in the Creation of Artscape Wychwood Barns”

Click here to watch architect Joe Lobko, discuss the Architect’s Vision for the Artscape Wychwood Barns.

Click here to watch Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc discuss Building a Community’s Vision for Artscape Wychwood Barns.