by David O’Hara, Site Administrator

On the heels of our successful, albeit soggy, On Common Ground: Festival of Culture and Community, we moved into our fall event season. As part of Nuit Blanche we had an independent installation at Fort York with “The Other Side of the Gardiner.” Set beneath the Gardiner Expressway, this immersive installation was created with light, snow, and sound by Abraham Galway and Lauren Poon ( October also included Fort York after Dark tours as part of Halloween programming.

In partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, we held another successful Citizenship Ceremony on November 8. Although the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, was unable to attend at the last minute, we were pleased to have Senator Don Meredith in attendance. Also on hand to greet our newest citizens were Councillor Mike Layton, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, and human rights activist Sally Armstrong. A special thank you and congratulations to the Fort York Building Citizenship Committee for all their ongoing work.

The site was busy with many other activities throughout the fall. Filming on-site included YTV’s Cache Craze and episodes of Showcase’s Beauty and the Beast. At the end of September, the SickKids Foundation once again held the Great Camp Adventure at Fort York, bringing over 1400 campers, sponsors, partners, volunteers, and Camp Crew to the site, and raising more than $1.3 million for SickKids.

Our annual Remembrance Day ceremony was well attended once again. Undertaken in partnership with the Toronto Municipal Chapter IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire), this ceremony has taken place in the Strachan Avenue Military Burial Ground for over fifty years. Other core programming included pastry and mince pie workshops and our 2nd annual Frost Fair on December 7 and 8. Capital work across the site is ongoing, with many projects continuing throughout the winter new-fort-york-signs 150months. The Fort York Visitor Centre is moving along and completion of the building shell makes it much easier now to get a sense of the building from both the Garrison Common and Fort York Boulevard perspectives. The 2013 phase of site work for the Visitor Centre is now complete, including paving of the parking lot and construction of the main entry walks to the building. Window frames have been installed and the general contractor is now heating the building using portable heaters in order to advance all interior components. The first parts of our master plan for signage were installed this fall: two signs at the Strachan Avenue pedestrian entrance and one at the corner of Fort York Blvd and Bathurst Street.

Completion of the Visitor Centre and implementation of several of the major landscape improvements will certainly result in a very complicated site throughout 2014. Programs planned for the first quarter and over the busy summer season will exacerbate the situation. With many events scheduled for the Garrison Common, it’s likely that major work not completed in the spring will be held over until fall in order to minimize the impact on events and site access. By the end of the year, a first phase of landscaping will be complete and we will be working towards the installation of new exhibits in the Visitor Centre. Planning for 2014 events, including celebration of the Visitor Centre opening, is underway; details will be provided soon. One focus in the year ahead will be programs, exhibits, and events related to the centennial of the Great War.

David Spittal, senior project coordinator for the Visitor Centre, reports that over 80% of the Visitor Centre’s concrete shell, including the building façade and roof, is complete. Mechanical equipment has been delivered, and electrical and other site-servicing work continues. For those visiting the site, our General Contractor, Harbridge + Cross, has installed the first weathered steel panel at the far west end of the building. This first panel was installed early as a test. The building itself is expected to be substantially complete by the end of May 2014, with exhibit installation and landscaping scheduled over the summer months. An official opening date has yet to be finalized.