Friday, May 18, 2012

Mike Holmes Helps to Rebuild Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in Toronto

Police investigate at Jamie Bell Playground in High Park, which was set ablaze in mid-March. (Christopher Drost/Torontoist)

Yesterday, Mike announced on his Facebook page that he would be helping to rebuild the playground that burned down March 17 in High Park, Toronto.

Proud to be rebuilding the playground in High Park, Toronto with Janet Rosenberg. We're shooting the process for my new show! Join me at the public ground breaking at Jamie Bell Playground in High Park, Toronto today (Friday May 18) at 1pm.

Here's an article from

Mike Holmes steps up to help rebuild High Park playground
Community rebuild day and barbecue set for July 7

Conal, 9, and his brothers Kieran, 7, and Lochlan, 4, have one simple wish for the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground rebuild.

"We just want the castle back," they agreed as they coloured pictures of a castle at a public consultation meeting to discuss the beloved High Park playground's reconstruction Thursday, May 17.

Conal, whose favourite part of the playground is the big slide - "I like how high up it is and you can see the rest of the park" - said he wished there could be another slide.

His wish could very likely come true with the help of Canada's favourite contractor Mike Holmes of HGTV fame. Holmes and his film crew for his new show 'Make it Right' will assist with the playground rebuild. He attended the meeting to find out what the community would like to see for the playground's design and rebuild.

"I want to work with you, I want to work with the kids. I want to make sure it's safe, accessible. I want to build the best playground that everyone has ever seen, one that Jamie Bell would say 'Two thumbs up,'" Holmes told his audience at Humberside Collegiate Institute.

Holmes said he learned from the news of the fire that engulfed the castle turret in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 17.

"When I saw the fire, I thought 'you've gotta be kidding. We've got to make this right. I went to High Park as a kid," he said. "We're going to make it right together."

Landscape Architect Janet Rosenberg will help Holmes, his team and the community with the design.

"The playground is incredibly magical and built from love. It's so very much about the community," said Rosenberg, who added issues like drainage, shading, visibility in the castle and a greater variety of seating would be addressed.

The castle, as residents have requested, will remain close to its original design, assured Rosenberg. A community rebuild day and barbecue is scheduled for Saturday, July 7. Over the past two months, a number of corporations have stepped forward with donations, including Canadian Tire with a total of $60,000; TD Canada Trust Bloor and Runnymede branch with $10,000 and Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse with a $10,000 donation of materials. At the meeting, Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette made another funding announcement. The Sprott Foundation has agreed to match dollar for dollar donations to the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground up to $30,000. Donations made to the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation website between May 17 and June 30 will be matched.

"We've heard loud and clear you'd like the city to do this very, very quickly," said Doucette of the reconstruction project, which is set to begin immediately and will be completed in early July.

Eleven-year-old Sydney told Holmes she's been going to the adventure playground since she was one.

"I want to be able to go there and say 'Wow, this is the most amazing park I've ever been to.' I want to be able to climb on everything," she said.

Holmes assured everyone that he and his team would like the community to make the decisions.

"I will do as much as you want or as little as you want," he said.

Doucette said any left-over funds would be put aside for the maintenance of the playground.

The Jamie Bell Adventure Playground was inspired by and built by the imagination and creativity of the local community and its children in 1998-'99.

A ground-breaking ceremony will be held today at 1 p.m. in the playground.

And yet another article, this one from the Torontoist:

Rebuilding the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground

With a dash of television magic, the High Park playground that was burned down in March will be rebuilt in July by Mike Holmes (and the community).

By Sarah-Joyce Battersby

“Think of me as the new Jamie Bell,” might not have been the most tasteful thing for celebrity contractor Mike Holmes to say to a room full of the late Bell’s friends, family, and neighbours, but surely Holmes meant well. Standing in the auditorium in Humberside Collegiate Institute on Thursday night in his spotless overalls, he laid out the plan for him and his “guys”—and his new Holmes Makes it Right TV show—to rebuild the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in partnership with the City of Toronto and Janet Rosenberg and Associates landscape architects. Though light on a few details, like whether the updated playground will include a climbing wall, or if wood chips or rubber are best for the ground-cover, the plan’s finish-date is clear: July 7.

Local councillor Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park) told the crowd of about 60 adults, 10 kids, and eight TV production crew guys (who were filming the event for the TV show) that the groundbreaking ceremony for the park will be today, Friday, at 1 p.m.

The July 7 deadline will be the official “community build day” when local residents can add finishing touches to the playground, after Holmes and his crew have done the heavy lifting.

Though Doucette confirmed that wood will be the primary building material, Rosenberg said that the actual design of the new structure will be “a surprise,” but it will be “based on input from the community.” To facilitate input from the community, tables were set up at the front of the auditorium for families and children to draw design ideas. Doucette added that any other ideas or drawings can be sent to her office email, and told us after the meeting that given the tight deadline, any ideas should be sent in “as quickly as possible.”
Ward 13 Councillor Sarah Doucette, landscape architect Janet Rosenberg, and Mike Holmes. Photo by Miroslav Glavic.

A previous offer to rebuild the playground in time for summer, extended by a group including Landscape Ontario and Natural Playgrounds, was turned down by the City, citing the need for community consultations and special planning considerations in light of the playground’s location in an environmentally sensitive ravine. But Doucette stressed that she and Rob Richardson, the acting manager of partnership development in the City’s parks department, who was in attendance at the meeting, have been doing lots of work behind the scenes in the meantime. There are also some important differences between the two plans, she explained later by phone: the earlier one wasn’t focused on rebuilding the castle, which she identified as a key priority, and involved design ideas that weren’t feasible in a graded ravine. Utility line information for the area was still being nailed down, and the whole thing would have been too rushed. “We just needed that little bit more time,” Doucette said.

She also told us that Richardson spoke with Landscape Ontario this week; their offer to help stands, and once the summer season is over they will be looking at making some contributions to the playground as well.

In addition to Holmes’ in-kind donation of the labour, a previously announced corporate donation of $50,000 from Canadian Tire is still coming through (along with an additional $10,000 that was fundraised at two individual store locations); TD Bank Group has made a $10,000 donation via the Bloor and Runnymede branch; and Toronto Parks and Trees has received over $16,000 in donations for the project. Doucette also announced that any donations made to Toronto Parks and Trees from May 17 to June 30 will be matched dollar for dollar by the Sprott Foundation, up to a total of $30,000.

As for how the partnership between Holmes and the City came to be, Doucette told us Holmes’ people contacted her office, but also that “we had to do a video to let [HGTV] and Mike know what we were all about. So we sold ourselves. And obviously we did a good job.”

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