Residents of south Etobicoke have mixed feelings about the opening next year in their community of a maximum security “superjail” that will house 1,650 inmates.
Some welcome the massive 67,000-square-metre Toronto South Detention Centre that will house inmates now held at Mimico Correctional Centre and the Toronto Don Jail that are slated to close.
The facility will hold adult inmates, including those with special needs, who have been sentenced to two years less a day.
It will also include the Toronto Intermittent Centre for those serving weekend sentences.
The project, which was launched in May 2008, will hire about 500 workers and dole out $120 million in salaries during construction, according to the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
Ministry officials said about 2,900 person years of employment will be generated from the project.
The site at 130 Horner Ave., near Kipling Ave., is busy with activity from dump trucks ferrying soil and workers building its three towers that range from four to six storeys high.
Ward 6 Councillor Mark Grimes, in whose riding the jail is located, said hundreds of “good-paying” correctional services jobs will be located at the facility when it is completed in September 2012.
“This project will be great for the economy of the area,” Grimes said as he gave a tour of the riding that includes the MasterCard Centre and Toronto Police College.
“Well-paying jobs will be created and people will be spending in the community.”
Grimes showed several prefabricated concrete cells, each with a sink and toilet that will be used in the jail.
Area residents said they didn’t realize how big the facility would be and many doubt it will bring economic gain to small businesses along Lake Shore Blvd. or Queensway Ave.
“I think this will give us a reputation for having a superjail in the area,” said John Scheffer, chairman of the Lakeshore Village Business Improvement Area.
“I don’t think there will be much economic spinoff for us because we are some distance away.”
Those visiting prisoners aren’t in the area to shop, Scheffer said.
“I don’t think this facility will have much of an impact to the area,” he said.
“It will mean more traffic and congested roads.”
Two female merchants with stores on Lake Shore Blvd. W., near Islington Ave. said they won’t feel safe once the jail is open.
“These are all bad people who we are talking about,” said one who didn’t want her name used.
“They are being visited by a similar type of people who will be driving around the area.”
Another woman said she’s worried that the jail is less than five-minutes drive by car from her store.
“I think this is too close for my comfort,” she said.
“I have daughters and already I feel scared and the jail is not even open yet.”
But physiotherapist Gui Mansilla, an area resident, said he’s pleased to see new people and potential customers moving in.
“You have to put these people somewhere,” he said.
“I think this will be good for businesses to have new people in the area.”
Correctional services officials claim the jail will be the greenest in Ontario and use ground source heat pumps to reduce natural gas consumption by 75% and special technology to reduce water consumption by 20%.
Ministry officials have said the site is best suited for the centre because it is accessible by highways and public transit and is located in an industrial and commercial area that won’t require a change of zoning from the city.
“It will be built to the highest security standards ensuring every measure is taken to maintain community safety,” said Terence Foran, Ontario Infrastructure communications adviser.
“The project is more than 40% complete and is on time and on budget.”