Blackhurst centre signs long-term lease with city

by Ron Fanfair
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Blackhurst Cultural Centre (BCC) has signed a 49-year lease with the City of Toronto that will kickstart construction of its permanent home at 777 Bathurst St.
“This is indeed a significant moment in history for the Blackhurst Centre as this neighbourhood carries the spirit of the Underground Railroad and so many outstanding Black Canadians,” Managing Director Itah Sadu said at the signing ceremony last week. “This week, we celebrate the pioneer Donald Moore and his historic trip to Ottawa to petition the government to open up immigration from the Caribbean.
“Today I am proud to be in a gathering where some of the early domestics came and women were part of those early greeters at the airport. As I look around the place I see history and I also see young people working here. This is a great moment for generations.”
The non-profit centre and destination that provides opportunities to experience the culture and history of Canadians of African and Caribbean ancestry is located in the Bathurst St. and Bloor St. W. neighbourhood that has been home to many Black homeowners and businesses, including the defunct Contrast community newspaper, Mascoll Beauty Supply and a few barbershops.
“I attended one of the first meetings with the City to discuss the lease,” said investor and developer Andrew Garrett. “At that time, we were optimistic. It has taken time, but today my wife and I are truly proud of the outcome and this significant milestone.”
In December 2020, the City of Toronto approved a 49-year long-term lease as part of the rezoning with Westbank Corporation which purchased Mirvish Village in 2013.
“There is never an ordinary day when you work at the Centre,” Christina Mayers said. “I love working with the team here because when the doors open up magic happens. That’s great for us young people.”
The BCC commissioned Grammy Award winner Ossie Gurley to write a theme song for the centre, ‘Welcome to the Jewel of Bathurst’.
“The song came about because the intended address of the new Cultural Centre was formerly a dog spa and Gurley was part of the ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’ fame,” Sadu said.

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