As these types of events go, it was no ordinary groundbreaking.
Given the event’s size, scope and honoured guests – not to mention it included the bestowing of just the fifth honourary Canadian citizenship since 1985 – it’s fairly easy to see why. Last Friday, in the Eglinton Avenue and Wynford Drive area of the city, was the official groundbreaking of a $300-million Ismaili project. A development that’s been in the works since 2002, it’s set to open in 2013 on 17 acres of land.
Included in the site are the Ismaili Centre Toronto, a public park and the Aga Khan Museum. Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was on hand to present the Aga Khan with the honourary citizenship. The Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and founder and chair of the Aga Khan Development Network.
For starters, the Ismaili Centre Toronto is just the second building of its kind in this country and sixth in the western world. Included is a place for prayer, a library, youth lounge and public spaces for cultural activities. The park will include reflecting pools and walkways surrounding the other two components.
As for the museum, it’s absolutely noteworthy that this project is the first of its kind in the western world. Containing art and artifacts covering a 1,000-year period of Islamic history, the museum is intended to serve as an educational institution showcasing the heritage of Muslim civilizations and their attendant diversities.
This development is significant on several levels. At the most local of those levels and from a community development standpoint, the project will surely prove transformative to the area of the city it’s situated in, the south-eastern reaches of North York.
Overall, for the city, which is already home to a vibrant and diverse artistic and cultural community, the project will surely continue to broaden and enhance that appeal.
Perhaps most importantly, however, it’s also a fitting reflection of Toronto, one of the most diverse urban centres on the continent, and its people. Indeed, it’s something for the city to celebrate and be proud of. Ultimately, the project has the strong potential to be one that honours the past, fits in to the present day, and hopefully looks forward to the future.
It only makes sense the makeup of Toronto and its component communities should be reflected in the places we live, work, play, worship and learn. We eagerly await the outcome.
Source: Inside Torronto