Reason to Love Toronto: because Regent Park’s The Citadel dance theatre is now a reality

Reason to Love Toronto: because Regent Park’s The Citadel dance theatre is now a reality

(Image: Dave Gillespie) 

At Dundas and Parliament is a gleaming 60-seat dance theatre called The Citadel. It’s the best thing to happen to Regent Park since the colossal $1-billion neighbourhood revitalization began in 2006, and it almost didn’t happen at all. In 2007, when Bill Coleman and Laurence Lemieux, the husband-and-wife founders of the dance troupe Coleman Lemieux and Compagnie, bought a former Salvation Army soup kitchen, their enthusiasm blinded them to the fact that they couldn’t afford it. The building cost $750,000 and needed at least $300,000 in renos; they were earning $30,000 a year combined. They begged and borrowed enough for a down payment, and maxed out 11 credit cards to cover their living expenses. AmEx was hassling them daily by the time Mitch Cohen, the head of Regent Park redeveloper Daniels Corporation, heard their tale. He’s a sucker for a feel-good story, but also a businessman who realized that the presence of a renowned dance company could persuade prospective buyers that the area would gentrify. He connected them to his tradespeople, and $300,000 in aid started rolling in: windows from Toro Aluminum, engineering design from SNC Lavalin and more; Diamond Schmitt supplied architectural designs pro bono, and an investment banker named David Banks and media-shy arts patrons Gretchen and Donald Ross chipped in much-needed cash. Now, The Citadel is open, and professional dancers and area kids (who get free classes on Saturdays) have a beautiful, high-quality performance space in which to hone their craft. And while finances are still shaky, the venue is booked into the summer, a sign that Coleman and Lemieux’s flying leap might just work out, after all.