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It takes a village

The Underground Gym reopens with help from local drafting firm Tomlinson Drafting Service.

“When I heard that the Underground Gym was getting a building, my first thought was, they’re going to need a building permit,” says Francine Kotovich, president of local company Tomlinson Drafting Service.

Sure enough, Peter Panetta, the founder of the Underground Gym, soon posted on Facebook asking for help. “I didn’t know him at all,” Kotovich says, “but I knew that we have the ability to take care of the project and the permits for him. I immediately messaged him and told him about our company and that we can help.”

To the layperson, building codes and the process of getting permits may seem like a labyrinthian task. The building on 414 Victoria Avenue East previously had a retail space on the main floor. A permit for assembly occupancy was one of the many things necessary to turn it into a youth centre.

“That means there are more stringent regulations in the code, to make sure everyone is safe,” Kotovich explains. The Ontario Building Code is in place to provide standards to safeguard life, health and pubic welfare through the design and construction of the building. “This is why we do this work. What if there were a fire and some of the kids didn’t know where the exits were?”

Kotovich called several other professionals in the industry to team up and help Panetta reopen the Underground Gym as soon as possible. Reginald Nalezyty of DCSC Architect + Engineer, Sacha Veilleux of RVI Group and Anthony Gazzola of AG Engineering worked with Kotovich to make it happen.

“I grew up in the East End, and I realize how important a centre like the Underground Gym is to the kids. I wanted to do something to give back to the community, and we were in a position to do it,” Kotovich says. “We are so pleased to help them out, because we have the expertise and resources.”

“It takes a whole community to support an endeavour like this,” she adds.

Kotovich and her team started working on the project in January. With so many people volunteering their expertise and time, the Underground Gym is reopening soon.

“Thanks so much Francine Kotovich of Tomlinson Drafting & her team; Reg, Sasha, Tony for all of your hard work to make this crucial stage for re-opening the Underground happen,” Panetta wrote in a Facebook post. “It is very difficult for a person like me to understand these types of hurdles when lives are at stake but thanks to Francine and her team, they persevered to make the process go as smoothly and efficiently as possible.”

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