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Bridge Beat

May 22, 2013

REGENT PARK: LEARNING TO JUST HANG OUT

On Friday of this week (May 24), I’ll be chairing a  session at the Canadian Urban Institute relating about RegentPark. With the project well into its Phase 2, and several other Toronto Community Housing communities in the planning stages for similar revitalizations, CUI has rightly assessed that the time is right to consider what lessons can be extracted from the Regent experience and applied elsewhere, be by TCH or other housing providers across the Province.  As a former in house TCH Lawyer and development executive, my interest is more than just passing.

  To get a sense of just how far the Regent process has come, consider these statistics:   -          TCH has knocked down 6 buildings and rows of old townhouses -          5 new social housing buildings have been built, with the next one on the way -          . 840 tenant households have been relocated and many re-relocated back into new apartments -          1165 units of market housing have been built or are under construction. -          1 new Arts and Culture Centre -          Last week, Toronto Life editor Sarah Fulford called it a fun place to Just Hang Out.  

And that’s where you just have to pause – a fun place to just hang out?? So Regent is like the Island, the Waterfront or HighPark? ...No plans today? so lets all go to Regent and see what’s happening. Seriously?? When I moved to Toronto 20 years ago, that’s not what your friends told you to do, and those that did tell you to go hang out at Regent, weren’t your friends.

 

And yet, some seven years after the wrecking ball first swung, it really is a good place to hang out. Personally, I am partial to the Paintbox Cafe. If I want to see people who I worked on the project with, I just have to show up at Paintbox for lunch. There are always people there. For others its the Arts and Cultural Centre, and for still others, the pool. There is still the major park to come. Some really good hangin’ out potential there. 

 

So something went right at Regent. And yet, when I poke around, there are lots of questions about Regent and many lessons to be learned and applied elsewhere. Friday gives us all an opportunity to reflect on some of those questions and in the spirit of creating a record of lessons learned – and lessons being learned. And they are “our” lessons. Not the City’s or TCH’s alone, but ours to learn and apply as a City.

  So, in that spirit, here are a few `what have we learned`` questions worth asking (and since I am the chair, I get to ask at least a couple!):   What have we learned…
  • about expanding, as opposed to just replacing the number of social housing units in a big revitalization;
  • about how market and social housing units and their occupants can be integrated, if at all;
  • about how revitalizations like Regent are paid for and managed;
  • about how we market revitalizations both to buyers and the larger Toronto community;
  • about how tenants are engaged in the revitalization process;
  And of course as many other lessons as there are students.   See you Friday. John

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