Regent Park City Planning Writing Sample

This article was written for my work with the Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative in 2013. This is an example of my community journalism and community advocacy work. The original post can be found here. Please note that the organization’s website (referenced in content) was taken down when Regent Park Neighbourhood Initiative restructured to become a neighbourhood association without staff.

City of Toronto Department of Planning and Toronto Community Housing Corporation Follow-Up Community Consultation Recap – Sept. 17th, 2013

What will Regent Park look like after redevelopment is complete?

 artist-rendering
For more slides from the consultation, visit http://www.toronto.ca/planning/regentpark/pdf/regentpark_2013-09-09_slides_city.pdf

Regent Park has a rich history of community activism. Residents pushed for the Revitalization of Regent Park and have had continued involvement throughout its progression. As the redevelopment plans for the community change, Regent Park residents continue to participate in these conversations. On June 10th 2013, the City of Toronto Department of Planning and Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) held a consultation to inform the community of the recent Regent Park development plan amendments proposed by TCHC. Nearly 300 people came out and raised important questions for the planning body. For many, this was the first time they heard the revised plans for their changing neighbourhood. True to Regent Park’s advocating history, residents had a lot to say about the proposal. If you missed the June meeting, please check out our July edition of Community Knewz for a more information.

On September 17th, 2013, the City of Toronto Department of Planning and Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) held a follow-up consultation with the Regent Park community on yet more proposed amendments to the TCHC development plan, this time, presenting a renewed proposal influenced by the desires of the residents. For most, it seems TCHC’s response to resident concerns was encouraging.

At the previous consultation, there was apprehension voiced about the proposed heights of buildings, specifically, the proposal to build a nearly 40 storey tower on the south-east corner of Gerrard St. and Parliament St. Thanks to resident feedback, the tower is now proposed at 20 storeys high, set back from the corner. Other proposed changes include varied building heights along housing at the north side of the big park, decrease in heights of housing along Gerrard St., back-to-back housing facing onto the athletic grounds and street.

revised-master-plan

Still of concern for some residents are the towers proposed along River St. The newest proposal places four towers along River, even though concern was expressed at the June consultation over the heights of then a three towers layout. Though residents were assured at the recent consultation that the tower heights had been decreased, specific tower heights were not given. It appears from the artist rendering above that they would be shorter than the existing towers on the opposite side of River St. at Oak St. Podiums would be built as a step-back from the sidewalk so that buildings are not as intrusive. According to the planning body, River is intended to act as a commercial spine, with retail occupying some space in the towers. In response to resident concerns over these towers, City Planner Angela Stea stressed that the plan would not be approved until these concerns were addressed.

The City continues to insist on maintaining 14 Blevins Place as a heritage building, despite TCHC’s request to have it  included in the redevelopment plan and despite overwhelming resident support for its demolition. Many spoke out at the September consultation to say ’14 Blevins has to go,’ but the City stance is unfettered. Councillor Pam McConnell assured residents that if they wish to see the building demolished, she will ensure that City Council makes this happen.

Throughout the consultation, TCHC stressed that while the specific building plans for Regent Park may change, the principles of redevelopment stay the same; they will continue to build integrated buildings, and replace ALL RGI (TCHC rent geared to income) units demolished. With the proposed changes, population proportions will be 25% RGI units (all replaced units) and 5% additional affordable rental units (where rent is determined at or below 100% of the “average rent” in Toronto). The market units will make up 70% of the population. Of that 70%, 30% of market units are 2 bedroom units, 5% are 3 bedroom units, and 12% are offered with some form of assisted home-ownership programs. When concerns were raised over whether this development plan would result in lower income families and higher income singles/couples, Regent Park resident Kate Sellar suggested that family compositions are changing and not to assume residents in market units are not having families.

During the consultation, we paused to celebrate the unexpected and positive developments of phase 2, including the Aquatic Centre being deemed a priority centre, the new Community Centre being built at double the size originally planned, the Regent Park Athletic Grounds and the additional hectare of space, and the addition of one new daycare in the community (in addition to the two already planned). Residents consistently expressed support for the revitalization project, while not remaining silent about what can be improved upon.

What will Regent Park look like after redevelopment is complete? A seamlessly blended mix of market rental and subsidized housing units is the consistent goal for Regent Park’s Revitalization. However, the specific details of this plan are still being negotiated thanks to an active and engaged community.

The Community Council Meeting will be held November 19th and the City Council Meeting (where the plan gets final approval) will be held December 16th. City Councillor Pam McConnell will represent Regent Park; make sure to communicate with her about your feelings on this development plan (see our services page for her contact information).

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