wow impressive undertaking .... just like the Regent Park Revitalization program, here we go again ~
wow impressive undertaking .... just like the Regent Park Revitalization program, here we go again ~
Miss you forever EE (1949-2011.10.14) and DaoDao (1998.03.28-2009.11.27)
One of the major differences between this revitalization and Regent Park is zero displacement. Residents are to be relocated on-site within vacant units or into new units.
Compared to regent park, another glaring difference is the 'crime' factor - there's not much of that here. What's the difference between the two ? Are the poverty levels different or is the demographic makeup the heart of the issue ?
I guess this exists in other areas in Toronto as well - like say the leaside thornclife park (mind my spelling) arae compared to other similarly low income areas in Toronto has very little crime.
If I had a penny for every time someone asked me why I was looking up
I'm really looking forward to this isolated near-ghetto getting this extreme makeover.
Hopefully they will extend Augusta ave. back up to Dundas street like the old days.
Last edited by Automation Gallery; 2011-Apr-11 at 20:57.
Moss Park needs a Revitalization too...
Model of the plan. Yellow is the replaced TCHC housing, brown is buildings not being touched and blue is the new market rate condos.
I wish they would push the beautification of Augusta further south past Queen, creating a nice north south street from Queen to Kensington.
Alexandra Park community yearns for a facelift
Published On Mon May 23 2011
Currently in the rezoning stage, the plan also calls for renovating 473 existing units, improved green space, new underground parking, and commercial and retail space.
Final planning approvals are expected by early next year, when requests for bids will go out.Like Regent Park and Don Mount/Rivertowne, Toronto Community Housing’s other big-budget revitalization initiatives, the Alexandra Park project would leverage land value to generate funds for replacing and upgrading housing.
As to market-rate housing, some 1,530 new condo units and nearly a dozen townhouses are slated to be built around the site.But at Alexandra Park, the first clusters of new housing would be built where there are now just parking lots and open space. People would move directly from their old units to the new — and the process would leapfrog from there, explains local councillor Adam Vaughan.
“It means the project will happen a bit slower,’’ says Vaughan — about 15 years to complete. But zero displacement was a principle residents insisted on. “That’s the most critical thing in this whole project.”The seven-hectare site is tucked between Kensington Market and Queen Street W., and in terms of TCHC’s housing portfolio is among the highest in land value.
Last edited by AlbertC; 2013-Jan-29 at 23:54.
Hmm, I wonder if the modern-preservationist in me can approach Mayor Ford's office to convince him that Alexandra Park was a significant work of 60s architecture (God bless Jerry Markson) and this rebuild project is just so much Derek Ballantyne-era bloated gravy. Ain't I a stinker...
Here's a Toronto Star article from April 11, 2010, with the above mentioned Jerome Markson:
The rethinking of 'Alex Park' public housing complex
Jerome Markson has barely crossed Dundas St. when he stops in his tracks: "Why is that silly fence there?"
The fence in question, metal and roughly two metres tall, runs between the sidewalk and a little parking lot at Alexandra Park, the downtown public housing project that Markson helped design in the mid-1960s.
Back then, there was no fence, but further west, there was a wall separating the street from some of the project's townhouses. Jane Jacobs, Markson recalls, always quizzed about him about that, thought the wall an unnecessary barrier.
"I think I was a little afraid of having the front doors right smack along Dundas," he says.
The concrete wall has since been cut to about half its original height, and a metal fence added on top of what remains, an alteration Markson finds almost as puzzling.
But this is mere tinkering in the face of what might happen.
For the past couple of years, residents have been busy working with Toronto Community Housing Corp., city councillor Adam Vaughan and Urban Strategies Inc. on what could become a complete overhaul of the site.
The proposal they've come up with would replace virtually all the existing townhouses with new units and add roughly 1,000 market condos, most of the latter on what are now small parking lots.
In the usual fashion, those condos would help pay for revamping the rest of the site including a new community centre, underground parking, additional green space and new pedestrian walkways that would bisect the complex and connect directly with streets in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
Neither the consultants nor TCHC will talk about the proposal until the latter's board meets to consider it later this month.
But Vaughan says "the plan that's come forward has been driven by and for the residents," who wanted to ensure that no existing tenants get displaced by the change. Hence the proposal's 10-year time-frame.
Markson, no slight figure in architectural circles, is diplomatic about the plans. "I don't know if it's my role to comment," says the man lauded for creating the Market Square condos near St. Lawrence Market. "Obviously, the gentler they are with the original, the better."
More philosophically, he adds: "How are you going to know what's going to happen in 40 years when you design something?"
LIKE MANY public housing projects, Alexandra Park has had its share of troubles, drugs and gangs.
But it is also blessed with a flourishing daycare and community centre, as well as fiercely proud residents who, while still tenants of TCHC, successfully transformed the place into a co-op.
There are local gardening initiatives, busy basketball courts and, as part of a recent fundraising effort, even a community cookbook.
"When you walk around, there's virtually no graffiti in the place," says Vaughan. "The neighbourhood really respects itself.
"The number of kids that go to university out of that complex is about the highest rate in Ontario, which is quite amazing."
In 1969, a year after Alexandra Park was finished, James Murray, the founding editor of Canadian Architect, hailed the project's low density and meandering, car-free paths as an "exemplary design solution."
It turned what had been Victorian slums into an intimate neighbourhood boasting "the urbanity and consistency of a Georgian town."
Which begs two immediate questions:
To what extent did the original blueprint impart or foster that sense of community?
And would changes to the basic design enhance or diminish those neighbourly, possessive sentiments?
The residents of Alex Park, as it's nicknamed for short, are keenly aware of how special their complex has become, says Vaughan. "You don't want to break the community while you fix the neighbourhood."
Should redevelopment start to destroy the area's special character, he adds, "I'd be in front of the picket lines to close down the process."
These are no slight worries. In one form or another, the link between design and community spirit has been at the heart of every debate about low-income housing for the last six decades.
IF THERE IS a signal moment in the history of public housing, it happened shortly after 3 pm. on March 16, 1972.
It was marked, perhaps fittingly, by a great implosion, the first of many in the complete demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe Project in downtown St. Louis.
Designed in the early 1950s by architect Minoru Yamasaki (who would later design New York's World Trade Centre), Pruitt-Igoe was initially hailed as a great amalgam of postwar ideas about architecture, sociology and urban design, a solution to inner city decay and poverty.
For inspiration, Pruitt-Igoe drew on Le Corbusier's futuristic vision of tall buildings placed in park-like settings, which in St. Louis eventually came to mean 33 11-storey buildings arrayed like tombstones.
The towers had so-called "skip-stop" elevators, which only stopped at the first, fourth, seventh and eleventh floors the anchor floors boasting communal hallways, garbage chutes, meeting and laundry rooms.
But nothing Edenic ensued. Vandalism and crime were soon rife, the public areas covered in graffiti and littered with all manner of garbage. The place became so dangerous that, by one estimate, the occupancy rate never got above 60 per cent.
Harvard sociology professor Lee Rainwater, who spent his career studying poverty, once noted that "Pruitt-Igoe condenses into one 57-acre tract all of the problems and difficulties that arise from race and poverty and all of the impotence, indifference and hostility with which our society has so far dealt with these problems."
THIS IS PRECISELY what the original architects of Alexandra Park sought to avoid, drawing on what eventually became known as the alternative school of "defensible spaces," a kind of offshoot of Jane Jacobs' ideas about community.
It was a way of designing neighbourhoods so that residents would keep an eye on the streets and develop a sense of husbandry over the more public spaces around them.
In achieving that, scale became key.
At Pruitt-Igoe and its many imitators, the public areas inside and around the buildings were shared by so many people that none of the residents developed any possessive feelings of responsibility.
Nor was it easy for them to recognize strangers, there being too many faces to log in a mental register.
The defensible spaces movement tried to turn that on its head by reducing the number of people using any given public space.
"It is relatively easy for an informal understanding to be reached among the families as to what constitutes acceptable usage," wrote Oscar Newman, the Montreal-born architect and city planner most associated with this school of thought.
In the hands of Markson's group, which included the firms Webb, Zerafa and Menkes, and Klein and Sears, such ideas mingled easily with an aesthetic they already admired.
"We'd all been to Europe and those beautiful streets that were built before the automobile," recalls Markson, now 81. "If you go to some of those wonderful towns in Spain, the south of France, Italy and Greece, they're all built of the same material."
The aim at Alexandra Park was to produce buildings that were similarly distinctive and durable, hence the universal use of brown brick. Parking, in small lots, was put on the periphery, so that a pedestrian promenade could snake its way down the middle of the nearly 20-acre site.
Offshoots from this main artery then lead to little, glade-like green spaces, basketball courts and a playground, all of them surrounded by residences.
Density, then as now, was low just 267 townhouses and 539 apartment units. And the lack of through roads makes the whole area feel just a little protected but not exactly cut off from the surrounding neighbourhoods, reachable through several pedestrian walkways.
"We wanted it to be permeable," says Markson, who, like his contemporary, architect Frank Gehry, grew up only a few blocks from the site he helped transform.
ON A GREY, rainy day, with no trees in leaf and no flowers in bloom, Alexandra Park can look a little grim, although most of Toronto looks that way on such days.
As it happens, this was an early criticism, though one that James Murray was careful to couch in 1969 by noting that the very success of Alexandra Park required "higher standards of appraisal than almost any other Canadian or American project could accept."
The problem is the contrasting exuberance of Kensington Market just to the north. As Murray put it:
"When one sees the pleasantly chaotic, fine-grained variety of colour and texture and form of the surrounding residential streets, one might ask: 'Did a single brick and fascia and trim choice need to apply relentlessly to the entire 18 acres?' "
It's a criticism Markson readily addresses. "There might have been more variety in the architecture," he says. "We could have played a little more with it."
But they wanted a modern look, though one constructed of very traditional brick.
"The materials have to be tough and durable," says Markson. "Some of the finishings over the windows have been changed over time, but after all, it's 40 years now."
In the original plan, pedestrian areas were to be paved in brick, as well, but in construction that idea was abandoned in favour of cheaper asphalt, now in terrible disrepair.
If he were doing it all over, Markson says he'd insist on the brick pathways and create some way of hiding the garbage and recycling bins, whose arrival he couldn't have foreseen. Some of the blinder laneways could be opened up to more eyes and sunlight.
Perhaps more than anything, though, he'd add a lot more trees, put much greater emphasis on landscaping. These are all comparatively small things, certainly less than effectively starting over again from scratch.
But given the history of community housing, they might just be the kind of intimate details that help define neighbourhoods.
The very things, in other words, that come to nourish a sense of community, so desirable and yet often so elusive.
571 DUNDAS ST W
SubDivision Approval 12 158501 STE 20 SB Ward 20
- Tor & E.York Apr 20, 2012 --- --- --- ---
Draft Plan of Subdivision for the re-vitalization of Alexandra Park . Refer to related Official Plan Amendment and Rezoning applications are to permit the revitalization and redevelopment of Alexandra Park and Atkinson Housing Co-op. The master plan proposes to demolish and replace 333 townhouse and apartment units, renovate and retain 473 apartment units, and incorporate 1,540 market condominium and townhouse units. The master plan also proposes an extended public street network, a series of public parks, and private and shared outdoor amenity spaces.
571 Dundas Street West, 21, 21a, 23, 23a, 91 Augusta
Avenue, 73-75 Augusta Square & 20 Vanauley Street –
Official Plan Amendment – Final Report