I wonder if they'll have trouble selling the first stage of condos. You'd have to be either a brave pioneer or speculative land-lord-to-be to drop your middle class rears in the middle of the neighbourhood. However, now would be the smartest time to buy-in, since the first stage will be less $ than the final stage of market-value units.
I figure it would be a good place for newlyweds or pre-married couples to invest in. Brave it on your own in the transitional years, and by the time the kids come along, the place will have started to reform itself...
Can mix of subsidized and market-rate housing work?
It started with best of intentions after the Second World War -- a community where Toronto's not-so-well-off could build a life without having to worry about devious slumlords. Social agencies thought they could look after the best interests of down and out people by housing them in a large inner-city apartment complex called Regent Park. But the public housing project went off the rails almost the moment it was completed.
The red-brick blocks at Parliament and Dundas streets served as the grim barracks for an army of single mothers, working poor families and, later, gang members and drug dealers. Its residents were left to fend for themselves when the good intentions of the concept were undercut and ultimately quashed by political infighting and disinterest.
Many people raised healthy, happy children in spite of the surrounding lawlessness. They even banded together to create after-school programs, daycare centres and other community pillars. But everyone agreed that Regent Park had evolved largely into a playground for crime and despair.
Then last year, backhoes and bulldozers erased one corner of the project that is synonymous with crime, poverty and political bumbling. Residents moved into other subsidized housing units around Toronto.
Last March, Toronto Community Housing Corp. awarded Daniels Corp. the contract to build the first phase of the Regent Park redevelopment, the first of 12 planned phases that it is hoped will put an end to the blight. The proposal by Daniels called for 700 new homes to be built, including 300 for low-income families. The contract was awarded with great fanfare, trumpeting a new beginning for a troubled area. But little has been heard about it since. That will change early in 2008 when the first market-value condominiums and townhouses are built and go up for sale.
Martin Blake, vice-president of project implementation for Daniels, speaks with near-religious fervour when describing the first phase. "Our goal is that when people walk down the street, they will see no difference in quality and design [between low-income rental dwellings and market housing]," he says.
We pored over the site plan in Mr. Blake's Queen Street West office. It includes two high-rise towers of 16 and 22 storeys, respectively, with tenant suites set aside for seniors and families, and an eight-storey residential building that will also contain the central energy system (CES). This system will heat and cool the rest of the community through a collection of water pipes connecting every structure. It will go a long way toward fulfilling the project's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold designation (which is pending), while satisfying rigorous architectural standards.
"The biggest challenge was adhering with the concept of how they wanted the heating and cooling to work," Mr. Blake says. "Everything will rest on the CES."
There will be four more eight-storey buildings in the first phase; two will have tenants and be managed by TCHC, while the other two will have suites sold to buyers at market rates.
One of these buildings will include street-level retail space in its podium; tenants will include, among others, a bank branch. The lack of a convenient chartered bank outlet in the area has long been a sore spot with Regent Park residents, who believed they were being left to the mercy of shady payday loan operators.
Finally, there are nine groups of townhouses planned for the first phase. The final number and designs have yet to be determined, however. The plans must go through a rigorous vetting by the Design Review Committee, a group of planners, architects, environmental experts, city staff, and one current Regent Park resident overseen by TCHC.
No matter how you look at it, Regent Park is unlike any residential redevelopment ever seen in Toronto. The new community will try to stay true to its roots as a haven for low-income residents needing rental assistance. (In fact, all the designated rental suites and townhouses will be owned and managed by TCHC much the same as in years past.) There are mixed-income buildings all over the city, and country. The big question is whether subsidized housing residents and market-rate buyers can make this community work on such a grand scale as this 27-acre site.
I'm going to be all over this topic. I can't wait until I can walk straight down Sackville, through Regent with my dog and kids. When I lived in Cabbagetown on Sackville Street we used to see Gerrard as an impassable wall, never to cross. Funny, I've heard the Regent residents say the same thing. I can see it now....Mr. Miller, tear down that wall...". That's a Reagan-Berlin Wall reference for you engineers and comp-sci guys.
If Sackville is opened up from Wincester to Dundas, I hope they give some thought to traffic management. I would like to see Sackville Street continue to be one-way south from Wincester to Gerrard, but then one-way north from Dundas to Gerrard. Otherwise, we'll have a highway-like volume of cars using Sackville to avoid Parliament as a route to Dundas.