Currently in the midst of an ambitious redevelopment, Toronto's once-stigmatized Regent Park is in the process of transforming into a mixed-income residential community. Initiated in 2002,Toronto Community Housing Corporation's (TCHC) master-planned revitalization project is now in the second and third of five phases, recently reaching a major milestone with the opening of the Regent Park Community Centre. With over a decade of development—led by The Daniels Corporation—now behind us and over a decade still to come, we take stock of recent progress and preview the work ahead.
TCHC's updated plan of the site provides an overview of when and where future development will take place. At the western edge of Regent Park, Phase 1 of the redevelopment is now complete, with a cluster of towers and townhomes replacing the former housing project. In recent years, activity has been concentrated in the central Phase 2 area, with mixed-income residential projects including Daniels Spectrum and One Park Place.
So far, Phase 2 has also delivered crucial public amenities to the neighbrouhood, including the Regent Park Aquatic Centre and the recently completed Community Centre. Since opening, the multi-award-winning Diamond Schmitt-designed Daniels Spectrum has also become a creative nexus for the community. Hosting a wealth of cultural programming—including the annual Regent Park Film Festival, the Collective of Black Artists (COBA), and Native Earth Performing Arts—the 60,000 ft² Artscape hub has developed a prominent presence in the city's cultural milieu.
Just east of Daniels Spectrum, the recently completed One Park Place has added new retail to the area, alongside two project's two mixed-income Hariri Pontarini-designed towers. Continuing Phase 2, the Quadrangle-designed Bartholomew is currently under construction, with the 13-storey building—and adjoining townhouses—now well above grade.
As one of the final Phase 2 residential projects, The Bartholomew condominium is set to be joined by a new Diamond Schmitt-designed TCHC building across Sackville Street at Block 24 South. A new rendering of the project depicts plans for the L-shaped slab building, which is now in the early stages of construction.
Late last year, TCHC's Giannone Petricone Associates-designed affordable housing development on Block 22 was also completed (kitty-corner from the upcoming Block 24 South), restoring some of the former neighbourhood's affordable housing supply.
Surrounding the residential towers, new public facilities—including the eponymous park—are enriching the previously marginalized area with new amenities. Joining the award-winning Aquatic Centre, the Regent Park Community Centre opened in late February, garnering early acclaim. Directly adjacent to Nelson Mandela Public School (itself re-opened in 2013), the facility's opening was recently covered in an in-depth editorial.
To put the recent changes in perspective, the opening of an RBC branch in 2010 at One Cole—the first bank in Regent Park's 62-year history—was a major Phase 1 milestone for the neighbourhood only six years ago. Now, the area is established as another of Toronto's attractive residential nodes, and the stigmatized neighbourhood of a decade ago already seems long gone. As Daniels' Dominic Tompa put it, "we don't sell the neighbourhood of the future anymore... I just tell people to put their coats on and see what's already there."
With all but one of the final Phase 2 projects underway, demolition east of Sumach is clearing the way for Phase 3 residential projects. On the north side of Dundas East, blocks 15 and 17 are now being demolished, while the area south of Sumach has long been cleared to make way for new housing and the Regent Park Athletic Grounds, with shoring activity for residential projects at Block 26 and Block 27 now underway.
South of Dundas—and directly east of One Park Place—a mix of new market-rate and subsidized homes are now underway. TCHC's row of townhomes at Block 28 are set to be joined by a tower at Block 27. The neighbouring Block 26, meanwhile, will feature another Daniels condominium, The Wyatt, for which marketing has just started. More detailed information about the project—and other Phase 3 developments—is still forthcoming.
At the heart of Phase 3, the Regent Park Athletic Grounds are adding another public amenity to the area. Developed in partnership between Daniels, MLSE, TCHC, the City of Toronto, and the MLSE Foundation, the Athletic Grounds are creating an attractive outdoor recreation space at the southeast end of Regent Park.
The recently completed soccer and cricket pitch is joined by an outdoor skating rink, a basketball court, and a community plaza. Work on the complex is now nearing completion as construction on the residential components of Phase 3 ramps up.
Along the north end of Regent Park between Oak Street and Gerrard, the last of the previous generation of mid-rise buildings still stand. Here, Phases 4 and 5 will round out the neighbourhood's historic redevelopment over much of the next decade. Meanwhile, as part of Phase 3, the corner of Parliament and Gerrard will see a new "Block 1" tower rise as Regent Park's northwestern capstone.
The revitalization of Regent Park has been widely celebrated as a successful re-integration of an isolated, marginalized neighbourhood into the urban sphere. Where residents long faced the structural violence borne by misguided mid-century planning, a functional, attractive, and socially diverse neighbourhood is now taking shape. Recently hailed as a "model of inclusion" by The New York Times, Regent Park has been favourably compared to similar revitalization efforts throughout the western world, with a particular emphasis on the lack of "poor doors" and the ample inclusion of public programming.
However, while the Regent Park renaissance has often been hailed as an unqualified success, this popular narrative leaves out the voices of some of the marginalized residents that the redevelopment is designed to help. In particular, the relocation of some former residents to relatively far-flung housing has been critiqued as a disruptive force, breaking established community bonds as former residents make way for new condominium tenants. The planning of the relocation process has also been questioned, while some have argued that the revitalization plan has prioritized new condo buyers over the more vulnerable displaced residents.
While all Regent Park residents have a "right to return" to their neighbourhood once the revitalization process is complete, the intervening years pose difficulties to many. Yet it's hard to compare the new neighbourhood with what once was without acknowledging the public benefits of a new cultural hub, community centre, athletic facility, and new housing. Ultimately, the area's inclusive new urban geography has succeeded in removing the stigma once attached to the neighbourhood. Nonetheless, objectively weighing the large-scale benefits against the pains caused to those who have been displaced remains difficult.
We will keep you updated as Regent Park's various projects continue to unfold. In the meantime, make sure to check out our associated dataBase files for more information. Want to share your thoughts on the Regent Park revitalization? Feel free to leave a comment in the space below this page, or to join in the ongoing discussion on one of our associated Forum threads.