Starting this week, Toronto Community Housing Corp. (TCHC) and Tridel formally form a public consultation process marking the beginning of the last two phases of the Regent Park revitalization – a stretch that stretches east along the south side of Gerrard Street between Parliament and River streets. When completed, it will mark the completion of the redevelopment of one of the largest public housing complexes in Canada.
According to the project’s new website, the subdivision application, construction site applications and building permit issues will take over three years. The first virtual consultation session will take place tomorrow at 18.30. TCHC and Tridel (selected as the new development partner following a tender process in 2019-2020) are expected to seek increased density for Phases 4 and 5, which will include a mix of public, affordable and market entities.
To create context for what comes next, Gap, in collaboration with the Metcalf Foundation and the University of Toronto, is today publishing a detailed study of the revitalization to date. The project, which traces back to residents’ demands for improved housing in the late 1990s, was first approved in 2002, with re-development beginning in 2006.
Built in the late 1940s and 1950s, the 69-acre public housing project was originally intended to replace an enclave of dilapidated townhouses that the city considers a slum. Over the years, the combination of neglect, crime, systemic racism, media stigma, and antagonistic treatment by police in Toronto isolated Regent Park residents. But grassroots community organizations pushed for improvements and set in motion a project that has cost over $ 1.5 billion to date. Originally, the revitalization was intended to be self-financing, with the sale of new market units covering the cost of replacing TCHC’s subsidized flats. But delays and shortcomings in the business model have led to shortcomings that the municipality must cover.
In collaboration with the city and TCHC, the project’s first developer, Daniels Corp., set out to create an inclusive mixed-income community equipped with new public facilities, retail, and improved connections to the rest of downtown Downtown. While the new Regent Park contains all of these features, the project has been haunted by politics, delays, bureaucratic uncertainty, and a changing political environment. The TCHC originally asked Daniels to carry out the entire project, but the city decided to re-bid the last two phases in 2018, with Tridel chosen as the winner in December 2020.
The 47-page report – download the PDF – and an affiliated Community Resource Library, hosted by U of T Libraries, examines several aspects of the project to date, including built form, social development, societal benefits, and the broader housing policy environment. The project team includes Shauna Brail, associate professor at U of T Mississauga’s Institute for Innovation and Management; John Lorinc, Spacing Senior Editor; Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie, town planner; and Lena Sanz Tover, town planner.
The project team was supported by an advisory committee for the local community, which included both residents and representatives of local authorities. The report itself draws on publicly available staff reports and other official data sources, previously published academic research on Regent Park, and confidential interviews with 23 Regent Park residents (both TCHC and market housing), representatives of local social services authorities and officials with TCHC, Daniels, the City of Toronto and development companies. The research was conducted with the approval of the University of Toronto’s Research Ethics Council.
Members of the Advisory Committee and two U of T reviewers generously provided critical feedback on preliminary drafts. Lorinc, who acted as writer, assumes responsibility for any factual errors in the final version.