Bulldozed buildings, fatal shootings, uprooted residents: Is Regent Park revitalization crumbling?

 

Fatima Animer, 16, and her brother Moubachar Animer, 14, in Regent Park.
(Photo by Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 – Globe and Mail
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TORONTO — It’s supposed to be an urban-planning model – an example of what millions of dollars and decades of prepping, razing and rebuilding can do to transform a 60-year-old poverty enclave into a mixed-income downtown neighbourhood.

But right now, Regent Park is reeling after a string of shootings left three dead in as many weeks. Parents say they are afraid to let their children out after dark, even for the area’s free tutoring programs. Police have set up a neighbourhood-specific unit, in which officers conduct around-the-clock patrols that are as much about community engagement as they are about stopping crime.

Regent Park’s re-imagining is far from finished, and it will be years before the verdict is in on its success. Right now, residents of the 2,083 social-housing units are in flux – some already in new units, some in old ones waiting for demolition to begin, and others temporary townhouses while construction is in progress.

In the meantime, some argue the fear inspired by the recent violence and uncertainty over how well the renewal will work raise questions about exporting this model to social-housing complexes in the city’s most troubled neighbourhoods.

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Almost home: Toronto’s Regent Park at a crossroads

Saturday, May 29, 2010 – Globe and Mail
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TORONTO — Yasin Khawaja and his family know they’re almost home. The 22-year-old, his parents and two sisters are set to move into their apartment in Regent Park’s brand-new reincarnation.

They just don’t know when.

At first it was August. But earlier this month they were told to expect delays. Now the family waits on tenterhooks, a September reunion in Bangladesh facing postponement, until they find out their fate. “The whole thing has been kind of a mess,” he says.

But the tone in the Khawajas’ Shuter Street townhouse is one of excited, nervous anticipation when they talk about the upcoming move – a new building (with a balcony, he notes with pride), a new neighbourhood in the works and, maybe, a new way of providing social housing.

“They gave us choices, they gave us floor plans. … Whenever someone asks, ‘Where do you live?’ and I say, ‘Regent Park,’ they’re like, ‘Ohh, are you serious?’

“I’m hoping it’s better.”

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The rejuvenation of Lawrence Heights

Friday, February 26, 2010 – Globe and Mail
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A modest urban tweak it isn’t.

The city’s plan for the Lawrence Heights area aims, over a quarter-century and multiple construction-intensive phases, to build a model community from scratch and revolutionize the way people live, shop, work and commute in the 110-acre area.

There is no price tag on the project.

The 1,208 units of social housing alone will cost an estimated $350-million.

But it’s unclear how much it will cost to build the other 6,300-odd units of condominiums and townhouses the city envisions or for the green space and other renovations planned.

But the city and Toronto Community Housing Corporation officials who unveiled the latest plans yesterday were optimistic the long-term vision will become a reality.

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Urban renewal in ‘the Jungle’: Toronto’s plan to redevelop Lawrence Heights

Thursday, February 25, 2010 – Globe and Mail
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In the centre of what’s set to become Toronto’s massive social-engineering experiment, Hersi Abdirizack reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out two vials: tiny red specks in clear liquid.

Bedbugs in alcohol, he explains, shaking them slightly.

For the Somali entomologist turned tenant advocate, this is part of what community revitalization will mean in Lawrence Heights.

Today, the city will unveil its latest plans to reinvent one of Canada’s largest social-housing complexes and the chronically marginalized neighbourhood around it.

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