Visioning Scarborough

Community Design in Action

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Tower Renewal: Taking Stock

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On November 27, 2012, the City of Toronto’s Tower Renewal Office invited a group of fifty researchers engaged in work relating to Tower Renewal and high-rise communities to gather at Metro Hall and discuss their recent and upcoming projects.

The event, Tower Renewal Research: Taking Stock, was co-sponsored by the Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership, based at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Cities Centre at the University of Toronto. Taking Stock built on the work of the Cities Centre’s Tower Renewal symposia in past years.

The event began with an overview of Tower Renewal’s recent initiatives, including the Recipe for Community project in St. James Town, neighbourhood improvements in Weston-Mt. Dennis, the citywide Solid Waste Field Test and Ontario Power Authority’s Energy Efficiency Services Provider Initiative.

Attendees were then treated to 16 brief presentations from a variety of disciplines. Each presenter highlighted their current and upcoming projects relating to Tower Renewal. The presenters represented a large swath of subject areas: social work, environment, geography, transportation, culture, planning, public health, engineering and architecture.
The presentations outlined several ongoing research projects and initiatives that align closely with Tower Renewal.

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Bridging Festival 2012

This year’s Scarborough Arts Bridging Festival relocated to the East Scarborough Storefront to celebrate the launch of Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park.

Over the past few years, the Storefront, archiTEXT, SUSTAINABLE.TO, ERA Architects, and community participants have been collaborating on the “Community Design Initiative” to make positive design changes to the Storefront and its grounds.

Today the next phase is truly underway: We are now officially working with the United Way and residents of the Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust (CAPREIT) to improve the spaces between the Storefront, the adjacent CAPREIT Towers, and the Morningside Park Ravine beyond. Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiatives such as this aim to produce healthier, happier, more usable, and more sustainable communities, and to empower local residents to take ownership of their environments.

The project launch was marked by a ceremonial “De-Fencing” where community youth were cheered on as they helped remove a line of fence to the north of the Storefront. The removal of this barrier is symbolic of community stakeholders’ claim to the space, but also opens practical physical connections between the tower residences, the Storefront, and the streets beyond.

This was all made possible in no small part due to the extraordinary efforts and cooperation of all involved, including, in addition to those mentioned above, the City of Toronto, Direct Construction, and all our amazing volunteers.

Special thanks again to the United Way, whose financial support of this project is essential and very much appreciated.food4_2IMG_1813_2fencepush-1

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United Way Invests $800,000 in Tower Renewal

Aging Apartment Highrises will get Comunnity-Minded Mini-Makeovers in the New Pilot Project


Katie Daubs
Staff Reporter

A handful of aging apartments in the Kipling and Finch and Kingston Galloway neighbourhoods will be getting a facelift.

The United Way is chipping in $800,000, and residents, owners and community partners will decide how to spend the money. It could be an update to an old recreation room, or a splash pad where a redundant driveway once was.

The buildings involved are privately owned. Pedro Barata of the United Way said the property managers see it as an opportunity to turn underused space into places that will improve the quality of life in the building and community.

“Any time that residents are engaged and feeling better about the place that they live, you’re going to get safer neighbourhoods and lower turnover rates,” he said.

For the two-year pilot project, the United Way chose a cluster of buildings in the Kingston Galloway-Orton Park neighbourhood near the East Scarborough Storefront, and a group of buildings near Kipling and Finch near the Rexdale Community Hub.

Barata said the highrise at Kipling and Finch was the inspiration for the project, because the residents and property manager turned a space on the main floor into a recreation room for dance classes. Community agencies now use the room for a breakfast program.

Community MicroSkills Development Centre in Rexdale will help co-ordinate the project in the Kipling and Finch area, and the East Scarborough Storefront will help with the Kingston-Galloway neighbourhood. Storefront director Anne Gloger said it’s a bit like renovating a home, with everyone chiming in with ideas. They’re considering closing one of five driveways and turning it into a gathering space. There is also talk of sculptures, dog parks and places for children to play. They’d also like to have more options for economic activity.

Graeme Stewart of ERA Architects, has been working with partners at the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal and the City to change zoning to allow for more flexibility.

Unlike today’s new mixed-use condo developments, when these apartments were built, they were zoned residential and have remained such.

“It’s really grim that you can’t do basic things,” he said, citing the example of a community barbecue where hotdogs had to be given away because monetary transactions were not allowed.

Many of Toronto’s aging highrise buildings were built in the ’60s and were initially advertised as modern and chic, he said. When the neighbourhoods fell out of fashion in the ’70s, the buildings remained static, with parking lots, chain-link fences and yards. Nowadays, inner suburb highrises have become one of the few affordable options for many families. In a report released earlier this year, the United Way noted that by 2006, nearly 40 per cent of all families in Toronto highrise buildings were “poor.”

Much of the housing stock is still decent and safe, but there are malfunctioning elevators, appliances in disrepair, and pests and vermin are common, the report said. Some buildings don’t have common rooms, and there are higher rates of crime and social disorder than other places in Canada.

“In 15 to 20 years, they will require billions to stay viable or they’re going to have to come down,” said Stewart, an adviser on the report. “We want to make sure we find ways so we don’t get to that point.”

Barata said the pilot project is part of the United Way and City of Toronto’s “strong neighbourhood” strategy, which aims to change the fortunes of 13 priority neighbourhoods identified as places with higher risk of poverty and lower access to services.