Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Second Look at Regent Park - Jane's Walk 2012

It's Regent Park; one of the neighborhoods in old Toronto. It's got Canada's largest and oldest social housing project.  And it's now in its fifth year of fifteen year journey to be revitalized to a mixed income neighborhood. The profit from sale of 3000 condo units will pay to re-build the 2083 social housing units.

Regent Park was our destination on this years Jane's walk.  It was a bitter sweet walk. We witnessed the impact the revitalization has had on a community that up until recently was mainly concerned on how to stay afloat and alive.  In every building we stopped to listen to a resident or a group of residents anecdote. We heard stories of what Regent Park was and what it has become.  One thing has not changed: the love of the residents for their neighborhood.

The walk started at Daniels Corporation presentation center, 505 Dundas East.  Our first stop was 40 Oaks, one of the newly and renovated social housing buildings. The residents of 40 Oaks told us about the building amenities.  "It's when people come together, sit face to face, break bread, that the social stigmas are eliminated."  With these words by one of the executives of the 40 Oaks we started learning about many features of the building; the volunteer run kitchen, the Rogers dinning room, that many of the furniture was made from reclaimed material.  Take the beautifully designed ceiling lamps in the buildings peace, meditation and prayer chamber.  The glass in the chandeliers were collected from Harbourfront, washed, and polished.  The chamber will see its first wedding in June!

At the next stop our walking tour, Sima welcomed us to the Regent Park Arts Cultural Centre.  Ground has been broken and the structures of this three stories building has been put in place.  A couple of youth, members of the center, read us a poetry and sing us a rap song, both of them show off talents in context of their roots in the neighborhood.  Though the building is not complete but the pictures encourage us to dream big. The new center will be nothing but perfect.  It will cultivate art, and bring like minded people together, e.g. the Centre for Social Innovation Regent Park will occupy 10,000 square feet on the third floor of the new Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre. CSI Regent Park will become home to a diverse cross-section of social mission organizations and individuals who are coming together to share ideas, resources, advice and inspiration.

We continue our walk through the streets, and any moment we get, we stop to capture memories on photo.  I am excited, and filled with hope and wonder.  I wish all the behind-the-scenes hand and brains of this project the success they deserve.  Not only, I hope success for this fifteen years journey, but I hope the revitalized community is going to sustain itself after all the helping hands and external support, builders, leaders, and project managers, leave the community.  Meanwhile, I have been wearing "I <3 Regent Park" button since the walk to show my affinity to what could be the end of stigma stricken core downtown T.O.