City council has adopted a new vision for the redevelopment of Lawrence Heights that will see significantly fewer market-priced units built in the neighbourhood as part of the revitalization plan.
In response to community consultation, Ward 15 councillor Josh Colle asked the city to reduce the number of market-priced units from 4,800 to 4,100. When the revitalization was first proposed, it envisioned 6,800 such units. The replacement of the 1,208 subsidized units owned by Toronto Community Housing will be unaffected.
Those changes mean that 100 fewer homes will be built on the Toronto District School Board’s Bathurst Heights site and that no residences will be built in the Lawrence Square plaza or Baycrest Park. It was also decided to build townhouses on the east and west sides of the proposed development area rather than mid-rise buildings.
Colle said he feels the new plan is a good compromise.
“I think it makes for a better blueprint for development than what had previously been there,” he said. “It’s really a culmination of a lot of consultation and discussion I’ve had with the community.”
Colle hopes that increasing the density in the neighbourhood will also curb crime by bringing the community closer together.
“You have an area, and because it’s unsafe no one goes out, but because no one goes out, it becomes more unsafe,” he said.
Colle said that while some residents are still uncomfortable with the neighbourhood expanding, overall the response to the density decrease has been positive.
“I think what everyone hopes for is to have a neighbourhood that is much more reflective of other parts of the city and what makes Toronto great,” he said. “That’s the aim.”
In 2008, the city initiated the Lawrence Heights revitalization study in response to a history of crime and infrastructure issues in the area dominated by Toronto Community Housing buildings constructed in the ’60s.
Former Ward 15 councillor Howard Moscoe said the practise of building neighbourhoods composed entirely of subsidized housing has proven to be a failure.
“We learned the hard way to collect all poor people together in an area and ghettoize it is not the solution to their problems,” said Moscoe. “In fact, it creates its own problems.”
Moscoe proposed integrating market-priced residences into the area to create a mixed-income neighbourhood, and using the proceeds to revitalize the community.
He also hopes the new Lawrence Heights will finally be able to shed its infamous moniker.
“We’re hopefully going to lose the term the ‘Jungle’, forever,” he said.