I love the way Graeme describes the potential of Toronto’s high-rise rental apartment buildings. He paints a hopeful picture of what the future could be. With community gardens, playgrounds and restaurants, things that bring neighbours together, these buildings could be more dynamic and more sustainable. Better for everyone.
But today, these tower communities are facing challenges. Their amenities are run down. They’re home to a growing number of low-income families — families that don’t feel connected to one another or to our city. You can read more about their challenges in our research report, Vertical Poverty.
The thing is, these apartment buildings are home to over half a million people. They’re a vital part of Toronto’s housing stock; an essential part of our city.
That’s why — together with residents, landlords, community leaders, the City of Toronto, and Graeme’s firm — we’ve started working to revitalize tower neighbourhoods. We want to make them more vibrant. To make them safer, better places to live.
For us, Tower Neighbourhood Renewal represents an opportunity to build on the success of our Building Strong Neighbourhood Strategy. In Rexdale for example, renewal started with a group of residents brought together by United Way’s Action for Neighbourhood Change. Their work to improve two apartment buildings led to new community gardens, dance classes, computer labs and breakfast programs. You can learn more about their story at One Millionth Tower, a project by the National Film Board of Canada.
Like Rexdale, Thorncliffe Park is a community with many newcomer families living in high rise buildings. United Way member agency Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO) is working with us to start revitalizing towers there. They’re currently reaching out to residents to learn how they envision their neighbourhood — what improvements they want to see. Jehad Aliweiwi, TNO’s Executive Director will be our featured Imagine a City blogger on Monday, so be sure to stop back then. He’ll describe a Toronto that’s more welcoming and inclusive for newcomers.
In addition to the projects in Rexdale and Thorncliffe, we’re also working with the City of Toronto on zoning regulations for all high-rise communities. We want to make it possible for them to accommodate stores, markets, daycares and more.
Although it’s early days of this work, the right people are at the table, including innovators like Graeme. There are a lot of people and organizations behind us. While we still have a lot of work to do, I’m excited by the steps we’re taking. We’re headed in the right direction.