Welcome to Regent Park:
Blocks from the city’s highest skyscrapers and richest cultural attractions, Regent Park is the quintessential transitional neighbourhood. A failed 1940s social housing project long blighted by crime and poverty, the area has been the beneficiary of a billion-dollar municipal rejuvenation effort that started in 2005. Today, much of the crumbling project housing has been razed to make room for retailers and stunning new residential buildings where subsidized units are indistinguishable from those purchased at market prices. Add in spectacular new public amenities and a fast commute to downtown, and this still-affordable area has all the makings of a thriving urban community.
What you'll fall in love with:
The city’s revitalization plan for Regent Park has been lauded around the world, and nowhere in Toronto will you find so many sparkling new and beautifully refurbished facilities. From a brand new pool (with Tarzan rope!) to a gorgeous new arts facility and a sprawling new community centre, Regent Park has quickly become a destination for recreation and community engagement.
A little bit of history:
The area Torontonians now know as Regent Park was actually part of Cabbagetown for the first 100 years. Starting in the 1840s, the area became home to impoverished Irish immigrants who fled the potato famine with their families, and landed here. They grew cabbage on their front lawns, so they could feed their children. The name Cabbagetown was a reference to these gardens, an epithet used by wealthy British. It was synonymous with the word slum.
Working in local industry and the nearby Distillery District, generations of families lived in excruciating poverty for over a century. The area was particularly hard-hit by the Great Depression in the 1930s, and the very worst areas were along the bottom edge of the slum, south of Gerrard Street. And so, in an effort to help the poor, city planners razed the worst parts of the Cabbagetown slum and constructed Canada’s first public housing project in 1947. They called it Regent Park.
The plan failed, and poverty and crime started creeping back in as early as the 1960s. While the old Victorian homes in north Cabbagetown were lovingly refurbished and went on to sell for $1 million or more, the squat public housing of Regent Park continued to decay. In 2005, Toronto’s City Hall announced another revitalization project. They planned to raze the public housing, build new mixed-income housing, make space for businesses and reconnect the neighbourhood to the rest of the city. The revitalization project is expected to take 20 years to complete; there are five phases, and the project is in its third phase. Most say the project has so far been remarkably successful, drawing international attention from other countries with similar concerns.
Regent Park draws optimistic, forward-looking Torontonians who love the area’s new condos, great public facilities and proximity to downtown – and who believe that change is possible. With prices still a fraction of those in hip neighbouring communities like Corktown and The Distillery District, Regent Park offers an unparalleled opportunity for those who are willing to take a chance on a late-blooming neighbourhood that is finally hitting its stride.
Active locals enjoy free access to the Regent Park Aquatic Centre, a 25-metre pool complete with a waterslide, spa pool, diving board and the aforementioned Tarzan rope. Also free: the brand new Regent Park Community Centre, a 60,000 square foot facility that features a climbing wall, indoor track, teaching kitchen, a gymnasium and a rooftop garden. There’s a community garden here now, with a greenhouse and a bake oven on-site. The $4 million Regent Park Athletic Grounds anchor the neighbourhood with a soccer field and cricket pitch, an ice rink, a new basketball court and a table tennis surface.
Daniels Spectrum, which opened in 2012, is a 60,000 square foot community cultural hub that won the prestigious international Civic Trust Award for its architectural design and was named the Best New Venue in Canada by BizBash magazine. Home to multiple arts and community organizations, the Spectrum offers many performance and exhibition spaces and hosts everything from art shows to poetry slams.
Regent Park was long separated from the rest of the city by poor urban planning, but the 2005 revitalization plan re-established the original grid system and the result is top-notch access to Toronto’s public transit system. Locals can bike or drive to Union Station in roughly 15 minutes, which is about the same amount of time it takes them to get to Yonge and Bloor. Transit takes just over 20 minutes to both locations, and you can walk to both places in under 40 minutes.
Regent Park is bordered on the north by Gerrard Street, and on the south by Shuter Street; the western edge is Parliament Street and the Eastern Edge is River Street. The neighbourhood is home to a diverse cross-section of Torontonians from all social strata, and that’s by design: the city’s revitalization strategy ensured that everyone who was living in subsidized housing there before demolition began would have the opportunity to move back in once the new construction was complete. This is a family community: there are lots of kids and families of all shapes and size, and plenty of couples without kids too. The neighbourhood is rich with culture as people from all over the world live here, and only half of the locals were born in Canada.
Regent Park on a map
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