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September 21 and 22
2 days, 2 disciplines, 2 ways to participate – defining our professional roles and uniting to build more equitable, accessible and inspired communities.
The postwar construction boom left Toronto with 2,000 towers, the second largest concentration in North America. These towers are a critical pillar in our current housing system, accommodating one million residents, including some of the most vulnerable. However, they are facing challenges that need to be addressed to prevent exacerbation of the housing crisis. While most of these communities are not due for redevelopment, a majority are highly inefficient, vulnerable to power outages, and in need of major repairs. They lack basic social supports and are not designed for current needs.
Using the San Romanoway case study, this session shares a replicable model to re-imagine aging tower communities and surrounding neighbourhoods. San Romanoway hosts around 3,000 low-income residents: 95% are visible minorities, 55% are lone parents, and 50% have no high-school certificate. The surrounding neighbourhood has one of the lowest rates of parkland, poor air quality, scarce urban forest, and flooding issues. Through an innovative partnership between TRCA, building owners, the City of Toronto, and NGOs, San Romanoway has seen a radical transformation. Mostly funded with private contributions, it is an example of success that could be replicated across the country. Initiatives included:
•significant building retrofits that improved resilience and efficiency;
•revitalization of under-used outdoor areas into vibrant spaces with ecological function, urban agriculture, and community programing and amenities;
•balcony gardens to grow food and reduce high summer temperatures;
•job skills training and social enterprise support;
•capacity building programs for property managers and residents to guarantee project sustainability; and
•programs and improvements in the surrounding neighbourhood.
The neighbourhood plans were developed with residents using ground-breaking engagement approaches and social innovation. As a result, the project has had a positive impact in the mood of 85% of residents, 88% say the project has made them proud of their community, and 75% feel it has improved safety.