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Welcome to the neighbourhood? Residents attempt community building at CityPlace

September 1st, 2011 · 4 Comments

By Michael Radoslav

Councillor Adam Vaughan leads a Jane’s Walk through CityPlace. Courtesy Gary Pieters.

While condo projects have dotted the Toronto skyline for years, at CityPlace some see more than just construction underway—they see the potential for a great community.

“CityPlace is a great development and that’s what it was before we started here, a development,” said Dean Maher, president of the recently-formed CityPlace Residents’ Association. “Our goal is to make a house a home.”

The residents’ association wants CityPlace—a group of condominium developments located south of the rail corridor between Spadina and Bathurst—officially recognized as a neighbourhood by the City of Toronto, much like Kensington, Chinatown, and other areas. In addition they are working on a host of community-building initiatives.

Maher is a founding member of the association, helping to aid its formation last January after an unsuccessful bid to become a councillor in last fall’s municipal election.

The residents’ association has been working with Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) to achieve their goal of obtaining official recognition.

“Very few neighbourhoods are created out of nothing, and that is why this is so exciting,” said Vaughan. “It is a great opportunity to create this new community in the downtown core.”

Community-building initiatives are sprouting organically based on resident feedback said Steve Kee, the association’s vice-president of communications. Such initiatives include declaring a portion of Canoe Landing Park a dog park and starting up neighbourhood sports leagues at the turf field. For a part of town rich in rooming space, but lacking communal facilities, Maher said more restaurants or a community library would help make the area more attractive.

The group has also started hosting public meetings, including a recent one with Metrolinx regarding future projects.

However, the association’s work is not without its challenges. A lack of longevity is a hurdle in growing a community, said Sandeep Agrawal, an urban planning professor at Ryerson University. Downtown condos generally attract young professionals and young couples, groups not known for staying in one place too long. “At the moment what I see is that it’s more of a transitory place,” said Agrawal. “It is families and kids that make a neighbourhood lively and rich and give it more of a sense of permanency.”

Jack Kiatmysack, 26, a CityPlace tenant, reaffirmed that notion. “We’re leasing and we’re leasing on purpose,” he said.

Many of Kiatmysack’s neighbours say they do not see this as a long term destination point, he said, but rather a stop along the way.

“They have to find a way to keep everybody here,” said Korhan Kinazi, 33, a real estate agent who lives at CityPlace. “I think there’s an age aspect of living here, after you get settled and have a baby, I see people moving away.”

Maher said that perception of temporary residence is something the association is fighting to change. “If that’s the mentality we’ll never have people sit down, have a coffee and meet their neighbour.”

Future developments, such as the Toronto Community Housing project slated for the area, will help the area by adding more long-term residents, he added.

In addition to the transient nature of life in CityPlace, the group also has 12 official members that represent the interests of 12,000 people, which may prove to be another challenge. The residents’ association is currently made up of eight board members and four people working on projects, according to Kee. He said the group has “no immediate goals” of seeking mass membership from the greater CityPlace community, saying their focus is currently to “build up, be solid, be consistent, and build infrastructure,” but they want to “continue to make inroads into buildings and talk to people.”

While the group is not currently focused on membership drives, they are happy to work with residents who have suggestions and intend to find a representative from each building to widen their network. “We have to demonstrate that we’re building value, and I believe that we are,” Kee said. “We feel that we’ve made great strides.”

Ultimately to build a neighbourhood people need a reason to come together, Agrawal said, whether out of desire or necessity. In the past, neighbourhoods have united when a large construction project, such as highway, was built nearby, a tragedy has struck, or a group looked to occupy a specific piece of land together. Maher is confident a strong connection can and will be established among residents living at CityPlace.

“We won’t be Little Italy or Little Portugal since we are a condo community,” Maher said, “but we will form a new community.”

Tags: Liberty · News

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Cheeb // Sep 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    When this neighborhood was in the design stages, I feared this would be a neighborhood where if you did not live there or knew someone who did, you would never set foot there, as there is no other reason to go there. My fears have been realized. Lower Spadina avenue is a off/onramp to the Gardiner. There is no reason for anyone to stop and shop/eat as there are no such places, and there’s no where to park if they did. I am a frequent visitor only because my gf lives there. I hope things change. I also hope we have learned from these mistakes when it comes to building the brand new neighborhoods on the waterfront. You need to draw people to a neighborhood. People who do not live there, like happens in other great T.O neighborhoods. They are not going to visit because of condos, families and Toronto Housing. These are the makings of a bedroom-community, right smackdab in an area with so much potential. Nobody opts to travel to spend a day/night in a bedroom-community for fun. As a person who grew up in the inner suburbs, I would travel to the Beach, Yonge n Eg, the Danforth, Bloor West, etc. because it was fun and interesting. There is no such draw for CityPlace.

  • 2 DC // Sep 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    @Cheeb Agreed. I live at 10 Navy Wharf Crt. This is not a neighbourhood. People leave this area to go to true areas of Toronto where you can experience the city. You want to be able to walk out of your front door and see a diverse community with a variety of things to see and do. Not a Fox & the Fiddle, St Louis, Sobeys. There is no need to come to this area if you don’t live here or know anyone who does.

  • 3 Chris // Sep 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    I think what you two are forgetting is the fact that CityPlace is still a construction site. A community isn’t built over night, and CityPlace is no exception. Canoe Landing is starting to find its place in the community as the centre of the neighbourhood. Once construction is complete, we can focus on bringing events into the neighbourhood, more shops can open up in the ground floor units, and we can find other creative ways to attract people to the neighbourhood. (An art gallery has already opened up in a ground floor unit on Capreol Court)

    All of this will not happen over night. The world’s best communities didn’t come out of thin air. They all took time to build. CityPlace will come together, lets just give it time and work to shape it into what we want it to become.

  • 4 James // Sep 13, 2011 at 6:31 am

    If people are to mix and mingle we need reasons to come out of our vertical cells. Entertainment and Dining. Shopping and Cafés.

    This is very difficult to achieve when Concord’s policy towards new commercial businesses requires them to be a ‘franchise’ of another business. The local entrepreneurial spirit is hand-cuffed. As long as Concord keeps building retail in this way, with few amenities and floorplans only suited to banks and realtors, our choices will remain scarce. Until then our dining choices will be limited to take-out and cookie-cutter bar and grills. Small and independent business is what gives neighbourhoods their flavour, not this sanitized CondoDisney.

    Seriously, when was the last time someone invited you to meet them at the Firkin in the Beach, the Starbucks on Queen West, or grab a slice at the Pizzaiolo at Young & Eg. I applaud any effort to organize the community and will support it if I can, but as long a one person owns Main Street we won’t get the diversity we need here.