The city’s Lawrence-Allen revitalization plan has been recognized with an Excellence in Planning award from the Ontario Professional Planners Institute despite critics who have said the new neighbourhood would be too densely populated.
The award, in the Municipal Statutory Planning Studies, Reports and Documents category, recognizes all aspects of excellence in planning as well as professional planners who do exemplary work in their community.
The institute’s president, Mary Lou Tanner, said the project was chosen because, while ambitious, it also respects the nature of the surrounding community.
“The revitalization plan articulates a vision and planning framework … structured around a vibrant public realm and fitting into the surrounding context of stable, low-scale residential neighbourhoods,” Tanner said in an email to the Town Crier.
Toronto’s chief planner, Gary Wright, said the award shows the city’s continued commitment to revitalizing struggling neighbourhoods.
“It’s a source of pleasure and pride for us because we’re a division that likes to take pride in the work we do,” Wright said. “We know we can be proactive and come up with good plans for the future of Toronto.”
Wright said he believes the project was awarded because it’s transit-oriented, revitalizes a social housing community and was a result of significant consultation with residents.
The Lawrence-Allen Revitalization Plan focuses on the Toronto Community Housing neighbourhood of Lawrence Heights, which consists of 1,208 rent-geared-to-income homes and serves 17,000 residents from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.
The plan proposes turning Lawrence Heights into a mixed-income neighbourhood by introducing market-priced homes.
The number of new units has been downsized several times from 6,800 new units when the revitalization was first proposed, to 4,100.
The idea is to use the proceeds from the new units to revitalize the community by integrating trail networks, parks and open spaces and a new community centre.
Ward 15 councillor Josh Colle said while some of his constituents are still worried the influx of new residents could harm the neighbourhood, the community consultation has eased many residents’ fears.
“I’ve got some of my working groups who were opposed to development much more comfortable now,” said Colle.
Wright said he hopes the award will help make Lawrence Heights residents more comfortable with the prospect of a community in transition.
“I remain hopeful that people will see that it’s a positive step for their neighbourhood,” Wright said.
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