During my time at City Hall, I have been proud to work directly with local communities and City staff to invest in new parks and playgrounds, bike lanes, accessible sidewalks, a new skate trail, free tennis courts, basketball courts, and pedestrian paths and more. We have invested millions in TCH buildings for security, repairs, and community spaces. After years of hard work, we won the community a new 1.6 acre park between Yonge and Bay Street, created new bike share stations, and unveiled thousands of new tree plantings. We did this while working with City planning staff, refusing and fighting insensitive development downtown - so much so that, together with residents, I lead the charge at City Council to dismantle the developer-friendly Ontario Municipal Board.
Healthy and complete communities need parks. They need community centres, school playgrounds, and walkable and bikeable streets. They need services for our most vulnerable and deeply affordable housing that allows families to thrive. This list is not exhaustive, but it highlights a few of the projects that we are most proud of. I look forward to continuing our work in improving the vibrancy of our neighbourhoods and increasing access to important community programs that help sustain our communities, provide new opportunity for youth to thrive, and improve the overall health and well-being of our neighbourhoods.
1. Casey House Retrofit and Restoration
Living with HIV/AIDS can be incredibly challenging. It means dealing with the stigma and fear that still exists around the virus. Since opening in 1988, Casey House has provided both quality care and compassion that has improved quality of life of those living with HIV/AIDS. As City Councillor, I proudly directed section 37 funds to Casey House to help build a new state-of-the-art facility to provide speciality hospital and home care services, as well as vital community programs, for people living with advanced HIV/AIDS.
The building was built in 1875 and was one of the original mansions on Jarvis Street and Casey House opened their beautiful new location in 2017. In addition to new facilities for its clients, the funds helped restore both the interior and exterior of the mansion. The upgrades also have allowed new meeting rooms and spaces that have been made available to the local community. I stand by this important work that we did to serve our community and provide life-saving care.
2. Wellesley Community Aquatic Centre
Community centres and accessible programming are essential for the healthy and vitality of a local neighbourhood. Working with my friend and mentor, Councillor Pam McConnell, I directed over $5 million in section 37 funding from Ward 27 to help design and build a new aquatic centre at the Wellesley Community Centre. Recreational activities are critical for our residents, especially our youth and seniors. Building the new Aquatic Centre, will mean that residents in St. Jamestown and surrounding area will no longer have to travel all the way to Regent Park to access pool facilities.
The funds will help build the long awaited new leisure, recreation and activity pools, and related amenities. The new facilities come after extensive consultation from local residents, including youth, to ensure it meets the needs of the community.
3. 389 Church St. TCH Capital Repairs
This vacant, under-utilized 13-storey Toronto Community Housing (TCH) building, located at 389 Church Street, was constructed in the 1970s. It originally utilized a shared living model, for women, with clusters of sleeping units and shared kitchens. The building had fallen into considerable disrepair, with a capital repair backlog in excess of $4 million. As Councillor, I championed new investment - up to 2 million dollars in capital repairs, including a significant portion funded from section 37 - which will almost double the number of affordable units in this building, creating 120 updated, self-contained, one and two-bedroom units, at affordable rents for women.
4. Barbara Ann Scott Skate Trail at College St. & Bay Street
We turned this under-utilized and run-down public space into a magnificent skate trail for residents to enjoy! After community consultations and extensive renovations, an upgraded and revitalized park will be open to the public. Work on the city's newest skate trail will continue and the new skating facility will be open for this winter. The nearly $8 million in park upgrades includes new plantings and trees, improved access off of Yonge, College, Bay, and Gerrard, a new skate trail and skating facility, as well as major landscaping improvements.
6. 63-65 Homewood Ave - New Affordable Housing
As part of a redevelopment project, I approached Planning Staff and the City of Toronto to acquire this former bed and breakfast nestled at 63 and 65 Homewood Avenue to be turned into new affordable housing. The Affordable Housing Office awarded a contract to Native Men’s Residence (Na-Me-Res) to create 20 individual rental units for Indigenous men. The project, currently under construction, will allow Na-Me-Res to provide deeply affordable and fully accessible housing.
7. Toronto Community Housing Security Upgrades
Healthy and safety of our residents is important. I am one of the few Councillors who have used Section 37 funds for Toronto Community Housing (TCH) repairs and upgrades. In 2018, over a million dollars in Section 37 was invested into 12 TCH properties to improve building security and lighting. Specific improvements include: upgraded intercom and CCTV systems, card access upgrades and over 200 new cameras. Together with residents and communities, we identified buildings that needed upgrades. This work would not have been done without section 37 funding and I have gone above and beyond to ensure that capital repairs are made. This investment joins previous investments of over $850,103 into TCH properties for similar upgrades in previous years. I will continue to invest in TCH repairs and security upgrades to ensure healthy and high quality of life can be achieved.
8. Egale Youth Shelter & Transitional Housing (257 Dundas St E)
LGBTQ+ youth experience unique challenges. I know first hand that coming out is never easy and often families may not be accepting. Many find themselves, like I did, living on their own at an early age as a result. In 2013, the Toronto Street Needs Assessment report found that 21% youth residing in youth shelters identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Toronto’s first transitional and emergency housing program for LGBTQ+ youth by Egale Human Rights Trust has now been established at 257 Dundas St. East. With the support and fierce advocacy from the community, section 37 funds provided an essential investment, allowing this TCHC-owned building to be renovated and retrofitted. This number represents more than twice the overall rate of the total homeless population. The new facility, when completed, will provide 30 needed spaces for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
9. Dr. Lillian McGregor Park (25 Wellesley St W)
I know the importance that parks play in improving health and quality of life. In the downtown core, there are too few opportunities to enjoy parks and green space. I vowed to change that. Together with the community, we secured a brand new 1.6 acre park at 25 Wellesley Street West, as part of an approved condominium proposal at 11 Wellesley Street West. This was no easy feat, but Dr. Lillian McGregor Park will be one of the few new significant pieces of parkland created in downtown Toronto since amalgamation. Investment of Section 37 monies were integral to acquiring this new downtown parkland. This was achieved through combining the Section 37 contribution from 11 Wellesley Street West as well as $500,000 from two other nearby developments. The park will be named for Dr. Lillian McGregor, a nurse and community leader from Whitefish River First Nation.
10. Allan Gardens Playground
Children need open and accessible play space. Completed in 2015, the new Allan Gardens Playground required an investment of section 37 funding to complete the scope and work of the project. The playground improvements, including new play structures and a safe rubber playground surface, were the result of a lengthy community consultation process. In under-served areas, open and public play and park space is even more essential, as children need play and activity in order to be healthy. Because of my commitment and smart investments, Allan Gardens has a brand new playground for children and families from across the community and the city to enjoy.
11. Church St Public School Playground
Working with TDSB School Trustee and parents at Church Street Junior Public School, together we identified the need for capital investments at Church Street Public School, including significant restoration and upgrades to the playground and a new playfield. I directed Section 37 funds to be invested into the playground, allowing the TDSB to invest their capital dollars into classroom and school improvements.
12. Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA) Capital Improvements
Culture and history is significant. It tells the story of where we have been in order to contextualize and understand our current realities. A significant cultural site, and the largest LGBTQ+ archive in the world, tells the unique story of Toronto has a global landing place for LGBTQ+ community and provides accessible programming and access to never-before-seen archives of LGTBQ+ history and political movement. With the advocacy and support of the community, we invested section 37 funds to allow CLGA to make their space at 34 Isabella Street fully accessible. Upon completion, this national treasure will be accessible to all visitors.
We did this together
We achieved these results because I love Toronto and I love supporting our dynamic communities. I love working with residents to thoughtfully and purposefully improve our public spaces, improve access to recreation services, and improve access to deeply affordable housing. Together, with residents and communities, we take pride in our dynamic neighbourhoods. We know that for a safer and healthy community, we need to invest in our affordable housing, as well as our community services. I listened to residents who said that there weren’t enough services and that our social infrastructure was not keeping pace with development. That is why I initiated a new city-building direction by creating TOcore, the new 25-year master plan for our downtown.
We Did This Together
There are candidates who want you to believe that we must make a choice between the vital services we need - between community centres and parks or housing and transit. This is not a zero sum game. I believe the residents of Toronto Centre deserve better: a collaborative and proven leader who actually understands the planning process and community benefits. We need better parks, more deeply affordable housing, more community centres, more swimming pools, ice rinks and libraries - not less. We need deeply affordable housing, funded in partnership with all three orders of government. I have been clear from the beginning that I stand for a vision that is about lifting everyone up - not pitting communities of need against each other.
I look forward to realizing our positive vision for Toronto Centre. The investments that I have made with the community are evidence of my dedication and love for our diverse communities.