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.
TOcore: Planning Downtown is a transformational new secondary plan for Toronto’s Downtown. It was kickstarted through a series of motions that I brought to the Toronto and East York Community Council, in 2012, directing City Planning staff to "identify, examine measurements and review remedies for urban planning, economic development, transportation, public infrastructure, community amenity and social planning impacts created by the density intensification from the ongoing development of tall buildings in downtown Toronto. Over the course of several years, the City of Toronto engaged with thousands of residents and stakeholders to successfully create Toronto's secondary plan for the Downtown: TOcore.
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.
Community centres and accessible programming are essential for the health 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 the surrounding area will no longer have to travel all the way to Regent Park to access pool facilities.
In May 2016, myself and members of the local community, stood on the steps of the Ryerson Student Learning Centre and launched the Yonge Street Environmental Assessment, a multi-year revitalization project that will transform and modernize the section of Yonge, between Queen and Carlton Streets. This is the first comprehensive Environmental Assessment of its kind on Yonge Street and will transform this historic avenue into a walkable, bikeable vibrant public realm.
Yonge Street is Toronto’s “main street.” It is an area where thousands of people visit, live, work, play and learn. In the heart of Yonge Street, the sidewalks are filled with the highest pedestrian volumes in Canada, at all hours of the day and throughout all seasons of the year. The local residents and businesses agree that the area is long overdue for public realm improvements, and a reimagining of how this thoroughfare can serve both the local community and the visitors who come to work, shop, and play.
Mary Sheffield House, located at 512 Jarvis St. is a shining example of what can be achieved, when we all come together to support the more vulnerable members of our community.
This innovative housing program opened its doors in November 2019. Thanks to a generous partnership with Mike and Giulia Ahmadi, a period mansion - located at 512 Jarvis St. - has been lovingly restored from top to bottom. It's now home to a Fred Victor program that offers safe, clean and dignified transitional housing for women over 55, who are exiting the shelter system.
The ICIE will be located at a City-owned commercial space located at 200 Dundas Street East. The Indigenous District will enable businesses and entrepreneurs to work with the community to access Indigenous-led innovation, technology and talent through virtual and physical co-working locations. The creation of Canada’s first-ever Indigenous District serves as a scalable model for private, public, university, and civil society partnerships. The first two floors of 200 Dundas St East will be Canada's first-ever Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a 16,000sf community hub space dedicated to serving Indigenous entrepreneurs.
This 14 acre park, a green oasis in the middle of the city, has undergone a sweeping revitalization effort. It has become a more beautiful and functional recreational space for visitors and local park users; ready to meet the needs of a diverse and growing local community. In 2014, local residents, myself, and Parks staff met several times to tour the park, collect community feedback, and envision what a major transformation could look like. Some of the priorities identified included enhanced green space, improved lighting and accessibility, new park furniture, an upgraded playground, refurbished Dogs Off Leash Area, and tennis courts.
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 the 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 specialty 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.
In November of 2017, it was announced that the Toronto Police Services 51 Division would be dedicating 4 neighbourhood officers to patrol the Church-Wellesley Village, St. Jamestown, and surrounding areas. This announcement followed years of advocacy, from my office and the local community, in response to growing safety concerns. This initiative has proven highly effective, as dedicated officers allow the police to build a stronger, more trusting relationship with local residents and business owners. The officers chosen for this assignment are culturally competent, and either LGBTQ identified, or sensitive and aware of the issues faced by marginalized communities.
Toronto’s downtown is critically important to the city. It is the cultural centre of Ontario, the economic engine of the region, the province’s tourist hotspot and home to thousands of new residents every year. Last week, City Council supported my ongoing motions and efforts to improve the safety and health of our downtown communities by investing in our future.
On November 15, 2017, I held the Healthy Neighbourhoods Summit, which brought together 150 residents, business owners, and City staff from across the downtown to discuss pressing matters of health, safety and community vibrancy. This served as the initiation of what has become the Downtown East Action Downtown. On December 5, 2017, City Council endorsed my motion to develop a fully-funded 12-month and 5-year action plan to address these major public health, service and supports gaps.
In July 2017, following Toronto's annual Pride celebrations, I successfully passed a motion at City Council to re-establish the City's LGBTQ2S+ Advisory Committee. This initiative was achieved through strong community support, including a petition, submitted by my office, with over 270 signatures. While Toronto may have the country's largest and most diverse LGBTQ2S+ community, these communities continue to experience hate, discrimination and marginalization. Since 2006, this group has been in the top three most targeted groups for hate/bias crimes in Toronto.
In 2016, 2017, and 2018, City Council approved my motions to an intersectional gender equity lens in the City budget. These motions are a major opportunity to join cities across the world that already promote gender equity by rethinking how spending and revenues impact Toronto’s families, especially diverse women and girls in the city. Gender-Responsive Budgeting ensures that government budgets, policies and programs address the needs and interests of all individuals belonging to various social groups.
In late 2015, I asked Municipal Licensing and Standards to create regulations for short-term rental services. While services such as AirBnB and Expedia allow homeowners to supplement their income, they have also allowed landlords to effectively evict long-term tenants to turn vacant properties into “ghost hotels” in the middle of our communities. The city introduced new zoning by-laws and regulations in late 2017 year to manage short-term rentals. These measures include having homeowners register annually with the city to be using these platforms, allowing entire homes to be rented for a maximum of 180 days per year and requiring that the home is an owner’s principal residence.
In early 2017, small business owners on Yonge Street faced tax increases of up to 400%, based on real estate speculation driving up the Province's formulas for the area. After hearing from concerned constituents and business owners, I convened a series of meetings with small business owners, the City's leading tax policy experts, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and other political leaders to find a way forward. Together, we were able to achieve an almost immediate 50% relief after uncovering significant oversights in provincial property tax assessment.
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 will allow Na-Me-Res to provide deeply affordable and fully accessible housing. The beautifully restored heritage buildings are dignified new homes for 16 Indigenous men currently in shelters.
The area near Dundas Street East and Sherbourne Street has long had the dual challenges safety and development issues. Almost immediately after taking public office, I became involved in efforts to revitalize the area, which included a new planning framework for the area. The Downtown East Planning Framework that resulted identifies sites with redevelopment potential, encourages new affordable housing, protects institutional uses such as Seaton House and guides community benefits such as park and public realm improvements. Critically, the plan helps prevent new shadowing on Allan Gardens, which is currently threatened by several development applications.
In 2013, I brought a group of professionals together with a vision to bring Open Streets to Toronto. Since then this team, along with myself, 8-80 Cities, Sports Focused Consulting, Senayah Design and CicTOvia, have been working behind the scenes to develop the Open Streets TO program. Today, Open Streets TO is one of Canada's largest free, outdoor recreation and active transportation festival.
During the winter of 2017, Toronto's shelter system was in crisis due to years of under-investment. Each night we have over 6,000 individuals sleeping outside or in our shelter system, and the number is growing. Those working directly in the shelter system and on the streets have been telling City Council for years that we need more shelter beds. This crisis was real, as more people are dying on our streets in the cold of winter. Through significant, on-going advocacy efforts from front-line workers, service users, faith leaders, and health care workers, we led the charge at City Hall to successfully pass a motion that would allow the funding for an immediate investment into 1,000 shelter beds to be made available in the 2018 Budget.
Few provincial bodies have generated as much frustration and delays as the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Created well over 100 years ago, the OMB had the ability to override municipal planning decisions, frustrated both residents and the City. The impact of the OMB, including encroachments of tall buildings into neighbourhoods the City never intended them to be within, have and will continue to shape land use planning in Toronto for decades. Much advocacy later, the province relented, and sought input to reform the OMB.
There is no shortage of infrastructure in need of repair or replacement in the city, but most projects have very technical solutions. Built in 1973 and now a designated heritage property, the steel frame has becomes compromised, requiring much of the infrastructure, including the tunnel next to one of the Sherbourne TTC station exits, to be replaced. As a fierce advocate for protecting our city's heritage assets, Councillor Wong-Tam was interested in ensuring this unique bridge not only met the city's various heritage policies and goals, but also addressed significant safety concerns for pedestrians and South Rosedale residents.
The City's ravine system is one of Toronto's greatest assets, and providing access to them for all Torontonians is critical. Properly managed, they offer biological diversity, recreational opportunities and help protect us from disastrous extreme weather events. In Rosedale, a decaying trail connect between Chorley Park and the Evergreen Brickworks offered the city an opportunity to both provide a safe and accessible connection while protecting endangered butternut elm trees. Through collaboration with the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, the City sought to replace what had become a series of fractured desire paths with a new paved trail.
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.
Parks and accessible green space play an important role in improving health and quality of life of residents, and 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.
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 and public engagement process.
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.
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.
Driven by provincial intensification polices, Yonge Street remains one of the prime locations for new development, driven largely by the Yonge Subway. At the same time, 90% of buildings on Yonge Street—between roughly Bloor and College Streets—date between 1860 to 1954, showcasing a variety of architectural styles that give this portion of Yonge a particular character. The Historic Yonge Street HCD, as approved by City Council, requires that any new development that involves a contributing property retain the historic frontage and provide a 10 m. setback from front of the building. The effect will be to allow redevelopment along one of Canada's busiest streets while retaining its character.
Stretching between Allan Gardens to the north and Moss Park to the south, the Garden District Heritage Conservation District (HCD) contains not only a number of homes from the late 1800s, but a long history of Indigenous activity, horticulture, and activism. Coming out of the Downtown East Planning Study that I initiated in 2011, the Garden District HCD is an important tool to protect both the physical and cultural history.