There’s just something about Canada that seems to have the New York Times’ attention at the moment.
Recently we were crowned hip? (with a somewhat dubious question mark), thanks in no small part to our Vogue cover star Prime Minister and contributing artists raising the bar in the entertainment world.
But something far less glitzy and glamourous has caused the NYT to sit up and take note this time.
Yesterday, Dan Levin wrote about Toronto’s Regent Park revitalisation, praising it for making huge strides in rejuvenating the community that was once an “embarrassing stain on a progressive city.”
The neighbourhood, built in 1948, was once a community made up of 100 per cent social housing but has since undergone a radical rejuvenation plan that has spawned new condos and an aquatic centre in the hopes that its large immigrant population will be economically and culturally integrated.
Levin commends the project for not only providing a safe space for Muslim women and transgender residents to swim or practice yoga privately, and for building sleek townhouses and condominiums; but also for giving those displaced during the regeneration the right of return post-development.
Regardless of income level, residents were invited back to new homes in the neighbourhood after their apartment homes were demolished as part of the Regent Park Revitalisation Plan.
Deputy Mayor of Toronto, Pam McConnell, said that the city instructed new businesses in Regent Park to employ residents. A bank, café and supermarket will provide almost 1,000 jobs for some of the 10,000 residents living there, 70 per cent of whom are reportedly living in poverty.
The article champions the scheme, comparing other cities like London and New York unfavourably for their failed attempts to protect residents from the fate of gentrification. This project has instead looked to the inhabitants from day one, incorporating their needs into the re-design – even down to stocking food that met Muslim requirements.
It’s great to see Toronto being recognised for its meaningful contributions to society as well as to popular culture. This model of inclusion, in a city that has prided itself on welcoming outsiders for decades, is all the more important in the current climate of fear surrounding immigration.