How a Retail Infusion Saved Regent Park
Regent Park’s revitalization continues at an impressively rapid pace. (It's like running on a treadmill... once you get going, things are pretty smooth.) Part of developer Daniels Corp's plan has involved introducing commercial activity to an area that had little before. VP Martin Blake updates us on his firm's efforts to transform the troubled community.
In its previous incarnation, Regent Park was bound by what Martin calls an “economic moat”—mid-century redevelopment had turned a swathe of old Cabbagetown into an isolated social-housing project with little commercial space and no market-rate real estate. The original street grid was removed and apartment blocks faced inward. Crime was rife. Daniels’ revitalization has remade Regent Park as a modern mixed-use community. In addition to new retail (like FreshCo by Sobeys, where Martin is pictured), the 69-acre area now has some of the city’s best neighbourhood amenities, including Daniels Spectrum arts centre and Regent Park Aquatic Centre, draws for folks from all over Toronto.
The 65k SF infusion of retail in the revitalization's first phase made a sizable impact, Martin tells us. In addition to FreshCo, the One Cole condo development (above) included an RBC branch, Rogers, and Tim Hortons. These trusted Canadian name-brands established Regent Park as a place where national retail operations wanted to be, helping inspire confidence and spur interest in the evolving community, Martin tells us. One Cole was a retail "beachhead" that showed commercial operators they could come to Regent Park and make money. Retailers also tapped into the local labour force, providing jobs for Regent Park residents.
Phase 2 saw the opening of Regent Park’s first restaurant, Paintbox Bistro (a popular new jazz venue, where Martin is seen not tickling the ivories), and the Toronto Birth Centre, the first provincially funded facility run by midwives (the centre just celebrated its 100th birth). The Paintbox and One Park Place condo towers have office space (from 900 SF to 2,700 SF) above street-level on Dundas. Phase 3 will bring further commercial activity along Dundas. Eight new buildings are planned, also with ground-floor retail and offices on top. There may even be a dedicated office tower, depending on demand.
Ultimately, Martin says, Dundas will be a high street stretching from Parliament River streets, with “fingers” up and down north-south streets, with ample commercial offerings to serve the 17,000 people who’ll populate the reborn Regent Park. And work just began on the Regent Park Athletics Grounds. Funded in part by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the complex will feature a soccer field that converts to a cricket pitch, a basketball court, and a refurbished ice rink. “By end of 2015, you’ll understand the full scale of what’s happening here,” he says.