Revitalization

St. Lawrence Market Design: Pragmatic and Successful

By Ben Bull
Published November 02, 2007

In lamenting the misguided Utopian planning of Regent Park and questioning whether our city planners are beginning to understand what makes a healthy neighbourhood ["Regent Park redesign sign of lessons learned", Nov. 1. 2007], Christopher Hume asks, "Are we growing closer to the truth, to an understanding of how to build communities that work and housing that won't need to be razed?"

He then answers his own question: "We're hardly in a position to know; the answers will be revealed over time."

But we do know. We know now. Hume cites the example of my own neighbourhood, St. Lawrence, as a community case study: "When the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood was created in the 1970s, the approach was much less idealistic, but much more successful. It was deliberately integrated into the city, and the housing, whether full market or geared-to-income, was mixed."

St. Lawrence is a wonderful example of a community that works. The ingredients for a good neighbourhood are like the ingredients for a good meal: It's all about the mix. St. Lawrence encompasses an even mixture of incomes, ages and types of housing. The co-op housing along The Esplanade integrates lawyers and shop clerks and students alike. Three- and four-bedroom row houses attract families. And the easy accessibility of shops, entertainment, jobs and essential city services attracts a little bit of everything else.

The evidence is everywhere: Single moms (and dads) walk the streets alongside nuclear families; people of all races kill time at the community centre and stroll around the St. Lawrence Market; and the school playgrounds at George and Princess are like United Nations advertisements.

Sure, as Hume points out, my neighbourhood isn't perfect, but by attracting an interesting cross-section of people, the St. Lawrence community is a great example of everything a healthy neighbourhood should be.

(Ed. Note: This was published as a letter to the editor in today's Toronto Star.)

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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