Andrew “Jaydahmann” Cox is passionate about what the revitalization of Lawrence Heights will do for his isolated, deteriorating and troubled neighbourhood.
“Revitalization means new life. The community, the people, the infrastructure needs new life. Don’t deny the community its right,” the young man said at Tuesday’s meeting of North York Community Council.
“We’re just asking for our just due, so please put this plan forward.”
Councillors unanimously approved the first phase of the massive redevelopment project on a 10.6-hectare (26-acre) site, which includes Bagot Court, Bredonhill Court, Varna Drive, Cather Crescent, Leila Lane, and Ranee Avenue in the area of Allen Road and Ranee.
That means 233 aging Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) social housing units will be demolished and replaced and an additional 824 market-value residential units will be built, all around the Ranee entrance to Yorkdale subway station.
The first phase of the revitalization is expected to take about six years.
The entire revitalization project will take about 20 years to replace 1,208 social housing units with new homes, along with 4,100 new units of market housing.
The new community will offer residents trail networks, schools, parks, open space, a community centre and stores.
A resident of the neighbourhood since 1989, Cox said he has seen the vibrancy and energy sapped out of the community over the years as residents of Lawrence Heights felt more isolated.
Community leader Abdirizack Hersi agreed the neighbourhood is segregated from the surrounding community, adding residents are upset they are living in aging and unhealthy social housing homes built decades ago.
The community needs the revitalized Lawrence Heights to provide economic opportunities, safety and security, new infrastructure and human investment, he said.
TCHC president Eugene Jones said council’s approval of the first phase of the development is an important step in transforming the area.
“Phase one will kick-start the rebirth of the entire Lawrence Heights neighbourhood,” he said.
Councillors also spoke enthusiastically about the revitalization.
“At last, we are moving forward,” said Eglinton-Lawrence Councillor Josh Colle, whose ward includes Lawrence Heights.
“I would suggest the need for change in this community has never been more acute. We’re burying another young man.”
Marvin Engelbrecht, 24, was shot at an address on Flemington Road on Oct. 29 and later died. He was found with a gunshot wound to the head just after midnight and taken to hospital, where he died.
Shootings happen so often in Lawrence Heights that people are almost immune to the regular reports of violence in the neighbourhood, Colle said.
The revitalization will not only provide new roads and sewers, but will offer residents a “normal community” not cut off from surrounding neighbourhoods, he said.
“It is time to move forward. It is long overdue,” Colle said.
York West Councillor Anthony Perruzza said he was moved by Cox’s presentation.
“He talked about ‘Give us life, give us hope’ and essentially that is what this (revitalization) does,” he said.
Perruzza dismissed complaints that the new development will add to traffic snarls in the area, saying NIMBYism (not in my backyard) is the biggest impediment to revitalization.
When he weighs “Hope and opportunity, give me life” against “Don’t give me any more traffic,” he said the decision to vote for the development is easy.
“We have an opportunity here to do something good. Not only for the people who live in Toronto Community Housing but for people who live in the entire neighbourhood,” Perruzza said.
“We need to find a way to fast-track through the impediments.”