Local residents creation a plan to improve neighbourhood
West end Toronto vision for Toronto spurs improvements
By Kris Scheuer
(Written April 28 for Town Crier.)
Oakwood Village residents Tamara Massey and Josh Colle see ways to improve the neighbourhood they love.
They’ve put their passion for the community into a plan that could see the once-troubled neighbourhood become a thriving arts district.
Massey and Colle are members of the 5 Points Community Action residential association that’s produced an Envisioning 2010 document with the help of neighbours, local business, police, politicians, charities and service agencies.
Don’t expect this report to sit on the shelf collecting dust – it’s already producing results.
“It’s become a second job on nights and weekends,” said Massey of the action
plan. “When I started this in January 2009 with (councillor) Howard Moscoe
it was an envisioning exercise with maybe 12 people at the meeting.”
Massey and Colle, co-authors of the document, spent a year planning, and
this January 70 people showed up to participate in brainstorming session on
how to improve the neighbourhood.“There are four key areas: promoting and attracting sustainable businesses, infrastructure, community development, and communications to promote the area,” said Massey.
At city hall, Councillors Moscoe and Cesar Palacio are pushing for a zoning study around Oakwood Avenue, and Rogers and Vaughan roads with the idea of creating a live-work arts district.
Massey hopes to see local artists coming together for a common event to promote and celebrate the area.
Residents support the Eglinton LRT as part of the city’s Transit City plan.
The action plan also focuses on beautifying the area. One success story is the playground at Laughlin Park.
Local councillor Joe Mihevc has started movie nights in the park and residents bring potluck dinners.
“It takes years, but when you lay that foundation you bring people together,” said Massey. “Our area is not classified as high needs but the area had been neglected until 5 Points Community Action started.”
There are some resources in the area but some organizations don’t communicate with each other and residents may not know these agencies exist.
For that reason, 5 Points is creating an inventory of agencies to publicize current resources and identify gaps, said Colle, son of MPP Mike Colle.
Residents are also looking to attract more family-friendly business like restaurants, to the area.
“There’s such enthusiasm when we met (as a group),” said Colle. “If we knock off some more manageable objectives that will build momentum.”
Another impetus for the action plan was the feeling of unease regarding illegal activity and loitering in the community.
But people didn’t always feel safe, Massey said. In fact, that’s what prompted her and six others to start the residents’ group back in 2005.
“People on Belvidere Avenue, including our neighbours didn’t feel comfortable on our own street,” she recalls. “There were people drinking on
the street. There was a bit of fear.”
At the time, residents on their way to Oakwood and Vaughan would walk east on their street towards Glenora Avenue just to avoid unsavoury characters hanging out on the corner.
Well, the hot spot of trouble from 2005 is now an active community garden with a mural.
Besides all the tangible differences in the community, another key benefit is better communication among residents, businesses and politicians.
“It’s a more livable community,” said Colle.