New Developer Picked for the Next Phases of Regent Park Revitalization
Toronto Community Housing Corporation on Tuesday tapped a new developer to handle the coming phases of its sweeping Regent Park revitalization process — rejecting a proposal from the development company that’s handled the last decade and a half of rejuvenations in the downtown neighbourhood.
Tridel Builders Inc. will stickhandle phases four and five of the overhaul, which began in 2006. The community housing agency expects the new phases to take between 10 and 15 years.
In cementing their decision, TCHC’s board of directors rejected pitches from two other development companies, including The Daniels Corporation, which has steered the revitalization since the start.
The decision came down to the money on the table, according to TCHC’s chief development officer Vincent Tong.
Tong said the pitch from Tridel was the “highest nominal offer” put forward out of the three, considering the amount the housing agency would make from the land it was selling and the profit share it would be allotted from condo and market-price units.
TCHC and Tridel declined to share the overall value of the deal, aside from housing agency saying the social housing component was worth $390 million, and the deal included a $26.8 million community economic development program. How that community money will be spent will be ironed out over the next year, with community consultations and the creation of a framework for those specific funds.
Regent Park was originally a neighbourhood made up of only social housing, constructed in the ’50s and ’60s. The multi-decade revitalization has aimed to turn the area into a mixed-use community, with an overall goal of 2,083 new rent-geared-to-income units, 399 new affordable rentals, and 5,500 new market-cost condo units. The idea, the agency says, is to have no “visible distinctions” between homes that are purchased and those that are rented, including those rented as social housing.
The news on Tuesday came as a shock to some long-time Regent Park residents. Sureya Ibrahim and Ines Garcia, who have each lived in the neighbourhood for several decades, told the Star that selecting Tridel meant starting from scratch, in terms of community trust and relationships with the developer.
“We’ve built relationships and we’ve learned from the mistakes,” Ibrahim said Tuesday. “To build the community, it’s not just the buildings that need to be built, but the social part.”
Garcia, who spoke glowingly about her home in one of the neighbourhood’s revitalized buildings, noted that although things were bumpy at first with Daniels, their relationships had come a long way. The company had done “so much” for their community, the decision felt like “a backstabbing,” she said.
Mitchell Cohen, Daniels president and CEO, wished Tridel well in a statement Tuesday, but said the company was “deeply disappointed” in the housing agency’s decision — and reiterated a “long-term commitment” to the neighbourhood of Regent Park. “Our work has never been just about sewers, roads, buildings or district energy systems. It has been about building community,” Cohen wrote.
The company was initially slated to steer the entire revitalization. However, when its contract was renegotiated for phase three, Tong said, the remaining phases were removed from its agreement.
“As a public entity, we have a responsibility to gain the highest value for a public asset and use taxpayer dollars responsibly,” he said Tuesday, though he lauded the role of Daniels in the overhaul to date. “They have been instrumental in getting Regent Park off the ground.”