Residents gather to discuss the future of Little Jamaica amidst development proposals

Jun 21, 2023 | Canadian News, News

People gathered Tuesday evening to discuss development proposals for Little Jamaica and Oakwood Vaughan community.

Oakwood Vaughan Community Organization (OVCO), Black Urbanism Toronto (BUTO), Keele Eglinton Residents (KE Residents), and Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) came together to organize this town hall meeting to discuss the important factors that come with development proposals.

“This is the first community meeting of this kind,” Cassandra Creese, a TCBN ambassador, said.

The town hall meeting at the Verity Center for Better Living discussed many of the development plans that have been proposed. The most prominent one was 775-783 Vaughan Road and 680-690 Northcliffe Boulevard.

A development of a 38-storey building has been proposed and community members have raised concerns about parking, traffic, and affordability.

Bill Worrell, the chair at OVCO, said many tenants living in the area are facing demovictions and renovictions and touched upon some laws such as the legal right to return after a property has been renovated, and inclusionary zoning.

“Who’s aware of the right to return?” said Aundre Green who attended the meeting.

“Many people in the community don’t know about these laws,” Green said.

Worrell said urban planning is hard to understand and accessibility to information and education is key.

Lack of information does not only refer to the lack of legal understanding. Many residents were unaware of most of the development notice boards that have been put up by the City of Toronto.

“They [developers] are only required to put up the board,” Green said.

Many of the attendees at Tuesday’s gathering live in the neighbourhood, or have previously lived in the area.

Guest speaker Maureen Brown, founder and chief context expert at ROCK Diversity, said Little Jamaica was the first community she lived in after moving from Jamaica.

Brown said she attended York Memorial Collegiate Institute and remembered Spence’s Bakery and Randy’s Patties as staples in the community.

“The essence of the community is still here,” she said. “People must remember the origin story of how Italian, Black, and Portuguese communities came together.”

Many of the residents in Little Jamaica have been living there for decades and affordable housing is needed now more than ever.

Displacing these residents to put in market rate rental units will be detrimental to not only the people who live there, but also to the cultural community that exists in Little Jamaica.

On June 22, Toronto and East York Community Council will hold a public meeting to review recommendations for the proposed development at 775-783 Vaughan Road and 680-690 Northcliffe Boulevard and forward them to Toronto City Council before their meeting on July 19.