It was “a culture shock” for Murwan Khogali when his family moved from Mississauga to Toronto’s Regent Park 21 years ago. “It was a high-crime driven community,” recalls Khogali, who was 12. The housing was deteriorating and there was prostitution, violence and drug abuse, due to poverty.
Built between the Don River and Cabbagetown in the 1940s, the public housing project was isolated geographically and socially, and had no streets inside it.
Khogali “learned the culture really quickly.” Choosing not to live in fear, he wanted to help. In his late teens, he started a tutoring club.
The development, itself, was changing, too. In 2006, Toronto Community Housing Corp. (TCHC) chose the Daniels Corp. to be its development partner for the first three phases of one of the largest of urban revitalizations.
The massive project transformed the neighbourhood into a mix of housing and commercial space. TCHC-subsidized rental buildings integrated with condos, regular rental buildings and seniors’ residences.
The changes brought a six-acre park; a community centre; athletic grounds; the arts and cultural hub, called “Daniels Spectrum”; and grocery stores, restaurants and cafés.