40 Oaks Parkette exemplifies design guided by community-led initiatives

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Building on the community vision and strength held the keys to the successful revitalization of Regent Park, a historically marginalized neighbourhood. As part of this revitalization, a new building at 40 Oak Street opened in 2012 to host the Christian Resource Centre’s 87 affordable housing units and community hub. 40 Oaks Parkette, a public park and community garden that opened in 2014 in front of the CRC, extends the services of the Centre and contributes to its mission of “building lives, creating community, together.”

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The design of 40 Oaks Parkette engaged many Regent Park community members, including CRC staff and residents, local urban agriculture and community gardens groups, and a group of mothers who lost their children to gun violence. The program proposed by the CRC included a community garden, peace garden, and flexible social space. To integrate these elements in the 1000m2 space, the layout capitalized on existing site features – a pedestrian walkway and a mature tree – to create a triptych that referenced the multidenominational worship space housed in the CRC. The triptych defines three distinct program areas that read as a unified “XOX”, representing hugs and kisses, when viewed from residents’ windows above.

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In the community garden, planting boxes with built-in irrigation form the first “X”. Cooking and gardening programs offered by the CRC empower residents to produce their own food and prepare the freshly picked vegetables at the shaded community table. Low round planters encourage kids to plant and play in the children’s area. This urban agricultural space contributes to local biodiversity, provides opportunities for employment and volunteer work, and encourages food security and social connection. Harvest from the gardens contributes to the CRC community kitchen, which serves 200 meals a day to residents. The Centre’s food programs not only develop participants’ cooking skills but also boost their self-confidence and communication skills.

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The park’s “O” is the new home for the Regent Park Peace Garden. The original garden, founded in 2005 by a group led by a mother who had lost her son to gun violence, was removed from its previous location in 2011 to make way for new housing. The Peace Garden at 40 Oaks reflects the mother’s specific vision: a circular space for children to hold hands and walk around, with places to sit and reflect surrounded by rose bushes and the colour blue. The landmark boulder and plaque saved from the original garden stand in the centre as an expression of hope, goodwill, and unity.

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Sidewalks form the third “X”, where an existing large mature elm provides shade for the flexible programming space. This section also hosts a plaque to locate a time capsule buried by Regent Park residents. The preservation of the existing tree provides instant presence and shade, allowing residents to enjoy the park even on hot summer days. The urban heat island effect is further reduced by high albedo permeable paving.

Involving residents early in the design process ensures that 40 Oaks Parkette is well used and supports the CRC’s mandate to bring residents together. 88% of the adult participants in CRC’s programs report that they feel they belong to a community here. 40 Oaks Parkette exemplifies design guided by community-led initiatives to fulfill residents’ visions for a thriving neighbourhood.

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40 Oaks Parkette

Location |  40 Oak Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Design firm |  Scott Torrance Landscape Architect Inc

Consultants
Structural Engineer |  Blackwell Structural Engineers
Contractor |  Mopal Construction Ltd

Image credits |
Photographs |  Arnaud Marthouret, Revelateur Studio
Rendering | Scott Torrance Landscape Architect Inc
Text credit |Scott Torrance Landscape Architect Inc