The Oaks neighborhood in Toronto is enclosed by Black Creek to the south and west, Jane St. on the east, and Chalkfarm Dr., which winds its way through the neighborhood of adjacent bungalows to the north. The area, a Toronto rental property that Greenwin has re-branded as The Oaks, is made up of four high-rise towers, constructed back in the early 1970s. It’s currently home to approximately 4,000 people, living in 1,215 suites.
Due to an abundance of debilitating socio-economic factors, which are all too prevalent in large Toronto rental developments such as this one, the complex, along with other apartment developments in the vicinity, became almost unmanageable. Although these communities are, for the most part, inhabited by law-abiding and hard-working people, (many of whom are recent immigrants to Canada, facing difficult challenges just to make a living), they have been criminalized by a relatively small group from within.
In creating the rental complex, the government intended to house low-income families in their own community of new, well-constructed high-rise apartment buildings. However, the result was a neighborhood replete with crime where clashes between racial groups are too common and where youths struggle to get ahead in school. According to a Toronto Star article, a federal official described the area as a place that “has historically suffered from a high crime rate with exposure to drugs, gang activity and intra-race violence.”
In the midst of barriers that prevent many members of this Toronto community from participating and contributing to their full potential, there exists a growing number of residents, new immigrants, business people and local organizations eager to shed this negative image. The residents now want to come together to reclaim their neighborhood and their homes, and to eliminate violence, drug crimes and other illegal activity, which destroy their right to a better quality of life. Ontario is home to people of more than 200 different ethnic origins and languages and was the province of choice for more than half (52%) of the 1.1 million newcomers who arrived in Canada during the 2001-2006 period. As such, Greenwin’s turn-around mandate is to create an environment where cultural roots are celebrated, where tenants, management and local businesses work together to reduce the crime rate and improve the quality of life for everyone. In order to achieve this goal, various interested parties have come together to implement and create the Oaks Revitalization Association, a registered, non-profit organization.
Throughout Greenwin’s history in residential property ownership and management, the company has spearheaded change with the potential to be replicated in other communities. For example, the Greenwin turn-around pilot project, The San Romanoway Revitalization Association (SRA) at 25 San Romanoway, is a non-profit organization designed to expand social programs in the Jane and Finch Community. Social programs in particular are a driving force and defining characteristic of Greenwin’s revitalization model as they provide leadership, education and social development in a safe and healthy environment.
SRA’s programming successes include Before and After School; Girls Life Line; Summer Camp; Youth in Charge; United Music; The Achievers Program; CIC Youth Host Program; Seniors Drop-in; computer labs; and most recently, The Jordan Manners Gallery, which celebrates local artists in memory of 15-year-old gunshot victim Jordan Manners. Once dubbed “Canada’s worst community,” incidents of violent crime in this particular Toronto neighborhood have been reduced by more than 50%. SRA has since received a United Nations award and has been referred to as “the Toronto model” for community revitalization by Toronto Mayor David Miller.
Combining the insights and experiences gained at 25 San Romanoway in Toronto, The Fishman Group and Greenwin joined forces in October 2009 to implement a comprehensive and unique process to breath life back into the rental buildings at 160, 170, 180 and 200 Chalkfarm Drive. Today, there exists a net that brings together the best people from real estate investment, property development, property management, urban planning, peacemaking, crime prevention, building ownership and other social service agencies to stimulate the community both socially and culturally.
When discussing the Toronto rental property’s recent attention from some heavy-hitting sponsors (to be announced in upcoming weeks), Kevin Green, Greenwin’s CEO, reflects, “Since we arrived on site as third-party managers at The Oaks in 2009, the general morale of the community has been lifted.” The Greenwin revitalization model initiates a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie between tenant and management. The result is a rental community that offers programs to the public, focusing primarily on children and youth (primarily those at risk of becoming involved in anti-social behavior).
Along with strategic property modifications like Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design – the concept that proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the incidence and fear of crime – The Oaks Revitalization Project has garnered unprecedented local support. The project draws on a committee of academics, residents, community activists, concerned citizens, Greenwin, Intelligarde Security, Doorsteps Neighbourhood Services, the City of Toronto, FoodShare, The Black Creek Conservation Project of Toronto, Earth Day Canada, Sobey’s, Literature for Life, Dusk Dances, City of Toronto Parks & Recs, Rogers, Eska, Councilor Giorgio Mammoliti, Toronto Police and other local businesses, to embark on a community rejuvenation project.
Greenwin’s aim is to plant the seeds for lasting benefits through innovative ideas that facilitate participation and inclusion. With unlimited support from head office and frontline staff, it’s a whole new ballgame at The Oaks. Today, the property is teeming with building ambassadors meeting regularly with security guards and hosting ongoing events for all age groups
In order to maintain and further develop the support of the residents at The Oaks, Greenwin continues to demonstrate to tenants that quality of life can be improved—even under the most dire circumstances. Whether the company is joining forces with the City of Toronto or the Black Creek Conservation Project, Greenwin’s interest is in initiatives that make effective use of existing resources and to reaffirm its presence and support at the individual, organizational and community level.