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Team redeveloping Jane Finch Mall says they want to prioritize local residents. But some are skeptical

The Jane-Finch neighbourhood is about to experience two big changes that could reshape the northwest Toronto community in 2024.

But some residents say they’re unsure if proposed projects will help the community, particularly for those who are low-income

Metrolinx is on track to open the Finch LRT line this year, and the owners of the Jane Finch Mall — a longtime hub of the neighbourhood — have introduced plans to redevelop the site to include a number of residential towers that will include some new affordable housing. 

Jane and Finch residents and community advocates who spoke with CBC Toronto say they’re feeling a bit sceptical about gentrification and if current residents will be prioritized.

Residents have been invited to a public meeting Tuesday night at the York Woods branch of the Toronto Public Library to discuss the mall’s redevelopment. The full details can be found on the City of Toronto website

Here’s a look at what we know about the two major projects set to change Jane and Finch.

Jane Finch Mall redevelopment

Similar to several other malls across North America, developers Brad Jay Investments is re-developing Jane Finch mall so they can include housing. The owners are hoping to add thousands more units to the site.

Urban strategies, a planning firm they’ve engaged for the project, says numbers aren’t finalized but proposes 50 per cent of the units that are designated affordable go to current community members.

Humber River–Black Creek Councillor Anthony Perruzza, who represents the Jane-Finch community, told CBC it’s the right move.

Coun. Anthony Perruzza
Coun. Anthony Perruzza says his community members need to be prioritized for housing. (Darek Zdzienicki/CBC)

“People in the neighborhood are really worried about being displaced,” he said. “The more housing we can make available to local people at affordable rates, the better.”

Amanda Coombs, founder of Back 2 Basickz, an organization which helps youth in the community as young as 12, says youth she works with are concerned about what community changes may mean for their families’ abilities to afford to stay in one of the city’s last more affordable neighbourhoods.

“That’s one of the concerns that youth shouldn’t have to worry about, but they’re very concerned,” she said. 

Some advocates who spoke to CBC don’t think 50 per cent of the affordable units is a high enough threshold.

Advocate Kutongwa Nemoyo says she thinks considering the community has to live through years of construction, community members should have first dibs on all of the affordable units.

“A lot of the residents in Jane and Finch are long-standing….in the community for decades,” she said. “I think that they should have more of a priority.”

Kutongwa Nemoyo
Kutongwa Nemoyo, a community advocate for Jane and Finch, says she thinks more of the new affordable housing units should go to current residents. (Submitted by: Kutongwa Nemoyo/CBC)

The developer has not confirmed the number of units that will be made affordable. A proposal indicates the project will also include attainable ownership options through rent-to-own programs, shared equity programs or price subsidization.

Mark Richardson, technical lead of HousingNowTO, says his organization is hoping at least 15 per cent of the units are designated affordable. He also wants to see affordable housing units built earlier than the condos or rental units charging market rates.

Nemoyo says when it comes to housing promises, many are skeptical as it is.

“There’s been a lot of promises over the years. A lot of conversations and then nothing…So there’s a huge distrust,” she said.

Many advocates who spoke to CBC did not know the consultation was taking place, despite following the issue for months, saying it was poorly advertised. Perruzza told CBC Toronto he also has those concerns.  

The developers also hope to include 16,310 square metres of retail space and 1,460 square metres of community-serving space. A significant portion of the site would be open space including parkland.

Finch LRT close to complete: Metrolinx

A spokesperson for Metrolinx told CBC in a statement it is in the “final stages of construction” for the Finch West LRT. “Major construction is expected to wrap up in the next month.”

The spokesperson says all track and guideway works have been completed, all 116 station canopies are installed, and Finch West & Humber College stations are close to completion.

Eighteen light rail vehicles are onsite at Finch West Maintenance and Storage Facility. Testing is continuing, which will determine the opening date.

An aerial shot of a building in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood.
Community advocates for the Jane and Finch neighbourhood say they want residents prioritized as the community develops. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Paul Bailey, Executive Director of Black Health Alliance, who does significant work serving the community, said, “I think folks support things like the LRT coming in but folks want to make sure that the way that these decisions are made involve the community.”

Coombs says some local businesses are concerned about access to their businesses throughout the process.

She says community members could have benefited more from the LRT project, if more efforts were made to ensure youth had more direct employment through the construction process. 

She says those who live in the area should be considered for cleaning or construction opportunities, in addition to entrepreneurial opportunities at the mall.

“We can start to ensure that the process is equitable and fair,” she said.

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