Change is coming to Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood. And with it, a new sense of hope for a vibrant future.
In just a few years, the storied neighbourhood will become home to an innovative community hub and arts centre, a convenient new transit line, a mixed-use condo development, fresh community infrastructure, and many new local businesses. The transformation will facilitate a strong and overdue sense of community, connectivity, and forward-thinking in the area.
The Finch West LRT, a new transit line slated for completion in 2023, will open up the neighbourhood: both geographically, and to opportunities for residents and new businesses. Its anticipated arrival comes after the 2017 opening of the new Finch West TTC station on Line 1 Yonge–University subway line. With the new additions, the Jane and Finch neighbourhood becomes connected with the rest of the city – and its schools, cultural institutions, and workplaces – like never before.
“The Jane and Finch neighbourhood in Toronto is growing like many other parts of our city,” says Toronto Mayor John Tory. “The challenge for us will be to manage that growth and the good that can come with it and ensure at the same time that it does not leave anyone behind. It will create a renewed and mixed community. That is why we are investing in the community and it is why developers are choosing to do the same.”
Finch West Station, Milborne Group
The new transit systems provide a progressive catalyst for this growth by offering incentive to invest in the neighbourhood, rethinking the relationship with (or without) the car and with physical space in the process.
“With new transit and more investment in infrastructure, the Jane and Finch area will see big positive changes, we need more people (density) to be located in proximity to that expensive infrastructure,” says Naama Blonder, architect and urban planner at Toronto-based Smart Density.
The biggest positive of the new transit line, says Blonder, is that it will facilitate a 15-minute neighbourhood. “The 15-minute neighbourhood concept allows us to create walkable communities where all our daily needs are met in less than 15-minute walk from the place we live,” says Blonder. “This is one of the benefits of building mid-rise buildings near transit. It also brings more people to support local businesses.”
Central to this 15-minute community will be the upcoming CTN Developments’ Yorkwoods Condos. The future development will take over real estate at 2839 Jane Street, near Jane and Sheppard. Designed by AAA Architects Inc., Yorkwoods Condos will stand 13 storeys tall and will house 190 units that will range in size up to three bedrooms, offering spacious options for families. Providing affordable and design-forward urban living for condo seekers, the development will sit on the edge of parks, green space, schools, and modern amenities like malls and restaurants.
Yorkwoods Condos, Milborne Group
"Yorkwoods Condos will allow residents to live, shop, and work in the very same building. Building amenities total over 11,000 square feet, offering generous outdoor spaces, including two rooftop terraces to barbecue, dine and entertain; a dedicated outdoor kids play area; and a fenced off-leash dog area,” says Audrey Lew, Director of Sales and Marketing at Milborne Group. “With over 10,000 square feet of commercial space within the building, along Jane Street and Yorkwoods Gate, this will also promote job opportunities and offer both residents and the community the convenience of walking to local businesses."
The new condo is a clear reflection of the ensuing change that the addition of new transportation networks brings to an evolving neighbourhood.
“The openings of new local TTC subway stations some years ago and the current Finch West LRT means our community is now better connected to the rest of our city. These major projects attract investment to our community and the promise of new community spaces like the recently transferred lands for the Jane-Finch Community Hub,” says local MPP Councillor Tom Rakocevic (Humber River—Black Creek).
“Throughout this revitalization we must ensure that community voices are heard and that redevelopment ensures opportunities for employment, homes that are safe and affordable, and planning must leave nobody behind. Efforts to revitalize Jane and Finch must occur hand in hand with extensive community consultation.”
Plans for Yorkwoods Condos took into consideration comments from the community at a public meeting, as well as what local Councillor Anthony Perruzza thought would be best for the community. "Community consultations were hosted and well attended," says Councillor Perruzza. "Like all development applications, there were changes made to the application as a result of community feedback and local input."
Perrruzza highlights the high demand for housing in the area. "The first questions at the community consultations from neighbours were about housing affordability and timelines," he says. "Buying a home in Toronto is expensive, and the prices for houses in the area are becoming prohibitive for residents that would like to buy their first home. This type of development can help alleviate some of that demand and extend opportunities to new buyers."
Yorkwoods Condos, Milborne Group
The redevelopment of Jane and Finch will help to create a price point in an area that has not seen major development in some time, says Perruzza. "There are many significant applications in the early stages of being processed; this is only the beginning. This growth will allow for more community spaces to be created and increase foot traffic to help small businesses thrive, leading to the expansion of job opportunities for local people, especially youth," says Perruzza.
When it comes to the existing community, no shortage of influential voices are fighting for a better Jane and Finch neighbourhood. A major catalyst for a recent surge in momentum was the drama-ridden plan for the land for the future Jane-Finch Community Hub and Arts Centre, says Clara Stewart-Robertson, Manager of Community Planning + Development and the Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre, a community-based organization with a focus on social justice, community engagement, and collaboration.
“A lot of community members are coming together in response to the growth and changes in the neighbourhood and saying, ‘we want to play a leading role,'” says Stewart-Robertson. “There’s been a lot of positive momentum of existing community members. The Metrolinx fiasco kickstarted it.”
The original plan for Metrolinx to donate the land -- which is located just north of Finch Avenue West, between Norfinch Drive and York Gate Boulevard, adjacent to the future Finch West LRT Maintenance and Storage Facility -- was originally cancelled, resulting in loud-and-clear local pushback from the local community. In March 2021, the provincial government announced it would move ahead after all with donating 2.174 acres of LRT land to build the community centre. The anticipated Jane-Finch Community Hub and Arts Centre will serve as a central, youth-driven gathering place for members of the community to unite in a neutral space.
Jane-Finch Community Hub and Arts Centre
Stewart-Robertson and her team are leading the stewardship around the new community hub and arts centre in terms of its programming and community support. While full details aren’t yet confirmed, it will reflect the needs and lifestyle of the community.
“There have been a few things throughout the years -- existing community centres, a recording studio, and an art hub -- but they haven’t always met the needs and interests of the residents in terms of the range of programs and the ability of residents to guide what happens there and be the owners of the space,” says Stewart-Robertson. As a result, she says the neighbourhood has lost many spaces when institutions take over.
“Now we’re saying, ‘this is what we need as a community and we are going to build the programs and deliver them on our own instead of hoping someone provides it, or offers a program that doesn’t quite meet what we want to do,’” says Stewart-Robertson. “We want to see sustainability and support as to what the community actually wants.”
So, what does the Jane and Finch area really want?
“The community wants an indoor pool that you can actually access, a theatre you can book to practice and perform, co-working and entrepreneurship spaces – things we don’t see in existing community spaces,” says Stewart-Robertson. “There’s a lot of things that we’d like to see resourced and funded to meet existing needs.”
On the City’s part, Mayor Tory says the City is actively involved in the transformation of the neighbourhood. “In anticipation of the new LRT project and knowing that this will bring growth and density to the area, we are working on addressing these challenges through the Jane Finch Initiative,” says Mayor Tory. “In essence, the Jane and Finch Initiative provides for better social equity and economic inclusion.”
Beyond that, Tory says the City is building more affordable housing in the area, exploring new community and cycling infrastructure, and investing in the neighbourhood to ensure that those who live there now -- and in the future -- are receiving the proper support and services from the City.
“This also includes significant initiatives to help build better social infrastructure particularly through increased engagement by community organizations active in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood,” says Mayor Tory. “This work will continue as we build a more prosperous city with a focus on building up all neighbourhoods including Jane and Finch and when we do that, we know that it will create a better and more liveable city for all.”
Cover Image: Milborne Group
This article was produced in partnership with STOREYS Custom Studio.