Urban Equity blogs

Community Strategic Planning for Lawrence Heights

1 October 2019 by André Darmanin0

I will be applying for re-entry into the Masters of Public Administration program at Western University for the 2020 academic year. While I would be entitled to change my interest, I wanted to come up with a new topic that reflects my passion of strategic planning with the purpose of relationship and community building.

So why would I want to be discussing this now? Whether I would be accepted or not, it is a topic worth discussing.

In previous posts, I discussed Lawrence Heights, the community I grew up in for the first 20 years of my life. I also discussed building strategic plans based on lived experiences. While I am far removed from the community, I still consider it an integral part of who I’ve become. Yes, this is personal to me. In fact, a reoccuring dream I’ve had over the years was finding a way to give back to the community. I knew it would be related to community development and building and not transit.

I know some will say my topic could be closely affiliated with urban planning. Sure there will be elements of my urban planning experience brought into the paper, but I also wanted my conclusion to come from policy and strategic planning lenses.

Much of the backbone of the research will emanate from the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan. I had the privilege to visit Roxbury, a Boston neighbourhood, back in 2003 and watch a community meeting discussing the plan to residents. The Boston Planning and Development Agency wrote the second iteration of the SMP. Highlights of the plan which provide “change and economic growth for the next 10-20 years include:

  1. Structure and guidance to current and future development efforts in this neighborhood.
  2. Measurable standards and specific short- and long-term implementation strategies which will facilitate the development of thriving commercial centers;
  3. Provide for a wide variety of housing types, foster continued diversity in its resident population;
  4. Support an efficient and effective transportation network resulting in an affordable and decent quality of life.

I would be most interested in implementing points 2 and 3 to such a strategic plan. With respect to point number 3, Lawrence Heights is currently going through a long term revitalization process which will include a new market and subsidized rental units community along with other economic opportunities.

I am not far-fetched in conjoining community development and public administration. In 2018, a textbook was published in correlation with those branches of study. Furthermore, in conducting some initial research, a Western MPA graduate Tim Smuck wrote a paper on lived experiences of public housing, an area I definitely would be spearheading.

I would imagine first hand interviews will be part of the process, which will include even some of those who I grew up with and have moved on from the neighbourhood. Earlier this summer, I had a nearly 3 hour conversation with a former neighbour of mine talking about the good old times in “da hood”.

The closest the City of Toronto has delved into such an area was the Social Development Plan for Regent Park, which was released earlier this year. I believe when I complete this paper, it would be a test case for the Jane and Finch community as it too will go through similar revitalization efforts especially when during the construction and long after the completion of the Finch West LRT.

I am enthusiastic to bring my professional experience along with my passion and purpose to an neighbourhood I called home for many years.

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