Celebrating 60 Richmond St. East: A “Place of Opportunity”

Posted 06-05-15 by In Events,News

The Hospitality Workers Training Centre’s central hub is also a housing co-op that is home to 85 people; a combination of relocated Regent Park residents and Hospitality workers who work in Toronto’s busy downtown hotels.

All of those who live at 60 Richmond Street East, since it was erected 5 years ago, the co-op is truly a home; a dignified and beautiful place that provides stability and a sense of rootedness and community, both inside and out.

In all co-ops, the residents are members who make decisions about how the building will run and managed, including electing a member-based Board of Directors. Unlike apartments, there are no landlords and rent increases are agreed upon by members based on the true costs of maintaining operations. Also, unlike other affordable housing options, co-ops provide stable housing allowing families to build roots in a community without the threat of losing their housing to due rent hikes or public housing regulations.

While 60 Richmond East shares all of the attributes of all co-op housing, it is a particularly beautiful place that serves to uplift and inspire the people who live there, as any “decent” home should.

In late May, 60 Richmond Street East proudly celebrated its 5 year anniversary and several speakers were on-hand to highlight what makes this particular cooperative housing building so special and what needs to happen for this model to spread across Toronto, and Canada.

The Vision:

The site, originally slated to become low-income housing for displaced Regent Park residents, was reimagined by the riding’s City Councillor (and now Deputy Mayor) Pam McConnell to be a place that could demonstrate what co-op housing can, and should be.

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As with all housing co-ops, the building would mix incomes, creating both “market value” and subsidized accommodations, but it would also be a bright, beautiful and warm home that embodied the values of the co-op movement particularly the core principle of “Building lasting communities inside and outside each co-op.” Realizing this big vision required several visionary partners to link arms and create a strong collective voice to that would eventually bring the project to life.

The Partnership: 

The first new co-op Housing project to be built in 20 years brought together the union representing Hospitality workers, Unite HERE, Local 75, as well as Toronto Community Housing and the Co-Operative Housing Federation of Toronto.  The partners collaborated to ensure that quality, affordable housing could be made available to both to displaced Regent Park residents and Hospitality workers, who worked downtown but often had to commute long distances to get to work. The co-op would provide an affordable housing solution for both groups, with a healthy mix of subsidized and non subsidized units.

The Manifestation:

Teeple Architects  worked with these partners to envision a building that one journalist called “an apartment building imagined by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.” The stunning building is made up of three stacked modules that project out into the streetscape. The grey and cream facade is punctuated by bright hits of bright orange, red and yellow.

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The building not only stands out from the steel and glass towers that are omnipresent along Toronto’s humming the Financial District, it also stands apart from what has historically typified affordable housing worldwide. There aren’t many co-op housing buildings that can boast design awards like the Canadian Architect Award, The Governor General’s Award for Architecture and Toronto’s PUG Award. If that wasn’t enough, the building is Gold LEED Certified, featuring energy saving mechanical and irrigation systems and unique attributes like an indoor bike room to encourages tenants to bike to do their downtown commute using people power.

The Impact:

Five years later, 60 Richmond has had an incredible impact on both the residents and the Hospitality Workers Training Centre.

Since 2012, the ground level of 60 Richmond has been the home of Hawthorne Food & Drink, the social enterprise training restaurant operated by the Hospitality Workers Training Centre. The restaurant provides hands-on training and employment opportunities to people who are receiving social assistance, living in the shelter system or facing other employment barriers. The upstairs amenity room has been host to many of our training and information sessions. Until recently, the coop also housed our administrative offices.

 

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A recent event at Hawthorne Food & Drink

Residents of 60 Richmond St. East, like Bill Howe who sits on the co-op’s Board of Directors, “feel the love” in the corridors of the building. This sense of community was particularly important for Bill, a former truck driver suffered a fall that left him severely disabled. The sense of community within the building gave Bill a sense of “possibility without limits,” giving him the stability he needed to resume walking after living in a wheelchair and the will to return to school to become qualified as a Holistic Nutritionist. For Bill, and so many of the residents of 60 Richmond East, secure and dignified housing means there’s “one less thing to worry about so you can achieve your full potential.”

The Future:

Five years on, 60 Richmond Street is clearly a living manifestation of what partners with a powerful vision can create for communities across Canada. Unfortunately however, while 60 Richmond was the first co-op housing to be built in 20 years, none have been built in since. As much as the Anniversary was a celebration, it served as a stark reminder of the limited resources currently supporting the co-op housing movement in Toronto and across Canada. As Michelle  Maldonado, Director on the CHF Canada Board of Directors puts it, co-op housing like 60 Richmond Street East “are not just houses, they are places of opportunity.” 60 Richmond is a testament to what can happen when people’s full potential is given a home.

 

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