Goodbye, Regent Park


They’ve started tearing down Regent Park. For weeks now I’ve been walking through the middle of it, on my way from Cabbagetown down to the Dundas Street car along what was once and what will again be Sackville Street, looking at the empty glassless buildings with the skyscrapers rising in the background. It’s a Detroitish or Buffalonian image we don’t much see in Toronto.

Yesterday when I got off the streetcar at Parliament and Dundas I was surprised at how loud and real the demolition was. The machines were tearing at the Regent walls. Chunks of bedroom wallpaper were visible. The dust got in my teeth, and sometimes the big mouths of the steam shovels would try to awkwardly pick up single bricks from the ground, but that didn’t work, so a little guy with an orange vest would run in between them and pick up bricks.

give upRegent Park apartments always seem so impenetrable. The windows on the ground level were usually covered with steel bars or mesh, and sneak peaks inside were rare — so this 180-degree view of these apartment is rare. As a side note, the show “Canada’s Worst Handyman” was filmed in the building at Dundas and Parliament (I think the show airs in a month or two — for those interested in either Regent Park interiors or watching people struggle on TV).

Firemen in the hall across Dundas were at the windows watching all this. The dust was blowing into the street, and got in my teeth. I wondered if some of that dust was swept into cracks 50 years ago, and is free finally.

Few people are lamenting the demolition of Regent Park. In 1972 when they started demolishing the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in St. Louis, it was called the death of the modern age. I haven’t heard any big claims like that with Regent Park, just good things about a part of Toronto that fell off our map a long time ago.