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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Cities for People – Crescent Town

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This is part of a series of posts by students in OCAD’s Cities for People summer workshop (click the link to read a bit about what the class was about). This Crescent Town post was researched and written by Cassandra Alves, Jaclyn Beale and Kara Logan.

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In the East end of Toronto bordering Scarborough, East York and The Danforth is one of Toronto’s most dense yet secluded neighborhoods: Crescent Town. Connected directly to the Victoria Park subway station by an overhead walkway this vibrant multi-cultural hub is sheltered by nine high-rise towers and surrounded by an abundance of manicured green spaces. As a self-contained community, Crescent Town was built to provide its residents with on-site necessities such as a market, school, direct subway access, community center, library and private parking.

However, as ideal and promising the idea of a self-contained, self-sustaining community was envisioned to be, Crescent Town has had it’s share of problems. Designated as one of Toronto’s thirteen priority neighborhoods, Crescent Town’s vibrant community and sense of pride is often overlooked. Regardless of society’s (occasionally judgmental) assumptions of Crescent Town, it is home to approximately 20,000 people with 20,000 opinions on where they live.


Uncovering how the residents of Crescent Town see their community was our main objective for the first aspect of our project. By speaking to residents, they helped us compile the experiences that solidified what Crescent Town truly meant to them. We took a series of phrases that were said during the interviews and used them to create a psychogeographic map that could lead visitors by an emotional response rather than a traditional geographical approach (see below).





  1. sweet, my old neighborhood… i miss it. phenomenal possibilities in that space.

  2. Thanks, ‘Le Corbusier’: don’t the most troubled neighbourhoods seem always to be ‘towers in a park’?

  3. I am loving this Cities for People series so far!

  4. I don’t think it is appropriate to call Crescet City “troubled” From the Crescent Town Study in 2007

    It would be a mistake to see Crescent Town’s status as a priority community as a sign that it is a community in crisis. It is a community with a high proportion of retired seniors and newly arrived Canadians just making their start

  5. By no means did we try to imply that Crescent Town is a “troubled” community. In fact, many neighbourhoods across Toronto have similar problems to those that were suggested in the Crescent Town Report, done by the on-site community center.
    Everywhere you go your going to find problems, nothing or no place is perfect.

    Our intentions were simply to address how the community has been viewed from an outsiders perspective and juxtsapose that to how the residents REALLY feel about living there. It was important to our group that we make it a point to expose that the opinions and feelings that matter most are those who live there.

    Even in our interview, it is said that many newcomers come to live in Crescent Town because it is a place to help them adjust to a new country. It provides them with an appropriate support system and exposes them to others that they can easily relate to, which is necessary when you first move to Canada. All in which are by no means, negative connotations.

  6. It’s called – go get an education, and a better job, save your money and move into a less dense area…

  7. Love the psychogeographic map! I happen to love tree tree tree tree trees, but hate it when people use it’s when they should use its…

    And only poor neighbourhoods that have towers seem to inspire criticism of Le Corbusier; no-one says boo about those swanky towers lining the lakeshore, now do they? “Oh, the horror of such mistaken arrogant ideology; just look at these towers, they’re festering breeding grounds for well-to-do yuppies with their fancy cappucino makers and heated his-and-hers towel racks.”

  8. Tristou> Or, more commonly, the middle class towers in the park that work — like High Park, Davisville, Yonge + Eglinton…and many others in the city.

  9. Tristou + Shawn,

    You’re right Shawn… the Corbusier stuff that works is integrated into the rest of the city… the ones that don’t are places like Crescent Town, Regent Park and to a lesser extent St. Jamestown (which is somewhat integrated)… communities cut off by street layouts to the city around them.

  10. I find this sentence to be interesting:
    “As a self-contained community, Crescent Town was built to provide its residents with on-site necessities such as a market, school, direct subway access, community center, library and private parking.”

    Wouldn’t “self-contained” normally include workspaces such as offices, or was this just an omission on the part of the author..? (not knowing the area at all…)

  11. Assignment idea: A+ (Great idea, professor)
    Choice of neighbourhoods: A+ (I’ve actually never heard of this neighbourhood)
    Content: B (Some interesting comments, but perhaps you might have interviewed more people? Psychogeographic map is very nice)
    Spelling: C
    Video/Audio production: F-

  12. The city is pumping money into this neighborhood right now. The TTC has razed the old Victoria Park Subway Station and are presently constructing a whole new station in its place. The new station will be wheelchair accessible and it will be a lot easier to transfer from bus to subway and vise versa. I know this isn’t directly improving Crescent Town itself but the transit infrastructure in this community is being greatly improved which in turn will help the whole neigborhood.

  13. Mr. Teacher> I mentioned in my intro post that we only had 6 weeks for this entire course — so everything is compressed — and not enough time to spend in each neighbourhood investigating (there is never enough time). So the focus was narrowed to early findings — the idea is that later, when working in “the real world” they will expand these techniques and go much deeper.

  14. Didn’t Yvonne Bambrick live there as a child? Was she interviewed/consulted in any way?

    What’s interesting about Crescent Town is that it’s St James Town taken a step further, i.e. not merely “towers in the park”, but an entire complex constructed as a single megastructural unit a la Cumbernauld–that said, it’s rather incredible that in spite of demographics and the built-in insularity, it’s endured as well as it has, better than St James Town, in fact. Must be some pretty conscientious landlording going on through the years–for all I know, it might be the most *successful* example around of this oft-loathed and all too often ill-starred megastructural genre. (Trust a city like Toronto to make it “work”.)

    Myself, I have a strange fondness for that postwar-Euro-rebuildingish wall of 50s/60s rentals acting as a buffer between Crescent Town and Dentonia Park–even if they’re well-worn and often brutally reclad, they make for an interesting bridesmaid-to-bride counterpoint to CT…

  15. “integrated into the rest of the city” — part of the story but not all of it; what about that pesky Gardiner Expressway so conveniently keeping the harbourfront connected to the rest of the city 🙂

    I’m reading Form Follows Fiasco by Peter Blake right now, and although it’s interesting and I like a lot of what he says, it’s also rather anti-Le Coubusier and not in ways that are always that convincing. Part of the problem is that my experience shows me otherwise; I live right across from Habitations Jeanne-Mance here in Montreal, a towers-in-the-park project that actually works amazingly well, in part because it’s right downtown and well integrated, but for many other reasons: a good mixture of high-rise for seniors and low-rise for families with private yards and proper front doors, a very active community base, community gardens, basketball courts in the summer and a skating rink in the summer, and t’s kept up amazingly well.

    It’s not all rosy — the security guards often have breakfast at the same corner café that I do, and they chat about the stuff that goes on. But in general, compared to many places, it’s a roaring success.

  16. Crescent Town is, of course, named after the former campus of Crescent School on which it was built. Seeing the images, it’s truly an interesting neighborhood to focus on – bravo selection. And such a modern vision of utopia it must have been when it first opened! I wonder if rents were top of the market at that time, just like swingin’ St. Jamestown?

  17. Why are multiethnic areas invariably described as “vibrant”? Are there no other adjectives that apply to multiethnic areas?

    Toronto is definitely the world’s most vibrant city.

  18. I visited Crescent Town in the middle of winter a couple of years back (when I used to live in a house outside the Albion St. exit of Victoria Park) and was struck by how windy it was. Even in the film above the wind is often heard on the mic. In addition to being windy and cold (it was winter) it was the middle of the day and I didn’t see another soul except in the pedestrian bridge over Victoria Park Ave.
    Posted everywhere where signs indicating that no forms of “play” could take place in any of the open concrete plaza areas.
    Walking along a narrow sidewalk to the school was a ravine blanketed by snow so I’m not sure how far down it went and if water ran through it.
    On my out I stopped in a store and brought pre-made frozen parathas which were eaten as part of my supper.
    I wouldn’t want to live there, but I’d like to see a “typical” residential unit….

  19. Wow this was a poorly done documentary or video on Crescent Town. Trust me you could have done better.

  20. Good JOB. Speaks the Truth about my town!