A Happy New Year for Thorncliffe Park?

Thorncliffe Park residents and community leaders shared their renovation ideas at a late-2012 meeting concerning neighbourhood ‘tower renewal.’ (Sarah Taguiam/Toronto Observer)

As the new year dawns, so does Thorncliffe Park’s impending $800,000 facelift.

Following the late-2012 meeting among community members and leaders at the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office’s (TNO) youth centre to discuss proposals for tower renewal — the first two years of which will be funded by United Way Toronto — three “working groups” have been established.

It’s part of the United Way’s Build Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy, a program aiming to provide better living conditions in the city’s so-called “priority neighbourhoods” through revitalizing some of its aging high-rises.

Although nothing is set in stone, the three working groups were established to narrow the renovation’s focus, namely: waste management, community safety, and built environment for inside and outside spaces. Approximately 10 residents joined each working group but the TNO is looking to recruit more members.

Other than working groups, TNO community engagement coordinator Esel Laxa-Panlaqui said two community “animators” would be hired to engage residents and canvass their ideas. A task force and tenants council, which will oversee the development, will also be formed in the coming months.

Longtime resident Phil Reyes, who has been living at 15 Thorncliffe Ave. for 18 years, said he is thrilled with the changes.

He said he can’t picture himself living anywhere else, but admitted the neighbourhood has much to improve on in several areas.

“The playground for the kids is always so muddy and not cemented,” Reyes said, “and the pedestrian roads are so narrow that when people all come home from school and work they hit each other.”

According to Laxa-Panlaqui, other suggestions included adding new multipurpose rooms, community-made artwork in lobbies and improving overall building ambiance.

Once the changes have been finalized, they will first be implemented at 1-3 buildings whose landlords, Park Property Management Inc. and Morguard Residential, have shown interest in renovations.

“When we have finished the first buildings, we will possibly replicate this for the others because doing all 36 highrises is too overwhelming,” Laxa-Panlaqui said.