Toronto

Weekend block party celebrates 50 years of Alexandra Park

The maze of dark brick social housing units will be entirely rebuilt over 15 years and will end up looking like completely different than when it was built 50 years ago. But the spirit of the place, residents say, will stay the same.

Residents say the housing complex is being rebuilt but its spirit will stay the same

Kids in Alexandra Park show off for the camera while organizer Kiley Fleming describes the months of preparations for this weekend's block party. (CBC)

The revitalization of Alexandra Park is underway — residents of some townhouses built during the first phase of construction have already moved into their new homes.

The worn-down dark brick social housing units will be completely rebuilt over 15 years and will end up looking like completely different than when they were built 50 years ago.

At a block party this Saturday celebrating that anniversary, current and former residents gathered to reflect on the past and ponder what the future holds.

Chiloh Turner, a third-generation Alexandra Park resident, says young people are excited at the promise of new digs, but parents and grandparents in the neighbourhood are more hesitant about the changes.

"They weren't sure if it'd be like Regent Park, because they moved people out of there and they never came back," he told CBC News.

But unlike residents affected by Regent Park's revitalization, no one here will have to move far while their units come down. Most of the residents involved in the first phase of construction, which is slated for completion by 2019, were relocated within the block.

A rendering showing what some of the new townhouses in the rebuilt Alexandra Park look like. (Toronto Community Housing)

Alexandra Park operates as a co-op, and when the revitalization was approved, those who lived here wanted to make sure at least one thing remained the same: the sense of family.

Jenaya Winn has lived in here all her life. "As long as I still have the people that I had then, it's okay," she says. "We'll do things like this even when it's gone!"

Organizers are expecting several hundred people to celebrate this weekend.

"For a lot of people, it's kind of like a last hurrah," says Kiley Fleming, who helped put together this weekend's party. She moved out of the complex 18 years ago but A-P, as residents call it, still feels like home to her — she's currently working as the child and youth program coordinator at the community centre here.

"You can move your family anywhere right? If you're on a deserted island, you're family. If you're in a big mansion, you're family. If you're in A-P, you're family."

With files from Ali Chiasson

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