Yesterday morning I went for a swim at the new Regent Park Aquatic Centre. I used to swim regularly when I was in grad school in the US, but it fell off when I moved back to Toronto and there wasn’t a convenient place for me to walk to. Having to drive to a gym or to a pool can really cut hurt how often you’re able to go.
In any case, the pool was fantastic. On the west side of it are glass sliding doors that face the park. And since yesterday was such a beautiful day, they were all open while everyone was swimming lanes. The wooden ceiling also gives the space a nice, warm feel.
The biggest surprise for me though was the universal change rooms. I had never been in a co-ed change room before – or one that was completely open and visible to the pool (there are small private rooms so you can actually change). For families, it makes a lot of sense. Everyone can go in together and it’s easy to watch your kids in the pool from within the change room.
After my swim, I rode my bike around Regent Park and tweeted this out:
Posterity will say: Did you know that Regent Park used to be shitty? No way. Way. #athiscity #TOpoli pic.twitter.com/VSgFwLc8NI— Brandon G. Donnelly (@donnelly_b)
What’s happening in Regent Park is incredibly exciting. To me, it feels like a return to the fundamentals of city building. They’ve reconnected the old street grid – which had previously been removed to create the old “towers in a park” scheme – and they’re clearly working towards a proper urban neighborhood with retail at grade and buildings pushed right up against the street.
A big measure of success, though, will be how animated the streets become and how well the retail does. Because all of that isn’t quite there yet. But we’re on our way. And already I feel like we’re about to forget what the old Regent Park used to be like. Toronto may have lived with that neighborhood for over 60 years, but future generations will barely know it existed.