Item - 2022.EC28.8
- This item was considered by Economic and Community Development Committee on March 24, 2022 and was adopted without amendment.
EC28.8 - Little Jamaica Initiative - Master Plan and Aligned Initiatives - Introduction and Status Report
- Decision Type:
- 5 - York South - Weston, 8 - Eglinton - Lawrence, 9 - Davenport, 12 - Toronto - St. Paul's
The Economic and Community Development Committee received the report (March 10, 2022) from the Interim General Manager, Economic Development and Culture and the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning for information.
The purpose of this report is to introduce the Little Jamaica Initiative, a multifaceted response to 26 City Council recommendations resulting from six Member's motions and provide a status update.
Approximately 50 years ago, the area along Eglinton Avenue West, also known as Little Jamaica, became an immigration settlement neighbourhood for newcomers from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, and continues to serve as a distinct ethnic and cultural hub. The area is recognized for the clusters of Black-owned and operated businesses of cultural relevance and is internationally known for its contribution to the reggae genre of music. Similar to many neighbourhoods in Toronto, the area has enjoyed settlement from other newcomers, and has a rich Indigenous history closely connected to the numerous ravines and water tributaries that traverse through it.
Black community leaders and activists have called upon the City to formally recognize this area for its cultural heritage significance and to respond to years of underinvestment in the community and to address a number of challenges including a substantial loss of Black-owned and operated businesses and a lack of affordable retail/commercial spaces and residential rental units.
In response to Council's directions and calls to action from the community, an Interdivisional Team was established with membership from a number of City divisions with current mandates in Little Jamaica including actions to address anti-Black racism measures, mobility, housing, development review, and social development services. The Interdivisional Team has worked together to develop an approach that intends to align inclusive economic development, culture, people and place-making initiatives with an engagement process, using an equity, anti-Black racism and cultural lens.
The Interdivisional Team supports this work and coordinates a number of Aligned Initiatives. The Aligned Initiatives include specific work directed by Council and current on-going city-wide or area specific work, programs or initiatives that specifically impact Little Jamaica. The goal is to align all identified initiatives for a more impactful, relevant and effective response through the Little Jamaica Initiative. Some of the Aligned Initiatives include, support for Black-owned businesses in Little Jamaica through the Business Improvement Areas, advancing affordable housing initiatives including 20 Shortt Street, Economic Development and Culture's Cultural Hotspot, Youth Cultural Incubators Stabilization Initiative and ArtworxTO programs.
City Council also requested staff to develop a new Cultural Districts Program for Toronto. The city-wide Cultural Districts Program is currently being developed. The Cultural Districts Program will provide a set of tools to support cultural activities and small businesses that occupy all types of buildings and landscapes.
The engagement and work to develop the Little Jamaica Master Plan will begin prior to the finalization of the Cultural Districts Program. The Little Jamaica Master Plan and engagement strategy will be led by a Program Advisor and will result in the implementation of culturally responsive tools and policies that support and contribute to the cultural identity and significance of the area, manage growth and development, advance social equity and economic inclusion for current and future residents to grow in place and guide investment in infrastructure and services.
This report provides an introduction and a status update on the Little Jamaica Initiative and its two streams of work – the Master Plan and Aligned Initiatives.