Community Design Initiative # CDI

The Community. Design. Initiative. is an innovative partnership project between East Scarborough Storefront, Sustainable.TO and E.R.A. Architects - conceived and co-led by archiTEXT.

Launched in 2008, the project has grown into the national model for authentic participatory design, innovative economic development, dynamic youth capacity building, place-based poverty reduction, and city-building outside of the downtown core. The CDI project is also an innovation in bridging long-term, meaningful relationships between "downtown" design and planning professionals, and workers in Social Services - both groups being ones that are seldom brought together, yet both aspire to build thriving communities.

The ESS is a social services delivery hub in one of Toronto’s thirteen priority neighborhoods, servicing over 50,000 community members a year in a 4,000 sq. ft. former police station. A relationship was established to expand the building to 10,000 sq. ft. through a youth-led “Community. Design. Initiative.” – having the youth involved in every aspect of the building project – from concept to manifestation. The project is located in Kingston Galloway Orton Park, a community with a high level of crime, unemployment, and refugee populations.

Over the past three years, we have facilitated the youth in weekly three hour sessions through each element of the architectural process, having them lead everything from consultation to site plan approval to the design itself.

To date, over 75 youth have engaged with over 45 different
professionals - from contractors to architects to city officials - in order to see this project come to life. In April 2011, the youth and community cut the ribbon on the first 2,000 sq. ft. of renovations, and in June 2012, another 2,000 square feet - raising over $2.2 million dollars for the project to date.

The project has been recognized as a Case Study for Tower Neighborhood Renewal, a City Building Project by the Metcalf Foundation, and a national legacy project by the Canada Council for the Arts.

The Community. Design. Initiative. explores new models in
 economic development, innovation in youth capacity building, place-based poverty reduction, and authentically bridging “downtown” design professionals in work in the inner suburbs.

The Storefront
4040 Lawrence Avenue East,
Scarborough ON

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