Organization: East Scarborough Storefront, Architext, ERA Architects

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The Community.Design.Initiative (CDI) is a collaborative project to redesign the East Scarborough Storefront (4040 Lawrence Avenue East) located in one of Canada’s most at-risk and diverse neighbourhoods.

The project facilitates a conversation about architecture’s responsibility to engage across not only physical, but economic, social, cultural, and environmental contexts. The project goes beyond the building itself and explores the far-reaching effects of this change on the landscape of the inner suburbs as a result of this participatory architectural process.

CDI is a unique collaboration project between a social service delivery hub (East Scarborough Storefront), an architectural think tank (archiTEXT), and two architecture firms (Sustainable.TO and ERA Architects).

The building project, based in the priority neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park in East Scarborough, has engaged youth to design a 10,000 sq. ft. addition to the social service delivery hub. Over the last four years, local youth have been engaged with architects, landscape architects, planners, designers, and over 45 professionals involved in the conception, design, fundraising, approval process, and construction of the building.

Since 2009, the mentors and professionals have been working with the youth and community of East Scarborough to re-imagine their community service delivery hub — a one-stop shop “Hub” where, under one roof, 40 partner agencies deliver services to support the people of the community.

Together, they have developed a Master Plan for the building and the site for a sustainable and accessible adaptive reuse of a dis-spiriting 1960’s police substation into a vibrant place of extreme imagination and practicality, which better reflects the spirit of the community.

East Scarborough Storefront, 2010

BEFORE - East Scarborough Storefront, 2010

East Scarborough Storefront, 2015

AFTER - East Scarborough Storefront, 2015

The 7-phased Master Plan allows for the realization of the vision in stages, as funding becomes available. To date, the collaborative detailed design and construction of phases 1 through 4 (the renovation of the existing building) has been completed, and have begun phase 7 (shade and naturalization strategies on the site), with strategic additions to the building to follow.

To date, the youth have completed over 3,000 square feet of renovations to the existing structure, fundraised over $2.2 million dollars, and are filing a patent for a green building innovation entitled a “sky-o-swale.”


The “sky-o-swale” – a green building innovation being patented by the youth of KGO as part of the Community.Design.Initiative. The project is a partnership with the Tower Neighborhood Renewal initiative and supported by MLSE and Live Green Toronto.

The project has been recognized as the case study for the internationally recognized Tower Neighbourhood Renewal project, and is a national legacy project exploring innovation in place-based poverty reduction, local economic development, youth capacity building, collaboration between designers and social services, and the impact of community-led architecture on the social and physical landscape of the inner suburbs.

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