Celebrating community at Ratna Lane

A new pedestrian-focused laneway in Regent Park pays tribute to a beloved community member

On Saturday, July 8, the Regent Park community gathered for the unveiling of the Living Lane at 35 Tubman Avenue. Developed as part of the neighbourhood’s revitalization project, this pedestrian walkway is formally called Ratna Lane, in loving memory of a local community member.  

Designing a space for the community 

While laneways are often used for storing garbage or accessing parking garages, Ratna Lane is a thoughtful community gathering space.  

TCHC and The Daniels Corporation (Daniels), our developer partner for Phases 1-3, worked collaboratively on the vision for Ratna Lane’s design, looking for opportunities to add beauty and encourage community use. For example, telecom wiring boxes were the inspiration for creative street furniture. Designed by Q&A Design, the GreenBox bench provides a spot for residents to rest, connect, and enjoy the neighbourhood. 

In addition, through a partnership between Daniels and BlackNorth Initiative, four Work-Live studios have been incorporated into the laneway. These studios provide spaces for Black Artists to grow their creative practice while allowing passersby to enjoy watching the artists at work. Along TCHC’s 150 River Street building, a playground faces the laneway, creating a more open atmosphere as well as a beautiful spot for residents to get outside. 

Ratna Lane welcomes community members and visitors through these placemaking features and other art installations along the laneway, creating an important space to foster connections and creativity.  

Remembering Ismathara Ratna 

For a space that is all about connection, it is fitting that residents voted to name Ratna Lane in memory of a local resident who made a positive impact on the community. 

Ismathara Ratna was a mother, aunt, and a dedicated community member in Regent Park. She often acted as a support worker for Bengali newcomers in the Downtown East, accompanying people to doctor, immigration or housing appointments; helping families secure childcare services; and providing language and moral support.  

She had a vibrant presence within the Bangladeshi community in Toronto and was a standout member of the Nelson Mandela Park Public School community.  

Ms. Ratna was tragically killed in a car accident in 2019. Following a community vote led by TCHC and supported by then Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, residents voted to name the laneway ‘Ratna Lane’ in Ms. Ratna’s honour.  

At the unveiling ceremony, Nujhat Latif, Ms. Ratna’s niece, reflected on her aunt’s legacy: “This laneway was built with community in mind. It was built as a place to build connections, form friendships and create strength within the community. And my phuphu (aunt in Bengali) was just that. 

“She was an anchor for people, and I want Ratna Lane to honour that and be a space where people can feel like home. Just the way she felt like home to me."

Community Block Party marks unveiling 

TCHC was honoured to attend the unveiling ceremony for Ratna Lane. The event brought residents, staff and community members together to reflect on the progress of the revitalization project while enjoying the new laneway.  

Speaking on the importance of the laneway, MPP and former City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said, “Already we’re seeing that it’s much more than just a place that people rush through. It’s a place that people live in. It’s a place that people will invest in. And it’s a place where Ms. Ratna’s family will be remembered.” 

The ceremony was followed by the first annual “Regent Park Block Party” hosted by Canadian contemporary artist, Benny Bing, and sponsored by several organizations including Daniels and TCHC. With art activations, kids' art workshops, food vendors and more, the day brought to life what the laneway means to the Regent Park community. 

One of the largest urban revitalizations of its kind, the Regent Park revitalization is a five-phase redevelopment project that will transform the community into a mixed-income, mixed-use neighbourhood.

Learn more about the revitalization project