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Adventures in real estate: “We turned our back alley into a turfed-out kids’ paradise”

Our only regret is that we didn’t think of creating it sooner

By Malcolm Johnston| Photography by George Pimentel
Adventures in real estate: “We turned our back alley into a turfed-out kids’ paradise”
Camille Mauger, 38

Digital advertising salesperson, North Toronto

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Adventures in real estate: How the pandemic is changing the way we live now
Life

Adventures in real estate: How the pandemic is changing the way we live now

When the playgrounds were closed, my husband, Walid, and I yearned for a space to take our two-year-old. Our house backs onto an alleyway, and we started heading back there once the workday ended to hang out, blow bubbles and stretch our legs.

We noticed our neighbours doing the same, more and more by the day. From a safe distance, we chatted with each other, commiserating, trading tips and tricks on how to navigate this crazy time in our lives. Some of our neighbours had lost their jobs, and the back alley became a space where they could vent or mourn or distract themselves. None of us really knew each other beforehand; suddenly it felt like we were a small extended family.

As the weather improved, somebody joked, “Wouldn’t it be nice to bring out flowers and some toys and some chairs?” That night, Walid went on Kijiji and sourced some of that stuff. Others did the same. One neighbour who runs a popular gardening Instagram account traded some promotional posts for a huge roll of Astroturf from a supplier.

Suddenly, we had a communal backyard, full of water tables, a makeshift movie screen and a projector someone supplied. We started calling the space “the Green.” Everyone was into it—two neighbours joined us in giving up their parking spaces on the Green so we wouldn’t drive over our little patch of paradise.

It’s incredible. Back there, it’s not as hot as it was, without the exposed concrete reflecting sunlight. It’s safer for toddlers when they take a spill. And it’s a lovely space for us to connect with people in a time when connection is lacking most.

Even though the parks are open again, the Green is as popular as ever. We’ve recently added a massive inflatable waterslide that someone was getting rid of. And there’s been talk of adding a tiki bar at some point. We adore the Green. Our only regret is that we didn’t think of creating it sooner.

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