Rexdale’s hopes of rising above economic struggle, joblessness and crime — of finally tasting some boom — rose in 2005 with news of a massive entertainment-retail complex coming to Woodbine race track lands. Then, as the 150 acres sat empty, hopes sank.

But construction on the first phase of Woodbine Live — a billion-dollar development, one of the biggest in Toronto ever — is slated to start this fall. Also opening will be an employment centre with a city-negotiated mandate to give north Etobicoke residents first crack at the promised 9,000 new jobs.

Subdivision and site plan agreements with the city are nearing comp­letion, capping complex approvals for a 450-room hotel, a 5,000-seat live performance venue, a big-box retail centre, a movie theatre, smaller upscale shops and bars and restaurants.