University students uncover some areas with potential you may have passed over
A McMaster University professor recently handed his urban geography class an interesting assignment: Uncover Toronto neighbourhoods where a new resident would find just the right mix of lifestyle and value.
Prof. Richard Harris asked students to find the ideal community for a hypothetical big sister returning from a stint in Hong Kong. He sent me a batch of the resulting essays after reading a column of mine last year about a real-life reader who was moving from San Francisco to Toronto and wanted advice on choosing a neighbourhood.
House hunters boxed in by preconceived notions of Toronto’s “best” neighbourhoods may find the student’s outlook refreshing as we head into the busy spring real estate market. Stuck on High Park? Why not think Milliken instead? Or South Riverdale? Or the Yonge/Church corridor?
Prof. Harris, who teaches in the School of Geography and Earth Sciences, urged the students to exercise their creativity but they all started with a few details about the fictional ex-patriate: She grew up in Brantford, Ont., attended Mac, and has a job lined up in Toronto at a salary of $90,000 a year. She married while working in Hong Kong and her husband will be looking for work.
Prof. Harris advised the students to describe the couple’s ages, ethnicities, immigrant status, lifestyle and commuting preferences, plans for having children or not, and political inclinations.
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More neighborhoods for consideration in Toronto …
The Spot Parkwood/Donalda
What makes it ‘It’? “The area is Canada’s first planned community and was developed back in the ’60s,” says Georgina Ratcliffe, sales representative, Chestnut Park Real Estate. “It has an incredible community feel with a lot of residential built in and around green spaces.”
Why? Expect tree-lined streets that embrace wild ravines and the posh Donalda Golf and Country Club, as well as an enhanced system of walkways bordering parks and schools to encourage pedestrian traffic off the main roads and cycling. The area has a small-town feel: quiet, secure and peaceful despite its very close proximity to the nearby 401 and DVP.
Housing Plenty of detached homes that are pushed back from the bustling main streets. Carports rule here, so expect ranch bungalows and splits offering spacious lots, layouts and great yards perfect for getting your gardening on. A 25’ semi in good condition will sell for just over $500,000 and a detached home on a 50+-foot lot will go for less than $900,000.
Social amenities The “getting around” scores are good: Walk 77/100, transit 62/100 and bike 42/100. Not to be overlooked are the Shops at Don Mills; an open-air mall replete with its own labyrinth of streets, designer shops and gourmet restaurants. People stroll, play and socialize within the European-inspired town square to join Thursday night yoga or outdoor dance lessons. “People haven’t been paying much attention to this area in the last 25 years,” Ms. Ratcliffe says, “but considering the volume of schools and the ease of travelling downtown for work, this has become a very central — and attractive — location.”
The Spot Triangle Area; a small enclave between the Junction, Roncevalles and Bloordale Village — north of Bloor and east of Dundas at Dupont.
What makes it ‘It’? “It’s the demographic of the buyers and the potential for upside growth,” Ms. Ratcliffe says. “If they are young and just starting out, what is important is the vibe of the neighbourhood: restaurants, cool cafés and public transport. For the ‘next step’ buyer, upside growth in their investment is key, plus a proximity to their jobs, safety and schools.”
Why? It has a Transit Score of 100/100; you can tell how “transit friendly” the neighbourhood is by looking at how many buses and trains are close by, how far you’d have to walk to get there and the frequency of transit. A GoTrain station can whisk you downtown in about eight minutes; buses are frequent and there is also proximity to the subway. The area’s Walk Score is also high, rating a 92/100 which calculates the actual walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools and parks and how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle. Lastly, the score monitors just how pretty the streets are for walking.
Housing Mixed with semis and detached homes, both single-family and duplex/triplex. Many houses have parking (yess!) and street parking is “shockingly easy.” Sloway Metals, one of the last industrial residents, has taken flight to be replaced by new townhome development, but the landscape is still dotted with older housing that screams to be renovated. “Homes have been selling from just over $500,000 to $700,000,”Ms. Ratcliffe says, “although I just recently sold a triplex for $1.2-million. This neighbourhood is well on its way, so buyers need to start paying attention!”
Social amenities A charming elementary school is minutes away by foot on Perth Avenue and several farmers’ markets are within walking distance. Plenty of small, local cafés have taken root, along with quaint restos and specialty shops. If you need big box, a small jaunt will bring you to Dufferin Mall. As for parks, there’s plenty of greenery where the kids can roam freely.
What makes it ‘It”? “The core is going through a remarkable renaissance,” says Robin Pope of Pope Real Estate. “It used to be a place where people worked and lived outside of, but now many have returned because of all the new developments happening.” Waterfront Toronto is the leader of this revitalization with the mandate to transform 2,000 acres of brownfield lands on the waterfront (of which West Donlands is a part) into beautiful, sustainable mixed-use communities and dynamic public spaces.
Why? Currently under construction, the area will be home to the Athletes Village of the 2015 Pan Am Games, the Canary District condominiums and 18 acres dedicated to Corktown Common, an active and vibrant park that will serve the local community. Think open lawns, playgrounds, splash park, barbecues, fireplaces, 700 trees and a stunning marsh with aquatic plants.
Housing The 80-acre site is being transformed from former industrial lands to a riverside community that will include market housing (one-bedroom condominiums at $280,000 and two-bedrooms starting at $450,000) and co-op housing not that dissimilar to the Esplanade. The big difference, though? Award-winning architects and urban designers were asked to pony up in a competition to offer the best design for the space. No other neighbourhood in Toronto has been constructed based on these parameters so, buyers, “expect the most inspired living quarters,” Mr. Pope says. Also of note, the development is aiming for Gold LEED certification.
Social amenities A 15-minute walk from downtown and immediately east of the artsy Distillery District. Twenty-three acres are devoted to plush parks and public spaces developed to encourage a community-centric feel. The Front Street Promenade, a 350-metre extension of Front Street, will become the main street lined with trees, public art, seating and a vibrant streetscape to bolster social interaction between residents. There will be a broad range of amenities on hand — the city’s largest YMCA, retail space, public art installations and cafés. “I’ve been to Paris, London and Cape Town,” Mr. Pope says, “and Toronto will become part of [the list] of world-class cities when neighbourhoods like this are created.”
What makes it ‘It’? Built in the 19th century, it’s the oldest of the former Lakeshore municipalities and now a bedroom community with ever-stately homes and a pastoral landscape to match. You’ll find a lot of young families and first-time buyers moving here because it’s still affordable.
Why? The Mimico 20/20 Revitalization Plan — The Mimico-by-the-Lake community’s efforts to boost the neighbourhood and further beautify the land around the lake. Some ideas on deck: extending streets past Lake Shore and down to the waterfront trails; building more parkland, a ban on 40-storey condos that would quash the views, and creating a new “village hub” — with concentrations of new retail, office and commercial spaces along the stretch.
Housing The average price in this area is approximately $563,000. The homes are a mix of detached and semi-detached and range from the low $500,000s to the high $600,000s, depending on size, how well they are maintained and the degree of finishes.
Social amenities “The walkability of this area is fantastic,” says Emir Dickson, proprietor of UrbanMomsRealty.com. “There are so many lakeside trails with parents and kids on bikes, people lunching on picnic tables and a general good neighbour merriment.” Mimico boasts a lot of parkettes with undisputed views of the water; Go trains now run every 30 minutes, which means Date Night is really only a 25-minute ride away and, perhaps most beloved, the Mimico Wat-erfront Park is a kilometre of beautiful new shoreline park space with a stunning waters-edge boardwalk to jog, cycle or skate through to get to know your new neighbourhood.
Read More @ National Post