May 17, 2018 | new developments
There was a time, not too long ago, where Toronto developers would have a lot of land to choose from. It’s like arriving at a buffet on an empty stomach. There is a lot of space to fill up. The City would be eager to have the land developed for more tax $$. There existed huge swaths of under-utilized land that was prime for redevelopment. Developers in Corktown, Cityplace and Liberty Village had little resistance from residents since very few people lived there in the beginning.
Things are different today in Toronto. There is less space to develop. Land is expensive, and communities are involved -sometimes for the better and sometimes just a lot of cranks worried about shadows that pass over their back yard for a few hours a day. So nowadays, developers have to do a good job of winning the public over. They need the pubic to swoon over their design and vision.
We in Toronto have learned that sometimes a new development to the neighbourhood can ruin the character of it, or just make the area less appealing. We have seen, in Toronto, developers have put up something bland that discourages human interaction.
I think the early waterfront projects in Toronto failed miserably to encourage community. At best, it provided views of the lake, and at worst, it cut the rest of the city off from the lake and failed to create an interesting cultural hub on the waterfront. There has been some improvement since those early days with art galleries and parks added to the mix, but early on, it was not a success in my estimation. Same with the eastern waterfront condos in Etobicoke. With that much residential density, how come there is no commercial strip nearby that is thriving? It suggests that the people who live there don’t interact with the community. They drive in to the compound and leave when they want to socialize or shop.
For this blog, I’m looking for condo projects that will make a neighbourhood better, and in some cases be the transformative catalyst it needs to turn under-utilized land to a magnet for buyers and the community at large.
Here are the top 3 developments that I think are pretty exciting. I think they will improve and enliven the neighbourhoods around them. To some, it will bring some unwanted density, but for others, it will bring an opportunity to live in the city in a well-planned development.
- BLOOR/DUNDAS DEVELOPMENT Bloor and Dundas has to be one of the ugliest intersections in the city, but a huge plan is under way to develop the south east corner including the site of a Catholic High School, the Loblaws, a crusty Coffeetime, a Pizza Nova and LCBO, the old Zellers and a giant parking lot. It is a shockingly under-utilized prime piece of land that is right along the subway line as well as close proxmity to the UP Express route and the West Toronto Rail Path for biking. I’m surprised it took this long to develop this spot. What I love about this development: It plans to open up the closed-off corner of Dundas West and Bloor by moving the school away from the corner and creating a walkable access into the new development. There is ample green space, a canopied winter garden, and a great public space design along the railway. In the early stages, of course, the developer will put their most visionary visions forward. This means some of the good stuff may get whittled away. Also, the locals near this development will try to bring down the height of the larger buildings. After all, this is generally not an area for high rise condos. Still, it is a HUGE improvement over what is currently there. There will be available rentals, commercial space, park space, some affordable housing, a new school, and a much better Loblaws. Yeah, the traffic will be worse at this intersection, but that’s what you get for living in a big city. Like I said, early days, but you can find out more about this project here.
- BLOOR/DUFFERIN This development is a bit contentious since there has been some local resistance to this project, and for good reason. Currently on the southwest corner of Bloor and Dufferin, there are three acres of land owned by the Toronto District School Board. Somewhere along the way, the TDSB promised the community that a community hub could be built here, but in the original development plans no hub emerged. I suspect something will be worked out here. For the time being, I still think this under-utilized piece of land could create a lot more living space for a city desperate for more homes. Again, I think this will improve the corner considerably. It’s a lot of density, but it does have a new street and wide walkable boulevards, and a reasonably sized public park. Of course, all the details need to be worked out. I will reiterate that I like the idea right now. Let’s hope it stays on track with a nod the locals. Find out more details here.
- SMART BOUTIQUE DEVELOPMENT ALONG THE STREET Now that I have praised two projects with some very large buildings, let me express my praise for those urban neighbourhoods that do not bring in large buildings and probably shouldn’t. Along some of our main streets in neighbourhoods likeLeslieville and the Junction, it would be pretty horrible to erect a 30 storey building on a walkable, beloved neighbourhood main street that has commercial buildings that are two to three storeys in height. Luckily, the City does have some rules on how high you can build on designated Toronto main street boulevards. Though Leslieville has some great boutique condo buildings on the rise, I will use the Junction as an example of a job well-done for boutique condos that blend well with their walkable streets. As a finished example, I’m a big fan of the Duke that not only blends to the height requirements of the neighbourhood, but it offers a LCBO on the main level. The design is also much more impressive than your standard condo, and it takes the place where a car wash was almost built. The Duke is just the start in the Junction. In the early stages of development, we have Junction House in a part of the Junction that could use a bit more love. More details can be found here. Further south, an application has been submitted for the land where the Active Green and Ross Tire and Automotive Centre is located. We also have this one just north of Keele and Dundas. And this converted church at High Park and Annette with a modern addition here. All this goes to show how the low rise areas are increasing the condo density along the street to improve the area, and not just add people. An already successful stretch of Dundas will be made even better with these additions that blend well with the neighbourhood main street.
New condo development usually makes a given neighbourhood miserable at some point in the development process. There is the endless noise and dust while it is under construction, and there is the traffic that comes with it. For condo developments well done, though, there a real improvement to an area that will benefit the residents in the long run, and make the neighbourhood much more enjoyable and vibrant. One thing certain about Toronto – change is always afoot!