The Urban and The Urbane
by Rise Levy
Toronto is a rarity among large cities because it has been able to sustain rapid cosmopolitan progress while remaining a city of neighbourhoods. This unique balancing act explains the steady migration from the suburbs to the city that grows stronger with every passing year. There is a neighbourhood for every personality type, income level or stage of life.
Most large cities degenerate into urban jungles as they grow with a loss of green space, rising crime and a deteriorating school and transit system. Not Toronto. You will find the kinds of leafy neighbourhoods with great schools and playgrounds and parks that make parenting easier and life feel mellow in all four corners of the city. Life in the suburbs provides the same leafiness but it comes with some cultural sacrifices. In all four directions of Toronto you have unique boutique shopping, theatres and the arts and international dining.
There are wonderful condo developments in every area of the city that allow you to benefit from all the perks of the chosen area without the colossal price tag. Do you love areas like Forest Hill or Lawrence Park but you don’t have $5 million dollar rattling around in your pocket? No problem. There is an elegant condominium waiting for you. Do you love the arts and music and the theatre? The young and trendy will find happiness in Liberty Village or Harbourfront or on Queen Streets east and west. Maybe you are an affluent urbanite with a taste for designer fashion and designer food; if so, welcome to your sophisticated Yorkville area condo.
The condo boom has put city living within reach for people at every income level and lifestyle need. With a resale home market gone mad, you can find beautifully finished multilevel townhomes and two-level condos for a fraction of the cost of semis in the same neighbourhoods. At the other end of the scale, you will find studios and small one bedrooms for the young and ultra social who are rarely home but prefer to invest their money rather than pouring it down the renter’s hole.
For people who want it all there is no better place to live than right here in Toronto!
Your life was settled (or so you thought) and you had a spacious suburban home and good schools for the kids and an okay marriage. Sometimes you felt cut off from the lively social or cultural life of the city but you thought the trade off was worth it. But when the kids left for college the bottom fell out of the marriage and here you are suddenly single. The suburbs are designed for families but that isn’t you anymore, so it is time for a new beginning.
It is time for your fabulous new condominium in the city. This time around you have the confidence and the money to know where and how you want to live. This time it is all about you and your tastes and your interests. At last you get to decorate for you with no more kid-friendly concerns. No more man caves, either. Your new condo has a state-of-the-art gym and maybe a pool. Your new condo provides a variety of social functions to help you get your sea legs as you start off on this new voyage. You reconnect with old friends who never seemed to make it to your old suburban neighbourhood but are happy to meet you for dinner at that new restaurant down the street. You are seeing the plays you used to read about but never saw. You are going to art galleries and browsing the antique stores and shopping the design stores and one-of-a-kind boutiques. You are meeting new people. You are dating!
At the end of the day you return to your new condo where everything looks and feels like you. The concierge pampers you and there is no grass to cut or sidewalks to shovel — just a balcony, a view and a glass of wine. You tell yourself “this is the life I have been waiting for.”
The Battle Between the Kings and Queens of the East and the Kings and Queens of the West
Queen Street West is where bohemia began to give way to gentrification back in the 1980s and it just keeps moving ever westward. This move was followed in the ’90s by the transformation of the once grim and dowdy King Street West into condo heaven. Queen and King Street East languished for years and, in spite of their prime location, not much changed until the early 2000s. Real estate prices began to soar and Leslieville, Riverside and Corktown (as they are now designated) became the hottest areas of the city according to Toronto Life magazine (and the prices certainly bear that out.)
All along Queen Street lowrise buildings have been torn down and replaced with urban hipster-styled condos. Local greasy spoons have been replaced by dozens of restaurants and bars designed for the young and urban crowd. Design stores and unique clothing stores abound. Tired and drab old Queen East has been reborn and many of the Queen West bohemians driven out by high rents and chain stores have settled here for the married-with-kids part of their life. One ugly reminder remained until recently and that was the flop house strip club sleaziness of the Broadview Hotel. Well no more. The newly renovated Broadview Hotel is a fabulous addition to the neighbourhood with a rooftop restaurant bar that immediately became a destination requiring reservations well in advance. It was always a beautiful old building tragically fallen into disrepair but now it has been restored and modernized into a landmark Toronto can be proud to claim.
So, will there be a winner in the battle between the East and The West? Queen West still has a long head start but Queen East has a more family-friendly feel. Time will tell if there will be a winner or a draw.
The Empty Nesters Moving on Up
You got married and bought a house in the suburbs and then you had kids and you bought a bigger house and maybe you even sized up again. But now the kids have their own lives and you and your mate are living in a house that is too large and requires endless upkeep. You have had enough. Still you wonder, will you miss the space and the yard? What if one of the kids wants to move back? Do you want them to move back?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have your life back? Wouldn’t it be nice to travel without worrying about the garden and the upkeep and just turn the key and hop on a plane? Oh yeah. It’s time for a condo.
Depending on your income, you can get a huge sprawling house-sized condo, or you can downsize and spend the extra income on travel and restaurants and theatre and fun (yes you can!). The beauty of a condo is that it can be in any area you favour and any size and price range, but the maintenance is not your problem and you have great amenities that — once again — are not your problem to maintain. After decades where everything was your problem, this is true luxury.
You really need to get a condo. I mean who deserves it more than you?
Rise Levy is the Senior Editor of Condo Life magazine.