Industrial graveyard now trendy loft central
Liberty Village becomes a magnet for condo seekers
By Derek Raymaker – Globe and Mail
It was thought to be beyond saving — a patch of industrial wasteland so grey and exhausted by a century-and-a-half of heavy industry that few could imagine anybody would want to live there by choice.
Up until the late 1980s, King Street West, between Crawford and Dufferin streets, was a mishmash of chemical, textile, food-processing and manufacturing sites; relics of the Victorian-era economy that had gone into a slow and grinding decline.
In their heyday, the industrial titans who owned and managed these companies built themselves mansions just to the west in Parkdale. After they were long gone, their noble brick domiciles were turned into rooming houses for the poor and drug-addicted. There were other thriving streets in the neighbourhood that embraced a rough-hewn working-class aesthetic, but many of those residents, too, would soon drift further west, toward Mimico and Etobicoke.
By the 1970s, most Torontonians didn’t want to go to the King West area, except to see a North American Soccer League game at rickety Lamport Stadium, or to visit the Canadian National Exhibition at summer’s end.
In a way, the real estate boom in the 1980s probably saved King West from permanent desolation. Artists, fashion designers, animators, filmmakers, musicians, photographers and members of the burgeoning computer arts found that the creaky industrial skeletons were cheap and had the space needed to satisfy their muse.
Much of the barren industrial area was rezoned for residential use in 1996. And then came the lofts.
It started with the 46-unit Massey Harris Lofts, a conversion of a factory office building completed in 2002 by Canderel-Stoneridge Equity Group. The success of the Massey Harris Lofts project spawned an upsurge in loft projects in the area, which notably includes the Toy Factory Lofts — Lanterra Developments’ 214-unit factory conversion on Liberty Street that the Greater Toronto Home Builders Association named the best high-rise community of 2005.
Along the way, the area has been rechristened Liberty Village, and has added several townhouse communities as low-rise components, especially on the western edge of the area adjacent to Parkdale. Closer to downtown, a commercial district anchored by a 24-hour Dominion supermarket is growing rapidly along Liberty Street.
As the revitalization of Liberty Village carries on, it continues to be fairly affordable by downtown standards, with many newly launched condos available for less than $200,000, and townhouses available for under $300,000. New developments are being launched regularly, though it appears that loft conversions have given way to new towers and townhouse tracts.
This includes Vibe condos, the just-launched third phase of Monarch’s tower trio in Liberty Village, a 24-storey glass condo tower at King and Shaw streets, with prices ranging from $160,000 to the high $300,000s, for suites ranging in size from 381 to 909 square feet.
About 90% of the units in Monarch’s earlier project, Zip Condos & Lofts, have sold in the same general price range as Vibe. Some larger suites of more than 1,000 square feet are still available.
Just to the west is Bliss, launched earlier this year by CanAlfa Group at King Street and Strachan Avenue, the second stage of its Liberty Village presence, with prices ranging from $141,000 for 381 square feet to $597,000 for 1,492 square feet. The 20-storey project will include a 10-storey platform structure to allow for loft-style suite designs and layouts.
CanAlfa is also building TownHome, a series of two-storey stacked townhouses along Liberty Street with between 730 and 1,160 square feet and ranging in price from $241,000 to $395,000. The architecture is a departure from the brick-focused designs previously built on the north side of King, featuring a steel-and-glass faÃ§ade and loft-style interior layouts by architect David Hastings.