Liberty Village Lofts
Industrial graveyard now trendy loft central
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.
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