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West Toronto Junction has managed to retain its original small town charm and appeal despite it’s prime location in Toronto’s bustling west end. Ironically the same railway tracks that skirt this neighbourhood and were responsible for it growth have seemingly also had the dual impact of sheltering the West Toronto Junction from the widespread gentrification that has taken place in many Toronto neighbourhoods. It is a little bit off the beat and path but well worth discovering.
Billed by many as the next West Queen West, The Junction is already attracting artists and entrepreneurs for its cheaper rents and converted industrial and warehouse spaces. A raw food restaurant and organic grocer are two recent additions to the Dundas West strip, joining established residents like Vesuvio (touted by fans as the best pizza in the city). The neighbourhood is also turning into something of a furniture and design destination, sporting three great shops in Post + Beam Reclamation, Forever Interiors and Smash.
Travel a few blocks east and you enter the Junction Triangle, often taken as a separate neighbourhood, squeezed in between the Junction, Roncevalles and Bloordale Village (in the literal triangle of rail lines bounded roughly by Dundas, Landsdowne and Dupont). In 2009, a contest was run to come up with a new name for the area, both to distinguish it from the Junction proper, as well as to reflect its historical ties to the railroad.
So named for its location among four rail lines built in the late 1800s, The Junction has shed its reputation as a ’hood from the wrong side of the tracks. Thanks to cheaper rents and real estate values, it’s home to burgeoning numbers of families and transplanted downtowners who have been priced out of the core.
Close to High Park and Bloor West Village, The Junction offers the same easy access to transit and reliably good schools and its late 19th and early 20th century homes are more affordable than its sister neighbourhoods (though the gap is shrinking).
West Toronto Junction is still affordable and appeals to a wide demographic from young families, to artists to urban professionals. This is as true a neighbourhood as you are likely to find in Toronto. It has a strong sense of pride and history, a beautiful main street shopping district on Dundas Street West, cherished local schools, parks and library, and a diverse population that runs the gamut from gentrification to an edgy urban grittiness.
The commercial strip was beleaguered by empty storefronts in the early aughts, but Dundas has seen a boom in new businesses (if there’s any doubt as to which direction the district is heading, a Starbucks recently opened in the area). The northern corner is seeing the development of big-box stores on the site of the former stockyards at St. Clair Avenue and Weston Road, but the neighbourhood still retains a small-village feel. West of Keele and Dundas, the streetscape is teeming with new restaurants, independent shops and a conglomeration of stores specializing in vintage interiors.
West Toronto Junction has some of the finest architecture in Toronto. The winding tree-lined streets north of Annette Street feature rich red brick Victorian houses on generous size lots that boast decorative features such as roof top turrets, whimsical front porches and glamorous archways. There are some fine examples of Queen Anne and Arts and Crafts style house in this part of the neighbourhood.
Closer to Dundas Street the houses are Victorian in style but much smaller and much less descriptive. The lots at the north-end of the neighbourhood are also narrower. You will find a that a fair number of the larger houses particularly on the main streets have apartments with two or more units which help pay for the upkeep and property taxes.
West Toronto Junction began as a railway town in the 1870s. A convergence of railway lines operated nearby and opened stations and railyards, attracting manufacturers and their employers to the area. Many of the houses closest to Dundas Street housed the labourers and their families that first settled here. Excessive drinking and rowdiness led to a prohibition on alcohol being sold on Dundas Street West that lasted until 2000.
In 1882 an ambitious young lawyer named D.W Clendenan in partnership with his uncle D. J. Laws purchased the Carlton Race Course property (the first running of the Queens Plate was held there in 1860owned by the Keele family. They then registered the West Toronto Junction plan of subdivision. By 1884 lots were being sold with ads in newspapers beckoning buyers to West Toronto Junction where they would enjoy commanding views of Lake Ontario and High Park. There were 5 miles of streets paved and over 1500 shade trees planted.
By 1888 West Toronto Junction had enough residents to incorporate as a Village and by 1891 a Town with a population of 5,000. Churches, libraries and schools would soon follow. Throughout it’s early history the West Toronto Junction experienced boom and busts cycles. In 1909 the increased demand for more utilities and better roads led the ratepayers to vote in favour of annexation with the City of Toronto.
Once a gritty railroad town, it was annexed by the City of Toronto in 1909 and remained under the real estate radar for nine decades as a place with “a fierce, independent spirit,” says Mr. Wencer. Since the late 1990s, however, the secret’s been out as artists looking for cheap studio space and bargain-hunting hipster couples discover its rough charm.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416−388−1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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by Denise Lash
In the same way a chameleon changes colour to suit its surroundings, a well-thought-out condo purchase will adapt to its owner’s changing circumstances. A realistic assessment of your needs, a modest amount of investigation and planning, and a bit of luck are all that are required to make your condo a multi-purpose living space and a sound investment for years to come.
My friend’s son recently started university in Toronto. Faced with the realization that his rent was going to form a substantial part of his bill, she bought a two-bedroom condominium for him. The “rent” he pays is just enough to cover the mortgage and monthly common expenses, but is still below market rates. He can put his savings towards other expenses and she can use the rent to pay down the condo, effectively keeping the money in the family. As her other children graduate and enter the workforce, the condo may see double duty as an affordable first home for them.
The choice of the unit was made with an eye to her own future. She hopes to travel in her retirement and the condo will give her the security and peace of mind to remain absent for extended periods. My friend is also realistic. She loves her current home, but knows there will come a time when it will be too much for her to handle. At that point, with the nest empty, she can downsize into the condo. In the years in between, she plans to rent the condo and use that income to pay down the mortgage.
What factors should you look for if you’re considering this strategy? First, since you’re in for the long haul, look for a unit built by a reputable developer. Speak to other owners and search the Internet. And don’t overlook the obvious: examine the construction materials and finishings in the unit. You don’t have to be an expert to recognize quality at this level.
Next, look for an active board of directors and management. Are the grounds and common facilities maintained? Is the parking garage in disrepair? Regular and attentive maintenance can prevent owners from being faced with potentially crippling special assessments to carry out major structural repairs down the road. Consult with your lawyer or agent to ensure that the condo’s rules and regulations will be appropriate for your needs.
You also require a building that will suit your needs and those of your children over time. If you plan to live in the unit in your retirement, you may place a premium on a building that offers guest suites and has adequate guest parking. Is having handicap access likely to be an issue for you in the future? You may also want to have 24-hour security and indoor parking.
Another factor you need to consider is location. If the condo is going to serve as student housing for your children, proximity to the college or university is important. Try to get a sense of the local community. Is the character of the area likely to remain the same or is it changing? If you are counting on an unobstructed view from your balcony, avoid purchasing in a building where other properties in the immediate vicinity are likely to be developed.
Of course, life doesn’t always go according to plan, so be realistic about whether you want the financial commitment of a second home. You also have to be prepared to take on the time-consuming duties of a landlordâ€”or pay someone else to perform that role for you. But a condo can offer many years of varied use to all members of your family.
Denise Lash is a condominium lawyer at Miller Thomson LLP and host of the television show MondoCondo.
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By Rebecca Laing
In a metropolis known as “the city of neighbourhoods”, how does one find their place? Because of the unique characteristics and vitality of its many communities, Toronto has upwards of 240 distinct and named neighbourhoods within its boundaries. As you can imagine, selecting a single neighbourhood as my favourite choice of residence is a difficult feat. But, the lure of Riverdale prevailsâ€¦
Why Riverdale? It’s absolutely lovely here. Riverdale has a beautiful assemblage of mostly older homes laden with character, as well as a handful of very tastefully built newer homes. There are wonderful parks, excellent schools, and fantastic shopping and dining on the Danforth. Riverdale is convenient, with quick accessibility to downtown Toronto through multiple subway stops, TTC streetcars, and the Don Valley Parkway. Overall, Riverdale is a superb community, especially for young families. I know you will love Riverdale as much as I do!
North Riverdale Homes
North Riverdale stretches from Gerrard Street East in the south, to as far north as Mortimer Avenue in spots, reaching to as far as Greenwood Avenue in the east, with the Don Valley Parkway serving as its western boundary. (Note that borders are imprecise and non-linear throughout Riverdale). The area’s residents are mainly young professionals and upper-middle class families, as well as some long-term residents who have lived here their entire lives.
North Riverdale homes display both Edwardian and Victorian architecture, dating from the late 1800s to the 1920s. Homes are mostly two and three stories, and range from very large detached homes, to tall and skinny semis and rowhouses. Many North Riverdale homes have been wonderfully restored, with the utmost attention to detail.
Other than in multi-million dollar renos and design magazines, never have I seen finer materials and more exquisite dÃ©cor than in some of these renovated Riverdale gems. It is the trend here; residents take great pride in their homes, both inside and out. The gardens are lovely, full of perennials, and enhance the beautiful architectural details of these historic buildings. The streets here are hilly, winding, and tree laden, setting a perfect backdrop for these inviting residences.
In the part of North Riverdale above the Danforthh, proximity to Jackman Public School, and the Danforth itself, are major drivers of real estate prices. South of the Danforth, Withrow Park serves as a hub of the community; homes close to Withrow are the most in demand. This entire stretch of North Riverdale above Riverdale Avenue is referred to as Upper Riverdale, or Prime Riverdale.
Of course, one of the best parts of living in North Riverdale is having the vibrant and cosmopolitan Greektown around the corner. Greektown on The Danforth offers something for everyone, whether it be shopping, strolling, relaxing on a patio, or people watching.
No longer just a place to get a souvlaki fix, Greektown is now a multicultural dining destination, with its myriad of restaurants offering foods from virtually every nationality found in Toronto. Fine boutiques and purveyors of natural products and health-promoting services round out this dynamic retail landscape.
South Riverdale Homes
South Riverdale lies south of Gerrard and west of the Don Valley Parkway, extending down to Eastern Avenue. The eastern boundary is most disputed; although technically, South Riverdale is oft described as extending past Greenwood, even to as far as Coxwell Avenue, most of my Riverdale home buyers find that once you are east of Leslie, the character really changes to that of Leslieville. I could further confuse matters by bringing Little India and Riverside (formerly Queen-Broadview Village) into the discussion, and stating how Leslieville is arguably a sub-neighbourhood of South Riverdale, but this is confusing enough already.
Homes in South Riverdale are more affordable than those to the north; the Riverdale area is hence home to more working class families and young couples. South Riverdale homes are largely Victorian in style. Two and three storey gothic rowhouses and semis are common, as are gingerbread cottages, such as those found on Degrassi Street (made famous by the series of Degrassi TV shows filmed in and around Leslieville and Riverdale, though the actual school locations were in East York and West Toronto).
For those more inclined towards a condo lifestyle, the newer Broadview Lofts and Riverside Lofts feature modern urban styling, while the Carlaw Lofts offer authentic loft-living in a converted Soho-style warehouse.
Although South Riverdale is a bit of a hike from the Danforth subway, it does offer the convenience of the Broadview, Gerrard, and Queen streetcar routes. For those looking for a little shopping or nightlife, Riverside (at Queen and Broadview) is now exploding new with shops and cafes, and the downtown core is just a brief bicycle or streetcar ride away.
Riverdale Real Estate Boundaries
As mentioned, the boundaries of Riverdale and its various sub-communities are jagged and porous on all sides, thereby making them often subject to debate. Using its most generous boundaries, Riverdale stretches from as far west as the Don Valley Parkway to as far east as Coxwell, and from Eastern Avenue in the south to as far north as Mortimer Avenue.
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