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The Distillery District is a historic district to the east of the downtown core of Toronto, Canada, spanning 13 acres (52,000 square metres) and comprised of more than 40 heritage buildings and 10 streets.
Until 1990, the district housed the Gooderham and Worts distillery, founded in 1832, and which was once the largest distillery in the world, and which was owned in later years by Hiram Walker Co. Its location on the side of the Canadian National Railway mainline and located at the mouth of the original route of the Don River outlet into Lake Ontario which facilitated transport connections to the rest of Canada and indeed the world, and the entire area was once the industrial centre of Toronto and transhipping hub.
With the deindustrialization of the surrounding area in the late 20th century, and the winding-down of the distillery operations, the Distillery District was left increasingly derelict. Surrounding industrial and commercial buildings and structures were often demolished, leaving the former distillery surrounded primarily by empty lots.
Nonetheless, the closing of the remaining distillery operations in 1990 created redevelopment and investment opportunities for a district that contained the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America.
The economic recession of the early 1990s, however, and the resulting crash in residential condominium prices and office lease rates in downtown Toronto, delayed efforts to revitalize the district. Nonetheless, two residential condominium buildings were constructed on the periphery of the district during the late 1990s.
While the site awaited redevelopment and reinvestment, the Distillery District‘s unique ambience began to attract numerous film shoots. Since 1990, the site has served as a location for over 800 film and television productions.
In 2001, the site was purchased by Cityscape Holdings Inc., which transformed the district into a pedestrian-oriented arts, culture and entertainment neighbourhood. In 2003, the Distillery District was reopened to the public to great acclaim.
The new owners refused to lease any of the retail and restaurant space to chains or franchises, and accordingly, the majority of the buildings are occupied with unique boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and coffee shops, including a well-known micro brewery, the Mill Street Brewery.
The upper floors of a number of buildings have been leased to artists as studio spaces and to offices tenants with a “creative focus”. A new theatre, the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, has opened on the site and serves as the home of the Soulpepper Theatre Company and the drama productions of nearby George Brown College. There are plans to develop residential condominiums, offices and more retail space on the vacant lands that surround the Distillery District.
There has been some criticism of the Distillery District‘s redevelopment. Some have suggested that the area’s gentrification has resulted in yet another upscale shopping district competing for the pocket-books of a wealthy demographic, and that opportunities for more publicly-funded uses have been lost. In contrast, others have noted that the district provides important space to local artists, and are supportive of the fact that the Distillery District is not dominated by large retail chains.
Regardless of any criticism, the preservation and active re-use of the historic buildings has been widely praised. The Distillery District is a National historic site, and has been designated for protection under the Ontario Heritage Act since 1976. It was listed by National Geographic magazine as a “top pick” in Canada for travellers. The redevelopment of surrounding vacant lands is expected to accelerate the district’s transformation from an abandoned industrial site into one of Toronto’s most unique neighbourhoods.
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With Toronto neighbourhoods becoming pricier and less affordable, fringe areas are experiencing an upswing in sales as buyers move away from blue-chip neighbourhoods into areas that offer more of a financial upside, says a study.According to an “up-and-coming” neighbourhoods study released yesterday, there are still areas downtown that offer good value, but don’t expect to find them on the Bridle Path.
The top up-and-coming neighbourhood, according to the report, is in the Bathurst Manor and Armour Heights district of Toronto, north of Highway 401 in the city’s central core. In second place, neighbourhoods outside High Park, such as Roncesvalles, Brockton Village and the Junction, scored high for value.
Bathurst Manor, a neighbourhood with roots in the 1950s characterized by semi-detached and ranch style homes, had a 33% increase in sales in the first eight months of the year compared to last year, as younger buyers discovered the area’s affordability.
Armour Heights lies between Bathurst St. and the Don River valley from Earl Bales Park south to Wilson Ave. Highway 401 cuts across its south end.
Lot sizes are good for a central location, and prices start as low as $160,000 for condominiums and average $350,000 for a freehold single-family home.
The area is undergoing a real revitalization, with a lot more infill and new construction happening.
The 401, which cuts along the neighbourhood, seems to act as both a physical and economic boundary: Similar houses south of the 401 could be as much as $200,000 more.
The key to maximizing value in a strong housing market is to find those undiscovered neighbourhoods, particularly those neighbourhoods that are on the fringe of more prestigious “blue chip” areas that have good potential for price appreciation.
The Junction area near High Park is one example, he says. While homes in Bloor West Village and High Park â€” an area that has achieved something of an elite status â€” start at a minimum of $400,000, similar homes can be found in the adjoining Junction area â€” which is still undergoing a revitalization, for about $275,000.
The same situation applies in the Scarborough area that borders on the coveted Beach neighbourhood. Prices in Scarborough start at $300,000, while a similar Beach home would start about $500,000.
Some buyers are moving out of the city altogether in a quest for more bang for their buck.
The Markham-Stouffville area is the top pick for suburban locations. Home resales have risen 33% there in the past year.
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Excerpt from an article by Tony Wong – Toronto
A correction in the red-hot Toronto condominium market “cannot be far away,” says a leading housing economist.
Buying for investment purposes in the Toronto condo market has been “far in excess of market needs” and buyers face “very high risks,” said economist Will Dunning in his most strongly worded analysis yet of the Toronto market, released yesterday.
Nearly a decade into a robust housing cycle, high-rise condo sales remain extremely strong, with second quarter sales at an annual rate of 20,800, a record high, said Dunning.
While other housing economists have expressed concern over what they see as a potentially frothy Toronto condo market, Dunning, a former Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. economist, has been among the most conservative.
“An onslaught of Toronto condo completions is just beginning and I expect that rents will start to fall late in the year with the possibility of price weakness to follow,” said Dunning.
Toronto condo buyers have lucked out so far only because the construction industry is at capacity, said the economist.
Some analysts have said the market is sustainable because prices haven’t gone up as far or as fast as in the 1980s, just before the market crashed.
They also say banks are much more stringent and developers have to sell most of their units before construction. Also, high house prices mean Toronto condos are now the only choice for some buyers.
He forecasts 15,910 condo starts this year, with another 16,623 for 2007 and more than 10,000 in subsequent years, meaning buyers will have a lot more Toronto condos to choose from.
He has revised his home price forecast upward for 2006, and expects the average home to increase by 5.7% this year (compared with a previous forecast of 4.3%) to $355,305. He expects resale prices to move 3.4% higher in 2007 and then level off at about the inflation rate in 2008 and 2009.
With the deterioration of affordability due to higher house prices and rising interest rates, Dunning estimates that sales of existing homes (both condos and low rise) should be 10% lower than current levels.
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