Tag Archives: Liberty Market Lofts
Lauren Ferranti-Ballem, National Post
When complete strangers buy into a condo building, they’re in for a big surprise. It doesn’t take long before they’re going for a swim with one of their neighbours and befriending others at the pub, on the treadmill, or in the shops downstairs. Then it dawns on them: They’ve lucked in to a vibrant neighbourhood — and life is good. In a seven-part series, Post Homes takes a look at new condo communities within the city and the meeting places that make these neighbourhoods really hum.
The water is cool and fresh, especially on this sweltering day, and as she dips her toes in, Michelle Robinson counts herself lucky to have this free, convenient cooling station so close to her King West condo.
This oasis isn’t quite the decadent rooftop pool you might imagine. But for Ms. Robinson, 34, it’s even better: The splash pad in a tiny park has become the coolest place to meet up with friends this summer, along with their kids and her eight-month-old son, Declan. All appearances would seem to indicate — what with its trendy restaurants, plentiful patios, gyms and French bakeries peddling foie gras-glazed doggie biscuits — that the King West and Liberty Village neighbourhoods cater to the young, hip and blissfully unencumbered (save, perhaps, for a condo-sized pooch). But it would seem that Ms. Robinson and her splash pad posse are adjusting the area’s demographic and creating a new social scene around it.
A decade ago, the Robinsons purchased a Strachan and King townhome because they were drawn to the nightlife in the area. Then along came baby. But even as their priorities have evolved with age, they’ve remained committed to grow with the neighbourhood. Today they live in an Electra loft, and later this summer they anticipate moving to Bliss, the second building in the Liberty Towers development just down the street. “It’s funny: I can see our old home and our new one under construction from where we live now. For us, a condo isn’t a starter home, it’s long term,” she says. “We’re known as ‘the recruiters’ to our friends. There’s a group of us living here, all within four blocks of one another.”
Just behind the happening splash pad are new bocce courts, another site of family-friendly gatherings. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but sometimes we’ll sneak in drinks and hang out as the sun goes down,” Ms. Robinson says. “We use Trinity Bellwoods for typical park stuff too, like the playground and my stroller-fit classes, but we also host little parties on the grass with friends and food — it’s like our extended backyard.”
And while they no longer spend their twilight hours trawling the neighbourhood bars, Liberty Village keeps the Robinsons very busy. They’re regulars at the Brazen Head Irish Pub, they keep perfect attendance at Sunday brunch at School, a cheeky academia-themed spot popular for its super cheesy French toast, and they never miss the farmer’s market that takes over the parking lot between Atlantic Avenue and the shops in the Liberty Market building on Hanna Street.
An ongoing multi-million dollar reno of an old munitions factory by Lifetime Developments, Liberty Market is alive with an eclectic retail mix: A noodle bar coexists with a dance studio — you can see future so-you-think-you-can-dancers through the windows at night — and a young, hopeful couple just opened a cheese shop here. Initially, the food and drink outlets existed mainly to feed and water the nine-to-fivers in the area, but as the modern glass boxes keep multiplying, the neighourhood is just as alive at night as it is during the day.
This is also the site of Liberty Market Lofts, a 13-storey building of live-work spaces that will showcase such urban amenities as a tool room and a basketball half court. “I’ll be down there shooting hoops for sure,” says Rob Whitfield, future loft inhabitant. He’s also the owner of condo furniture purveyor Casalife, one of the original tenants in the Liberty Market building. Seven years ago he would watch as random cars rumbled down the dirt road in front of his store, praying they were potential customers. Today, he chuckles as the Ossington bus follows its paved route. “You know you’ve made it when you get public transit,” he jokes.
To rehydrate after a game of hoops, Mr. Whitfield will order up a pint over a vintage billiard table at the Academy of Spherical Arts — like his business, another one of the early settlers in Liberty Village. “The residents in this area are fiercely loyal and patronize all the little shops. We want each other to do well,” he says. “I don’t know many other areas with this sense of pride and ownership.”
For his part, Stan Cho will be raising a glass in support of the Brazen Head, a three-storey bar with pub fare, flat screens and a massive wrap-around patio that has become a community centre of sorts for the locals. A 32-year-old real estate agent and future resident of King West Condos in Liberty Village, Mr. Cho’s purchase speaks to the social strength of the neighbourhood. “I see new homes come up all the time, and I’m always looking for investment properties,” he says. “But the fact that I plan to live here means it’s something pretty special. The building’s amenities and the area are unbelievable.”
The development’s three towers will share rooftop terrace space totalling a half-acre, an indoor pool and hot tubs with a walkout to a sunken Roman garden, five-pin bowling, a 30-seat screening room and a virtual games room for Wii addicts. “That’s 30,000 square feet of amenity space where residents can gather,” boasts Scott McCullum, senior vice-president of developer Plazacorp. “And as great as it is to have these outdoor terraces, we still have a few months out of the year where we have to be inside — that’s where the bowling and golf simulator come in.” It also doesn’t hurt, says Mr. Cho, that a strip mall featuring 24-hour groceries and gym, an LCBO, movie rentals and hot restaurants are so close by.
Slip under the CN railpath that separates Liberty Village from King West and you’ll find yet more condos and condos in development — among them DNA 3, Fashion House and Thompson Residences — and a ton of those hot restaurants. This is where Mark Wadden feels most at home. He and his wife have purchased a suite in the forthcoming Thompson Residences building, adjacent to the hotel of the same name, both developed by King West impresario Peter Freed.
“There is a true community feel here, and I think that’s due in large part to Freed’s efforts,” Mr. Wadden says. “There are always social events for residents when new buildings open. His developments encompass a lifestyle.” The Thompson lifestyle comes complete with five-star fringe benefits: a party room and in-house catering for entertaining, and a rooftop infinity pool and lounge, each one exclusive to residents and separate from the hotel. “I won’t be able to get my wife away from that pool,” he says.
Outside of his home to be, Mr. Wadden eats up the King West scene — literally. He cites Marben for its dinner-then-dance-party vibe, and Buca and Kiwe for their crafty menus. But most of all, he’s charmed by the small-town feeling he gets here. “I grew up on the East Coast, and my parents are still in Cape Breton, and they never understood why I wanted to come to Toronto,” he says. “But this neighbourhood is the friendliest, most social place I’ve ever lived.” His parents may now understand: The last time they visited the city, they nearly missed the curtain call for a theatre performance, because their son was continuously sidelined by friends on the walk over.
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