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High-rise projects sandwiched between downtown and the suburbs have to offer more to compete effectively
By Derek Raymaker – The Globe and Mail
The vast choice in new high-rise condominium suites in central Toronto has wedged prices and demand in a nice equilibrium, if temporarily.
At an average price of $331 a square foot across Greater Toronto, condominium prices are not spiralling out of control in the same way as new detached homes, even though four high-profile super-luxury projects, including one under the Ritz-Carlton banner, have been launched, driving up the average price.
And Torontonians should be surprised and satisfied to know that condo prices here are in line with most other Canadian cities, and actually a bargain compared with Victoria, Vancouver and Calgary.
When you pull yourself away from the economic analysis (which shouldn’t be too hard) and visit the sales centres of new downtown projects, you’ll find finely tuned marketing machines aiming directly at the lifestyle-oriented instincts of buyers looking for convenience and trendy design.
But it’s location that will always trump these other factors, and a hot corner can be worth all the granite countertops in the world. There are over two dozen condo sales centres currently open in central Toronto, and there would seem to be something for everyone .
In Etobicoke, the western lakeshore straddling the mouth of the Humber River continues to hit the right notes with buyers. The subway — and subway extensions — have guided North York’s high-rise development. And the Scarborough Town Centre transit and highway corridor is the site of pretty much all of the high-rise projects in that former borough. Of course, these all come with the discount you’d expect for being out of the trendy loop that exists south of Eglinton Avenue.
None of this is rocket science to any savvy marketing team. But there is one key advantage these traditional low-rise neighbourhoods have over the trendy downtown projects that bodes well for future high-rise development. That is the prevalence of tens of thousands of older couples who want to sell their large maintenance-intensive houses, but not leave their neighbourhoods.
There’s also the added bonus that many of these older buyers are able to buy a high-end two-bedroom suite priced at $500,000 or so with no mortgage after they sell their family house for $750,000 in pockets like Lawrence Park or The Kingsway.
Bayview Avenue has been a particularly popular spot for new empty-nester buyers looking for a well-appointed suite with larger square footages than you’d find in downtown Toronto‘s shoeboxes in the sky to handle all the family heirlooms.
Daniels Corporation’s Kilgour Estates, just south of Lawrence Avenue, has been a huge hit with homeowners from the immediate area, with prices starting at $474,000 and going up to $1,586,000 for between 1,072 and 2,293 square feet.
Further north on Sheppard Avenue is Shane Baghai’s St. Gabriel Village, on a site to be shared with a church and to feature an emphasis on energy conservation. It has been on the market for a year with prices at $479 a square foot.
The overall price picture outside of downtown features many projects with fairly expensive suites like those mentioned above, and loads of traditional high-rise condos catering to the first-time buyer on a budget, but not much in between.
The early data for 2006 indicates it’s been a soft market overall in these areas, with a lot of building going on but not much buying.
In west North York, the average high-rise suite price reported for February was $269 a square foot, up a modest 3.8% from February, 2005, according to data compiled by RealNet Canada. The North Yonge Street corridor reports a price of $316 a square foot, up 1.6% from February, 2005, while Scarborough was at $276 a square foot, up 6.1% from February, 2005.
Etobicoke average suite prices are actually above the Greater Toronto average at $359 a square foot in February, up 3.1% from $348 in February, 2005.
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From New Dream Homes and Condos Magazine
In the 1850s, the area now known as Bloor West Village was the property of Lieutenant Colonel William Smith Durie, the first commanding officer of the Queens Own Rifles. The street that ran through his estate is now known as Durie Street. The present day neighbourhood began to be developed in 1909, when this district became part of the City of Toronto. Soon after amalgamation with Toronto, Bloor West‘s roads were paved and city services were made available.
Bloor West‘s first residents were immigrants of Eastern European background. These are the residents who helped found the Bloor West Village Business Improvement Area, the first of its kind in Canada. This shopping district has helped make Bloor West Village one of Toronto’s most popular neighbourhoods.
This is also a popular neighbourhood for families since it is home to many excellent schools and is within walking distance of High Parkâ€”Toronto’s biggest and best-known park. Covering 399-acres, this Toronto landmark contains picnic areas, flower gardens, animal paddocks, a restaurant, an outdoor amphitheatre, sports facilities, a trackless train, an adventure playground, and a large pond.
Other local attractions include the Annette Recreation Centre, which is attached to the Annette Street public school. This centre has an indoor pool, a small gymnasium, and a baseball diamond. A little bit east of the Annette Centre is the Annette Street Public Library, which offers programs for adults, children, and preschoolers.
Bloor West Village is also home to The Humber, a movie theatre that is conveniently located on Bloor Street, just west of Jane Street.
Homes in the area are all fairly similar in size and styleâ€”having been built in a relatively short period of time between 1912 and 1923. Most houses feature deep front porches that are well shaded by the majestic oak and maple trees that line the streets of this neighbourhood.
Although known for it’s great selection of stores, the Bloor West Village shopping district is as much about eating as it is about shopping. It’s a virtual smorgasbord of bakeries, delicatessens, specialty food shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Convenience stores, fruit and vegetable markets, dry cleaners, video stores, and other shops catering to everyday household needs, can also be found on Jane and Annette streets.
The Jane and Runnymede subway stations are part of the Bloor-Danforth subway line and are both within walking distance of the homes in Bloor West Village. The Annette Street bus connects passengers to the Dupont subway station on the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line and there are additional bus routes on Jane Street and Runnymede Road.
Commuters are only about ten minutes from the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevardâ€”providing quick access into and out of the city.
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For many, moving to an urban apartment is about tapping into the excitement and cultural opportunities of the big city and can also mean a shorter commute to work. But finding a place in the city can mean sacrificing the larger living spaces found in the suburbs or country. Increasingly, urban dwellers are finding that loft apartments offer the location and opportunities of city life with far more space than average condos or apartment homes. What’s the idea behind lofts, and why are they so popular?
Lofts have a certain allure. With high ceilings, open floor plans, rough-hewn floors, and brick walls, they are a hip housing alternative for many urban professionals. Today’s loft dwellers embrace new-age metropolitan living in all its glory.
Those who buy these unique dwellings have shaken off long daily commutes, granting them more personal time, more cultural and entertainment possibilities and an active, city lifestyle. If you crave something eclectic, out of the ordinary and convenient to all the city has to offer, a loft may be for you! Select from newly constructed (soft) lofts, or restored historical building loft conversions (hard lofts).
One definition for a loft found on the Web is — An appeal against convention- convention in thinking, convention in building and convention in living. They are a celebration of open concept living and unconventional spaces brought about by the considered application of imagination and a rejection of mass-market housing.
The origin of the word loft comes from the Old Norse lopt which means “upper room “or “air”. In 19th-century English usage the word came to mean “the upper stories of a warehouse or factory”. The modern boom in the conversion of such spaces into living areas came in the 1940s in the SoHo District of New York City. By the 1970s so many of these conversions had been done that the city was forced to re-zone the area to make such conversions legal.
By the 1980s the concept was spreading first across the United States and then to Europe and Asia. As the trend grew it caught the attention of developers identifying a new market. Developers being developers did not let a lack of owning an existing warehouse or factory building to convert stop them from moving into the new market. Thus the new word loft began to be applied to units in ground up new construction. Needless to say the term grew fuzzy.
By 2005 the term loft has matured. Lofts created from spaces in existing buildings are called hard lofts or true lofts. Lofts built new from the ground up are typically referred to as soft lofts or new lofts or loft-inspired or mezzanine suites. Whether created out of an existing building or built ground up new, all lofts have certain common elements or they are not lofts.
Lofts are part of the Postmodernism movement in architecture. Postmodernism is a counter- reaction to the strict and almost universal modernism of the mid-20th Century. It embraces elements from historical building styles incorporating them without a rigid adherence to one style. It also does not as policy try to hide the structural or mechanical elements of a building but often uses these in the design.
What is a “hard” loft?
A true loft is a conversion of a vintage factory or warehouse. They have a harder edge as they are usually constructed of concrete or “mill” construction of exposed brick, original wood posts, beams and floors. Typically, these lofts have an open floorplan and unfinished ceilings that are at least 10′ high with exposed ducts, plumbing and electrical. Examples include the Merchandise Building, Liberty Lofts and the Toy Factory Lofts.
What is a “soft” loft?
In recent years developers have built new buildings with some of the characteristics of a hard loft such as high ceilings, big windows and open floorplans. These lofts typically have a softer edge… no exposed ducts and plumbing, carpet in some areas and upscale kitchens and baths. Soft lofts have more in common with traditional condominiums than a true hard loft.
What is an “artist live/work” loft?
Toronto bylaws allow for the development of buildings with “artist live/work” zoning. The first of these developments appeared on Shanly Avenue (near Queen and Gladstone) and most featured minimal finishing, 16′ ceilings and steel frame construction. The City’s zoning restricted their use to people who were engaged in a precisely defined list of artistic activities. Over time these buildings have come to be occupied by people who simply enjoy the loft life.
Here are some of the unique joys of the loft life:
* Industrial buildings – The term loft began in New York and Chicago when renters and owners began turning old industrial buildings into living spaces. The original tenants were artists who craved the high ceilings, large windows and open floor plans typical of converted warehouses and factories.
* Open spaces – The primary benefit of loft living is the large open spaces that allow you to live and move how you want, rather than having your movement defined by a permanent floor plan of walls, doorways and rooms.
* Define your areas – In a loft, the floor plan can be fluid and ever changing. You can set up a sleeping area in one part of the space, then move it somewhere else if you have guests or if you just need the area for another use. Kitchens and bathrooms are more permanent, of course, but temporary partitions, hanging curtains, or even changes in floor covering can define other spaces.
* Eclectic style – Another nice aspect of many lofts is the opportunity for eclectic design and decorating. For example, a loft might feature soft, delicate window treatments on reinforced factory windows, or a modern couch sitting on a hundred-year-old hardwood floor. This mixture of old with new and practicality with comfort can form a wonderful esthetic that makes the most of a loft’s mixed-use nature.
* Open, flowing floor plans
* Minimal uses of interior walls to define space and doors to close off areas
* High ceilings – some definitions set minimum ceiling heights at twelve feet or it is not a loft just a condo with high ceilings
* Exposed piping, ductwork, structural elements
* Large windows
* Access to the sky often with roof top gardens or decks
* Easily merges living and work space, blurring the lines between workplace and residence
* Mixes traditional mediums with modern finishes- concrete, metal, stone, brick, wood used freely alongside of drywall, ceramic tile and viny
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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