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Infill townhouse developments make inroads in west end

By Derek Raymaker – Globe and Mail

Etobicoke hasn’t set the new housing world on fire in terms of low-rise development. But what it has lacked in buzz it has made up for in steady small-scale infill townhouse developments that always seem to be in high demand.

The sprawling west Toronto community has seen its stock grow as a haven for high-rise condominiums, especially along the picturesque strip of Lake Ontario west of the Humber River that was once infamous for its seedy motels. Since 1999, over 2,500 condo suites have been erected on the Etobicoke lakeshore, with another 800 on the drawing board. Meanwhile, development of low-rise communities has been restrained, focused on established neighbourhoods and almost always in townhouse form.

Etobicoke already has a healthy stock of resale detached properties to suit a variety of income ranges and neighbourhood tastes. This includes million-dollar-plus properties in the lush lots of The Kingsway and along the Humber ravines, and quaint yet affordable bungalows in New Toronto and Mimico, stretching from Royal York Avenue to Long Branch Station along Lake Shore Boulevard.

In the northwest part of the former municipality that amalgamated with Toronto in 1998 are a collection of postwar suburban neighbourhoods that have gradually morphed into the urban consciousness since the extension of the Bloor subway line to Kipling Avenue. These enclaves are never that far from highways 427 or 401 or the Queen Elizabeth Way.

The 21-unit infil project at Oxford Lane just south of the Gardiner Expressway east of Royal York Road has units priced between $430,000 and $450,000.

Buffering these neighbourhoods are small strip malls, warehouses and light industrial buildings that are usually more vacant than occupied these days. They’ve proven to be popular locations for townhouse developers — and home buyers, it appears.

John Zanini has been redeveloping these spaces exclusively in Etobicoke for the past 14 years as president of Dunpar Homes, along with vice-president Mark Mintzer. Dunpar has developed a niche as an upscale townhouse builder that knows the area and doesn’t skimp on features.

“We’ve always built a very upscale product,” Mr. Mintzer says. “The rest of the marketplace has been catching up with us over the last few years.”

Dunpar has built about 800 townhouses in Etobicoke, and will add another 200 in the coming year. Its current projects include Oxford Lane , a 21-unit infill development just south of the Gardiner Expressway and east of Royal York Road. The project was launched with little fanfare in May and construction is already under way. Ten townhouses remain for sale ranging in price from $430,000 to $450,000 for three-bedroom dwellings between 1,800 and 2,000 square feet.

The quality of the houses is a couple of notches above standard townhouses in Toronto, with stone and brick exteriors, bay windows, cedar shake roofs over dormer windows and top-floor master suites with luxurious en suite bathrooms.

“People are realizing that it’s still affordable, compared to the resale market,” Mr. Mintzer says.

It used to be an uphill battle to get buyers interested in these smaller infill projects, he says, but the demographic of their ideal purchaser has evolved in the builder’s favour over the past five years, with more upscale professional couples seeing Etobicoke as more than just a family-oriented neighbourhood.

Dunpar has also been an active buyer of redundant industrial land. Mr. Mintzer said that the company has a land inventory that will last another three years, with the company building between 75 and 150 units a year.

One of those new developments will be a 91-unit project on Evans Avenue, at the south end of Highway 427, to be launched later this fall. Dunpar hasn’t settled on a name for it yet, but it will be similar to Oxford Lane’s price point, between $400,000 and $475,000.

“Our city is notorious for underrating our communities,” he said, referring to Etobicoke’s Mimico area, which has been saddled with a reputation as being a low-income urban eyesore, and where Dunpar has been active in acquiring land.

“We’re always reclaiming land. Most of the land we take on has been blight warehousing. The problem is that it’s running out and we’re going to start looking for new territory.”

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Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information


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