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Cabbagetown mixes small-town charm with big city amenities

Village charms in big city include knowing first names and visiting farm animals

Vicky Sanderson – Toronto Star

STREET LEVEL SNAPSHOT

Rick Matthews, a transplanted Calgarian who’s lived in Cabbagetown for six years, has always been an extremely busy guy. The executive producer of CBC TV’s Steven and Chris until late last year, he’s now senior manager of partnerships in Canada for the fast-growing YouTube-based lifestyle network, Kin Community.

But neither a hectic work schedule nor a packed social life has stopped Matthews from becoming “involved in this community in a way I haven’t felt compelled to before.”

Matthews, who’s active on the board of the South Cabbagetown Residents’ Association and throws himself into such local rituals as annual street parties, is emblematic of the type increasingly drawn to Cabbagetown — bright, entrepreneurial, creative and deeply engaged with the community.

Another example is Matthews’s neighbour, Tracey Erin Smith, whose first home was a Wellesley Ave. townhouse her father bought in 1968 from George Herczeg — a prominent player on the real estate scene in post-Second World War Cabbagetown.

The artistic director of SoulOTheatre, which works with both actors and regular folk to write, direct and star in one-person shows, Smith loves the neighbourhood “mix” since she returned six years ago.

“It’s not homogenous in any way, and I think that actually encourages acceptance and connections,” she says.

Cabbagetown
HOME DECOR HOTSPOT

Eavesdrop on conversations between staff and customers at Kendall & Co., at 514 Parliament St., and you’d often swear they’re long-time friends.

Kevin Kung, who oversees business development for the retail store and full-service interior design company, takes that as a compliment.

“We’re not a big-box with tons of marketing budget, so we rely on loyal customers. That means we need to really be a neighbourhood store — to know who people are, and give back to the community.”

Support takes various forms, including sponsorship of community events such as the local Forsythia Festival, and selling tea towels and books that support the Cabbagetown Preservation Association.

Kung also says that the store, which is now in its fourth (and final, he insists) location in eight years, has helped “educate and elevate about design and decor.”

That means explaining to customers the value of the carefully constructed Kravet sofa on display — the only one on a sales floor in Ontario, he says, as Kravet typically sells through the trade — and why prices for it start at $4,000.

Helping colour-shy clients is another favourite task. “If you want beige, we can do that. But we would love to show you what you can do with colour,” says Kung, pointing to walls hung with colour-soaked area rugs.

These provide a beautiful backdrop for interesting lamps, an in-house bedding line, accessories and accents, such as the throw pillows made with exquisitely wrought French knot embroidery or delicate cut velvet that are offered as the perfect punctuation for the locally made sofas they sell.

Soon, says, Kung, they’ll be adding more Canadian designers to the mix.

Cabbagetown
WHERE TO LIVE

Cabbagetown is “urban slick infused with city grit,” says Pamela Fenton, a local real estate salesperson whose own history reflects the rising value of homes in the area.

In the 1980s, she bought a triplex on Dundas St. E., when homes sold in the $220,000 range. In 2004, she bought a renovated, circa-1860 Victorian semi-detached house for $550,000.

Real estate has exploded in Cabbagetown, says Fenton. The average detached house is now $1,246,800, while the average semi goes for $990,156.

Cabbagetown
WHERE TO EAT

Kung loves the rustic northern cuisine at F’Amelia, while Kendall & Co. decor associate Karla Hewitt-Blackie, who grew up in the neighbourhood, enjoys the casual sushi house Kibo.

For a coffee fix, Smith frequents Jet Fuel (519 Parliament St.), in part because it welcomes a gentleman she suspects has mental health challenges who comes every day to tidy newspapers.

“I like that there’s a feeling of safety and support in the village because people know each other,” she explains.

Hankering for subtle spiciness? Go to Rashnaa Restaurant at 307 Wellesley St. E. for delicious, highly affordable Tamil and Sri Lankan dishes.

Cabbagetown
WHERE TO PLAY

When designer James Davie and his partner traded Toronto for New York (where he worked with A-list designer Steven Gambrel) they knew they wanted an area with a “proximity of amenities.”

They did not want to “rely on the car in any sense,” says Davie, whose recent Cabbagetown reno is shown on his website, www.jamesmdavie.com. (It’s stunning.)

He loves that he can scoot up with his young son and partner to Riverdale Farm, which Smith calls a local gem. “Where else in the middle of downtown can you pet a chicken and a pig and a peacock?” she asks.

Kevin Kung and co-owner Kendall Williams have a soft spot for nearby Allan Gardens, the site of their wedding last year.

Cabbagetown
STREET NUMBERS

$821,935 – Average current cost of a Cabbagetown row house

$31,900 – Amount of a Wellesley Ave. townhome in 1968 ($216,230 in current dollars)

29.55% vs. 45.2% – Couples with kids in Ward 28 (includes Cabbagetown) compared with the rest of Toronto

1.4% vs. 26.2% – Single-detached homes in Ward 28 compared to Toronto

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Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.

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Summary
Cabbagetown mixes small-town charm with big city amenities
Article Name
Cabbagetown mixes small-town charm with big city amenities
Description
Cabbagetown, once one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Toronto, is now a much sought-after enclave boasting restored Victorian homes, friendly neighbourhood pubs and one of the best cafes in the city.