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Toronto Loft Conversions

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Modern Toronto Lofts

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Unique Toronto Homes

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Condos in Toronto

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Toronto Real Estate

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Tag Archives: condo developments

Welcome to Hipsterville East

Queen east of the Don River used to be the home of boarded-up shops and working-class families. Now, South Riverdale and Leslieville are booming with trendy eateries, galleries and soaring house prices.

Alex Ballingall – Toronto Star

The neighbourhood has changed, but Jim’s Restaurant endures. The greasy spoon on Queen St. E. still boasts the best Western sandwiches around, and on a typical day, lunchtime stretches nonchalantly through the afternoon.

Right now, the place is humming. At one table some 20-somethings are talking about how to shoot a movie they’re making. A few chairs down, a young woman is reading a book about theatre, and there’s a small cluster of old-timers in paint-splattered pants sipping from beer bottles beneath an old TV that plays CP24 in the eatery’s back corner.

It’s been like this since the ’60s, says Jim Morrison, a Leslieville native who frequents the diner to chat and relax. As far as he’s concerned, the restaurant is about the only thing that hasn’t changed in his well-loved neighbourhood.

Gone is the candy store where he’d buy bags of taffy as a kid. Ditto the old bowling alley, the garment factory and the rows of boarded-up storefronts. They’ve made way for art galleries and hip bars, gourmet food shops and a range of cafés and brunch spots.

“Boy oh boy,” Morrison sighs. “It’s amazing how much it’s changed.”

Comment: I love that this happened. Having spent a lot of childhood years living on Broadview south of Gerrard, I know first hand what the area used to be like. Not that it was ever bad, but it was grubby and gritty.

Queen Street East in Leslieville
Leslieville’s metamorphosis from rough-worn working class borough to trendy playground of urban professionals has accelerated in recent years. Property values and rents have spiked, while new high-end lofts and condo developments have boomed along Carlaw Ave., Gerrard St. and other neighbourhood thoroughfares.

By now, nearly 10 years after the New York Times declared it “the new Queen Street West,” Leslieville has a well-established reputation as a hip hovel for Toronto’s creative and professional classes. But with this week’s news that the Broadview Hotel in neighbouring South Riverdale had been sold to a developer — and that the long-present Jilly’s strip club housed in it would soon be closing — some say the stretch of Queen just east of the Don River has reached a new peak in its journey toward gentrification.

“I can’t imagine it gentrifying more,” said Ara Mamourian, one of the directors of the Leslieville BIA, created last year to represent businesses in the neighbourhood.

He said the area’s retail scene has changed from the mom-and-pop shops of old and now caters to a more well-heeled clientele, with yoga studios and an upscale gas station. There’s also a burgeoning night life along Queen, with bars like the new Boots and Bourbon bringing never-before-seen lineups to the streets past dark.

“With the addition of all the condos, there’s been a demographic shift,” he said. “That kind of proves how much more money has moved into the neighbourhood.”

First settled as its own village in the mid-19th century, Leslieville became a place to live for people working in the metal smelters, waterfront industries and tanneries of the area.

Toronto Brick Company on Greenwood
Forty-four years ago, the neighbourhood was categorized as a low-income area, according to a University of Toronto study from 2012. Residents there earned between 60 and 80% of the average city income at the time. By 2010, the area was thoroughly middle-class, with residents earning between 80 and 120% of the average Toronto income.

“It used to be a pretty seedy neighbourhood … It was the cheapest place in the city,” said 20-year resident Philip Hill, 59, on his way out of a boutique cheese shop.

“You had people pulling scams. There were a lot of break-ins. That has virtually disappeared.”

A major part of the story is real estate, said David Amborski, director of the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development at Ryerson University. Leslieville and South Riverdale were “jumped over” when the Beach neighbourhood to its east started developing in recent decades, he said.

With the decline of industry east of the Don River and in the Port Lands, these well-placed neighbourhoods began to be seen by developers as an opportunity, Amborski said.

“You see some properties that are undervalued that can be redeveloped,” he said, adding that proximity to the lake, downtown and streetcar lines also helped make the area appealing.

“This was just the obvious next opportunity. It makes a lot of sense as a market area for developers.”

Condos in Leslieville
Diane Walton, a real estate agent who lives and works in Leslieville, said she’s seen house prices jump, particularly in the past few years. The first million-dollar home in the neighbourhood, for instance, sold in March 2012 on Ashdale Ave. Now she estimates the average three-bedroom semi-detached home will go for at least $600,000.

“It was slowly, slowly moving up, and in the last three years it just went boom!” she said.

The ballooning appeal of the area made the sale of the Broadview Hotel inevitable, but there’s room for more gentrification, Amborski said. It’s possible the area will go the way of Queen West, with a gradual influx of chain stores elbowing out the neighbourhood pioneers. “Some retailers might get squeezed out,” Amborski said.

You don’t have to look too hard to see that’s already happening. Just west of where the railway tracks cross Queen St. E., big “clearance sale” signs fill the windows of Regal Hardware, a shop that has been in the area for more than a century.

Nick Karras is standing behind the counter. The 76-year-old bought the place in the late ’60s and has worked here ever since. Even though he owns the building — just a few doors down from Bonjour Brioche, a Zagat-rated French bakery and brunch place that was at the forefront of the neighbourhood’s facelift — Karras says he can no longer hack it. All his customers are gone.

“The properties around are now renovated completely and taken over by professionals. They don’t buy anything from me. They hire contractors,” said Karras.

With taxes and utility bills on the rise, Karras said he’s looking to rent out the space to a higher-end store. He’s already had offers, and expects a clothing shop to set up in his old space.

“Life is like that. I say, nothing is forever. Things have an end. For us, this is the end.”

A few blocks to the east, Binh Tran paces outside Queen and Jones Pawnbrokers, a colourful, cluttered secondhand store he’s run for two decades.

“Business has been going down 50%,” he said. “Half my customers moved away … The rent (in the neighbourhood) is too high.”

Ashdale Avenue Toronto
Paul Young, a health and environment advocate at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, said the change in the neighbourhood’s character hasn’t gone entirely smoothly.

“It’s not benefitting everybody,” said Young. “Queen is just becoming this restaurant strip for a well-heeled crowd.”

The closure of Jilly’s, for example, will mean the 40 or so low-income people who roomed in the hotel will have to find somewhere else to stay. Young also pointed to the Red Door Shelter on Carlaw Ave., which may be shuttered as part of a real estate deal. He fears the influx of higher income people will push the poorer people to the fringes of the city, where services they need are less readily available.

“The market forces are pretty strong and there aren’t a lot of tools in the tool kit to preserve affordability.”

For Mamourian, this is the evident downside to the ongoing gentrification. But even with the closure of old-guard establishments like Jilly’s, the area maintains a healthy mix of income groups and lifestyles, as well as organizations to support the less fortunate.

“There’s also this component of what this neighbourhood is all about, which is care and compassion,” he said. “That’s not going anywhere.”

Behind the counter back at Jim’s Restaurant, owner George Dafos agrees things are getting tight for many long-time Leslievillers. He says his own rent has doubled over the past decade, and he doesn’t rule out the possibility of having to shut down if it keeps rising.

Even so, he’s glad to see the development and arrival of new people in his area. “This place was in a downfall. There was no work,” he said.

“Now there’s condos, shops, everything … It’s a good thing.”

Morrison nods in agreement. “It’s a good neighbourhood. But you know what makes it? The new people.”

With that, he turns to look out the window at his neighbourhood, his home all his life, to keep watching it change.

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.