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Condos in Toronto

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Toronto Real Estate

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Tag Archives: toronto infrastructure

Manhattanization could be the best thing ever for Toronto

Despite worries about excessive high-rise development in the downtown core, more residents will allow Toronto to realize its big-city future

Christopher Hume – Toronto Star

Ignore the hand-wringing. Forget the predictions of doom and gloom. The Manhattanization of Toronto will be best thing to happen to this city.

Though the term has come to mean little more than a vertical city crammed with towers, there’s more to it than that.

Comment: No kidding! It is living and working downtown. It is more restaurants and stores in the core. It means people walking around what used to be business-only districts on the weekend or in the evenings. It brings life to the city and is the opposite of the destruction that is occurring in many US cities that have empty and hollowed out cores.

Toronto certainly stands tall; more highrise buildings are under construction here than any other city in North America, including New York. This week alone, city council approved more than $20 billion in new development, the bulk of it highrise.

Comment: Sure, but NYC already has a TON more high rises than Toronto does.

Manhattanization of Toronto
What makes Manhattan unique, however, is not the number of skyscrapers or their height; it’s that city’s passionate embrace of density.

That’s where Toronto has trouble. Though some believe the city has evolved too quickly, market and demographic forces won’t be controlled, and can’t be contained. People now want to live and work downtown. The condo allows them to fulfill that dream.

Comment: We just need the city to catch up. From utility infrastructure to stores and schools. Bike lanes and public transit.

By contrast, Manhattan has no such doubts about its urbanity. It revels in its status as one of the great metropolises of the world. It enjoys the benefits of density more than just about any other city on Earth. It reinvents itself regularly and has led the rest of the world, let alone the continent, in its efforts to urbanize and open the public realm – especially city streets – to pedestrians and cyclists.

In Toronto, chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat worries that the municipal infrastructure can’t keep up with the pace of development. She’s right. This isn’t to say that growth should be slowed, but that development should be smarter and, just as important, that we need to make better use of the existing infrastructure.

To begin with, builders must pay a greater share of infrastructure costs. To ensure the continuation of civic services that make their condos so desirable, higher development charges must be levied. Few builders would agree, of course, but ultimately it’s in their own best interests to contribute to the well-being of the city that has made them rich.

Comment: Some $1.4 billion in development charges on all the new residential units approved last week. Plus commercial fees. And a good $150 million in new property taxes when they are complete. Use that money to make this city even better.

Beyond that, the industry and policy-setters must shift the focus from small investor-friendly units to decently sized apartments where people – including families – can make a life.

Comment: That is a financial decision made by buyers. Some developers have tried it, buyers didn’t want them. You cannot force builders to make something the consumer does not want. Once condos get large enough, the price makes houses a better choice. Why pay $700,000 for a 3-bedroom condo – with $700 a month in condo fees – when you could spend $700,000 on a decent house not far from downtown.

There is resistance to the idea from buyers as well as developers. The cause is the lingering bias in favour of single-family housing. But already families are moving in their hundreds to condo towers, knocking down walls and reconfiguring units to make them suitable for kids. As the supply of affordable houses dries up, this prejudice will disappear, as it has in other big cities.

Comment: Good point. We are now seeing a surge in interest in 2-bedroom condos. They are an affordable options. Spending $500,000 and being able to live downtown, only condos allow that, not houses. And these units are becoming family homes for many these days. It is pretty cool to be able to watch the city change. The Toronto I was born in, in the 1970s, is one thing. The Toronto I grew up in, the 1980s, was another. Still dirty and industrial and empty and completely different from today’s Toronto.

In addition, we need to hold another of those grown-up conversations we’ve promised ourselves – this one about how best to deploy systems already in place. For example, is leaving roads to cars and trucks really the best use of the precious spaces of the public realm?

Comment: Well, for those parts of the public realm that are currently roads, yes. Utopia aside, cars are not going anywhere. Even buses and streetcars need a way to get around.

When David Mirvish proposed his twin-towered condo complex for King and John, the city’s response was to complain it was “too dense.” Too dense for whom? Cyclists? Pedestrians? Transit riders? Drivers?

Restricting vehicular traffic on King would mitigate the situation for all but drivers. It would relieve congestion and promote mobility. Regardless, the chances we will debate such a move are slim to non-existent.

In other words, while Toronto begins to contemplate the idea of Manhattanization, the reality is upon us. Rather than celebrate our high-rise fate, we have fought it. Rather than accept the fact we are a big city, we have chosen denial.

Comment: That is the Toronto way!

The future has arrived and you don’t have to go far to see it. Just look up.

Comment: And embrace it, don’t fear it.

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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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