A residential building boom is predicated on Toronto’s new subways and LRTs.
Business student Karan Kundra doesn’t own a car, and doesn’t expect to buy one anytime soon. He has, however, purchased a condo at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, the terminus for the Spadina subway extension scheduled to open late next year.
Kundra won’t take possession of his one-bedroom-plus-den in the Cosmos tower until 2019. But whether he goes on to grad school at York University, where he is studying at the Schulich School of Business, or he gets a job downtown, his subway ride is only metres from his front door.
The Cosmos development is part of a residential building boom tied to Toronto’s new transit lines. These are the kinds of homes that planners and developers say will blur the line between urban and suburban living.
Public transit access boosts property values, and is increasingly a must-have for GTA homebuyers.
Kundra’s condo will be located deep in the suburbs, near Jane St. and Highway 7. But it will live like a city apartment, he said.
“I’ll have everything at arms’ length so I wouldn’t need to be purchasing a car. Cars are the biggest money pit,” said the Brampton student.
The location is also close to theatres, shopping and even golf courses, said Kundra, 19, who says the golf simulator in Cosmos is one of its best amenities.
Could he afford a bigger place further from the subway line? Maybe. But when it comes to space, Kundra says less is more.
“A lot of people my age think they should be living within their means. Having a huge house is not something that most people are interested in, just because there’s no time to maintain it. Cutting the lawn and those kinds of things add on to the amount of tasks you have to be able to do within a day. Being able to live in a condo where everything is accessible is something a lot of people are attracted to,” he said.
Cosmos “is probably the fastest-selling, highest-volume project we’ve done,” said Liberty Development’s Marco Filice.
His company bought the site about five years ago in anticipation of the subway. It’s an exciting time in the GTA, with increased possibilities of people living near their workplaces, he said.
“These opportunities didn’t exist 10 years ago,” said Filice. “People are more aware of the benefits of having the choice between transit and relying on the automobile. Our product provides behaviour modification for automobile dependents.
“The younger generation is not so enthused with the automobile,” said Jordan Teperman of Haven Developments, which is building a boutique condo called SIX25BV near Bayview Village, with easy access to the Sheppard subway.
“People want to be where transit is. They want to hop on a line and get anywhere. Every site we’re developing, you could get on a train at Union Station and get” there, said Teperman, who believes residents will accept less space in return for that convenience.
An enthusiastic booster of provincial transportation agency Metrolinx, he says Toronto’s been crying out for more transit for a generation.
“When we strategize where we want to buy products, this is a key consideration,” he said.
Transit proximity “is the single most important characteristic of development today,” said Peter Freed of Freed Development, which is building the 150 and 155 Redpath condos with Capital Developments at Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave., where the Crosstown LRT will intersect with the subway.
In addition to the Redpath buildings, Freed and Capital are behind the Art Shoppe Lofts and Condos and the Sherwood town homes near Yonge and Eglinton. The area is evolving dramatically thanks in large part to the new transit, said Freed.
He figures the pedestrian flow will double in the next decade, as transit attracts stores and restaurants bolstered by new residential and commercial development.
The Crosstown will also turn the area east of the Don Valley Parkway on Eglinton into a “major mid-town hub,” said Michoel Klugmann, vice-president of Lindvest. It bought the site for its Sonic tower at Eglinton and Don Mills Rd. from another developer in 2014.
“People talk about transit. They talk, talk, talk, but you can feel it. The stations are coming, people are watching the progress and they see it moving east on Eglinton,” he said. Condo buyers “expect real estate prices to rise and they want to be the first in,” said Klugmann.
Sonic, which will be near the Science Centre, Wynford and Agha Khan Crosstown stations, includes a public walkway that will allow neighbours as well as residents to access the transit. The landscaping also features a walkway with outdoor exercise equipment and a children’s play area.
“People say they want to live downtown but they want something a little quieter,” he said.
Nida Shahid, 31, and her husband rent an apartment near the Sonic, driving down the nearby DVP to their downtown jobs. But she is anxious to give up the traffic and take the Crosstown to work.
“I hate to be in traffic on the DVP. At the moment I can’t help it because the bus route is really crazy. Coming in late to work is not something I like, but sometimes I can’t help it,” she said.
Plus they know the area. They have friends there. “We were just waiting for this,” said Shahid of the 785-square-foot, two-bedroom unit they bought.
Her rental has a pool and a gym, but Shahid is already planning how she will use the amenities in the new building. “I’m very social. They’re going to have a rooftop terrace with a barbecue. I’m so excited about that,” said Shahid.
The couple have no children, but that could change. “That’s why we bought a two-bedroom,” she said.
It used to be that condos were for people who couldn’t afford to buy a house. That’s no longer the case, said Terry Lustig, development manager at Malibu Investments, which is building the Southside Residences at Gramercy Park near the Wilson subway station.
“More and more people are choosing the condo lifestyle even for families,” she said. “The more we improve the transit system, the more we will see people figuring out that getting to a transit-oriented location is the way to go.”
Home buyers are going to opt for convenience over space as the city and traffic grow.
“It’s really hard to find a house that has a subway in its back yard,” she said.
For Teperman, it’s only a matter of time before every transit station in the city becomes a hub of activity. He recently went to a trendy restaurant with his wife, who pointed out a TTC station nearby and wondered aloud why the corner hadn’t been developed.
“Two and a half weeks later, we put an offer on the site. I don’t want to tell you where but it’s a great area and it’s just going to bet better.”
Five transit-oriented condo developments
(FREED AND CAPITAL DEVELOPMENTS)
150 and 155 Redpath by Freed and Capital Developments includes 543 units in 38 storeys and 438 units in 34 storeys respectively. Slated for tentative occupancy in fall 2017 and 2018, units cost between $215,900 to more than $1 million. Apartments in the two towers range in size from studios to three bedrooms and a den, from 330 to 1,403 square feet. Tentative occupancy of 155 is fall 2017, with the second phase to open the following year. The buildings are located on Redpath Ave. east of Yonge St., west of Mount Pleasant about five blocks from where the Yonge subway will intersect with the Eglinton Crosstown LRT when it opens in about six years.
SIX25BV by Haven Developments is built on the Sheppard subway between Bayview and Bessarion subway stations. The eight-storey, 146-unit building is scheduled for occupancy in fall 2019. Condos range from one bedroom to two bedrooms plus den between 450 and 1,350 square feet, selling for the mid-$200,000s. The building is about a three-minute walk to the Bayview Village Shopping Centre and a three- to five-minute walk to the subway.
(LIBERTY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION)
Cosmos Condos by Liberty Development Corp. include 396 units on 35 storeys. Priced from the mid $200,000s to the $600,000s, the condos range from one to three bedrooms with a den, from 500 to 1,298 square feet. Located on Highway 7 West, the building is about 350 metres from the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station, the terminus for the TTC’s Spadina subway extension. The first phase, one of two planned towers, is slated for tentative occupancy in 2019 and the subway is expected to open earlier, in late 2017.
Southside Residences at Gramercy Park is the second phase of Gramercy Park. The new buildings are tentatively scheduled for occupancy in summer 2019 at Wilson Ave. and Tippet Rd. Developed by Malibu Investments, the space will include 500 units in two buildings 15 and 17 storeys. Units range from 388 to 1,048 square feet in studio to three-bedroom layouts. The condos that cost $190,000 and up, and are a two-minute walk from the Wilson subway station, which offers access to downtown Toronto without a transfer and will run north to York University and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.
Sonic_Park_high-res_09-28-2015_LR (COURTESY LINDVEST)
SonicCondos by Lindvest at Eglinton Ave. East and Don Mills Rd. will be within easy access of three stations on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT when the line opens in about 2022. The 320 condos in a 28-storey building are supposed to be complete in January 2019. Apartments range from 339 sq. ft. to 941 sq. ft. ranging from studios to three bedrooms. They are priced from the $200,000s. The development is being billed as “an emerging neighbourhood.” Lindvest’s Michoel Klugmann says the intersection is destined to become a major east-end hub.
Development plays a bigger role
Builders aren’t the only ones anxious to put people on Toronto’s new transit lines. The province is also eager to encourage “density nodes” — places where residents’ homes, jobs and leisure activities intersect, leaving a smaller footprint.
“Development interest at existing and future transit stations has grown significantly. While there was limited interest in transit-oriented development in previous years, today developers cite access to transit as a key component to successful projects,” said Anne Marie Aikins of provincial transportation agency Metrolinx.
Getting the development incorporated into the planning and design earlier rather than later is critical to maximizing those opportunities, she said.
To do that, Toronto needs to make sure it has the appropriate zoning to take advantage of the big transit build-out, said Cherise Burda, of the Ryerson City Building Institute.
The GTA has a reputation for building expensive transit lines to places that don’t attract the kind of development that warrants the billions in investment poured in by the province and other levels of government. Think of the Spadina subway extension and the proposed additional stop on the Bloor-Danforth line at the Scarborough Town Centre.
It will take some “creative placemaking” to attract more resident and businesses to the six new stops on the Yonge-University-Spadina line to Vaughan, she said. That needs to be done quickly.
Burda cites the Bloor-Danforth subway that, 60 years on, is still hemmed in by single-family homes. The Sheppard subway has spawned residential buildings but has sparse commercial development, she said.
Contrast that to the Toronto waterfront, where new mixed-use neighbourhoods are mushrooming without the “desperately needed” LRT developers there were promised.
“In places like the waterfront, you need to build the LRT. In places where transit is going and there’s low density, you need to rezone to make sure that local opposition isn’t stopping the right development from occurring,” she said.
There will always be people who covet the traditional, car-centred suburban lifestyle and that’s fine, said Burda.
“But an increasing number of young families and seniors are looking for proximity and they’re looking for neighbourhoods they can walk around in and there are amenities they can walk to,” she said.
That includes GO stations as well as subway stops.