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[URBAN NOTE] “Fears that shoddy Toronto condos could become future slums”

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This Thomson-Reuters article at CBC makes the decent point that the future of Toronto’s condos, built shoddily and not up to handling environmental conditions, is dire. Might the booming new neighbourhoods on the waterfront and elsewhere become slums in a couple of decades?

While Toronto’s housing boom rolls on, some of the housing itself is falling apart.

Canada’s biggest city has more than 100,000 units under construction as developers and investors seek to cash in on condo prices that are up 25.7 per cent in the city over the past five years. The trouble is, many buildings are so poorly constructed that some residents fear that the money-spinners of today could become the slums of the future.

Glass panels have been falling off newly built Toronto condos, including the luxury Shangri-La and Trump towers and a dozen or more lesser-known buildings across the city. New buildings suffer from water leaks and poor insulation, making them ill-suited to Canadian weather.

“Many buildings that went up during the beginning of this condo boom are already facing high repair costs, and in many cases lawsuits, because they are built so shabbily,” said Ted Kesik, a professor of building science at the University of Toronto.

“The life cycle is clear. They are okay for the first five years, they gradually deteriorate by year 10 … and don’t even reach year 20 before significant remedial work needs to be done. In 50 years these buildings may well become an urban slum.”

‘In 50 years these buildings may well become an urban slum.’- Ted Kesik, professor of building science at the University of Toronto

That’s all far in the future for builders and investors who have had little trouble finding tenants, with the city’s rental vacancy rate at 1.8 per cent. Condo prices are rising across the country, up 16.8 per cent in the last five years, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 14, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Posted in Economics, Toronto, Urban Note

Tagged with , ,

[PHOTO] Not yet a park, at 11 Wellesley Street West

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Not yet a park, at 11 Wellesley Street West

I made a couple of posts in 2012 about an effort to make a plot of land on Wellesley west of Yonge into a park. That effort failed, and the plot of land will host a condo tower. That condo tower, though, as described by Ryan Starr in a May 2014 Toronto Star article.

When developer Mark Mandelbaum envisages his company’s new condo project, 11 Wellesley on the Park, he sees green.

A slender and curvaceous 60-storey condominium tower planned for a three-acre site just west of the intersection at Yonge St., 11 Wellesley promises to be a big seller, given its prime downtown location and trendy design aesthetic. (Suites starting at $199,900.)

But it’s not the sales prospects that have Mandelbaum seeing green at 11 Wellesley on the Park. The development will include a 1.6-acre public park, a badly needed and long-pushed-for addition to a densely populated community that suffers from a lack of green space.

“Rarely do you have the opportunity to work on a piece of land that’s so significant, in such a significant location, with the added advantage of having it become part of the public realm,” notes Mandelbaum, chairman of Lanterra Developments.

The park will take up more than two-thirds of the 11 Wellesley site, with the condo tower situated at the northeast corner of the property, yielding as much land as possible for green space. Previous plans for 11 Wellesley — once owned by the province, whose intentions were to build a ballet and opera house there but ultimately sold the vacant land to Lanterra several years ago — contemplated a multi-tower project with up to 1,000 units and a parkette.

Lanterra’s plan now for 11 Wellesley consolidates 742 units into a single tower located at the top corner of the property, creating more room for sunlight as well as a larger urban park, which will be designed in consultation with the community. (Meantime the developer has created park renderings, to provide “an idea of what is possible with this size of land,” Mandelbaum says.)

“We’re pretty happy,” says Rick Whitten-Stovall, president of the Bay Cloverhill Community Association, who recalls taking part in a march from Queen’s Park to the empty 11 Wellesley site several years ago in an unsuccessful effort to convince the province to sell the land for use as green space. “There’s been a warm reception (in the community) to the idea that the park is finally going to really happen now.”

Still, this site is not yet a park. It’s currently a mere promise abiding.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 11, 2014 at 4:04 pm

[PHOTO] Condo construction, southeast corner of St. Clair and Bathurst

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Condo construction, southeast corner of St. Clair and Bathurst

Written by Randy McDonald

September 21, 2014 at 2:54 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes that a new Toronto condo building will have separate entrances for the rich and the poor.
  • Centauri Dreams has more about our galactic supercluster Laniakea.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the atmosphere of very nearby sub-brown dwarf J085510.83-071442.5.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the deterioration of the Ukrainian military situation in the east.
  • Far Outliers notes how, in 1854, the French army was generally better than the British.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh notes the critical role of expectations in driving economic growth and change.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the recent death of Joan Rivers.
  • Marginal Revolution considers whether or not basic minimum incomes will continue to rise in democracies.
  • pollotenchegg maps the very sharp population declines across Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
  • The Financial Times‘ Gideon Rachman notes France’s problems as seen from the perspective of a southwestern French village.
  • Torontoist and blogTO both note Ontario’s sale of the lucrative site of the Queen’s Quay LCBO store.
  • Towelroad notes protests over the partial and grudging inclusion of LGBT groups at New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russian agriculture simply isn’t capable of feeding Russia in the sanctions era.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • 3 Quarks Daily links to an article examining the plight of Iraqi immigrants in Arizona.
  • A Budding Sociologist’s Commonplace Book links to a discussion about the connection between the Coase Theorem and legroom on airplane flights.
  • blogTO notes a new townhouse development on Ossington above Dupont.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper examining the once-stable, newly-changing climate of northern Labrador.
  • Language Log notes that some Dalit in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh want to raise a monument to a goddess of the English language.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that in the American situation, switching to a multi-party system wouldn’t make politics more responsive.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that Japanese exports are substantially below their 2008 peak, and observes that remittances lower crime rates in Mexico.
  • More Words, Deeper Hole’s James Nicoll reviews an anthology of Andre Norton’s science fiction.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes that the search for SETI via optical signalling is newly ongoing.
  • Torontoist shares photos of the TTC’s new streetcars.
  • Towleroad links to a Gallup poll looking for the best and worst countries for non-heterosexuals around the world.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes contexts in which wearing Confederate flag T-shirts creates a hostile work environment, and links to an American judge’s scathing criticism of two states’ gay marriage bans.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the mobilization of Buddhists, lists potential Russian military targets in Ukraine, and suggests that a Russian war effort in Ukraine will be problematic.

[URBAN NOTE] “The view from a condo”

Kanishk Bhatia’s June article at Spacing about the dynamic development of the condo-dominated neighbourhood of Fort York is a thoughtful consideration. When I moved to Toronto a decade ago and walked down there, I saw nothing but wasteland. So much change!

I sometimes pause to reflect on the change that has occurred on this particular plot of land between Bathurst Street and the Princes’ Gate (entrance to Exhibition Place) and bounded by historic Fort York to the north and Lakeshore Boulevard to the south. Much of this section of the city, together with surrounding land south of the rail corridor, was previously re-claimed from the lake and had a largely industrial character for decades. With the eventual displacement of industry, this “dead” space has been transformed into a new residential neighbourhood literally started from scratch – one of several such developments in Toronto in recent years. Today there are thousands of people living here who collectively represent a new chapter in Toronto’s continuing growth.

Unlike City Place to the east which has a relative “sameness” in terms of architectural style (due to much of it being built by a single developer), the ownership of plots was dispersed amongst four developers here, which has had the effect of a slightly more varied mix of building types sprouting up. The City of Toronto went through an extensive master planning process to guide the development of this new neighbourhood in line with its desired city-building principles around elements such as transit access, public realm elements and integration with existing heritage features.

While it could be argued that the term “neighbourhood” may be pre-mature given the area’s development is still very much a work-in-progress (new building construction is still on-going), one can start to see the early signs of a sustainable residential community taking shape. To be sure, it is easy to point out a number of shortcomings based on what exists today, such as the limited public amenities and lack of vibrant street life. However, given the still evolving nature of the development context, it might be wise to wait at least another 10 years before one can reasonably assess the success or failure of the city’s vision for this neighbourhood.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 27, 2014 at 7:55 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “The tale of a failed Toronto condo project raises red flags”

MacLean’s Chris Sorenson writes about a very problematic condo development in Toronto.

With Toronto’s condo market still running on a full boil, it was only a matter of time before some unlucky buyers got burned.

CityNews reported Friday that Centrust, the developer behind a proposed hotel and condo project north of Toronto’s busy Highway 401, has allegedly skipped town with roughly $12 million in buyers’ cash. The story is still unravelling, but it appears the units first went up for sale in 2010, and Centrust later filed for bankruptcy without telling any of the purchasers. Now the company’s principals can’t be located, with some speculating they’ve left for Korea. All that remains is an empty lot and a bunch of angry people.

While real estate deposits are typically held in a trust account, at least one of the developer’s lawyers has also filed for bankruptcy. Police are investigating, although it’s unlikely the buyers will get their money back—at least not all of it. Buyers put down anywhere from $20,000 for condo units (the maximum covered by Ontario’s new home warranty corporation, Tarion) to $600,000 for commercial space.

The debacle should be a red flag for anyone eager to jump into the frothy condo market in cities like Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, where gleaming new projects with tantalizing amenities—juice bars, splash pools—seem to pop up every week. All that money sloshing around is bound to attract inexperienced and, possibly, unscrupulous operators, with many experts saying the industry largely remains a “wild west” in Ontario when it comes to regulation.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 25, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Canada, Economics, Toronto

Tagged with , , ,

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