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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘condos

[URBAN NOTE] “More schools needed near Toronto condos to keep up with family boom”

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The Globe and Mail‘s Caroline Alphonso describes the new challenges for Toronto’s newly condo-heavy neighbourhoods, now full with families with young children. Where exactly will these go to school?

Among parents living in Toronto condominiums, Natasha Tysick counts herself lucky.

School boards have struggled to keep pace with the boom in high-rise construction, meaning many children are bused several kilometres through city streets because existing schools have been filled to the brim.

But there is a giant hole in the ground near Ms. Tysick’s condo, so she is hopeful.

A Catholic and a public elementary school are scheduled to open steps from her downtown complex in 2019. Her five-year-old daughter, Sofia Spoltore, will be a three-minute walk from school, as opposed to a 10-minute drive. The complex, known as CityPlace, is near the base of the CN Tower.

“It will bring this community together,” Ms. Tysick said. “When we first moved [here], there weren’t too many children. Now you see so many kids.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 5, 2016 at 8:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto’s grudge against apartments”

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Density, as Sean Micallef argues in the Toronto Star, is a good thing for Toronto, indeed necessary if it is to be inhabitable by the many and not the few.

Toronto has a grudge against apartments, a sentiment expressed in various ways.

A few weeks ago, a group in Parkdale held a public meeting on development in their community and invited speakers from other neighbourhoods to share knowledge on how to influence good development. The byzantine planning process is difficult to negotiate, so sharing knowledge is critical to being effective. Good design, affordability, and community amenities are all part of what people want.

The problem is the way this well-meaning group and countless other local campaigns are positioned. This particular one focused on the “900 luxury units” coming to the area. That’s an incredible way to refer to the tiny units that are most condos built in Toronto today, hardly “luxury.” Making it even more remarkable is some of the invited speakers were single-family homeowners.

So warped are perceptions in Toronto that even progressive folks consider tiny condo apartments, the first rung of the property ladder that people claw their way into, as “luxury,” but homes in the million dollar range or more are somehow not. There’s also a perception that those homeowners “contribute” to the neighbourhood and, in this case, the 900 apartment dwellers somehow wouldn’t.

To be sure, owning a house in Toronto is also a feat of economic gymnastics for many people. “The bank owns my house” is a frequently heard phrase, and the state of being “house poor” is common. It isn’t easy. But this damaging way of looking at how we live, when the single family home is valourized so passionately, ultimately means much of the city is nearly impossible to get into unless you can afford a house.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 7, 2016 at 8:15 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Condo concierges face off against tourists, partiers in Airbnb war”

The Globe and Mail‘s Jeff Gray writes about one front on which the Airbnb struggle continues.

Outside the brightly decorated lobby of the 32-storey condominium tower at 600 Fleet St. stands artist Douglas Coupland’s statue of a giant British toy soldier standing over a fallen invading Yankee, commemorating the War of 1812. Inside, the building’s security team these days has been dealing with another, more covert invasion: tourists and partiers trying to rent units for the weekend via websites such as Airbnb, in defiance of the condo board’s rules.

On the front lines, and behind the front desk, is the building’s friendly security chief, Prince Abiona, 41, who greets many of the tower’s hundreds of residents by name as they come and go. In this war against Airbnb, the Nigerian-born Mr. Abiona, who sports a headset and whose biceps stretch the sleeves of his white Calvin Klein polo, says he is winning. His tactics include scanning the website and others like it for up to three hours a day for illicit listings in his building, questioning anyone who wanders into the lobby dragging luggage behind them and kicking out any short-term renters he finds.

The few that do slip through his defences can cause big problems. Earlier this year, he says, a unit rented out on Airbnb played host to a rowdy drunken party with about 20 people, some of whom urinated in the hallways and even in the elevator. Another time, an Airbnb partier threw up in the condo pool, forcing it to close. Often, the problem is long-term tenants who list their place on Airbnb or other similar websites, without the actual owner of the condo knowing.

“These people are just here for a few days, they just want to do what they want and they don’t care about the building,” Mr. Abiona says. “That’s why we are fighting it.”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 5, 2016 at 7:15 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Arresting condo development in Toronto”

Enzo DiMatteo’s interview with the two parodists who satirically proposed the redevelopment of some of Toronto’s most iconic buildings as condos is worth reading.

They call themselves Glo’erm and Tuggy, and last week the “urban interventionists” (aka Daniel Rotsztain and Mike Stulberg) provoked a timely discussion about the state of the city by erecting a fake development proposal sign outside Old City Hall announcing plans to convert the historic building into a 90-storey condo. Not everyone got that it was a parody. Rotsztain says buildings going up as part of intensification reflect developers’ vision of the city more than anyone else’s.

What triggered the idea to shame runaway development in Toronto?

It was inspired by the profusion of existing development proposal signs downtown. The black-and-white signs have been updated, but even the new ones seem to announce what will be happening on a particular site rather than offering an invitation for a conversation about the future of the city. Some of the real development proposals out there already look like parodies, with giant glass towers rocketing out of tiny heritage buildings.

Your fake proposal to turn Old City Hall into a giant condo is only slightly less preposterous than an idea floated a year ago to turn it into retail space.

Yes, the development proposal sign we put in front of Old City Hall was so mundane that most people didn’t notice it at all. And of those who did, many thought it was real, even when they read that the heritage building was going to be turned into a parking garage. And there’s the problem: the bureaucratic language and the lack of engagement with these signs numb the mind to the point that ridiculous claims can be slipped under our noses. This [art] project hit a nerve because it reflected the helplessness many of us are feeling toward the shaping of our city.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 3, 2016 at 3:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Why I pranked Torontonians with fake condo signs”

Over at The Globe and Mail, Daniel Rotsztain explains his motivations for the recent wave of amusing fake condo development ads popping up at different places of note in the city of Toronto.

In the real estate frenzy this city is experiencing, it feels like nothing is too sacred not to be considered for development. Our faux proposals featuring Toronto’s most beloved buildings address our concern that the development proposal process in this city is broken. How many of us are meaningfully included in the shaping of Toronto?

Recent proposals seem increasingly preposterous. Proposed projects, such as 385 Yonge St., or those under construction, as with 1 Yorkville Ave., feature a tiny strip of heritage architecture with an enormous, out-of-proportion glass tower plopped on top. They already are parodies of a development process gone wrong.

While providing some token heritage preservation, such proposals do no service to the city. In lieu of contributing services, affordable housing or community space, today’s developments instead maximize units by multiplying stories ad nauseam.

To be sure, density is good for the city. But concentrated hyper-density is a thoughtless imposition on Toronto, so much so that, last week, chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat called for a pause on development on Yonge Street between Dundas and Bloor. The condo boom, already reaching densities equivalent to London, England, has not been accompanied by an increase in transit, affordable housing, or public amenities.

These hyper-dense development proposals don’t reflect my values as a Torontonian. But I am not opposed to development. In the face of an affordability crisis, this city sorely needs more housing, and the densification of most existing neighbourhoods is necessary. I am opposed, however, to development that so dramatically disrespects the city.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2016 at 6:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On those fake City of Toronto notifications for condo redevelopments

blogTO’s Derek Flack was the first person I saw explaining what the above graphic–ostensibly, a City of Toronto notification of a planned condo conversion of Old City Hall–was about.

Plenty of people fell for the prank when they first encountered the sign, especially as it started to make the rounds on social media. Part of the reason for this is that the production of the sign looks convincing (notwithstanding the wood poles and the dated colour scheme.

The other reason, however, is that the real applications we’re seeing these days have become so wildly outlandish. It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that a massive residential tower was proposed just to the east above the F.W. Woolworth Building at Queen and Yonge.

Aside from the minor giveaways, there was a significant hint as the facetiousness of the application: the Tumblr link at the bottom of the sign. This would normally send people to the city planning website, but instead leads the curious follower to a treasure trove of other prank development applications.

They range from Casa Loma to OCAD to the CN Tower — in other words Toronto’s most sacred buildings. Another proposes to build a whole new condo atop of 1 Bloor East, the nearly complete development that already soars to 65 storeys. The whole lot of them offer some much appreciated levity in the midst of a development world gone mad.

The Toronto Star‘s Peter Goffin went into more detail.

From 180 residential units built atop the Ontario legislature, to condos balanced on the CN Tower’s observation decks, to a Toronto Islands ferry reimagined as a floating base for a residential tower, the “proposals” get more surrealistic as it goes on.

It’s all a goof on Toronto’s condo-building fervor, care of a pair of artists and self-described “urban interventionists” who work under the pseudonyms Glo’erm and Tuggy.

“It is a piece of satire asking the public and the city to take a critical look at many of Toronto’s recent development projects, which show countless examples of condo towers being naively plopped on top of historic buildings as if this could preserve their elegance and our tie to their history, despite these additions,” Glo’erm told the Star in an email.

“We hope that it reveals how poorly these signs serve Torontonians as a means of notifying them and seeking their feedback about changes to be made to the urban environment,” he added.

Their Tumblr account is here.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 24, 2016 at 3:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Condo creep finally arrives in Parkdale”

blogTO’s Derek Flack shows how condos are starting to expand west of Dufferin into the heart of Parkdale.

A longstanding question for observers of Toronto’s urban landscape has been how long Parkdale can remain a condo-free zone. With the profound amount of development taking place on the eastern side of the Queen Street Subway and the steady increase of popular restaurants and bars, it seems inevitable that condos will infiltrate the neighbourhood.

Concerns about gentrification have been circling for over a decade, and the Parkdale has steadily become an entertainment destination despite considerable efforts by local councillor Gord Perks to maintain a balance between the rise of new businesses and the established vibe of the neighbourhood.

In some sense, new condos (rather than loft conversions) have already breached the dividing line between West Queen West and Parkdale when Q Loft was build at the northwest corner of Queen and Dufferin in 2014, but the real question is when this trend will move further west.

Tentatively speaking, the answer is now. Block Developments has proposed a seven storey development at 57 Brock Avenue on the site currently occupied by the Beer Store. Residents weren’t happy with the project at the pre-application meeting in the spring, but the project is proceeding through the various stages of planning.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 20, 2016 at 4:00 pm