Posts Tagged ‘condos’
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.