A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘Urban Note

[URBAN NOTE] “An Honest Farewell: goodbye Honest Ed’s, hello Toronto’s diverse future”

leave a comment »

NOW Toronto‘s Susan G. Cole reports on An Honest Farewell, this weekend’s ongoing festivities surrounding the closing of Honest Ed’s. I really do like this urban initiative, and I have been and will be taking part in it: I went to the community market in the old Bad Boys space just now, and tomorrow morning I will be doing the art maze. (Photos, among other things, will be coming from me.)

AN HONEST FAREWELL a festival celebrating inclusiveness, community and social innovation, at Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor West), Thursday to Sunday (February 23 to 26). $16.50 for some events. Buy tickets and/or register at torontoforeveryone.com.

We know it’s coming. We might even admit that it’s about time. But many of us are dreading it: that moment when Honest Ed’s goes down. Not the store – that happened last year – but the building, that crazy edifice festooned with neon that flashed garishly at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst.

But the Centre for Social Innovation is turning this sad moment in Toronto history into an opportunity. An Honest Farewell, their multi-day culture fest, celebrates the past, present and future with the accent on building a city that is joyously inclusive.

The fact that I’m talking to co-producers Hima Batavia and Negin Sairafi just days after U.S. President Trump has announced his travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries lends the project a new urgency. T.O. is always promoting its diversity, but with xenophobes taking over below the 49th parallel, protecting that inclusiveness takes on new meaning.

“My passport says Iran,” explains Sairafi, angered by the confusion the executive order has created. “So I can’t travel to the States. Then again, maybe I can. It’s a privilege to be able to travel and to have a Canadian passport, but it’s still ironic that I’m working on a project like this and having to face the reality of what people are going through around the world. It makes our work – and especially what we do after this – so much more important.”

When Sairafi mentions what comes after An Honest Farewell, she’s referring to the fact that the fest says goodbye to an iconic edifice but also launches CSI’s Toronto For Everyone (TO4E) campaign to build a city committed to inclusiveness.

But the focus for four days beginning February 23 is a cultural blitz that transforms the one-time bargain emporium into an arts extravaganza and venue for public debate on the city’s future.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 24, 2017 at 10:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto realtors warned on handling of pre-emptive offers in red-hot market”

leave a comment »

The Toronto Star‘s Tess Kalinowski reports on one new pitfall of the Toronto real estate market.

It’s not enough that Toronto area home-buyers are facing competition so fierce that list prices have become virtually meaningless and bully or pre-emptive offers are increasingly the norm.

Now there’s an added twist.

Some sellers’ agents say they will no longer notify other interested consumers when their client decides to entertain a pre-emptive bid, and not wait for the date they set to consider all offers.

Ontario’s real estate rules require the property seller’s brokerage to notify all other interested buyers that a “bully” offer, usually well over the asking price for the property, is being considered.

That notice allows other consumers to compete for the same property if they want to.

But, in the super-heated Toronto-area market, some brokers are including a line in their listings saying they reserve the right to accept pre-emptive offers without notice.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 24, 2017 at 10:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto’s runaway housing market heading for paralysis, economists warn”

leave a comment »

The Globe and Mail‘s Carolyn Ireland shares a warning that Toronto’s housing market is about to lock up for want of available real estate.

Toronto’s real estate market is heading toward a state of paralysis, says Chris Kapches, president and chief executive officer of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.

Mr. Kapches says the shortage of listings prompted house hunters to head out in force in January. They were also making quick decisions. Properties for sale sold in 19 days, on average, Mr. Kapches says. In the same month last year, the average was 29 days. Mr. Kapches reminds clients that 2016 was already a record-breaking year – including in the “days on market” category.

One reason existing homeowners aren’t listing their houses for sale is that the cost of moving is so high. It takes a huge investment to make the jump to a larger property or a more coveted location. There are commissions and legal fees to pay. Land-transfer taxes are levied by the province and the City of Toronto.

Bank of Montreal is not backing down from a call that residential real estate prices in the Toronto area are moving too fast: economists at the bank are comparing prices to a runaway train.

BMO recently urged market watchers to drop the pretense and acknowledge that Toronto’s housing market is in a bubble.

Chief economist Douglas Porter explains he made the bold call to reinforce the message that the market has lost contact with economic fundamentals and has the potential to become dangerously overheated.

“This is not a near-term call on the market,” he stresses – “in fact, given the outlook for interest rates and an improving underlying economy, there’s nothing obvious to meaningfully slow the market at this point,” Mr. Porter says in a note to clients.

It’s in that context that Robert Kavcic, senior economist at BMO, probes the calls by some industry players to remove part of the Ontario Greenbelt, “as if that would be a magic bullet to slow the recent pace of home-price growth.” Mr. Kavcic says it’s unlikely that would be the case.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 24, 2017 at 9:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Wake up, Toronto, to your housing crisis”

leave a comment »

Gary Mason wrote Thursday from Victoria for The Globe and Mail about the Toronto affordable housing crisis, contrasting the belated responses of Toronto and Ontario unfavourably to those of his province of residence.

Of all the political U-turns B.C. Premier Christy Clark has undertaken in power, perhaps none was as jarring and unexpected as the one she performed on housing.

For most of 2015, and at least half of the following year, the Premier refused to do anything about rapidly escalating house prices in Metro Vancouver. She maintained that bringing in measures to cool the market might hurt the equity in people’s homes. She denied foreign investors had much to do with the fierce escalation in costs, relying on the faulty, self-serving data from a real-estate industry that wanted the sticker-shock insanity to continue.

And there was also the not-insignificant fact that the B.C. treasury was getting fattened on the provincial tax that exists on home sales – easy money that can become like crack to a government.

But then Ms. Clark and her cabinet came to an uncomfortable realization: The growing public outrage over the fact that the middle-class dreams of owning a home were evaporating by the day for many and might cost the government re-election. So the Premier did what she vowed she wouldn’t and brought in a 15-per-cent foreign buyer’s tax that did precisely what it was intended to – put the brakes on the absurd, and immoral, goings-on in the real estate industry.

Unfortunately, by the time she did, it was too late for thousands.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 24, 2017 at 9:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto sets record for warmest February day”

leave a comment »

The Toronto Star‘s Evelyn Kwong reported early this morning bout yesterday’s record-breaking temperatures. Today was cooler, as predicted. Walking by Lake Ontario down at Woodbine Beach this afternoon, this late February day felt like a cool spring day.

Torontonians enjoyed an especially balmy day Thursday, but it wasn’t just a record high for Feb. 23; it was the warmest February day on record.

Spring temperatures soared to 17.7 C by early afternoon, before cooling down to 12 C closer to the evening.

The previous record for the warmest day ever in February was set last year on Feb. 3 with a high of 16 C. Weather records for Toronto started in 1938. The temperatures also shattered a 33-year-old record high of 14.9 C for Feb. 23, set in 1984.

On Friday, temperatures are expected to dip down back down to a high of 6 C, which is still over the average temperature for February. There will be a 30-per-cent chance of rain and drizzle, and possible thunderstorms.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 24, 2017 at 9:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] Rosie DiManno in the Toronto Star on the Badminton and Racquet Club fire

leave a comment »

Rosie DiManno’s long-form article “’I’m getting burned!’ Slaying the beast that was the Badminton and Racquet Club fire” examines just what happened at the recent devastating fire at Yonge and St. Clair, in detail.

Fire and water: The crisis and the cure.

But it took 20 hours of steadfastly blasting the latter to extinguish the roiling conflagration of the former last week at the Badminton and Racquet Club of Toronto.

Bringing the blaze to heel — preventing it from leaping to condos and businesses on the four corners of St. Clair Ave. and Yonge St. — required a collective yeoman effort over three days: 520 firefighters, 167 fire engines, pumpers and three tower trucks with articulating booms, hazardous materials unit, dozens of hoses pumping simultaneously, an excavator and countless air cylinders consumed.

And still, days later, small spot fires continued sparking back to life.

A tall chore, killing a fire; throttling it.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 22, 2017 at 5:30 pm

[MUSIC] “Don’t let Toronto’s buzz bands become bubble bands”

leave a comment »

NOW Toronto‘s Jonathan Bruce offers advise as to what Toronto’s up-and-coming bands can do to avoid getting burned by overexposure.

I saw a band the other day and it wasn’t great. On a bill of five acts, they played the weakest set to the smallest crowd of the night. Forgettable songs, negligible stage presence. The visiting team was outclassed in terms of talent and originality by the hometown Toronto bands on the bill. But somehow, according to my insider intel, they got paid more than the other four combined.

This is how a buzz band becomes a bubble band.

The buzz band is the great hope in an industry plagued by falling record sales. Buzz bands are young, hungry and up for anything. The music biz is eager to sign them and send them on the road, and promoters love them because they sell tickets.

Like the overblown real estate market, buzz bands are out of hand. These acts often come with agents and managers that make dollar demands that are out of whack with reality. Do-it-yourself schlepping is out, and the pop factory is back in. But how much longer can the buzz band factory keep churning them out?

As long as streaming pays out fractions of pennies in royalties, artists will rely on performing live for the bulk of their income. This situation puts major economic pressure on promoters to pay big fees to bands in an increasingly competitive marketplace. And if the artist fails to attract audiences, they flame out and the bubble bursts. Pop!

Having booked close to 2,000 emerging bands for local music series Wavelength over 17 years, I have watched many buzz bubbles burst. We were lucky to see some alumni go on to international fame. We were in the right place at the right time to host early gigs by Broken Social Scene, Constantines, Owen Pallett and Grimes. Many others crashed and burned, but I’m too nice to name-check those acts.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm