Canada's Condominium Magazine
Complaints about traffic, shoddy construction, poor soundproofing, the size of the gym, the lack of public space and amenities inside buildings, lack of green space outside, and the absence of quality retail at street level: all of these legitimate concerns were raised by residents of some of Toronto’s many condominiums at a series of city-sponsored public meetings. Toronto’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmat, said that the consultations will likely affect the city’s official plan, though she doesn’t know yet exactly how.
Keesmat told the Globe and Mail that we—the city—need to start thinking about condos “not as buildings but as part of a neighbourhood.”
Whether the complaints of condo dwellers result in major changes to the city’s official plan or not, they will likely have an effect on how the city views condo developments in the future. It could be that developers will be required to provide more playground space for children, more green space for residents, more pet-friendly areas for dog owners, more parking, and the like.
What we have been seeing in Toronto in the past ten or so years is a rapid change in not only the skyline of the city but in the social fabric as well. More than 120,000 new condominium units have been built and another 42,000-plus as under construction right now. Whole new neighbourhoods have sprung up, like City Place, which occupies some of the old railway lands south and west of the Rogers Centre. It is the largest residential development ever created in Toronto.
Even though your city may have guidelines for developers to follow, not every site will meet them exactly. A developer may undertake a tremendous amount of negotiation with the city, and sometimes a development represents the art of the deal rather than the art of urban planning. Do not take anything for granted: make sure you understand the condo block plan before buying.
Investing in Condominiums, Brian Persaud and Randy Ramadhin
Unfortunately, Toronto’s record of creating such neighbourhoods is not one of complete success. Remember St. James Town? When this giant apartment city was conceived in the late 1950s and built in the early 1960s, it was intended for the young, middle-class urbanites of Toronto, who, it was imagined, would flock to this new, hip community just east of the downtown. It never happened, and more or less from the beginning this largest, most densely populated high-rise community in the country became a vertical ghetto for new immigrants and others struggling to survive. What we lost was a lovely old nineteenth century neighbourhood of stately (if decrepit) homes.
The earlier Regent Park community, built in the 1940s (after razing old Cabbagetown to the ground) was finally declared unlivable after sixty years or so and is now being rebuilt from the ground up. Will the new, mixed-use, mixed-income version be more successful?
In their book Investing in Condominiums, Brian Persaud and Randy Ramadhin advise potential buyers—and this applies whether you intend to live in the place yourself or rent it out to someone else—to check the developer’s track record before buying. You should consider every aspect of the building with an eye to the kind of life you expect to live in it. What kind of amenities will the building have? If you are a fitness enthusiast, make sure the gym consists of more than a couple of weights and a stationary bike.
Does the developer have a history of poor construction, late occupancy, poor customer service? Have there been a lot of complaints about the developer from residents of other buildings? Does the developer take pains to design buildings that blend in with the neighbourhoods where they build, and are the buildings pleasing to look at from the outside as well as from the inside? What about the quality of the finishes in the suites?
If it’s important to you that your new condo building will house a trendy restaurant or upscale retail on the ground floor, check the developer’s track record, or wait (if you can) until an agreement is in place.
If you’re concerned about traffic and how you will get from Point A to Point B on a daily basis, check the site plans carefully. A building on the corner of a busy, five-way intersection criss-crossed by streetcars and multiple lanes of traffic may not be a wise choice for a young couple with small children.