Perhaps as long as it takes for saplings to grow into mature, leafy trees?
Or is it possible, in today’s judgmental world, with billions of “experts” opining on the Internet, for perceptions about a neighbourhood to ever really change?
I was asked by a newspaper reporter the other day if there are any neighbourhoods in the central core that were “a good bargain,” and while the idea of a bargain in 2015’s real estate market is ludicrous, I do think there are two areas that are under-valued:
Regent Park and St. James Town.
They’re not what they used to be…
What is the difference between a “hypocrite” and somebody who changes their opinion?
I’ll be the first to admit that when Daniels Corporation announced they would “revitalize” Regent Park almost a decade ago, I was skeptical.
But here we are in 2015, and I look at the prices for Toronto condos, and consider what it costs for a unit in Regent Park, and I honestly wonder why more people aren’t moving there.
It sounds awful, doesn’t it?
When I hear those two words, I get this odd flashback to childhood, when I didn’t know what Regent Park was, or where it was, but I knew it was bad. I knew that kids used the words “Regent Park” as a dis to other kids. It was like saying, “You’re so poor you shop at Biway!”
What was wrong with shopping at Biway?
I shop at Dollorama all the time…
Of course back then, I was a middle-class kid growing up in Leaside, which is now upper-middle-class, and is now this majestic neighbourhood that is unaffordable to most, when back in 1980, it was just a place to live.
Then again, in 1913, Leaside wasn’t anything.
While $1,000,000 in Leaside today gets you a 3-bedroom, semi-detached house, back in 1913, it bought you ALL the lots in Leaside!
And while Leaside today is considered “central Toronto,” or part of the “core,” back in 1913, it was “A City Within The City.”
Here’s a newspaper ad from 1913:
Imagine having to convince people to move “up” to Leaside?
I love this ad.
“You can make an appointment by telephone.”
I guess their website wasn’t linked to the calendar in their iPhone…….yet…
This was 102 years ago, but even when most of Leaside was built after the war ended in 1945, this still wasn’t exactly the top choice for Toronto residents.
Today, it’s up there with Moore Park, Lawrence Park, Allenby, et al, always trailing Rosedale & Forest Hill, but still one of the top ten neighbourhoods in the central core.
It took a lot of time for Leaside to reach its current stature, but it was never really looked down upon the way Regent Park and St. James Town were for so long.
We all know the connotations that Regent Park and St. James Town carry. We all have the same subconscious thoughts when we hear “Regent” and “Park” together.
These areas have both been filled with low-income housing for decades, whether it’s the “towers” of St. James Town, or the “brick projects” of Regent Park.
And we all know what’s happened over the past decade. The brown brick buildings, with green doors, and dirt yards, that we grew to know as the defacto logo for Regent Park, have almost all disappeared. Replaced with glass towers – much like the rest of the city, the area is about 90% transformed.
Sure, there is still subsidized housing in the neighbourhood.
And yes, the area attracts a different demographic than, say, King West.
But I’m of the opinion that prices in both Regent Park and St. James Town, which are well below the average in the downtown core, will rise significantly over the coming years.
Because they have to.
It’s really that simple.
Prices in the downtown core will not rise around Regent Park & St. James Town like these areas are black holes, and it’s inconceivable to think that the market will go up 30% in one area, and 0% in the area right next door.
Not every area appreciates at the same rate, we know this.
But with 2-bed, 2-bath units with parking and lockers, trading at $470 per square foot in 3-year-old buildings with low maintenance fees and superior amenities, for how long can the city ignore what’s going on at Dundas & Parliament?
Condo buyers ignore this area because it used to be ghetto, but it’s not anymore.
In terms of the building construction and design, infrastructure, transit – it’s no different than a dozen other condo neighbourhoods in the downtown core, except for the name.
If all of a sudden, by some form of magic, the words “Regent Park” were wiped from the minds of every person on the planet tomorrow, I think there would be a LOT more condo buyers over at 260 Sackville and 25 Cole.
We talked about “stigma” in Wednesday’s blog, and how you can put a value on something that doesn’t exactly exist; an idea, or a feeling, that has a negative affect on real estate.
There’s a stigma to “Regent Park,” and the question is: how long will it take for that stigma to go away?
If you’re reading this right now, and you know real estate then tell me what the following “should” cost in the downtown core:
2-bed, 2-bath (both 4-pc)
849 square feet
116 square foot terrace facing west, city view
Open concept living/dining/kitchen
Upgraded features (granite, s/s appliances, etc)
Maintenance fees $0.65/sqft
Maybe, on average, $600/sqft?
And in some stupid, brand-name, hotel-condo, or bling-bling building it could be $900/sqft, or $765,000?
Go to Regent Park, and this is about $400,000.
To each, their own. I know.
Some of you will say, “Yeah, but then I’d have to live in Regent Park,” but perhaps that’s the problem.
“This isn’t your grandmother’s Regent Park;” isn’t that how the saying goes?
Leaside today isn’t the “northern” sub-division that it was in the 1940’s, so how long will it take for Regent Park to catch up to the rest of the downtown core?
I had a client purchase a gorgeous house on Crossovers Street in August of last year. That whole complex between Main Street & Victoria Park, north of Gerrard, was built a little less than a decade ago, and at the time it seemed like a silly, hokey, movie-set sub-division.
Today, the houses are highly sought-after, and the prices are higher than what you find in older, more traditional homes on the south side of Gerrard.
That complex is like a miniature Leaside, in a way.
So as I said above, I fully expect that prices in Regent Park and St. James Town will rise, but when?
28 Linden Street – The James Cooper Mansion
500 Sherbourne Street – The Five-Hundred
120 Homewood Avenue – The Verve
Here are three very popular, very successful condominium projects, all built within the last seven years, all in St. James Town.
And if I had to guess, I’d say more buildings are on the way.
The east side of Sherbourne Street, south of Bloor, has been virtually demolished. Remember where the No Frills used to be? Yeah, I certainly do. Their lettuce may have had actual chunks of soil in it, but the same can of soup that’s $2.99 at Loblaw’s is always $1.79 at No Frills!
Well I believe that twenty years from now, the whole Sherbourne corridor will be condos, perhaps like Bay Street has become. Sherbourne is filled with little 2-storey commercial and residential buildings, and even some vacant lots – all of which are ripe for development.
When I moved down to King & Sherbourne a decade ago, my Dad came to visit me and he said, “You know…….ten years ago, this whole area was full of boarded-up buildings.”
True. But you can’t stop progress, and considering it’s a ten minute walk to Yonge Street, and around the corner from one of Toronto’s biggest icons – the St. Lawrence Market, there was no way that this area was going to remain derelict when Torontonians began to flock to the downtown core.
Think about how close Dundas & Parliament is to the heart of downtown, the financial core, and the Yonge TTC line, and I don’t think you can argue that condo buyers will ignore Regent Park forever.
There are “deals” to be had in the area, in a city where there are no deals to be had.
I don’t want this to sound like an advertisement for Regent Park, by any means.
And no, I’m not moving to Regent Park tomorrow.
But if a condo buyer puts value and space ahead of location, then Regent Park is the ticket.
It’s great value, and a ton of space, at a lower cost.
You just have to get past the name.
Go to the community centre on a Saturday morning and look around. Who’s swimming in the pool? Is it poor people? Crack-dealers? Criminals? No, it’s rich parents with their kids, from Riverdale, Leslieville, and Playter Estates.
Times have changed, and will continue to.
Remember: Leaside was once full of “poor factory workers,” and Cabbagetown got its name because people were so poor they had to grow cabbage on their front lawns.
And as the last brown brick buildings are being torn down at River & Gerrard, it seems like Regent Park is about to complete its makeover, and begin its transition…