Street Level Ground Floor Terraces

You all know how much I rave about outdoor space in downtown Toronto condos, and what a fan I am of large terraces.

Sure, you may only get to use them for 4-5 months of the year, and there are a lot of people out there that think it’s a “waste” to spend money on outdoor space in a city with our climate.

So with the season just changing from summer to fall, I wanted to take a look at outdoor spaces and throw a curve-ball at you: what about outdoor spaces on the ground level, facing the street?

Haters gonna hate.


I remember when I bought my condo in 2010, and I was so happy, and so proud, to be talking about my large outdoor terrace facing the CN Tower and downtown Toronto, and all the plans I had to landscape it.

As if on cue, our resident office Debbie Downer poked his head into the conversation, uninvited, and said, “Great move, Fleming!  Spending all that dough on a space you’ll use for two months every year.”

We’ve had this conversation about outdoor spaces before.

I think they’re awesome, but many people argue it’s a waste.

Make no mistake – it’s a feature you’re paying for, much like a killer view.

So just as a killer view, overlooking a vacant parking lot that you just know is going to be a condo, can come with a caveat, so too can outdoor space.

What would you think about owning a condo on the ground floor of the building, facing the street, and with your outdoor space open to the sidewalk, the road, and for all passer-byers to see?

Here are three videos of various types of ground floor, street-level terraces:


Okay, so the first video shows outdoor spaces with absolutely zero privacy.

Well, to be fair, there’s frosted glass in between you and your neighbour, but every other person within a few hundred yards can get an HD view of you picking your nose.

Those red concrete planters are about up to my knee, and the hedges only block the view if you’re 6-years-old.



Alright, so now we have something a bit more private, but still fairly open.

I mentioned in the video that you’re “raised” as though that made it more private, but then I realized it makes it sound like you’re on a platform, on display.

I also mentioned that I’m biased because I have clients in these, but I just felt as though they’re different from the ones above.

In the first video, you could basically reach out and touch the person sitting in the chair in front of the unit, because you’re on the same level, and those terraces are only like 6-8 feet deep.

But in this video, you see a terrace that’s about 16-feet deep, so it’s larger and the people seem to be less on display.  They’re also set back a ways – behind the garden (no flowers at the moment, just dirt), the tree, and the hedge.



Alright so these folks have built themselves a fortress, but I wonder if it’s because of:

a) privacy from the people passing by
b) dizziness from 5,000 cars per day driving by
c) the unsightly gas station across the street

Pick one, or pick them all – those units have NOT sold well over the years.

So what do you think?

Do you see the value in having outdoor space if it’s on the ground floor?

Or do you value privacy too much?

You know what my answer would be.  But then again, I often wear no pants in my office.  Remember to knock first…


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  1. CB says:

    I would only buy one of these if it didn’t front on a busy pedestrian street. Would be really convenient to be able to walk right into your unit and not always rely on taking an elevator. But if people are walking by all day, you’d feel like you could never open your blinds and get natural light in and that would be a deal breaker for me.

  2. Clark Blair says:

    There is a simple solution to this – don’t buy a condo. Buy a house. Even the most modest townhouse or semi has a backyard. Even better, you don’t have to pay $1000 a month to the condo corporation for maintenance and upkeep etc. Get some exercise and do the gardening and shoveling and cleaning yourself. All that money is yours to invest as and when you see fit on real, genuine improvements to your property, for which you will reap the full benefit when you sell.

  3. Tony says:

    The terrace also serves as a sort of privacy layer outside the living room. While you might not want to open your blinds to the sidewalk, it might be okay if there’s a terrace in between.

  4. Izzy_Bedibida says:

    I agree with what Condodweller says. Those units are all examples of silliness. I live on a ground floor corner unit in Woodbridge. Patio is bigger than some subdivision backyards. I have my own side entrance, gas and water outlet etc. Lots of room for gardening etc. I’m well away from the curb and behind a historic house. Neighbors here are all respectful, all are end users. I have been told that I scored well with my unit and patio. Would have no difficulties selling it to a downsizing empty nesters.

  5. Condodweller says:

    I would never buy ground floor terraces especially street facing for all of the reasons mentioned below, er.. above(BTW having newest comment on top is very counterintuitive. I can’t stand it when people reply to emails at the top rather than at the bottom in an easy to follow logical manner. This feels the same way. Also if comments are bottom to top why are follow up comments top to bottom? Is it just me or does it make no sense?).

    I would add pollution as an issue on busy street level terraces, mind you it’s the same for any low level unit. I think these three examples are the worst possible street level terraces. The first one I wouldn’t even call a terrace. That’s something the builder dreamt up to justify charging more money for the unit.

    I also like large terraces above ground as I get the bonus of having my own outdoor space as with a house, without the snow shoveling and grass cutting. To me, these street level wanna bees, would be worth less than a comparable ground level unit.

  6. GinaTO says:

    I would never buy a condo with a terrace, because I’ve seen what happened to ground-floor terraces from my 5th floor balcony: rained on with cigarette butts (furniture burned, plants ruined), beer bottles/cans, and even food (my friend sent me a photo of a full-sized roast chicken that landed on her terrace). You can tell me that the problem is the people, not the terrace, but try to get dumb, careless people to change their behaviour…

  7. Johnson says:

    Besides having no privacy so you’ll likely keep the window blinds shut, the street level terraces add an additional point of entry into your home. It’s no wonder these units have not been selling well.

  8. Libertarian says:

    In the last video, did you pay the guy to pull out his wedgie? How about sitting on your terrace and having to start at that all day. haha!!

    On a side note – David, have you heard any stories yet about condo boards sounding alarms about the rising electricity rates? I know that most units nowadays are individually metered, but common areas are getting expensive to keep lit and climate controlled 24/7. I am wondering by how much condo fees will go up next year and whether that will have any impact on the demand for condos.

  9. h Marshall says:

    The negative on having ground-floor condo terraces are cigarette butts, dog waste and garbage falling down from the balconies above. The flower beds become ash trays and trash cans. Empty Tim Horton cups everywhere.

    The advantages of a terrace is owning a BBQ—if they are allowed—and having a private entrance/exit. It is almost like having a townhouse. Finally, some people like sitting outside, having a cigarette and a drink while seeing and being seen. Look at the hordes dining at all the restaurant outdoor patios. That’s really popular.

    Keep in mind very few people use their balconies or terraces daily. It is a “sometimes” space. Look up at the huge downtown condos and it is rare to see anyone on their balconies aside from smokers.

  10. Kyle says:

    As the population in this City continues to increase, making space (any space) more valuable, it’s funny how lemons start to turn into lemonade. It wasn’t that long ago that people were abhorred by the idea of living in a semi-detached. In about 10 years, we’ve gone from, “God help me if i have to share a wall with a stranger” to “Thank God, I only have to share one wall with a stranger”. As prices increase people’s expectations gradually adjust over time. I would not be surprised to see these ground floor terraces one day become a feature. That said, they should have planted tall fountain grasses in the street level planters instead of scraggily yews and dying burning bushes.

  11. Clifford says:

    No need to wait for elevators = worth it.