Why I Hate CityPlace

No, I’m not in a bad mood this week, despite all the “hating.”

Consider this a theme for the week, and it has a better ring than “Why I Dislike…”

For those who own condos in CityPlace, I apologize in advance, but perhaps you should have done some more research or consulted a Realtor who actually cares about his/her clients…

cranes.jpg

This photo says it all, doesn’t it?

Every where you look around CityPlace, there are cranes, cranes, and more cranes.  Construction is a constant down at CityPlace, and what began with one condominium towering over the Skydome has spawned into 7-8, with more on the way.

I hate CityPlace so much, that I don’t even know where to start.  I’d like to avoid ranting and raving, and I’ll try some deep breathing techniques before I launch off into a long-winded diatribe about one of the worst investments in the city.

CityPlace.

You’ve heard the name before, and many of your friends and co-workers live there.  If you’re unfamiliar with the area, consider driving on the Gardiner Expressway and looking to your right as you pass Skydome:

cityplace1.JPG

I’d like to say that I had a “friend” take these photos in the passenger seat next to me and I was NOT using my camera while driving, texting on my Blackberry, and periodically changing the radio stations…

When I speak of “CityPlace” I speak of the actual complex as well as the buildings that cluster around it.  Whether or not these other buildings are actually part of CityPlace or not, I don’t care.

Here is the list of what I deem to be the evil “CityPlace”:
1) 5 Mariner Terrace
2) 35 Mariner Terrace
3) 11 Brunel Court
4) 15 Brunel Court
5) 3 Navy Wharf Court
6) 10 Navy Wharf Court
7) 81 Navy Wharf Court
8) 9 Spadina Avenue

Yes, that’s right, there are eight massive towers that are home to somewhere around 4000 condominium units.

There are three main issues that I’d like to look at:

1) Quantity

It’s the very first thing we learned in Economics: supply versus demand.  As we move into a more balanced market and multiple offers cease to exist, buyers will have a choice as to where they live and how much they will pay.  But what if the market does more than just flat-line?  What if the condo market begins to regress, and just as we’ve seen happen in the equity markets – panic selling takes place.

There are eight condominiums in CityPlace, and around 4000 units.  If panic selling were to take place, and “only” 10% of the owners at CityPlace were to list there units, there would be four-hundred units on the market to choose from.

I’ve always felt that selling anything at CityPlace in any market is a tough sell in itself since these units are such complete and utter garbage, but imagine if there were four-hundred units competing against yours?  Imagine trying to sell your $289,000, 1-bedroom unit and having a few hundred of your neighbors compete against you for buyers?

Okay, so I’ve made my point about quantity by using an extreme example.  But even in a so-called “hot” market, there are still dozens and dozens of units to choose from.  There will never be a “hot property” at CityPlace because there are too many in existence!  And with 3-4 more towers on the way in the next couple years, the numbers only get worse!

Compare this to a modest, “boutique building” with only 52 units when one of those comes on to the market and everybody says, “Hey, did you see that gorgeous loft on Camden Street?”  I’ll elaborate on this more in a bit…

2) Location

Remember that Chris Farley sketch on Saturday Night Live; the one where he played the motivational speaker that was “living in a van down by the river?”  (click here)  Well in my personal opinion, the closest thing to “living in a van down by the river” would be living “under a bridge.”

And living right next to the Gardiner Expressway is about as close as you can get!

You know that old adage, Location, Location, Location?  How the hell do you ignore that when you’re looking to buy a condo and your largest investment?!?!  How can you ignore location, forget about a nice area like St. Lawrence Market, Queen Street West, King & Spadina, or a host of other great neighborhoods, and buy a condo next to a freeway in a cluster of other buildings?

What is around CityPlace?

What bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and retail outlets are there?

Oh….really……you mean there is…….NOTHING?

CityPlace is in the middle of nowhere when you think large-scale in terms of Toronto’s geography.

You take the elevator down from your 32nd storey “suite,” and you walk across a 1/2 KM of pavement to a main road, probably Spadina.  Then you continue walking to Front Street or Blue Jays Way until you get to Rabba & Tim Hortons.  That is how far you have to walk to get a cup of coffee or a bag of milk.

Don’t you see a difference between these miserable concrete coffins in the sky that isolate you from the rest of existence, and something like, for example, 168 King Street East where Starbucks is across the street, Gabby’s and Kutura are five feet away, and there is a TTC Streetcar right outside your door?  Sobeys and Dominion are a block away, and the area has character!

3) Character, History, & Charm

A couple weeks ago, I showed a my client a unit at 180 Frederick Street.  This is a four-storey building; an authentic “hard loft conversion” from a former office building.  It has 12-foot ceilings, gorgeous exposed brick walls and floor-to-ceiling windows, and the unit is fully upgraded with hardwood floors, a beautiful kitchen with granite counters, breakfast bar, and a built-in wine-cooler, and the decor and design is nothing short of professional.  The unit was 800 square feet and $329,900 including parking and locker.

This building is on the corner of Frederick & King Street, right in the heart of what is called “The Furniture District” since every second store is a furniture store, and it’s a block from St. Lawrence Market.  The building has only 38 units.  The area itself is one of Toronto’s oldest, and the neighborhood is rich with tradition and culture dating back to the mid 1800’s as evidenced by many of the buildings and their historical designations, complete with plaques which detail their origin.

And then, you have eight massive concrete towers in the sky at CityPlace where you look out your window and see……another building!

Can’t you see a difference?  Can you please tell me by this point that you see a difference?

Okay, I think this topic requires a second post….

(TO BE CONTINUED)

24 Comments

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  1. Ivy Tan says:

    The thread starter is not a suitable resident for City Place and Harbour View Estates, instead of walking North, she should have walked South towards Harbor. If she does not enjoy walking, biking, dinning by the lake, she will not like living here. I would recommend places like Yonge and Eglington or Yonge and King where there are trendy shops, grocery stores, cinemas, restaurants, pubs etc.

    I was born and raised in a condo all my life, It is rubbish that condos are meant only for young renters. I always felt that experts who make such statements have vested financial interest to present condos as rental units rather than family homes. They’re possibly afraid that value of landed homes will suffer given the large supply and demand of condos. I bought a unit in Harbour View Estates 6 years ago, my apartment is on a high floor with unblocked view of the lake. The night view is electrifying, City Place, the harbor and Gardiner Express Way light-up. The Gardiner looks like a live electric wire with colorful moving lights. Sometimes, I see the moon from my bed. The lake looks different everyday. The new City Place Concord at Fort York looks like an electric high tech city when lighted at night. It reminds me to Tokyo. I think residents and owners are reluctant to share this kind of information because this is a private residence, we don’t want people to know too much. Walking, boating, dinning, biking by the lake is a lifestyle people living here enjoy. The thread starter prefers malls, restaurants, pubs, etc. This is not the right place although the new Fort York neighborhood may develops these entertainment places in future. Another key reason why people choose to live here is because some units are large and spacious. These are family units that are very rare in the city center today.

    Having said that, I am not pleased with this location because there is no direct path leading to the lake (Queen Quay) for people living in Harbor View Estate. Even when it comes to public transport, I think there should be direct LRT or bus service linking Ripley’s Aquarium, CN Tower, Rogers Center and the Railway Museum to Union Station. This is a high density area, a lot of tourists, Blue Jay fans and residents. It is shameful to see that the city of Toronto does not think it is necessary to provide pubic transport along that stretch of Bremner Blvd and Spadina. The streetcars are clearly not an option to move people along Bremner Blvd and Union Station. In any case, I hold the believe that people living in Harbour View Estates should drive instead of take public transport. The underground carparks of Harbour View Estates is a highly coveted feature that is becoming rare in the city.

  2. Dan says:

    Just keep in mind the original blog entry was posted in 2008…

  3. Allan says:

    Have to disagree with the negative comments and perhaps write them off to their older post dates; I’d agree with the positive posters. I own a unit high up at 5 Mariner, facing east. Lived there for 4 years (I think – moved in when brand new)), and have rented for 4. Moved out to move into another place I bought when it was finished. I miss the pool!!
    My tenant loves it. Have had (knock on wood) zero issues pertaining to flooding or pipes as someone mentioned. Unlike what someone else posted, my unit has a great den; as for finishes – that’s why you had upgrade options as a purchaser. My unit has gone up significantly in value and has rented out successfully and quickly. My view is awesome (into the Rogers Centre; with CN Tower/lake and the G. Expwy – yes, at night the Expwy looks really cool from high above, and with little noise). As for location – again, I’m with the positive posters – it’s quiet and out of the way while being within walking distance of bustling downtown core. Aquarium/CN tower/Rogers Centre right outside your door. As with many locations downtown, I think it’s a winning spot to live in or to invest in. And if you’re a fitness buff, you can’t beat it. As far as taxes as a negative poster brought up, I have 3 condos in different locations, and all are extremely comparable. You do pay approximately 60 dollars more a month for maintenance fees at this location, but maintenance fees here includes electrical bill, which runs 45 – 60 dollars at my other units anyway. For an investor, the ease of “rentability” due to the amenities make this a very easy “extra” cost to swallow, as my other tenant pays his own electrical bill above and beyond rent. I think the bottom line is if you like highrise living or prefer lower rise buildings. I’d much prefer to live in this highrise than one, for example, along Yonge Street, as the location is just out of the bustle, and the best units have great views. I think this location will get even better as appropriate development seems to be shaping up for the nearby waterfront etc.

  4. Mark Judd says:

    David Fleming is a real estate agent and the writer from this Toronto Realty Blog site.

    In a Globe&Mail article, he predicts that younger buyers (Echo Boomers or Millennials under age 38) won’t stay in a condo for more than 5 years as they will outgrow it and would want to move into a house after they start a family, so he advocates that they rent instead of buying a condo. We’re examples of Millennials who bought a condo at City Place in our 20s and decided to stay in the same condo and have a family. Time is of the essence, we didn’t want to sit in the sidelines and watch condo prices rise while we rent for likely a decade to save for a house. Not everyone wants to be saddled and burdened with a $965,000 mortgage to reap the supposed benefits of owning a detached house! Not everyone needs a big house or desires white picket fences or wants to mow the lawn/shovel the snow and have to waste time stuck in traffic to commute to work. Living in a condo downtown offers a different lifestyle than the traditional detached house in the suburbs, but it could be those differences (conveniences and amenities etc) that some people want. Not everyone would want to live in a house…

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/mortgages/to-all-young-adults-buying-a-condo-renting-is-better/article19082583/

  5. Melissa B says:

    I’m always weary of a real estate agent who shows this much anger towards the market – all it does is show a lack of success on their part. I have lived in Cityplace for 6 years and I love it. Great location, right on the TTC line, many shops, grocery stores, bars, and entertainment around and walking distance to all the best parts of Toronto – St. Lawrence Market, Skydome, CN Tower, Ripleys aquarium, financial district, Chinatown, Harbourfront, Toronto Island, Queen West, Ossington, Trinity Bellwoods park, Annex, also close by is Queen East, the Beaches, Junction and High Park. I’ve been following the market since I moved in and I have never been able to find a condo or house that gives me everything that I get from Cityplace. The Superclub is one of the best athletic facilities in the city and management does a great job of maintaining the building and grounds. The new farmers market that was started last summer is fantastic and the new bars that just opened up are always busy and full of Cityplace dwellers, neighbours and visitors – a great way to meet people! I get to look out onto the water every day and see a beautiful view of the skyline and Rogers Centre as well as out to Toronto Island across the water. 3 Navy Wharf Ct was one of the first buildings built and it was the benchmark for prospective buyers who were looking to purchase pre-build across the street, so the quality is great. I have never had an issue with plumbing but I am also quite clean and take care of my unit – so it all depends on how you treat your space, but that is the same as living in any other building. Comparing the statements in this article, and seeing the growth and community development that has taken place over the years, I would be weary of taking investment advice from an agent who doesn’t understand the nature of new and developing neighbourhoods.

  6. RobD says:

    A massive project such as CityPlace will take some time to develop “character.” It’s no different than any other condo development, it’s just that CityPlace is much larger development – replacing an empty, run-down area from the city’s industrial past (rail track lands). CityPlace has allowed more locals to be able to walk to work thereby reducing congestion by not having to be in their cars commuting hours to/from work. CityPlace isn’t the only condo/development, especially in the downtown/harbourfront area. Other condos have had “quality” problems, such as the exploding balcony glass from Festival tower and Murano on College/Bay. We’re not certain why CityPlace is singled out.

    Perhaps the author’s opinion may have changed since expressing his hate in 2008, but many shops/restaurants/retail within walking distance of CityPlace (Spadina/Bremner/FortYork) have opened since then and many more are on the way. Sobey’s and Longo’s are within walking distance. St.Louis, Hunter’s Landing and Fox&Fiddle are popular restaurant/pub to hangout. There’s a Tim’s and Spot Coffee, Starbucks is opening at the same intersection this spring.

    CityPlace hosts a weekly Farmer’s Market from June to October that brings neighbors and other locals alike to help build a community. The new, modern library on Fort York/Bathurst recently opened. Canoe Landing park is a large park on the western of CityPlace while Rogers Centre/CN Tower/Ripley’s Aquarium are on the eastern side of CityPlace. Harbourfront, Music Garden, HTO Beach, Centre Island (by ferry) are all within walking distance. Queen’s Quay is being redeveloped and will be accessible next year. There’s easy access to major arterial roads such as Gardiner/QEW, DVP, Lakeshore, Spadina, University etc. Spadina streetcar is steps away, Union station is a 10 minute walk (walking is good exercise).

    We (young professionals) did do our research and decided to buy our suite, yes suite, to live in (not just as an investment) brand-new in 2005 and its value has appreciated handsomely since then. We’re walking distance to work/office in the financial district and many amenities that a large, beautiful cosmopolitan city like Toronto has to offer. We haven’t had any problems with our suite (such a plumbing etc), and we like the open-concept layout as no space is wasted with long hallways for example. We like our view of the Toronto skyline and the lake. We have no plans to move out anytime soon. Can’t complain, we love the location, location, location. Above are some of the reasons why we love CityPlace!

  7. Johnny says:

    Frederick and King huh? That’s a great area for scoring crack. Thanks but I’ll take a view of the Gardiner over your digs anyday

  8. John says:

    The times are a changing. The area is developing a character in the same way the oldest community’s of Toronto found their personality…..organically. We have farmers markets, festivals taking advantage of canoe landing park. We have baseball! New quality restaurants like hunters landing. Schools are on the way to help nurture families. This was not a ready made community, it will find its place based on the efforts of the people who live their. Cityplace is the truest reflection of urban living available. A true mix bag of people, incomes and atmosphere.

  9. rez says:

    most units have plumming problem the kichen sink back up i have that problem in my unit

  10. Troy says:

    I’m sorry, but the person writing this review is an idiot. Have you actually lived in Cityplace to begin with? Lets analyse all 3 points:

    1) Quantity
    Yes – Large scale Condo towers in a development. But technically these are all managed and operate as different entities once constructed. How is this any different from multiple new condo constructions in the same area by different builders? The only difference – They are not considered 1 single development. The builders have taken care to give each development a different style and feel. As a community, they only enhance the city skyline of an area once abandoned. Its created multiple new homes and a young vibrant community. Sure its a younger demographic, but when you are part of the same, its actually great. Don’t like it, move!

    2) Location
    Are you kidding me right now? Its an oasis in the city. Blocks from the action, but tranquil enough to never be disturbed by city noise. Right across from the lakeshore trails. Sobeys, Pizza Pizza, Pubs, Timmies, Rabba, Shawarma, Dairy Queen, Bubble Tea… all steps away. How lazy are you exactly to want them closer??? City blocks to the North, Lake to the South. Highway exit. All the joys of living without the chaos of the city. Are you kidding me right now???

    3) Character, History, & Charm
    Every building cannot be a charming old loft. There are people like me that love sleek and modern. Its not claiming to be anything else. History, well right on the old raillands, right by the roundhouse, right by the CN tower and RC. Home to Ripleys Aquarium. Its new blended with landmarks and old. There’s your charm. The condo i live in is one of the best manitained, management is excellent, I have a 1100sq, corner suite with city and lake views. At a reasonable price. Talk about excellent standard of living at a moderate price. Try to find that in another city, thats value.

    Are these investment properties to skyrocket in price? Probably not. Are these good standard of living condos to maintain a steady value – definitely. Thats better than one can expect in this market.

    Might be a real estate seller’s nightmare, but its a middle class condo owners dream.

    1. Linh says:

      If u bought sh!et made in China u r long gone garbage (mean cheap) haha dont fight it

  11. Matt says:

    Has anyone lives at 10 Navy Wharf? I’ll be moving in next month..was hoping to hear some feedback about the social scene? Condo mgmt? Places for dogs? Sport club?

    Thanks

    1. yvette brend says:

      I would love to talk to you Matt. Do you have a moment.
      (604) 931-5225.

    2. Heather says:

      Did you move in? Let me know-as I have a furnished rental if you want to try it out! Heather James 416-922-5533 broker @ Homelife

    3. Amani says:

      I love it!

  12. fred sroka says:

    You are weird to say the least!
    3 Navy is a great spot, building and management are excellent. The sports club is prime. Access to Lakeshore and the Gardener are fast and easy. We have it all! Of course you have no idea about that as you have not lived there!

    1. Linh says:

      Yeh sure bud enjoy haha busted

  13. Steve says:

    City place will be the slum of tomorrow. There was a great article in the grid regarding this http://www.thegridto.com/life/real-estate/is-cityplace-torontos-next-ghetto/

    This is what happens when we allow foreign investors to buy up huge swaths of Canadian real estate. They did this in Vancouver years ago with Concord Pacific and are now doing it to Toronto. Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing owns a huge stake in Concord.

    They buy up land, use cheap materials and sell crappy condos. I bought “The Icon” Condo in 2002 just north of City place on King and Blue Jays Way. Mine is made by Tridel, a reputable Canadian developer.

    I have a friend who knows about construction techniques and the first thing he said to me when he took a look around my condo was that its good quality. Even small details like the manufacturer of the electrical panel can tell you the quality of the Condo.

    City place will use selling points as floor to glass ceilings. Well guess what folks, glass is one of the cheapest building materials to use and does not a good insulator.

    The other problem with Cityplace condos that Anna alluded to in the post above is that they are not built with a community in mind. no cafes, shops restaurants etc. They did this in Regent Park years ago..

  14. Anna says:

    Ha I know this article is a few years old but it’s even more relevant today, as they’re starting to sell units in the buildings that have kept on creeping up on Fort York. I actually was a new-comer to the city and decided to rent (thank God) and rented an apartment at 38 Dan Leckie – worst decision of my life! It was a half hour walk to work in the financial district, and everything you said about it not being a ‘neighbourhood’ is exactly what my complaints have been. I wouldn’t mind the half hour walk to work if there were restaurants, cafes, shops, etc closeby, but you’re not close to anything (other than the Gardiner). I know realtors keep pitching these boxes of crap (and yes, the actual unit itself was crap too, the layout looked like it was designed by first-year architecture student on crack, and even though it was a brand new unit things broke on us on a fairly regular basis). I’m looking to buy and my first criterion is “NOT CITYPLACE”

  15. Yeah…I too would have to agree with the post above. There are many people who are unhappy with these buildings, but still bought condo’s. It’s sort of a catch 22 of sorts. It’s a win lose situation.

  16. Krupo says:

    Greg, the #8 turned into a smiley. Kind of awesome.

    I have gone ahead and shared this with a friend who has moved into a place there – renting only… and another who sold while the going was good! 🙂

    Do you talk about the crazy-high tax bills in your next post? I didn’t hear good things on that front.

  17. greg says:

    Since when does a smiley dude with glasses come after the numebr 7…

  18. Mr. P says:

    I 100% agree! These are cheap assembly-line (made in China) condos in the middle of nowhere with no character whatsovever.

    I’ve known a few people who have lived there over the years. The cheapness of the finishings are legendary. How about carpet that is so cheap that it looks completely worn out after just 6-months! I love the dens too…..the only use for them are as a walk-in closet. I remember going to see one with granite counters. Well, the granite was absolutely the ugliest and cheapest looking granite I’d ever seen! Actually, it was the ugliest looking counter top I’d ever seen, period!

    I remember I was actually considering buying one at one point (thank God I did not.) I go to the sales office and the floor plans do not have room dimensions on them. I ask if I can get the room dimensions and they tell me no! I said, I can’t believe you are selling these things and you don’t disclose the room dimensions. Their response, “Well, people are buying them!”

    I agree, if the condo market slows down materially in the future, these pieces of crap in the sky are going to be a dime a dozen! Buyer beware!

  19. Pete Peter Dohnal says:

    I know there are some exceptions with units at the top of some of the towers, but I think that among that giant sea of glass there are whole buildings where there isn’t a single view that isn’t into another skyscraper…

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