Is Parkdale Toronto’s Next Up And Coming Neighbourhood?

Or for those of you that already live there, would you say the “under-valued” ship has sailed, and the prices have already taken off?

I drove around Parkdale on Sunday shooting this video, and I ended up chatting with two residents who both feel as though they got absolute steals with the houses they purchased.

Let me give you a very brief visual tour of some massive, and massively-under-valued, 3-storey Edwardian masterpieces…

I had so many thoughts I wanted to get through in that video, but I barely scratched the surface.

But the three bullet points from the video all kind of flow together:

1) Parkdale used to be home to Toronto’s elite
2) Parkdale was a slum for a long time
2) Parkdale is making a huge comeback

Unless I was filming from the roof of the apartment building, I simply can’t convey the geography of the area, so picture it in your mind’s eye.

Think about driving east along the Gardiner Expressway, into the city, with the Lake Shore on your right, and Palais Royale the only thing between you and the water.

Now picture what’s left, or north, and up that hill – that’s Parkdale.

Now think about the Go Train, the Gardiner, and the Lake Shore – all not being there, and a slew of Victorian homes in their place.

That is what Parkdale was at the end of the 19th century, and early 20th century.

And as I alluded to in the video, the construction of the Gardiner Expressway not only wiped out hundreds of homes, but it also divided Parkdale and Lake Ontario.

From the construction of the Gardiner in 1955, into the end of the 20th century, Parkdale became a slum.  Apartment buildings were built where Victorian and Edwardian homes once stood, and many of the beautiful century-homes were turned into rooming houses; those illegal and legal alike.

But as real estate prices in Toronto spiral out of control, I have to think that houses like the ones in the video above will become exceptionally sought-after, if they’re not already.

I met two home-owners during my Sunday tour – both of whom asked, “What are you doing?” when I was taking photos and videos.  I feel like some Parkdale owners are a bit defensive; maybe old habits die hard, as the area has begun to change.

The first gentleman had a big dumpster on the front parking pad, and was clearly undergoing a massive renovation.

I told him that I felt Parkdale had some absolutely gorgeous homes, and he said, “This section of the street, at least.”

He clearly wasn’t going to pretend as though King Street, west of Dufferin, was home to Starbucks, fine food stores, and bakeries.  But he was right – the section of Cowan Avenue where his house was had some gorgeous homes, and with the sun shining, the birds chirping, and the leaves falling, you’d be hard-pressed to find a nicer area of the street, at least aesthetically.

When filming on Tyndall Avenue, another gentleman asked me what I was doing.  He was out front of his house, doing a few touch-ups on the porch.

We got to talking, and he said he bought his house for $300-something, ten years ago.  It was a 3-storey, 1880’s Victorian, probably 4-5 beds.

Having been in the area for a decade, he offered some insight that only a long-time resident could provide when he said, “Ten years ago, standing here like you are for a few minutes, you’d have seen or heard a dozen things you can’t tell your wife about.”

Classic.  And spoken like somebody with roots in the area.

“Today though, I’m here with my wife and two kids, and it’s a different world,” he told me.

So in which camp do you find yourself:

a) I would never consider Parkdale, under any circumstances.
b) Parkdale has improved, but it still has a way to go before I’d buy a home there.
c) The value in Parkdale is simply too good to pass up, and it’s on my list.
d) Parkdale is a target neighbourhood in my search.

I welcome your thoughts.

12 Comments

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  1. BillyO says:

    To me, the value in Parkdale is no longer there – it was up and coming 10 years ago, like the second guy David talked to that bought in the $300s.

    The ‘new’ Parkdale is the Bloor/Lansdowne-Junction Triangle area. Lots of artists from Queen West have already decamped there, and with the modern art museum opening there next year, as well as more bars, restos, and craft breweries, the area will become more known amongst the masses.

    From a transit perspective, the area really shines, you’ve got the Dundas West and Lansdowne subways, but also the UP express that gets you to the financial district in 7-8 minutes (with free wifi) for a little more than a TTC fare.

    That said, detached will still be $1M, but compared to other parts of the city, it’s a steal, and it will become what Queen West was 10 years ago, or what Ossington was 5 years ago. Definitely the next ‘it’ spot in Toronto.

  2. Johnny Rotten says:

    It’s still the pedophile district to me.

  3. R says:

    Your East side bias is showing.

    Welcome to the West Side party, about 5-10 years too late. Parkdale has been gentrifying and rapidly outpacing many other areas of Toronto for a long time now.

    The Drake Hotel opened about 12 years ago and was signaled a big shift in movement to West Queen West and further past Dufferin, Parkdale.

    I bought a Parkdale loft 12 years ago just before the Drake Hotel opened when it truly was an area in flux. back then I felt totally lost going further west than Trinity Bellwoods and “crossing the tracks” (Dufferin bridge”) felt like an adventure, but was surprised to find a great hard loft with comparable features to ones such as the Candy Factory at much reduced prices. Today, our small, boutique building sells for $700+/SF with units going in 1-2 DOM.

    In the last 5 years alone, almost the entire block just past Dufferin has changed with some of the best restaurants and bars in Toronto popping up (Grand Electric, Electric Mud, Chantecler, The Commodore, Miss Thing’s (previously Wrongbar), and now also more mainstream popular places such as Doomies, Guu, Duggan’s etc.

    Parkdale (as you mention) has detached Victorian huge homes that were once of the elite and rival some of the homes/streets in the Annex. I don’t think there are any deals to be had anymore when a fixer-upper 3 story Victorian goes for an easy $1.2M and a tiny flipped row house can get $1M. Prices are about 20% higher than East side sleepy Riverdale or Lesliville for the same house.

    West side has always been stronger than the East and the connection to downtown easier and less psychologically distant. Ride the streetcar from Yonge to Dufferin on Queen and you go through a constant stream of good retail, restaurants, parks, and vibrant city life. Go East from Yonge and just East of Queen you hit scary patches of nothing around Sherbourne, Parliament, then nothing to the DVP and a bit further until you get to Broadview for a few blocks, then nothing again until Leslie.

    Parkdale was never a slum. Yes, there are a lot of apartments built in the 70s with new families and lower income housing. But it was never (at least as far back as 10-15 years) anything remotely close to what Regent Park was. 10 year ago there was a few homeless and maybe drug problem people in the area, but hardly unsafe.

    Parkdale is less than 2Km from Liberty Village, Exhibition Place, Sunnyside beach, Roncy, High Park, Trinity Bellwoods, West Queen West, Bloor….

    Hardly Up and Coming. I’m sure there is still value in Parkdale, but you certainly won’t find any “deals”.

    R

    1. Kyle says:

      I kind of agree, there are no more steals to be had in Parkdale, unless you’re buying a run-down rooming house and have a war chest to renovate it. Anything that is move-in ready and single family already commands similar prices as other “arrived” neighbourhoods.

      There is a wave of new development spreading westward from Dufferin as well. Condos are planned at King/Dufferin (site of the McDonalds and the plaza containing Island Foods), and Brock St (site of the Beer Store) and rumoured at the former LCBO site, as well there are already the Q Lofts and some high end infill townhouses on Elm Grove. Similar to what happened to the Beaconsfield area, all the new development is only going to accelerate the gentrification in the area.

      1. R says:

        Yes, development is slowly creeping in to Parkdale from all sides as you mentioned, plus . New rental at Dundas West of Dufferin. Already several condos on Sorauren at Dundas. A proposal (too high) 14 story building at 6 Noble street (to match the ones on Gladstone I suppose -New Metro soon going into the base of those.). LCBO lot as well, and I’m sure in no time any other remaining lots (Malabar on Brock, etc). will be built up. Apartments on Jameson maybe not going anywhere anytime soon, but Parkdale is changing.

        6 years ago I saw a fully restored (original stained glass, wood panels, new kitchen with Wolf stove, etc.) giant detached 5 bedroom with 6 car parking Victorian on Dunn across from the long term care facility for ~$800,000. Worth probably $3M now. THAT was a deal!

  4. Scott says:

    I bought a house in the neighborhood two years ago, and the the comments about “crime” are likely from people who don’t live in the area. I’ve never felt unsafe walking around and I have every intention of raising a family here (children should be exposed to people with a different ethnicity and who come from a spectrum of income levels). Cities have all sorts of people, and you don’t need to live in a white-washed neighborhood to be “safe.” There are, of course, a higher proportion of people with mental illness given the area’s recent history, but most of these folks are older and not threatening (I imagine 20/30 years ago when they were younger and had more energy it was much different). These people won’t be around much longer as larger rooming houses are converted back to single family homes and rents in the entire downtown core increase. You can see a difference almost on a monthly basis.

    Gentrification is pushing west from Queen West and south from Roncy. Liberty Village will continue to expand along King Street to Dufferin and even further west; there are proposals for two condos King and Dufferin (south west corner and north east corner) that will bring in a younger, more affluent group of people to (what some would describe as) a “seedy” intersection. I think the condo developments will continue once those two go up.

    You can’t beat the location. It’s 4.5KM to Bay and King and on the streetcar you can make it to the office in under 25 minutes door-to-door. With the potential for King street to be converted all the way to Dufferin to “car free” next summer , the streetcar will become faster, more reliable, and there will be a very safe bike option. You can even walk leisurely in under an hour for 6 months of the year.

  5. Julia says:

    If we didn’t have kids, I think we would consider this area, however, as a mom, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable raising my family there. While Parkdale is gentrifying and the prices are quickly rising, the homelessness, crime and poverty will not disappear overnight. Call me elitist, but I would not want to raise my kids in that type of environment no matter the deal or size of property. Unlike Roncy, which consists primarily of detached homes, Parkdale is full of large rental buildings and while some of them are being bought out, renovated and rented out as luxury units, I just cant see that happening to all of them.

    1. Max says:

      You already called yourself elitist. While you’re at it, you might want to avoid of most of New York City and London on your travels too. They’re note “safe” either.

      1. Julia says:

        Actually, I’ve been to and love both of those cities. That said, it doesn’t mean I’d want to raise my kids in Hell’s Kitchen or the East End of London. Also, I believe that David has asked his readers for an opinion, and while you and I seem to disagree, it hardly warrants a personal attack.

        1. Max says:

          You’re right. My apology.

  6. Condodweller says:

    The undercover police cruiser parked in front of the house is pretty telling. I am a contrarian which means on value only I would definitely consider buying there. However, my first stop would be the police station to check on crime rates both old and new, second one would be to check on the schools in the area.

  7. Kyle says:

    Those familiar with the neighbourhood know that prices have already exploded for renovated houses converted back to single family use. For example: 53 Wilson Park Rd sold for 2.4M in Feb, there are many $1M+ modern new builds on Elm Grove and Melbourne and most of the renovated century homes sell for well over $1.2M. IMO, the area is much safer then it was 5-10 years ago. The high rise apartments have been bought out by large asset managers like Timbercreek and Akelius, who have been quietly renovating the interiors and exteriors (and believe it or not) re-renting them out as luxury units: http://www.akelius-properties.ca/apartments/on/toronto/95-jameson-avenue/photogallery.aspx

    With all the new shops, restaurants the super-easy pedestrian access to the waterfront and convenience to downtown, it is only a matter of time, before those rooming houses all get converted back to large single family homes.

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