This week, an article appeared on Eye Weekly’s online newspaper called “Ghetto Fabulous.” It was a follow-up to last week’s cover story in which I was quoted as saying that CityPlace will be a “ghetto” in twenty years.
My opinions were rejected by readers of the original article, as they were quick to defend CityPlace, and even quicker to misinterpret my comments.
But any press is good press, right?
Any press for Charlie Sheen is good press, but not for Lindsay Lohan, right?
Every time I open my big yap and share my views on Toronto with the general public, I know that not only do I have the potential to irk people, but I’m also opening the door to readers misinterpreting what I say.
I was interviewed for a cover story in last week’s Eye Weeklyabout condominium developments in Toronto, and I was asked to give my top three and bottom three picks for Toronto condos.
The bottom three were easy: CityPlace, CityPlace, and more CityPlace.
But unfortunately, that didn’t fly.
I did, however, include Cityplace as my #1 worst condominium in downtown Toronto, saying the following:
#1: Anything in CityPlace – Mariner Terrace, Telegram Mews, Navy Wharf. Who comes up with these names? There are 20-something buildings and about 10,000 units all within spitting distance of eachother, with no surrounding infrastructure, no character, no history – and no way that this won’t be a ghetto in 20 years.
I stand by my comments, and if it weren’t for the fact that I was under the gun to quickly provide a few words, I might have flushed it out a bit, and I might have been even meaner!
The original article can be seen HERE.
The follow-up article, “Ghetto Fabulous,” can be seen HERE.
The problem I have with the reader comments is that these people don’t quite understand how to view real estate in Toronto.
To understand my comments about CityPlace being a future “ghetto,” let’s first examine the word itself.
At www.wikipedia.org, a ghetto is defined as:
“A section of a city occupied by a minority group who live there especially because of social, economic, or legal pressure.”
The definition takes this one step further and says, “A ghetto is now described as an overcrowded urban area often associated with a specific ethnic or racial population.”
Let’s avoid a discussion about the origin of the word “ghetto” as it pertains to 1940’s Europe, and consider how a 2011 version of the term “ghetto,” in the most sarcastic, cynical nature that I’m accustomed so speaking in, can be applied to CityPlace.
I suppose part of my issue with my original comment in Eye Weekly was the fact that their online version of the story was split into two different articles. The article that said about me, “He calls it like he sees it, sarcastically documenting, in hilarious video and blog posts, his disdain for sex-driven marketing, murky purchase agreements, shoddy construction, and poor planning, as evidenced by his perennial whipping-boy, CityPlace,” was in a completely different article from where I made my comment about CityPlace as a “ghetto.” Without knowing my platform, I suppose people might take my comments as literally as a definition that claims a ghetto is best evidenced by 1940’s Europe…
Regardless of how people view my comments, ie. whether or not they have heard my outrageous voice before, I’d like to tell you how I think CityPlace will be a ghetto in 20 years.
I hate CityPlace.
Always have, always will.
It represents what I dislike most about condos in Toronto: no history, no character, no business, no surrounding infrastructure, poor construction, poor design, and rampant overcrowding. It ignores the simple tenets of supply and demand.
It represents what I dislike most about the people that buy there: no imagination, no knowledge, no desire for something better.
It represents what I dislike most about the Realtors who sell units here: they’re not thinking outside the box, they’re not working for their clients, they’re taking the easy way out, and above all – they refuse to take a stance on anything.
CityPlace is a collection of over twenty buildings, all towering over eachother, all starring out at eachother, and all built poorly, in my opinion.
CityPlace is mainly owned by investors, many of whom are overseas in Asia or the Middle East, and who have never set foot inside the condo itself. If foreign investment ever pulled out of the Toronto real estate industry, which area of the city do you think would be hit the hardest?
The design for many of these buildings is poor. How many times have you been inside a unit at CityPlace and the bedroom is almost shaped like a triangle? How can you place furniture in your living room properly when it’s not a square or rectangle, but rather an odd collection of angles?
Ask the residents of 4K Spadina how they enjoyed the flood a few weeks after they moved in…
I guess what I’m getting at is that CityPlace represents the lowest common denominator in the downtown core.
If you’re an investor overseas – just plunk down some money for ten units in the newest CityPlace building. They’re cheap, and they’re easy.
If you’re a buyer with budgetary constraints, look no further than CityPlace. Units there are cheaper than anywhere in the downtown core.
But isn’t this what will serve to make this area a ghetto in 20 years?
The definition of a “student ghetto” goes on to say:
“Landlords have little incentive to properly maintain the housing stock, since they know that they can always find tenants.”
Oh, how true is this about dear CityPlace!
Step inside a unit in CityPlace that has had three tenants in three years, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
I would estimate that more than HALF of all CityPlace condos are owned by investors and speculators. These people have no reason to spend money on general upkeep of the units when the vacancy rate in Toronto is 1.5%, and as a result, the units fall into disrepair.
This is a bona-fide reason why CityPlace will slowly turn into a “ghetto.”
Nobody has ever described CityPlace as “luxury living” or “upscale” in any way. It’s the cheapest, most easily obtainable real estate in the downtown core.
And this brings me to my next point, and perhaps one of the largest issues I have with the misinterpretation about my use of the word “ghetto” as it pertains to CityPlace: I speak of this area as a ghetto as it pertains to the downtown core; not the GTA, and not Ontario.
Would I rather live at CityPlace or Jane/Finch? Yeah, I get it.
But relative to the downtown core, on a comparative basis, CityPlace is worse than everything else.
That is the point that I was trying to make.
Relative to the new luxury developments throughout the core, or relative to King Street, Queen West, or even the crap they’re building at 126 Simcoe and 21 Nelson – CityPlace is garbage.
Overcrowded? That’s an understatement. This is the most dense area of the city and it’s only getting worse.
Lack of surrounding infrastructure? It took them eight years to get a Sobey’s built within walking distance. How many bars, shops, restaurants, and businesses are in the ghetto west of Spadina? Maybe one drycleaners, a Subway Sandwiches, and hopefully a nail salon.
But how in the world can you compare this overcrowded, boring, faceless locale to living on King Street? In Liberty Village? On Queen West? In the Entertainment District? In the St. Lawrence Market? On The Esplanade? The list goes on…
CityPlace will never be a collection of poor, drug-crazed residents like what many people consider a “ghetto” to be, at the most intense interpretation of the word, but it will be the worst collection of condominium units in the downtown core in 20 years, if it’s not already, in my humble opinion…
Supply and demand has long since been ignored, and there are simply too many units in CityPlace to satisfy what will eventually be a lack of demand. Buyers don’t really differentiate between Neo and Montage – they’re just two of the many new towers in CityPlace. To me, they’re just a collection of awful units in an awful location. How discerning can you really be when you’re starting at the very bottom?
I’m one of the most active downtown condo agents in today’s market, and what I see is truly astonishing.
I’ve never seen more knowledge among buyers than I do today.
The “premium” units are selling for over-asking and in multiple offers.
The garbage is sitting on the market.
Our condominium market is so efficient right now that nothing is falling in between the cracks. Case in point, in my building where everything is selling in multiple offers, a unit was listed at $379,000 that was likely worth around that price. They took offers, didn’t get what they were looking for, and subsequently re-listed higher at $399,000. That’s known as “the real estate kiss of death.” When a seller plays pricing games, the buyers know to stay away. They know what’s really going on, and they simply pick up and leave.
Buyers are more savvy than they’ve ever been, and they’re looking way beyond the condo unit itself. Buyers are looking at everything else; things I’ve been championing for years: the building, the location, the neighbourhood, the shops/restaurants/bars, public transit, access to highways, walking distance to A, B, and C, and about a dozen other criteria that make CityPlace look like a ghetto.
Fewer buyers are being lured into junk like CityPlace because, “Like, OMG, there’s a bowling alley in the condo! And, like, a really cool gym where good looking guys with spray-tans wear Hurley toques inside!”
When was the last time you went bowling anyways? Do you really need this in your condo?
Buyers will put a premium on a King Street property because of the A+ location, and appropriately assign a B- or C+ to something two blocks up on Richmond Street.
Buyers in today’s market are far too savvy to buy into junk like CityPlace. Or at least most are.
People who live in CityPlace have bought into the worst collection of condos in the downtown core, and if and when our market ever turns, they will be the hardest hit. This is what will turn the area into a ghetto in twenty years.
I stand by everything I say, and everything I write.
And when anonymous readers of Eye Weekly Online say things like, “Even a clown like Rob Ford knows that allowing a ghetto to be the first view a visitor coming in from the Gardiner gets would be disastrous for the city,” they’re speaking from a knowledge base of zero.
Can Rob Ford change supply and demand? Really? Can he affect free market dynamics?
And if somebody else says, “Mr. Fleming is ignoring the first rule of real estate: location, location, location,” then they’re missing my point entirely. Because what I am saying is EXACTLY about location, more specifically, that CityPlace is an awful location.
Was this not clear?
If people think that CityPlace has “scarce waterfront views,” then perhaps they’ve only been in one building, facing immediately south, and not one of the thousands of units whose views are of another building, and another beyond that.
If people think that CityPlace is: “In close proximity to the financial district and the city’s most well-known landmarks (CN Tower, Rogers Centre, the theatre district),” then they’re not thinking specific enough. How about living IN the theatre district, and not just in a ghetto that is a twenty minute walk from it?
They’re entirely missing my point.
But what else should I expect?
The masses have spoken, and their opinions are as unfounded as the thoughts of the prototypical 20-something “investor” who plunks down a deposit on a pre-construction condo in 2011 because “it’s, like, a totally great way to like, make money.” If only you had that idea back in 2003…
Do your homework. Think outside the box.
And put your goddam name on what you write.
I do it every day…