It Takes A Condo To Make A Village


5 minute read

September 14, 2009

This article is about the evil CityPlace and it applaudes everything that I loathe.

I couldn’t possibly disagree with the author more, which of course, is why I’m going to post his article in full…



It takes a condo to make a village

Headshot of Marcus Gee

Sometimes you don’t have to go very far to find a good story. About five minutes walk from the headquarters of The Globe and Mail at Front and Spadina stands Concord CityPlace, a thicket of high-rise condominiums that will eventually house up to 14,000 people. Year after year I have watched it rise from The Globe’s rooftop deck, one sleek tower after another, and as it has grown, my feelings about it have changed.

At first, I thought: Who on earth would want to live there? CityPlace is going up on the old railway lands, a huge tract at the bottom of downtown that stood fallow for years as the city and developers wrangled about what to do with it and scheme after scheme fell apart. For a long time, it was home to a downtown golf course with a towering net to catch golf balls, a sad symbol of a wasted opportunity. It seemed an unlikely place to make a home, with few amenities and no sense of neighbourhood. As Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, there was “no there there.”

But as the towers rose, it became clear that something cool was happening. The buildings, unexpectedly, are quite beautiful, sleek medleys of glass and steel in a variety of shapes and styles. When you go closer, you find the beginnings of a real neighbourhood, with a supermarket, people walking their miniature condo dogs, couples pushing baby strollers and – officially opened this week – a creative new park designed by Vancouver writer and artist Douglas Coupland. Schools, daycares and public housing are to follow, along with a new library and community centre. There is a there there after all.

It goes to show that properly planned and designed projects need not be islands unto themselves. They can attract shops, restaurants and other facilities and weave themselves into the urban fabric.

There is a bigger lesson, too: Density works. The waterfront condo boom is a boon to the whole city. It is attracting more and more people to downtown living, reducing urban sprawl, helping the environment, making good public transit more efficient, generating millions in tax revenue for the city and producing the best high-rise architecture since the rush of office-tower construction in the core decades ago.

The CityPlace phenomenon is being replicated all across the western waterfront with high-end condo developments such as Malibu at Harbourfront, Tip Top Lofts and ICE. Developer Alan Vihant reckons that between 100,000 and 120,000 people will live in new housing along the waterfront once all the new projects are done, more than the population of Peterborough.

These projects are doing what decades of stalled waterfront renewal has failed to accomplish: Connect the city to lake. The people who live in all those towers can walk to the lake as easily as they can stroll northbound to the theatre district. Eighty per cent of the residents of CityPlace do not drive a car to work.

Even more remarkable, they are thriving on the waterfront despite the Gardiner Expressway. Gardiner haters want to spend billions to tear the elevated highway down, but thousands of condo dwellers are living within spitting distance of the Gardiner without much fuss. Mr. Coupland has even put a giant red canoe in his park, perched on a sloping bluff that overlooks the highway. He imagines people sitting in the land-bound canoe and waving at people sitting in their traffic-bound cars.

Urban planners have fantasized for years about a revitalized downtown with greater density and more urban buzz. They tried to spur it with schemes such as main-streets intensification, designed to line streets with bigger buildings. Nothing much happened.

The change came through a commercial phenomenon: the condo boom. Mr. Vihant says that Toronto is the top condo market in North America and one of the top five in the world. Condos have sprouted not just along the waterfront but in midtown (along Bay Street near College, for example), North Toronto (Eglinton and Bayview) and the eastern downtown (King Street East and environs).

A whole new neighbourhood, Liberty Village, is rising in the west end, and condo builders are focusing now on trendy West Queen West. In the northeast, meanwhile, Mr. Vihant’s Concord Adex Inc. (he is vice-president of development) is planning to build another big project, Concord Park Place, near Sheppard and Leslie.

Critics call it the “condofication” of Toronto. They complain that condo clusters threaten traditional neighbourhoods and clog the arteries of an overcrowded city.

In fact, clusters like the one rising on the waterfront are simply a different kind of neighbourhood, busy, dense, vibrant and distinctly urban. In places like North Toronto, strips of condos on main streets exist happily next to quiet, leafy ‘hoods of detached houses, no harm done. In places like the waterfront, they reclaim waste land and bring it to life.

Looking at those towers from the deck of The Globe, I no longer wonder why anyone would want to live there. Instead I wonder how neat it would be to live there.


I disagree with every single point the author of this article has made, with the exception of the word “the”…

Keep in mind – this was written by a WRITER, not a REALTOR.

Sorry to say, but his glorification of the evil empire known as CityPlace was done so from the perspective of a fantastic writer and an amateur real estate commentator.

I don’t want to belabor my points against the evil empire for the umpteenth time, but let’s just run this down…

First day of Grade-12 Economics: supply vs. demand.

There are approximately one-hundred-kajillion units in the 20+ buildings in CityPlace, and it seems to reason that they are in ready supply.

There are acres and acres of vacant land west of CityPlace stretching all the way to Bathurst where another 5-10 buildings will go up.

There is no infrastructure around and within CityPlace.  No shops, no restaurants – no character, just concrete.  Unless you consider a drycleaners, Subway Sandwiches, TD Bank, and Ken’s Variety Store to be all the infrastructure you need.  Or, imagine living on King Street with the TTC streetcar at your door, a dozen restaurants and a dozen shops all on the same block, gorgeous hundred-year-old buildings lining the streets, and the St. Lawrence Market is a block away.

Or, consider looking out the window of your 37th storey, cookie-cutter condo in CityPlace and staring at eight other buildings, the Gardiner, and concrete, concrete, and more concrete!

If you want to argue with me about the location and surrounding infrastructure, fine.

But you can’t argue with the elementary rule of supply and demand.

When the foreign investment pulls out of Toronto, and/or when the market turns, thousands and thousands of units at CityPlace will be available all at the same time.

But maybe nobody cares about the VALUE of their properties.  Maybe it’s all about the bowling alley in the base of 5 Mariner Terrace…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. older & wiser

    at 10:38 am

    David — I was amused to read Marcus Gee’s rapturous review of CityPlace, knowing that you loathe & despise it! He dreams of a vibrant community … so did the Soviet Union countries with their blocks and blocks of human pigeon coops…

  2. Benjamin Durant

    at 1:35 pm

    Haha I have to say that I read this column in the Saturday newspaper and I immediately thought of your blog! I find it rather ironic to see you posting the article today!

  3. JD

    at 1:36 pm

    i also hate city place
    rogers centre traffic
    spadina traffic
    human traffic
    ugly condos, small units, no closets
    no stores, nothing within walking distance
    the suggestion of a community is pure bs
    its a getto plain and simple
    let them eat their cake

  4. dogbiskit

    at 10:07 pm

    There is no character there at all and it will be a ghetto once the zillions of careless, inconsiderate frathouse tenants have had their way with the place after a few years. I saw a few of these McBoxes when my boyfriend was looking this past summer. they were junk. sooo glad he ended up buying at a quality building on King East!

  5. Clide

    at 10:46 pm

    The sad truths about City Place is the same development by the same developer in Vancouver is infinitely better….and we get to look forward to City Place part 2 at Sheppard and Leslie.

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