What Is “Green Space?”

Condos | June 6, 2012

You see this in listings a lot – “Overlooking green space.”

If you were asked to define green space, what would you say?

Greenspace.  How many times do you see this word on an MLS listing?

Houses, condos – it doesn’t matter.  The mere presence of this word in an MLS listing will enhance the desirability of the property.

But what is greenspace?

Wikipedia says:

“Open space reserve, open space preserve, and open space reservation, are planning and conservation ethics terms used to describe areas of protected or conserved land or water on which development is indefinitely set aside. The term green space or greenspace is often used in the same manner.”

www.dictionary.com says:

“A plot of undeveloped land separating or surrounding areas of intensive residential or industrial use that is maintained for recreational enjoyment.”


So what is not the definition of “Greenspace?’

How about this, which I’m making up, based on what most Realtors consider greenspace from their MLS listings:

“Any green area, object, sight, location, locale, person, place, or food that is within the sight-line of a person standing in, on top of, around, or near a house or condo.”

Yeah, that sounds about right.

I’m constantly amazed by how many times “greenspace” is mentioned in MLS listings, when in fact, there is no true greenspace, by definition.

I think greenspace is really considered conservation land, but most people would be okay with adding park lands, or parks to that definition.

Realtors and property-sellers, of course, take things to a whole new level when they add basically ANYTHING green to the definition of greenspace, and make a mockery of MLS listings.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1) Parks.

If the view from your condo at Leslie & Eglinton is overlooking Serena Gundy Park, then you can advertise “Overlooking Greenspace” on your MLS listing.

But if your house on Rumsey Road faces Trace Manes Park, can you really say, “Overlooking Greenspace?”  Don’t you just mean “tennis courts, wading pool, and baseball diamond across the street?”

Or what about those tiny little “Parkettes” throughout the city that measure 2,000 square feet.  If you live three doors down, can you say, “Close to greenspace”?

I suppose…

2) Cemetaries.

Do you think I’m joking?

Oh sure – I started with a lay-up: parks.  Now we’re gonna get really crazy!

Think about all the condos on Merton Street that face south, and think about all the MLS listings that say, “Overlooking Greenspace.”

In fact, the impetus for this entire blog post was the marketing for a new condo development in the area which portrayed the cemetery as a conservation area in an artist’s rendering!  Imagine being an investor overseas, having no clue about neighbourhoods in Toronto, and then buying a pre-construction condo because it looks like your condo overlooks Central Park in New York?  It’s false advertising!

Is a cemetery “greenspace” by definition?  I don’t think so.  They’re not fooling anybody…

3) Golf Courses.

It’s green, and it sure is a wide-open space, but it’s hardly an undisturbed, recreational area!

A golf course is a true commercial enterprise.  I can’t think of another sport played by the ultra-rich, except maybe skiing.  Or polo, but seriously – who plays polo?

So you might say that a commercial venture like a golf course is the exact OPPOSITE of “protected land on which development is indefinitely set aside.”

I guess if you’re a buyer looking for any sort of grassy, treed, outdoorsy scenery, then a golf course fits the bill.

But writing “adjacent to acres of greenspace” in an MLS listing is somewhat misleading, especially if you don’t like getting Titleist Pro-V1’s smacked into your backyard twelve times a week.  Those are $6 balls, by the way, so before you go complaining – I’d start collecting them like Easter eggs and counting your blessings!

4) A Football Field.

Nope, not joking.

Realtors – back me up here: how many listings at 25 Broadway Avenue and 70 Roehampton Avenue advertised “fantastic view overlooking greenspace below”?

Does this look like any sort of “greenspace” to you?

Not to stereotype, but it was a lot of those 905-Highway-7-Markham Realtors that also had no photos on MLS, but I digress…

Tridel’s The Republic is a very successful condominium development, and very unique, considering that they partnered with TDSB to build a new school and a football field!  I can’t think of another condominium of its kind in Toronto, or any city, really.

But I also can’t think of a bigger misnomer than a football field being passed off as greenspace!

Sure, the field is green – I get it!

But it’s not a conservation area, or even a park.  There isn’t a single tree!

And those of you that watch college football and are familiar with Boise State will offer up the following image:

Yes, that’s right folks – a blue football field!  (It’s rumored to be banned in 2012, but we’ll see what happens there…)

So what if the football field at North Toronto Collegiate Institute was blue, like in Boise, Idaho?

Would the MLS listings say, “Overlooking bluespace below”?

5) Courtyards.

I’m sure the football field or the cemetery will push your buttons the most, but this is the one that really irks me.

Picture a tiny little courtyard in between two condos, or two buildings, with nothing but concrete and brick, and then a few trees and shrubs.

That’s a courtyard, maybe, maybe a “parkette.”

But it’s not “greenspace.”  Not even close.

You can’t call six trees and three bushes “greenspace.”  That’s like calling the concrete slab at Yonge & Dundas Square an “architectural masterpiece.”

There are a lot of courtyards that come to mind, but I recall seeing “greenspace” used in a listing for a unit at Mozo or Rezen where one of the units overlooked the tiny courtyard in between the buildings where people let their dogs go to the bathroom, and where I have yet to see a single person sit, or really occupy at all, without a pet.

If that is considered “greenspace,” then I should advertise the roof of my building as “plenty of parking.”  Yep, just park your magic-carpet, flying Delorian, rocket-bike, or Mary-Popins-umbrella out on that rooftop next time you come by to visit.  PLENTY OF PARKING, said the listing when I bought my place!

Oh, what will they think of next?

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  1. Anna

    at 8:29 am

    My favourite is out here in ever growing suburbia when a realtor lists a house as ‘backing onto greenspace’, only anyone who bothers to look at the zoning and official plan will see that said greenspace is actually slated to be filled with a few hundred houses within the next 5 or 6 years.

    Sure, it’s greenspace now – but it’s not going to be for long!

  2. George

    at 9:42 am

    And if I let some mold grow on my concrete terrace, then I would have my very own greenspace. People can bend the definitions of these terms all they want, but any discernible buyer would quickly figure out the real story. Frankly, the deceitful nature of some ads just ends up wasting everyone’s time.

    And to your point about the courtyards being glorified pet toilets…that’s pretty much how I see them (and pretty much any city park). I can’t imagine any human wanting to sit down on that.

  3. Joe Q.

    at 9:48 am

    In defense of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, while it isn’t a full-scale park, calling it “green space” may not be too far of a stretch. As far as cemeteries go, it’s in a class of its own — the walking paths, diversity of trees (like an arboretum), monuments, burial places of important figures from Toronto’s (and Canada’s) past.

    So while you can’t play a game of pick-up football there, and there are no swing-sets, I think the space is still very usable as a low-key recreation area.

    Incidentally, there is a very cute little park on the south side of Merton (or is it Balliol?) between Mount Pleasant and Bayview, with a play structure and a nice splash pad. My kid loved it the last time we went, but it is a bit small, and somewhat hidden away. That’d be a pretty big selling point for the neighbourhood, I’d think.

    1. Brennan

      at 1:07 pm

      I agree with Joe, Mount Pleasant Cemetery kind of falls into a unique category. I used to take walks there all the time. Although it is a cemetery, you see plenty of people running, jogging, walking kids in strollers, and even the occasional picnic. Strange but true.

  4. Jason

    at 9:36 am

    The problem is the Realtor definition of “green space” and the buyer’s interpretation of the word are very different. When I read “green space” in a listing, I expect to see grass and/or trees.

    Referring to a cemetery as green space is acceptable, as long as the fact its a cemetery is also mentioned, otherwise it’s being disingenuous and my time, as well as the time of my agent will be wasted going to see that property. Although I would hope my agent would warn me ahead of time.

  5. Larissa

    at 10:26 am

    My favourite is all of the major hydro fields that cross parts of Scarborough that routinely have listing agents with houses backing on to these electromagnetic radiation nightmares as “greenspace”.

    1. Soho

      at 1:26 am

      Hydro fields are my fav type of greenspace as well with railway lines running a close 2nd.

  6. Groperty

    at 10:42 am

    Yes, we agree, realtors definitely need to be more clear about what recreational spaces are within as well as adjacent condominiums. It is doubtful that any individual would make such a large investment without visiting the place first – it would however save prospective buyers lots of time and effort if they were more concise in the property descriptions.

  7. Maggie K.

    at 9:28 am

    Who plays polo? Why, the ultra-rich of course. There aren’t all that many of them.

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