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How New Condominiums on Queen Street Can Help it Stay Hip

Toronto today is starkly different from the sleepy, mid-sized city that existed just a few decades ago.  Affordable bungalows that were built on the edge of town in the nineteen seventies are now sitting on centrally located properties worth millions.  Subway and streetcar lines that used to serve the city adequately, are now congested and overcrowded with an expanding mass of commuters.

But the biggest difference can be seen looking out at Toronto’s skyline. Everywhere you look, from the lake shore all the way up to North York, luxury condominium towers have popped up on nearly every available plot of land, and some surprising developments are re purposing older buildings and using existing historic facades. See below, Waterworks at 505 Richmond St W (at Augusta Ave).

Waterworks condominium building on Richmond St at Augusta Ave

The rapid increase in condominiums along Queen Street makes perfect sense; Toronto’s population has increased dramatically in the last decade and now more people then ever before need better places to live. As a result, condominium towers have become a staple of Toronto’s architecture.

While the thought of living in certain neighbourhoods in Toronto has always been more aspiration than practical for the average resident (hello Yorkville and Rosedale), Queen St blends rich and poor folks together, business people with the artists, students, and every one in between.

But this has left some people wondering, what happens when the urbanization of Queen St is complete?  And more importantly, what can we do to ensure that the culture, the residents, and the architecture that makes Queen street has today, that very thing that makes it cool, doesn’t fade away?

The architecture of the old buildings on Queen St. in Toronto

Grafhitti Alley in Toronto

A huge part of what makes Queen so cool is the atmosphere. While the diversity of the people walking and working and living on Queen certainly contributes to the laid-back vibe of the street, another one of the main factors is the architecture.  Graffiti Alley runs behind Queen St W and ends at Portland St.

Queen St culture creates economic boom in west central Toronto

Graffiti Alley is a good example of how Queen street is a mix of old and new.  There is now about a kilometer’s worth of wickedly independent art on the walls of varying quality. CBC Comedian Rick Mercer used the alley as backdrop for his famous weekly TV Rant (and other alleys farther along) for many years. The alley is still frequently being repainted, but of course each artist must now present a portfolio of previous works when they ask the permission of the building owners.

Queen Street is still pretty low-rise and low key. While the eOne building soars high above the rest of the neighbourhood at Queen and Peter, the quiet presence of the historic Campbell House and venerated music halls like the Rex and the Horseshoe Tavern used to anchor and foster the culture that manifests on the rest of the street.  And the cycle is complete with fancy shops.

Queen and Strachan - Starbucks is goneSee above the corner of Queen and Strachan is now so hip that even the Starbucks coffee shop on the corner wasn’t cool enough – its a Bailey Nelson retail store now.  These are super-fancy shops. While there’s certainly room to build more condominiums on the street, it’s important for Toronto to maintain the careful balancing act that exists between increasing the amount of living space available to residents while still protecting the cultural hipness of the venues, shops, and restaurants that make Queen St so unique in the first place.

Trinity Bellwoods park in TorontoTrinity Bellwoods Park extends the fancy shops and high value real estate right up to Shaw St which has become a north south bicycle thoroughfare and one which motorists are now beginning to avoid as the route is frustratingly slower due to the cyclists. The coolness remains on Queen St west past Ossington.Drake Hotel and Death and TaxesMoving farther west, The Drake Hotel, Death & Taxes bar on Beaconsfield, and The Gladstone Hotel on Gladstone Ave are all venues with good vibrations.  But this is a really sensitive area as many new condominiums have been built on the south side of this block, on Abell St.

new condos at Queen and Abel St in Toronto

The fact of the matter is, Toronto is more populated than ever. People need places to live and those places need to be centrally located. But there’s a way to create more living spaces for people without tearing down older buildings and replacing them with condo buildings that clutter up the skyline.

One of the best ways to do this is to regulate which condo proposals are approved by the city.  New housing developments approved by the city shouldn’t just blend in with the existing infrastructure, they should stand out and be works-of-art and unique in their own right.  Someday years in the future there should be activists eager to protect the building from the wrecking ball.

Unique architecture and a style of décor that’s visually appealing and offers something to engage the eye is just the beginning. From rooftop gardens to restaurants and cafes, the new condos on Queen should incorporate other experiences and culturally relevant ideas into their blueprints that are accessible to the public and that mesh well with the rest of the city.

Candy Factory Lofts and The Drake Hotel launched cool on Queen Street

In the year 1999, the Candy Factory Lofts project along with the relaunch of the Drake Hotel marked the beginning of the modern age of cool on Queen Street.  Both projects were difficult to accomplish and started the trend of making condos on Queen.  The white brick facade of the Candy Factory made it especially appealing to renovators and it stood out among numerous other rustic older buildings that are full of charm and character that could easily be converted into new living spaces. Right beside the Candy Factory, which is a legitimate Heritage building, is the Chocolate Factory which is a faux old building. The Chocolate Factory Lofts is a purpose-build five story condominium complex that borrows some design from its neighbour.

Chocolate Factory Lofts, Candy Factory on Queen St. W Toronto

Regardless of old or new buildings, an author could make the argument that these two condominiums really helped change the entire neighborhood for the better, and they helped transform what was perceived by the public as seedy and made it sensational.Candy Factory Lofts at Queen and Shaw in Toronto

CeDe Canady Company at 993 Queen Street West in Toronto in 1973The Candy Factory lofts at 993 Queen Street West are now considered one of the ideal living spaces in the city, epitomizing the lifestyle of West Queen West.  But back in 1999, it was difficult to get anyone on board with the redevelopment.

Although it was named after the candy factory that last occupied the space from 1963-1988 (Ce De Candy Co. – the makers of Rockets, a trick-or-treating staple every Halloween), the building’s history begins over a hundred years ago. The structure was originally erected in 1907 as a garment factory.

Ce De Candy Co. occupied the building for a quarter century before finding a new location in Mississauga in 1988. The building remained empty until the mid-1990s when a developer discovered the site and had the idea of converting the vacant space into a series of lofts inspired by the Tribeca neighbourhood in New York City.

inside lobby of 993 Queen Street West - Candy Factory LoftsBut without a solid plan in place, it seemed like the condo conversion would never happen.  This was a big building with over a dozen spacious units on each of the six floors. Issues ranging from financing woes to strife and acrimony amongst the partners plagued the project, but the building project was eventually completed in the year 2000.

The next major issue developers would face? Attracting investors and tenants. While potential buyers found the rich history, the character, and the overall aesthetic of the lofts incredibly appealing, they were hesitant to come to an agreement because the general vibe of the neighbourhood hadn’t quite caught up to the appeal of the building. West Queen West was still rather rundown and a little unsafe back in the early 2000s.

So, while the average buyer was wary of putting down the money to live in what used to be a dodgy neighbourhood, the psychologists, doctors, and other mental health professionals working at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) right down the street were quicker to see the benefits of living so close to work. Once they had purchased units, other buyers began putting in offers as well. But it still wasn’t enough.

What finally tipped the scales in the Candy Factory Lofts’ favour was police officers. In addition to the doctors and psychologists from CAMH purchasing property, local cops were another early adopter of the Candy Factory Lofts because they saw the appeal of the uniquely renovated industrial spaces and weren’t concerned about how shady the neighbourhood was. Any other potential buyers holding out were assuaged by the sight of police cars regularly parked out front and no longer felt concerned about their safety.  And now two decades later there are dozens of new restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops and thousands more residents.

While there is no parade or street festival for Queen Street West, it has just as much culture as College and Dundas St.  More importantly, it has undeniable national-level fashion credentials and that makes it a destination for Millennials inside the City of Toronto.  The stretch of fancy shops from Bathurst to Trinity Bellwoods park gives the street a new economic importance at City Hall.  Everyday and with every permit issued, urban planners and property developers foster this excitement for tourists who make their way east and west, while ensuring that the street still meets the needs of the locals.

Theatre Company on Queen StIn a city that’s rapidly becoming inaccessible for the average person to afford, Queen Street West is one of the rare neighbourhoods that houses people of every age, background, and income bracket. The diversity of occupants living and working on Queen Street provides the foundation for what makes it so cool, and that’s why it’s so vital to ensure there’s affordably priced housing for everyone.  See above the Summer Works Theatre Company which is pay-what-you-can but yet somehow has the funding to distribute an expensive program for free.

A little farther down the street however and we encounter the knife’s edge. At Queen and Dufferin there was once a business called the West End Food Coop but now, as of August 14th 2018 that is gone.

West End Food Coop closes on Queen St W at DufferinAbove is the Grand Closing of West End Food Coop at Queen and Dufferin. Not many photographers are around to capture the moment that the proprietor closes her shop forever.  The rent has gone up (doubled) and the business is being forced out by the landlord who has other plans for the space.

Gentrification is often the beginning of the end when it comes to taking formerly ‘cool’ neighbourhoods and stripping them of everything that makes them unique. While condos aren’t solely responsible for gentrification, they are a symptom of a bigger problem. Cultural homogeny is the biggest threat to Queen Street’s cool factor, and we can already see it playing out in various neighbourhoods across Toronto from Parkdale and the Junction in the West to Regent Park and Leslieville in the East.

Dollarama is the end of cool on Queen Street.

the cool stops at Dollarama on Queen St condominiums

Queen street in particular has always been known for its high concentration of artists, musicians, performers, and other creative types; it’s no surprise, of course, that most of those struggling creators and ‘starving artists’ are not pulling in the kind of income needed to afford mortgage payments on a condo. Residents who used to be able to afford housing are being priced out to make way for those who can afford to spend thousands of dollars a month buying or renting a condo.

Parkdale in particular has been under a microscope lately as residents are being evicted from their homes but can’t afford to live anywhere else in the city; as a result, many of them are forced to relocate to cities in the suburbs surrounding Toronto.

City Hall needs to protect and foster the diversity of residents on Queen street because it’s that diversity that makes Queen so cool. Without an eclectic mixture of residents, Queen street will lose the catalyst responsible for its growth and its culture and it will risk stagnation and eventual decay.

Yes. Queen can absolutely still be cool with condos on every corner. The key is to ensure there’s a balancing act in place that respects the existing architecture, and the lower income residents and especially the artists who inspire and who are inspired by the Queen Street community.  Multi-purpose condo buildings and other visually appealing housing options can be used amplify and energize makes Queen Street West so unique.

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King Street Transit Pilot Increases Value of Entertainment District Condos

A green transportation pilot program is being tested on King Street, a central corridor for commuters in the City of Toronto.  All year long (2018) the whole of King Street from Bathurst to Jarvis is closed to privately operated vehicles, while bicycles and streetcars are encouraged to use this corridor. The big benefit will be to people living in the area, as the Walk Score for sections along this path will soon be among the highest in the nation.

For those of you that don’t know about it, the King Street Transit Pilot was conceived with the intention of moving people more efficiently on public transit, improving public spaces, and supporting business and economic prosperity along King St. The pilot aims to improve the transit reliability, speed, and capacity on the busiest surface transit route in the city by giving streetcars and cyclists top priority from Bathurst to Jarvis.

King St West

Motorists in Toronto have known for many years the King St is a streetcar corridor and to be avoided by anyone in a hurry. Cyclists actually loathed King St before this project launched for the same reason – its no fun cycling behind a streetcar and having to stop and wait and watch passengers board every block. Readers are thinking that cyclists could simply ride around the idling streetcars but you really can’t and the speed of the morning commute makes it likely the streetcar will catch up anyway. Plus there’s always another behind and another behind that one etc…

Although there has been much discussion of this environmentally-friendly endeavor for many years, Toronto city planners only launched the pilot in November 2017.  Their argument to council was that by banishing private vehicles they could improve TTC travel times and the reliability of streetcars on King, one of its most congested transit routes across the bottom the downtown core.

Why do so many people NOT support the King Street Transit Pilot?

Toronto Police Services are enforcing the new traffic rules which restrict drivers’ through-movements, forcing them to turn right off King street at most major intersections. (Through-traffic is allowed at Simcoe and York streets, which are one-way and therefore not conducive to right turns off King.) The city has also removed all 180 on-street parking spaces along King in the project area, which runs between Bathurst and Jarvis St.  These actions infuriate drivers, especially Uber drivers in their own private vehicles, and they cripple delivery trucks and require construction people to do endless paperwork for special permits for their trucks.

The #ReverseKingCarBan is a Twitter hashtag and activist group with many notable members and several local business owners.  The most vocal objectors are nightclub and restaurant owners on King between Spadina and University.  They strongly object to the ‘green-way’ and the manner in which it was foisted upon them, and they claim their revenues are down as much as fifty percent. They have taken to attacking Mayor Tory personally. But economists believe the move has increased the value of the existing properties and if these business cannot succeed here their premises will soon accommodate those who can make it work.

So who loves the new pilot? People do, especially commuters. Every weekday, 65,000 public transit riders travel along King, making it the busiest daytime route in the city.

Artists on King Street Make Masterworks of Inspirational Street Art

The art on the street is terrific in some installations, but can be underwhelming in other spots.  There are now over fifty ‘activations’ or places where street art has been created or installed along King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets, and there is no doubt these curiosities will help add to the vibrancy of the transit corridor project.  Most of this art will remain for the duration of the pilot.

The TTC and City of Toronto are constantly monitoring and evaluating the success of the project. This scrutiny involves the collecting data before and during and after the pilot ends in order to assess the impacts and benefits of the program.  Data is collected through methods such as tracking TTC streetcars using GPS, monitoring car travel times using Bluetooth sensors, and by collecting pedestrian, cycling and car volumes using video analytics.  Monthly updates will provide the latest data on the City of Toronto website.

Is the King Street Transit Pilot Program a Success or Failure?

Its a success. Both the City of Toronto and independent media reports (Toronto Star, Globe&Mail)  estimate that the new thoroughfare can take almost eleven minutes off the trip across town at peak times. If you multiply that time-savings across the multitude people who use the route everyday, the effect is monumental, and represents a societal shift and the positive evolution of urban planning over commercial interests more inclined to favour their goods over people.

Automobile lovers and drivers all over the city have to change their ways, or their routes at the very least.  Maybe this move will cause a million people to rethink their lifestyles?  All other routes across the bottom of the city are sure to be at least 10% to 15% busier without King St now closed to privately owned automobiles.

Pedestrians have to change too.  The zombie-walkers must now adjust their response to changing traffic lights and learn to wait for the walking man signal at crosswalks. That’s because of the changes in signal phasing at many of the intersections within the Pilot Project area. New protected right turn phases have been added to the cycles, meaning that the pedestrian signals that used to switch to ‘walk’ a few seconds after the opposing traffic’s light turned red now have a small delay built in. Despite this new protected right turn phase, many pedestrians are simply ignoring the fact that the ‘walk’ sign hasn’t activated yet and begin crossing the intersection anyway, eliminating the ability for vehicles to make a protected right turn off of King. Like with drivers, this new timing will require a bit of adjustment for pedestrians as well.

New Condominiums on King Street are Capital Investments

Construction on the Kingly Condos seen below was well underway when the King Street Pilot Project was announced.  The site at King and Portland was something of an obstacle for city planners who welcomed the development, but were now seeking to reduce access at the street address.  Cement trucks, dump trucks and heavy equipment haulers were squarely at the other end of the spectrum.  Various workarounds were conceived and executed and the big winners here are the buyers who locked into this lifestyle and community, assuming the pilot program yields permanent changes in street design.

King St Condo under construction at Portland

543 Richmond St. condominium development is another project that will inevitably benefit by the changes in municipal infrastructure that could result from the test. With this being a Pilot Project, the TTC and City Planners have already stated that they intend to make adjustments and improvements to both the physical infrastructure and the vehicle/traffic signal timing as the project moves along.

This bold transit initiative has certainly changed people’s perceptions of King St, and although the Pilot Project is scheduled to run no later than December 31, 2018, the experiment has already, on some level, changed this thoroughfare, and this part of the city forever.

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Elevator Advertising – Ad Networks Compete for Toronto Condos

Elevator advertising is not new, but today there’s a strong push to sign-up more buildings and secure new territory because of the increased value of the ad networks.  These unique media networks, which would probably prefer to be considered message delivery systems, are growing at exponential rates by offering property managers discount screens and free installation. Why?

How can these companies afford to practically give away their merchandise?

Visio Media in Toronto condo tower is captive audience - Tenant TV systemThe 18 inch flat screens now playing ads in thousands of elevators across Canada’s biggest urban centers represent just a fraction of an increasingly valuable closed-circuit broadcast TV network.  The system is emerging and getting lots of attention because it works!  The biggest players in the field are using programmatic messaging, allowing social media interaction and even using facial detection technology for measurement and dynamic ad delivery. That means that every unit is intelligent and responsive to its own immediate audience in real time. Visio Media flat screen ad network delivery system in condo tower elevator

Its a win / win for property managers and tenants as the ad network also carries other valuable information that makes ignoring the screen difficult.  When deployed in bank towers downtown, the system provides advertisers access to executive eyeballs, and even in condominium towers across the city it finds highly desirable and difficult-to-reach audience of affluent and influential urban consumers.

If you are sharing your elevator with a small screen, then it probably belongs to one of these four expanding elevator-media networks:

 

Captivate Network is among the oldest and most established elevator broadcasters; founded in 1997, Captivate now has a digital media company with a network of 12,000 high-resolution, flat-panel elevator and lobby displays in 1,800 premier office buildings across North America

Their marketing ascertains that Captivate’s in-office media provides entertaining content to 10+ million professionals during the workday from best-in-class providers. Captivate uses an intelligent ad delivery system that is very aware of local demographics, time of day and season when showing their advertisements to elevator occupants.

Here is their video wherein they outline their pitch to property managers.

 

VISIO Media

Visio Media has a nationwide network with buildings in Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.  This is what the company did with the money they received from an accelerator Accelerate Fund Invests in Visio Media in October 2017, and unlike Captivate which targets commercial properties, this Edmonton based startup is more focused on urban residential towers.

Visio Media’s Elev8 system strives to help businesses impact ready-to-spend urban residents with their advertisements, while enabling property managers’ communication with their residents.  Visio Media has the most technologically advanced elevator flat screen display network in the marketplace.  Each 18-inch screen mounted in the top corner, above the door in the car, has a tiny camera and software that scans shapes of faces and bodies of occupants to perceive certain determining factors. The data collected can include height, facial hair and face shape and these factors combined with others are used to determine gender and age. That information along with time of day and season are used to determine the best ads to display.  This ‘patented anonymous detection system’ is considered non-invasive photo recognition technology because none of the media is recorded; there is no record of the passengers in the car other than ridership stats. Below is the video from their website.

 

Pattison Onestop

Perhaps the most visible player in this space is Pattison OneStop and that’s because they have the deal to put 15″ elevator screens and 46″ lobby screens (the largest in the industry) above the subway platforms in three of Canada’s busiest cities.  Given this very auspicious and exclusive media broadcast space, they have evolved unique content which is a blend of real-time news, weather and entertainment programs that mirrors CP24 in some respects.  They focus on helping commuters and so traffic information and especially public transit delays are priority messaging on their screens. Their network has an estimated reach of 1.1 million across the country, and is available in seven urban markets: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

When it comes to business towers and residential towers, Pattison systems are not found inside the building elevators like the first two competitors listed above, but rather they focus on the high traffic areas in front of the elevators.  They have partnerships with several high profile property management companies across the province; firms like Minto, Oxford and Homestead, plus their own sales force have grown their Ontario Residential Network to 680+ buildings. Here is their video,

 

MaxTV logo

MaxTV Media is the smallest and hungriest player on the scene; this local enterprise was born here in Toronto and is rapidly expanding by offering discount hardware and service in Brampton, Mississauga, North York, Vaughan, and Markham area condominiums.  MaxTV is building an ad network by promising to ‘evolve’ the old school tenants’ Interactive Digital Notice Boards.  What is that you might wonder?  If you lived in large condominium buildings in the 2000s you would have seen flat screen TVs used as message boards with line after line of updates posted by residents and staff.   MaxTV Media has evolved, or is evolving a better system of delivering notices. Their website boasts that their 1,089+ installations now reach 167,845 + Residents and have delivered 23,055+ Notices.  You can watch the MAX TV  video presentation online here.

Elevator Advertising is an ‘up and down’ business model.

Elevators are socially awkward environments where even the most confident and self-assured individuals tend to look at their feet and fidget with their keys.  Elevator advertisements give peoples’ eyes a welcome place to rest; riders can now intake visually rich and relevant information such as headlines and appealing images from the day’s news, stock quotes, and weather and clever advertisements.  For residents and business executives who can put their minutes in the elevator to better use, the screens are easily ignored, since they are small and often don’t emit any sound. But for most riders, the screens are highly effective instruments for information delivery.  Connecting these TVs together makes an effective ad messaging network, and that is the big prize that drives these companies forward and why they are offering Toronto area property managers such great deals today.

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CanEggs Protein Powder Photo Shoot in Luxury Toronto Condo

Last week we helped food and beauty professionals create health & wellness and luxury lifestyle stories to benefit all society simply by giving them access to one of our premium suites at King and Dufferin.  The condominium unit located at 38 Joe Shuster Way faces south and has a wide balcony with a fantastic view of Lake Ontario on the horizon and Lamport Stadium twenty stories below.

Lamport Stadium adds to the Walk Score of King and Dufferin

On the day these people gathered in the unit there just happened to be a historic rugby game being played in this open-air sports venue which has just recently been re-sodded and now appears a brilliant emerald green.  The Toronto Wolfpack rugby team pounced on the London Broncos and destroyed them with a clear and easy victory at home.  A tech company sponsor pegged the attendance at 7300+ people in the bleachers, but we know there were dozens more watching from balconies across the street. EmagTO’s article about the day focused primarily on CanEggs photo shoot and the people at our job site.

CanEggs condo photo shoot in Toronto, luxury lifestyle

Some of the guests at the photo shoot included Martin Dasko from Studenomics, a student finance blogger with a vast readership here Toronto and in colleges and universities south of the border.  Christina Paruag is the editor of FemEvolve health and wellness magazine.

Martin Dasko with Christina Paruag of FemEvolve magazine

The man seen below operating the blender is Sam Dhutia, founder and CEO of CanEggs Ltd which processes poultry eggs into a clean source of protein. The powder is made locally by spraying freshly cracked, mechanically separated chicken egg whites through a fine nozzle and then evaporating the moisture from the mist in midair using high efficiency drying ovens.

Sam Dhutia makes smoothies with egg white powder in luxury condo in Toronto

Let’s be clear there is nothing new about powdered eggs, and nobody ever claimed that dehydrated foods were healthier than fresh fare, but everything has its advantages.  Today, egg white powder is primarily used for baking pastries on an industrial scale. Fifty years ago, when the process was first perfected, powdered eggs only real demand were by the armed forces. Both Canadian and American WWII armed forces served powdered eggs, sometimes daily, to troops serving overseas and the meal was even more popular during the Korean conflict.  (There are over a dozen episodes of M.A.S.H. which show the kitchen-workers making and serving powdered eggs.)

What’s new? The industrial baking ingredient is now available online in 1kg and 2kg boxes online, and is finding new markets among muscle-builders and  and make-up artists alike.  Here’s Jennifer Turner of Modern Makeup who made a recipe for egg white powder face masks or beauty masks on her blog. She is applying the face mask to Alice Li – 2018 Miss World Ontario.
Jennifer Turner masks a beauty mask on Alice Li

At 4pm, timed to be hot & ready at the start of the rugby game, Amico’s Pizza delivered an Italian themed feast that included two different salads, six dozen BBQ chicken wings and two huge deluxe pizzas.  You can read all about the luxury condo photo shoot on Amico’s Pizza blog.  Here’s a great shot of Anna Belani the media producer getting a second slice.

Producer eats pizzaThe afternoon ended with the models wearing beauty masks and drinking egg white powder infused fruit smoothies on the balcony which was staged with Velago outdoor furniture for the occasion.  Below you can see Alice Li and her sister Kat Li are relaxing on their Ronco outdoor sofa which retails for approx $400 in their showroom.

Kat and Alice Li in Ronco outdoor sofa by Velago Patio Furniture

The idea was to show attractive young people enjoying the best things in life, twenty stories above the crowd.  The platform was perfect for people watching and the traffic snarls on King Street after the game ended reinforced the idea of escaping the commute by living in the core.

Trish and Jason and Alice Li with Sunbeam 6cup blenders

The afternoon ended with all participants getting a Sunbean 6-cup blender and one kg of CanEggs egg white powder with which they might experiment making smoothies and beauty masks themselves, in the comfort of their own homes.

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Lots of Transition Game, 05 June 2017

Premier Matrix Realty would like to offer a friendly challenge to readers to identify which condominium  projects in Toronto these pictures , and we’ll be watching the comments for your answers and hopefully we can award congratulations to the winner and maybe a small prize.  On the morning of Tuesday 5th June 2018, this author wandered Toronto and was impressed by the size and scale of these building lots in transition.

Site #1, where is this deep hole in the ground in Toronto – 05 June 2018

can you guess where this site is located in Toronto

Site #2, where is this supermarket being demolished? What project is taking shape here this summer?

site in downtown Toronto

Site #3, where is this narrow patch between residential apartment towers? There’s no basement being prepared for this building site.

Bloor Sherbourne construction site

This crack of sunlight may be another clue to this third and hardest photo. If you know the locations of these properties please prove it; let us know in the comments.

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What Is Pop-Up Staging? Budget-Friendly Home Staging at Its Best

| Mar 2, 2017

In this HGTV-saturated era, most home sellers have heard of home staging, a practice of arranging furniture in your home to make it look as alluring as a photo spread in a design blog. But what is pop-up staging? Consider it the bargain alternative that uses fold-out “fake” furniture for a fraction of the price of actual home staging.

Pop-up staging has taken off in the past few years, because the benefits of traditional home staging are undeniable: According to industry data, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more money, on average. Still, traditional staging is not cheap: Staging fees for a 2,000-square-foot home will typically run in the $7,000 range. One reason for this high cost is that the furniture takes up so much storage space between gigs.

“As a traditional home stager, I had acquired 30 homes’ worth of furniture,” explains Karen Nielson, adding that she (and by extension, her clients) had to pay to store it all in a warehouse, have it hauled in a moving truck to clients’ homes, then returned again to storage.

Hoping to curb these costs, Nielson founded Dandy Pack, a pop-up staging company which creates the illusion of furniture with cardboard boxes draped in slipcovers. Rather than using vast warehouses and moving trucks, Nielson can now fit a whole home’s worth of furniture in a car, and change the look of the pieces by changing the slipcovers. Plus, from a distance (or in listing photos), Nielson says, you can’t even tell it’s “fake.”

How much does pop-up staging cost?

A starter kit from Dandy Pack, which includes a bed, couch, ottoman, and chair, costs $1,031, which represents significant savings. Plus, for someone going the DIY route, pop-up staging has the advantage of being portable and easy to assemble; stagers say it would be simple to go from an empty house to fully staged in one day.

Beyond the cost and ease of setup, pop-up staging may trump traditional staging in another key way: by maintaining a neutral home decor style that won’t rub sellers the wrong way.

“Conventional staging with real furniture involves choosing a style—with its patterns, colors, art, and accessories,” says Douglas Pinter, an industrial designer behind inFormed Space, which rents out foldable “prop” furniture, delivered in two rolling bins. Cost: $1,899 to $2,199 for two months. Best of all, the white furniture gives people a sense of a room’s scale so they can imagine how a sofa would fit, without being overwhelmed by a shabby-chic aesthetic, for example, if that’s not their thing.

What are the downsides of pop-up staging?

While pop-up furniture may save you money, you do run the risk that certain buyers might be turned off when they realize the furniture is fake. Especially with top-of-the-market properties, buyers might wonder where else you’ve tried to cut corners to save a few bucks.

And depending on how much furniture you already own, the cost savings might not be that great. If you’ve got some great pieces already and a good eye, you might save more money staging with what you’ve got.

Still, if your home is empty, pop-up staging can save some serious coin. Plus, if you’re worried that the pop-up furniture doesn’t look natural, you can try a hybrid—i.e., mixing large faux pieces with smaller real pieces like end tables and accessories.

 

See article: https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/what-is-pop-up-staging/

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Why Toronto’s condo rental market is described as ‘ridiculous’

Every day it feels like there is another headline about how impossible it is to buy a house or condo in Toronto.

But have you tried renting lately?

“The competition is fierce,” says real estate agent Dena Schiff, who works solely with clients looking for rentals.

Open houses and bidding wars, she says, are now just part of the game.

The cites the example of a recent listing in the Bay Street and Bloor Street West area for $1,800 a month.

The condo owner hosted an offer night. Instead of meeting agents in real life, he used FaceTime — asking each to make a “best offer.”

“It was pretty ridiculous,” said Schiff.

Ridiculous, you’d think, considering all that construction downtown, right?

Not quite, if you were to listen to Shaun Hildebrand, senior vice president for Urbanation, a real estate consulting firm.

“The Toronto rental market is the strongest it’s been in three decades, and a lot of [it] has to do with what’s been happening in the ownership market,” said Hildebrand.

“There is such a lack of affordable entry-level homes for sale, and prices are rising so quickly, that more and more would-be first-time buyers are being pushed out of the market and are renting for longer periods of time.”

It’s a sentiment borne out by data and echoed by real estate watchers interviewed by CBC Toronto.

Condo apartment rentals dropped in 2016

The number of condo apartments rented through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) during 2016 in the Greater Toronto Area dropped two per cent to 26,602 units, according to January report released by the firm. That’s the first annual decline reported by Urbanation since it started monitoring the data in 2011.

Condo rents rose 12 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, with the average condo now renting for $30.80 per square metre ($2.77 per square foot), or $1,990 per month, says Urbanation.

According to another analysis by the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average rate for a one-bedroom condo apartment listed on MLS in the fourth quarter of 2016 is $1,776, up 7.4 per cent from the previous year.

That comes after successive year-over-year increases of 7.2 per cent, 6.4 per cent and 4.8 per cent for each of the previous three quarters.

“The Toronto rental market is out of control,” said Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s 2016 data, the condo apartment vacancy rate is at one per cent — the lowest in seven years, the housing agency says.

“And because of that, rents are shooting through the roof. You go to a showing in some parts of town, you’re going to have a lineup around the block,” Dent said.

The low supply squeeze

You’d think with all those cranes in the sky, supply wouldn’t be an issue.

But once again, Hildebrand says, not quite.

The majority of new builds in Toronto are condos. Last year 18,000 condo units completed construction, down from 19,700 in 2015, and 21,000 in 2014, according to Urbanation’s analysis.

“It directly impacts supply growth in the rental market,” says Hildebrand. “And that’s exactly what we’re seeing right now.”

About 50 per cent of all new condo units are bought up by investors, who then turn them over to tenants.

Hildebrand says what’s desperately needed is purpose-built rentals.

Last year, just 1,700 rental units completed construction, he notes.

“There needs to be something done to encourage developers to build more rentals — allowing them more density or some kind of financial incentive, reduced developer chargers or lower interest rates.”

Hot housing market

And then there’s that fading dream of owning a home in the city.

Stricter mortgage rules and skyrocketing home prices are keeping many millennials renting longer.

“Prices are rising by 20 per cent year-over-year,” Hildebrand said.

“Each year it’s getting tougher and tougher for first-time buyers to get into the marketplace, so they’re renting.”

The mortgage rules boil down to a stress test for all insured mortgage applications.

The test is to determine if a borrower could afford to pay back a loan if the rate was higher, so a borrower will be judged against the five-year standard rate of 4.64 per cent for a five-year loan, even though many lenders are currently offering mortgages at far less than that.

Previously, that test was only used on certain segments of the market. But as of last October, it’s now in place for any insured mortgage for a buyer putting down less than 20 per cent of the home price up front.

“Partly because it’s so difficult to buy a home now in the Toronto area, it’s forcing, perhaps, a lot of would-be buyers into the rental market — which makes the rental market even tighter,” said real estate lawyer Mark Weisleder.

Everyone wants to live here

The secret’s out —  Toronto’s a great place to live.

“We’re seeing immigration levels to the GTA at 10-year highs, population growth in the core growing very quickly, and a robust job market as well that’s leading to stronger rates of household formation for the millennial generation,” said Hildebrand.

That has driven demand for rentals, he says, to a 30-year high.

Census figures show the City of Toronto grew 4.4 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

But much of that growth is concentrated in large swaths of the downtown core, which has seen major new condo construction since 2011. (Some neighbourhoods grew by 50 per cent, adding tens of thousands of new residents.)

Nicole Meredith wants to know what the city’s decision-makers are doing to make rent in condo-apartments more reliable and stable. Her rent recently spiked $500/month.

The Toronto Foundation’s recent vital signs report notes Toronto’s outsize growth since the start of the century, saying that growth between 2001 and 2014 in Toronto was equivalent to 87 per cent of the total population of Calgary in 2015.

“Forty per cent of Toronto’s youth who moved here within the last five years did so for better opportunities,” the report says.

But judging by the hundreds of young people who have written to us, many are still struggling to find an affordable place to call home.

But finding an affordable place to call home when they get here is a real struggle, according to a number of young people who reached out to CBC Toronto with their stories.

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Toronto’s home prices in line with other world cities

The majority of interest in residential properties comes from families, says a CBRE real estate expert.

Bubble. What bubble?

Toronto’s soaring home prices are in line with the reality of other world cities such as New York, Hong Kong and London, says Mark Renzoni, president of global commercial real estate giant CBRE.

“The market is fairly balanced. It’s not being driven by foreign capital. It’s being driven by Canadians, moving up, buying for the first time,” he told the Star, following a speech at CBRE’s annual market forecast event.

“There’s great jobs, there’s a sense of optimism, there’s confidence in the job market and interest rates are low,” said Renzoni, who suggested that concerns about foreign speculation in the Toronto housing market are overblown.

“In Toronto, I would say the majority of foreign interest on residential, especially high rise. . . It’s families. They’ve got students in university here, they’ve got other relatives here, they’ve got one spouse here. They’re buying additional residential real estate because they believe in the investment grade quality of the product,” he said.

On the high-rise side, Toronto condos are very fairly priced when compared to other global cities, said Renzoni.

“Even in a Canadian context, condominium pricing in Toronto is significantly lower than in Vancouver, significantly lower — discount lower — than New York or London. It’s still balanced and it still creates a great opportunity for people to create wealth and expand their horizons with investment. But also they’re buying for themselves. You have to live somewhere,” he said.

“The marketplace here is really driven on fundamentals, which is supply and demand,” he said.

Read more:

Toronto housing called a ‘bubble’ as new listings fall rapidly

Foreign buyers behind only 5 per cent of Toronto home purchases in 2016

Housing conditions problematic in several Canadian cities including Toronto, CMHC says

Newly built GTA home passes $1 million average price

Some bank economists have recently suggested that the Toronto area housing market is dangerously overheated.

The Toronto Real Estate Board has reported that re-sale home prices rose 20 per cent last year over 2015. January prices were up 22 per cent year over year in the re-sale market. The average cost of a newly built single-family home surpassed $1 million in the region last month, according to the building industry.

Renzoni said Toronto has attractive investment opportunities in the office, industrial, retail and multi-family development sectors.

He spoke to the Star following CBRE’s annual Canadian Market Outlook attended by about 1,400 brokers, developers and landlords at the Toronto Convention Centre on Tuesday.

At the same event, CBRE’s executive vice-president Paul Morassutti outlined the unprecedented technological change and unpredictable political landscape that will shape the market in the coming months and years.

“Change in every aspect of the market is inevitable, it is accelerated and it is ubiquitous,” he said citing geo-political uncertainty and technological innovation as the over-riding trends in tenant and investor demand for commercial real estate.

Morassutti cited the lack of coherent trade and policy positions emerging from the presidency of Donald Trump. Europe remains a question mark. Seventy-one per cent of foreign investment is Chinese and it’s not clear whether that country will find “a policy tourniquet” to stem the flow of capital leaving the country. Some reports are predicting that 47 per cent of jobs — 700 occupations — will be automated as artificial intelligence changes the face of work, he said.

But there’s no indication that the appeal of Canadian commercial real estate will decline in the near future, said Morassutti.

“Skittish capital is being driven to Canada,” he said, noting that investment activity was at record levels in 2016 with every asset class outperforming its 10-year average.

Trends on the real estate horizon

Retail: Online shopping isn’t killing retail, but it is separating the weak from the strong. Virtually every flagship mall in Canada has been expanded or renovated and experiential shopping is on the rise as retailers try and keep shoppers in their stores longer with attractions such as “foodie food halls” and high-tech golf driving ranges. Many retailers are reducing the number and size of their stores and focusing on the best locations.

Industrial: The line between industrial and retail space is blurring as e-commerce grows and customers demand faster delivery. In some cases, warehouse or industrial space — already a stable segment of the Canadian market — has effectively replaced bricks and mortar in retail. Online retailers need about 3 times the distribution space of brick-and-mortar retailers. Every $1 million in online sales comes with a corresponding requirement for 1 million sq. ft. of distribution space.

Residential: Affordability and lifestyle considerations are prompting younger Canadians to forgo home ownership just as the baby boomers are getting ready to cash in the equity in their homes and downsize. A recent uptick in purpose-built rental development will increase. “Condos have been the de facto rental in most cities. But there is a growing cohort who would prefer to live in a professionally managed building rather than deal with a condo owner in another country where you have no security and you’re in a building that quite often resembles a frat house,” said Morassutti.

Office: Will the demand for office space dwindle as white collar jobs become increasingly redundant due to automation? Morassutti suggests that the tech sector, which has driven demand for office space, could respond the way banks reacted when automation reduced their need for tellers. ATMs meant banks moved to smaller, cheaper branches and many bank teller jobs morphed into sales type positions introducing customers to banking products.

See article: https://www.thestar.com/business/real_estate/2017/02/28/torontos-home-prices-in-line-with-other-world-cities.html

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Toronto councillors call for province to protect tenants from rent increases

Councillors Ana Bailao and Josh Matlow are calling for the province to review the Residential Tenancies Act and look specifically at rent control.

A pair of Toronto city councillors are calling on the province to protect tenants from steep rent increases.

Coun. Josh Matlow and Coun. Ana Bailão will hold a special joint meeting of the Tenants Issues Committee and Affordable Housing Committee in early April, where they will ask the province to review the Residential Tenancies Act.

Most landlords are limited by provincial law in how much they can increase rent each year. But there’s an exemption for buildings built after 1991, where there’s no cap on increases.

That’s something Matlow, who chairs the Tenants Issues Committee, calls “unethical” and said creates two classes of tenants.

“Their rent can go up by hundreds if not thousands of dollars without any notice, and they’re in a real bind,” he said.

Because there are so few rental apartments on the market, one increase can mean tenants, especially young people and seniors, are “forced out of their own communities,” he said.

Matlow also wants the province to review the part of the act that deals with above guidelines rent increases for pre-1991 buildings.

He says landlords often use basic improvements to buildings to justify rent increases at the Landlord and Tenant Board.

The policy was originally introduced in the 1990s to provide an incentive for developers to build rental housing, but Bailão said she is concerned it’s not meeting its original goals. She added that the review must also look at the lack of rental housing supply to understand the bigger picture.

She’s worried that if something isn’t done soon, people just won’t be able to live near where they work or study in the city.

“These kind of rent increases are not healthy, are not sustainable, and at the end of the day, we’re all going to lose because of it,” she said.

Alejandra Ruiz, a member of anti-poverty group ACORN, which is mounting its own new campaign for rent control, says she hears stories of people faced with steep increases “all the time.”

“People are struggling to pay rent or buy food,” she said.

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No Fixed Address: A first-time renter’s guide to rental numbers in Toronto

Renting in Toronto, quite frankly, is tough.

Trying to find a place to rent? You can wind up shell-shocked over what a one-bedroom will cost you these days.

Toronto condo apartment rent

Plus, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) 2016 data, the condo apartment vacancy rate is at one per cent — the lowest in seven years, the housing agency says.

But take solace: everyone else is trying to navigate renting in Toronto, too. In fact, there is a whole group of us on Facebook here. Join, discuss and vent.

Whether you are a first-time renter or a veteran of sorts, these are your must-know basics. Of course, this is no substitute for expert advice or additional research.

It ain’t cheap out here

According to the CMHC, as of Oct. 2016, the average monthly rent of a:

  • Bachelor apartment in Toronto is $957;
  • One-bedroom apartment is $1,132;
  • Two-bedroom apartment is $1,326.

This is roughly what you can expect to pay in the purpose-built rental market, which can include apartment buildings as well as row houses, the CMHC said.

Condo Craze

According to the CMHC, as of Oct. 2016, the average monthly rent of a one-bedroom condo apartment is $1,653. Meanwhile, TREB pegs it closer to $1,776. (Canadian Press)

But if you are seeking, say, a more modern condo apartment, the CMHC pegs your average monthly rent at:

  • $1,428 for a bachelor condo apartment in Toronto;
  • $1,653 for a one-bedroom condo apartment;
  • $2,029 for a two-bedroom condo apartment.

The CMHC compiles its data by surveying owners, managers and superintendents.

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), however, tracks transactions on its MLS system to derive average monthly rents for condo apartments and its figures look like this as of Dec. 2016:

  • Bachelor condo apartment in Toronto is $1,512;
  • One-bedroom condo apartment is $1,776;
  • Two-bedroom condo apartment is $2,415.

Year-over-year condo apartment rent increase

According to TREB’s data, the average one-bedroom condo apartment rent was $1,776 in the fourth quarter of 2016 — an annual increase of 7.4 per cent compared to the fourth quarter of 2015.

Toronto condo apartment rent

A mere five years ago, a one-bedroom condo apartment would run you $1,626, according to TREB’s data from the fourth quarter of 2012.

Condo apartment Toronto increase

(CBC/TREB)

Do you have a 1-bedroom in stock?

If it feels like slim pickings out there, it’s because it is. The vacancy rate for condo apartments — one per cent — is at its lowest in seven years, according to the CMHC.

Toronto condo apartment vacancy rate

And as TREB noted in its Dec. 2016 report, rental transactions were down during the last three months of 2016 but not because of declining demand. There is simply a lack of units available to rent.

The real estate board says the number of condo apartments listed for rent during the fourth quarter of 2016 decreased by more than 14 per cent compared to the fourth quarter of 2015.

The 1991 exemption

Congratulations, you found yourself a decent pad. But do you know when your building was built? It matters, greatly.

The province sets a guideline for rent increases every year. For 2017, it is 1.5 per cent.

But there is a loophole — it only applies to units built before Nov. 1, 1991. So, if you live in a newer rental, you have no protection against an exorbitant rent increase.

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No fixed address: How I became a 32-year-old couch surfer1:38

That means your $1,650 monthly rent could balloon to $2,600, an increase similar to the one that forced CBC Toronto reporter Shannon Martin to leave her condo apartment.

While there is no limit on how much a landlord can increase your rent in newer buildings, they must give you 90-days notice and your rent can only increase once per year.

 

See article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/renting-in-toronto-cheat-sheet-1.3995904