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Tour of Downtown Toronto Neighbourhoods Through the Eyes of a First Time Condo Investor

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Join Andrew la Fleur and one of his clients who is a first time condo investor as they explore around different downtown Toronto neighbourhoods. Find out which neighbourhoods are hot, which ones are set to grow in the next 5-10 years and understand what to look for when investing in a downtown neighbourhood.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

2:56 Particular client purchased a unit recently at Minto Westside.
4:13 How incredible this area will be when the green space is added over the tracks.
5:58 Parks are fantastic for property values.
7:20 That whole area, east bay front is a very interesting area to look at.
7:52 Waterfront always hold it’s value.
8:55 Upcoming potentially in 2017 is Menkes.
10:55 Plans for a revitalized or redone version of Moss Park.
15:00 If you look at Church Street, how amazing it is now and how expensive condos are.
17:34 Not many children are out on the streets.
18:45 Hottest segment on the condo market, as Shaun Hildebrand, told us.

Click Here for Interview Transcript

Andrew la Fleur: On today’s episode, we go on a tour of several downtown Toronto neighborhoods, and we do it through the eyes of a first-time condo investor. We’ll see you on the other side.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the True Condos Podcast with Andrew la Fleur, the place to get the truth on the Toronto condo market and condo investing in Toronto.
Andrew la Fleur: Hi. Welcome back to the show. As I said in the intro, we’re going to be going on a little tour of several downtown Toronto neighborhoods, and of course, as a condo investor, you need to be up to speed on what’s happening downtown, and what the different neighborhoods have to offer, and the different development news, and opportunities, and projects, and investments, and infrastructure, and things that are happening in the downtown in the various neighborhoods. Obviously, that’s what I do everyday. Obviously, I’m an expert in this area so never fear.
If you don’t know exactly what’s happening in every neighborhood, that’s what I’m here for and that’s, again, part of what I offer and my team offers to our clients is helping them pick the right investments that make sense and that are in areas that are improving, areas that are getting better, areas that are in the upswing, areas that have investments and changes coming to them that will improve, and increase the values, and the attractiveness of those neighborhoods in the future. That’s just a good reminder there. If you’re thinking about reaching out and hiring us for the first time or if you’ve been working with us for a long time and want to ask about certain neighborhoods or what’s happening downtown, feel free.
I had this great email from a first-time investor I just got a couple of days ago. I thought it will be great just to share it with you, the podcast listener, especially if you’re thinking about investing for the first time. I think it’s a nice little exercise to go through. Basically, what this first-time investor did was they were … They’re not from Toronto but they’re visiting Toronto. They were going on a run, an early morning run, around the downtown, and they’re able to check out various neighborhoods and give some thoughts and observations on what’s happening there and obviously looking for some feedback from me as well. I thought a lot of this person’s observations were really bang on and really actually accurate with respect to their impressions of different areas and what’s happening there and the potential there.
Let’s jump into the email. I’ll read bits of it here to you and we’ll go through different neighborhoods. This particular client purchased a unit recently at Minto Westside, which, again, if you’ve been following me for any length of time or if you know me more than just recently, Minto Westside is one of my favorite projects from the past couple of years downtown and still is. There’s still a few good units still available there. If you’re interested in looking for something to invest in right now, I definitely would still recommend Minto Westside. That is where our tour begins. That is where this person’s jog around town began.
He says, “I first checked out Minto Westside project, which by the way is at Front and Bathurs.” He said, “It looks amazing to see the building site and everything is chaos right now. It’s amazing to think how this chaos is going to be turned into a completed beautiful, tall, state of the art, brand new building.” It’s true. It’s interesting just watching the construction progress in a building like that. His main point here was that … As he ran, he continued to go South on Bathurs and he ran over the railway tracks. He realized how incredible … He says, “I realize how incredible this area will be when and if the green space is added over the tracks.
Of course, what’s he’s talking about is Rail Deck Park. Rail Deck Park is a proposed park by the city of Toronto. It’s backed by the Mayor John Tory, Jennifer Keesmaat, the chief planner and the local councilor. Basically it’s backed by pretty much everyone. Everybody wants to see this park happen. An elevated park over top of the rail tracks reclaiming that land for the city and to build a beautiful new park space downtown similar to a Central Park, not in the same scale, but in the heart of the downtown surrounded by the developing city around it. He’s just saying how amazing it would be if that project does get approved. I would agree 100%.
I love to see what happens with that project. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. If it does get approved and things move ahead with it, it will take a few years obviously to be constructed. Personally as an investor in that project myself and having put so my own clients into the project, too, I’m obviously very much looking forward to that.
The city actually just announced another proposal for a park just to the west of Minto West Side on the north side of the tracks as well, an empty lot the city has been sitting on for a number of years. It’s just been sitting there. All that to say, anytime you can buy into an area where there is a new park being created in the downtown, that is always a very good thing to do. Parks are fantastic for property values. They just aren’t building anymore land in downtown Toronto with the exception of course I guess if you’re able to elevate your land above existing land in the case of Rail Deck Park. That’s something to keep your eye on there.
Let’s continue the tour. He continued down on the waterfront Queens Quay. He headed down towards the East Bayfront, so the East Bayfront which is between Jarvis and Parliament Street south of Lake Shore Boulevard. That large piece of land which was really nothingness for decades and hasn’t been anything until the past few years as the neighborhood is now starting to emerge. We have the Corus Quay office building there. We have Sugar Beach. We have Sherbourne Common and we have several condo buildings under construction. We have Daniels Waterfront. Great Gulf is building one there. Tridel is building several buildings there. Greenland just purchased big piece of land, the FedEx building there. That whole area, East Bayfront, is a very exciting, very interesting area to look at investing in right now. Daniels Waterfront is a great option right now if you’re looking to purchase something in the Waterfront area. There’s still some great units available at Daniels Waterfront.
It’s interesting. My client’s comment just in his email, he said he actually comes from a waterfront community where he lives. Not Toronto. He says, “Waterfront always hold its value, appreciates better than none waterfront.” I always hear people talk about waterfront prices, and the common phrase you hear is, “I wish we purchased that waterfront property back when it was cheaper.” I think the condos down here will have a similar theme. I would agree again 100%. I think waterfront property has been severely neglected in Toronto for the better part of the last 50 years. The waterfront is undergoing a huge revitalization all the way from east to west. The west is obviously more established now and has big investments that’s already been put into it. Now, we’re seeing huge investments going into the east waterfront, which is the Bayfront area. Absolutely. If you are able to purchase into that waterfront area now, it’s a very good thing.
Of course, I should mention, too, upcoming potentially in 2017 is Menkes. Menkes has purchased the LCBO property there on the north side of Queens Quay, west of Jarvis, east of Yonge. Huge piece of land there. Something like $220 million or something. It’s going to be very exciting to see what Menkes comes up with there, not directly on the waterfront, but certainly part of the waterfront communities and very important is connecting the east and west waterfronts. Very exciting to see that neighborhood develop in the next few years as well.
We’ll continue the tour. He said he then went at northeast towards the Regent Park area. First, he ran through the Moss Park area. He said, back in the day, he went to Ryerson University, spent some time around there. It was a bit of a sketchy area back then. He said, “Now, it’s still pretty much the same,” was his comment. I would agree with that. There’s the Moss Park area around Queen, a shooter there. It’s still chugging along waiting for its moment I guess you could say. It hasn’t really changed much in the last 10 years or so, but I think the biggest thing that could potentially be the trigger for that is the Downtown Relief Line. If the Downtown Relief Line once again is approved and do move ahead with that, it’s going to be going through Queen East there and that will be very transformative for that Moss Park area if that happens. A huge investment like that is going to bring big changes.
There are also plans now … I’ve seen some plans online for a revitalized or redone version of Moss Park, the actual park itself, which is very tired. Now that Regent Park has been redone, Moss Park is really looking hurting in comparison. That’s another thing to watch for is if Moss Park does get an overhaul, a redesign and if this Relief Line does go in, expect big, big changes there whenever those two things are happening.
We’ll continue on. He says, “I went up to Regent Park.” He says, “I was quite surprised when I got to the Regent Park area. Nice new buildings including the community center. It looks like there’s a bunch of commercial space being built. That should help the area.” He says, “Everything just looks new and shiny. It feels like there’s much more to come in this area.” Again, the main comment being, “I was quite surprised when I got to the Regent Park area.” That is the number one comment, the number one thing that people say when they talk about Regent Park when they come there for the first time.
I’ve been selling in Regent Park since 2009. It’s been over seven years now. I’ve been there since the very beginning, the very first building there. Something that I consistently told people is if you think you know about Regent Park, you really don’t. You got to go and see the new Regent Park. Until you see it, and walk through it, and spend some time in there yourself, and see with your own eyes, it’s really hard to explain just how dramatic the change has been. Let’s face it. Regent Park, historically, has been known as potentially the worst neighborhood in Toronto. Now, it’s one of the best, and most up and coming, and hottest neighborhoods downtown.
Of course, the Wyatt Condominium launch just a few weeks back is proof of that. One of the hottest, if not, the hottest launches in downtown Toronto for new condo ever, not just this year, but ever. The response was absolutely through the roof and the building was sold out in a day.
Regent Park, you got to go and see it. It surprises everyone. If you haven’t been, definitely go check it out. Start to prepare yourself and get ready for the next release in Regent Park whenever that will be. I don’t have a fix date on that yet. The sooner that you’re able to understand what’s happening there, the better because there’s still a lot of growth and a lot of opportunity to come in Regent Park.
He goes on to say, after Regent Park, he ran along Dundas back towards Church. He says, “The unfortunate thing about Regent Park is that it’s so nice basically and Dundas between Regent Park and Jarvis, Church, Yonge area, that space in between there, is not the best area.” He says, “Not the best area.” Yeah, I would agree with that. It’s a fair statement to say that Dundas between … Regent Park is great but then when you get past Regent Park, until you get to, say, Jarvis … Jarvis, of course, you got huge changes happening there pretty much every corner of Jarvis and Dundas. Everything around there is all turning into high rise condos. Huge investments happening there. Of course, Church Street and getting to Dundas Square and Yonge Street, that’s already well-developed and expensive area.
It’s the gap between Jarvis and Parliament, still very sketchy. Again, similar to Moss Park. I haven’t seen a big investment there. If the Relief Line comes in, again that will change. Not really sure what the future of that strip of Dundas is going to look like yet. Lot of potential, absolutely. Lot of potential. It could become the next Church Street, I think. If you look at Church Street and how amazing it is now and how expensive condos are in the Church Street corridor … Most people don’t realize that only about five or seven years ago Church Street was super sketchy and nobody really wanted to buy in Church Street. That was not a good area at all similar to how Dundas is perceived today. All it takes is just one tipping point and the neighborhood can turn.
Who knows? Maybe if there are condo developers out there listening, maybe they’re thinking, “Hey, that might be … Let’s see if we can pick up a piece of land on Dundas. Put one building in there and the whole neighborhood can … That whole stretch could really turn around very quickly.” I do believe that. That’s certainly one stretch to watch. I haven’t heard of any developers popping in there. If you look around downtown, if you look at where the repressed or depressed areas where, there hasn’t been any development and gentrification yet, that is certainly one that comes to mind, Dundas between Jarvis and Parliament. It’ll be interesting to see what happens there.
He says he goes up Church Street. Again, we talked about Church and basically how Church Street and projects like Axis Condos, and Alter, and the 365 Church, Stanley Condos are centered around Church and Carlton, at the Ryerson University campus there. Huge changes. Again, he went to Ryerson more than 10 years back, 15 years ago. He was saying when they moved out of residence, he really didn’t have anywhere to go. There were no options. Now, students have so many great options to live in very high quality buildings in that immediate area. The population, of course, of Ryerson has absolutely exploded over the past 10, 15 years compared to what it was. Church Street, it’s one street off Yonge. Now, it’s sort of one notch off of Yonge in terms of desirability whereas five, 10 years ago, it was five notches off of Yonge in terms of desirability. That’s certainly a great pocket to look at as well for investment today.
Finally, his last observation was just around … He just made a good point. As he’s running around downtown, he noticed that there were not many children out in the streets, not many kids around except for, he said, the Moss Park area, but not really anywhere else. This is something he says that he’s heard us talk about a lot in the podcast: kids, families and this issue here around that. I’ve got lots of ideas and things around this. His comment was basically that he thinks new condos are not really great for families. It’s hard to raise a kid in 500 square feet or so, which makes a lot of sense.
My comment on this would be, yeah, you’re absolutely right. There’s not a lot of kids downtown right now today, but they are coming. There’s a lot of babies around. The question is as these babies grow up and as these couples have children and the next few years are going by, how do they stay? Will they stay? As the kids are getting into school age and so on, will the family stay? Well, I think two things. One is this is what’s driving the demand. This is part of what’s driving the demand in the larger condo units.
The hottest segment of the condo market right now, as Shaun Hildebrand, told us a few episodes ago, Shaun Hildebrand from Urbanation … The hottest segment of the condo market is between 600,000 and a million so 600,000 and a million downtown. These are 800 to 1,200 square foot units. This is where the most demand is. This is where the biggest heat is. This is where bidding wars are happening more than anywhere else. This is where the biggest shortage of units are. This is something we’ve never seen before.
The condo market has always been driven by the smaller units, first-time buyers, et cetera, 300, 400,000 range. Well, what’s happened? Those people who brought 300 and 400,000 three, four, five, six years ago, they’ve now gotten married. They’ve now had a child. They maybe had a second child. They need more space. Well, they’re going and looking at the housing market. They’re quickly realizing they can’t afford to buy anything. Naturally, they’re looking at condos and they’re looking at larger condos in that 800 to 1,200 square foot range. It’s driving huge demand for that segment of the market.
I do believe that we will see a lot more kids in the downtown in the future. I do believe that the Manhattanization effect, if you will, is taking place in the city. I think the missing piece, the missing link, the thing that we still are lacking that will cause families to stay long-term in the downtown core and that is schools. We need better schools for our kids. Right now, if you look at the schools that we have in the downtown core, they’re few and far between. The schools that we do have are just not desirable schools, not well-ranked schools, not schools with good reputation. That is the missing component I believe to really see a true baby boom, a true family boom where families en masse decide not to leave the city, not to leave the downtown and move into the inner suburbs or the outer suburbs of the city, but they’ll actually stay. Well, what they’re missing is great schools. That will be an interesting trend to watch.
One district that comes to mind is CityPlace. CityPlace is supposedly getting two new schools, brand new schools. That I think is something definitely to watch, that area, at CityPlace, and surrounding areas. If that school is coming in, then that’s potentially going to be a major hot spot for families wanting to live downtown. Keep your eye on that space and think about that as you’re thinking about buying larger units as well.
This episode has gone on a little bit past time, so we are going to cut it off there. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this little tour of downtown through the eyes of a first-time condo investor. I won’t mention or embarrass you by name but you know who you are. Thank you for sending me that great email and taking us on a tour around downtown. Yeah, I agree with almost everything you said. You made some great observations and hopefully you, the listener, who are thinking about different areas downtown found something useful and interesting in today’s episode as well. Until next time, I hope you have a great week, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Speaker 2: Thanks for listening to the True Condos Podcast. Remember, your positive reviews make a big difference to the show. To learn more about condo investing, become a True Condos subscriber by visiting truecondos.com.

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