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The Importance of Infrastructure

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If you are planning on investing in a condo in 2011, there are many obvious factors to consider: builder track record and reputation, location, price per square foot, building and suite features, layout/floor plan etc. There is one factor that I always consider when buying real estate and that is neighbourhood infrastructure (specifically transportation and infrastructure).

This includes roads, transit lines (subways, bus routes, streetcars), access to highways, pedestrian walkways, bike lanes/routes, water access (if near the lake), and any future development plans or potential plans for vacant or underused land.Without solid infrastructure in place, a neighbourhood can stagnate and become segregated from the rest of the city, making it less livable and result in slower appreciation rates compared to other better serviced areas.

Liberty Village is a good case study. Liberty Village is a master-planned community that I believe is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. There is basically only one way in and one way out of Liberty Village, and that is via Liberty Street. Whether you are walking, driving, biking, or taking transit, you are probably on Liberty Street coming and going from this area. The reason for this is simple: the pie-shaped area is bounded on 2 sides by two rail lines and the Gardiner Expressway. Gridlock and traffic congestion is becoming a real issue in Liberty Village (ask anyone who lives there).

There are now plans underway to add a new road to Liberty Village (when was the last time a new road was built in Toronto?!), as well as a pedestrian/cycling tunnel or bridge across the train tracks. This will be something to watch in the years to come and if I was an investor in the neighbourhood, I would be calling the city councillor to push these projects through.

One of the reasons why I am a big proponent of the Regent Park revitalization is that the neighbourhood infrastructure is so strong already. The neighbourhood has been isolated from the rest of downtown for 50 years not by physical barriers, but by social ones. Think about it: streetcar lines on Dundas, Gerrard and Parliament will connect residents to just about anywhere in the city, east or west. Sackville, Sumach, and River streets will all be through streets that will connect the neighbourhood directly to Cabbagetown, Corktown, The West Don Lands, and the Distillery District. Most people don’t realize just how connected Regent Park actually is to a plethora of excellent Toronto ‘hoods, and soon enough will be an excellent ‘hood in itself!

So far the value of real estate in Liberty Village has not been hurt at all by the massive influx of condos (and people, and cars etc), but that is not to say that as thousands more move into this area the ensuing gridlock will not start to affect real estate values in the future.

Questions or comments? Please contact me.