National Post (Latest Edition)
Leaside’s turn to shine
‘IT’S A VERY SOUGHT-AFTER NEIGHBOURHOOD THAT’S GETTING MORE AND MORE EXPENSIVE’
They say that everything old is new again. In almost every corner of Toronto, neighbourhoods are going through transitions as young families seek out larger spaces to nest while their parents search for smaller digs so they can finally let loose and travel. Small postwar bungalows are getting hard to come by, replaced by two-storey, 3,000-sq.-ft. homes costing upward of $2 million and luxury condominiums sprouting up where plazas and parking lots once stood.
These days it’s Leaside’s turn to shine. What started out as a quaint collection of modest houses dating back to the early 1900s has transformed into a bustling midtown hotspot where strollers and dogs abound, street hockey and lawn bowling are still a thing and shopkeepers greet customers by name.
With deep lots, winding streets, plenty of green space, a flourishing community centre and proximity to the Don Valley Parkway and the Bayview Extension, the area has become a popular destination for those craving a village feel. And now, with a luxury condo boom and light rail service heading Leaside’s way, the leafy landscape is bound to attract even more followers wanting a piece of the action.
“Leaside has so much character,” enthuses Joseph Feldman, director of development at Camrost Felcorp, the folks behind upscale projects like Imperial Village at Avenue Rd. and St. Clair Ave. W. and Yorkville Private Residences. “Residents love their neighbourhood, whether it be the expansive parks or the strong close-knit sports community. I have so many friends who grew up playing for the Leaside Flames and would always be wearing their Flames jackets and showing them off … It’s a very soughtafter neighbourhood that’s getting more and more expensive.”
Camrost Felcorp recently launched sales of what Feldman calls a three-phased, four-acre “micro masterplanned community” at the corner of Eglinton Ave. E. and Brentcliffe Rd., near a popular shopping complex. Phase 1 will comprise a 21-storey, 270-unit tower with suites ranging from 500 sq. ft. to more than 2,000 sq. ft., plus 13 two-storey, twobedroom townhomes. Prices start at about $600,000 (or $900 per sq. ft.), with occupancy set for mid-2021 to coincide with the debut of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Two more condo towers are planned.
Interior design firm Powell & Bonnell is handling the suites and common areas including 25,000-sq.-ft. of indoor and outdoor amenities with pool, fitness centre, children’s playroom and more. Principal Fenwick Bonnell describes the design as “classical but not too fussy,” adding that the project will bring more diversity and maturity to the area “which I think is good.” Once complete, the entire project will surround a public park that Carmost Felcorp is offering up as a gift to the community.
On a smaller but equally impressive scale is Shane Baghai Group of Companies’ Leaside Manor. The seven-storey luxury boutique building on Southdale Dr. — adjacent to Leaside Memorial Community Gardens — boasts just 38 suites hovering between 1,000 to 2,000 sq. ft., all having either two or three bedrooms to attract families.
Designed by WZMH Architects, every unit includes high-end Miele appliances, an 80-inch smart television, sound system, electric shades, telephone and a gas barbecue-equipped terraces (some as large as 1,000 sq. ft.). To keep maintenance costs down, built-in smarthome technology will enable such tasks as remote security monitoring and suite access. Units start at about $1.1 million ($1,100 per sq. ft.), including development charges, says president and CEO Shane Baghai. About 30 per cent is sold and construction is expected to start soon, with occupancy scheduled for late 2019.
“There are a number of things about this building that are a little avant-garde, maybe, but definitely very modern and very futuristic,” says Baghai.
Camrost Felcorp has dubbed Leaside as Toronto’s very own “Upper East Side” and created a comprehensive campaign around the name. A 28-page glossy newsletter went out to area residents prior to launch, touting the community’s “vibrant spirit and charm,” its famous faces (former prime minister Stephen Harper grew up there and attended Northlea Public School) and all the best places to eat, shop and play. It even offered up cocktail recipes “with an East Side twist” such as a gin-citrus blend called the Upper East Ender and the beer-based Upper East Side Walker promising to “raise the bar on your hosting game.”
“You’ve got to hand it to these marketing guys, they always come up with something,” laughs Geoff Kettel, co-president of the Leaside Property Owners’ Association. “They’re marketing it like it’s The One at Yonge and Bloor!”
Kettel has lived in Leaside since 1982 and advocates for his beloved neighbourhood at every opportunity. He appreciates its rich history, evolving from a village founded by William Lea in 1851 to town status in 1912 and two amalgamations — one with the Borough of East York in 1967 and then with the City of Toronto in 1998. In the 1980s, many of the original houses built from the 1920s to the 1950s were topped up with second-floor additions.
In recent years, those homes are being demolished to make way for snazzier digs — that is, for those who can afford the $2.5-million price tag. The new condo projects coming soon, incorporating larger suite sizes, hope to fill a void by helping younger families get their foot into the neighbourhood while allowing empty nesters to downsize but remain in the locale they’ve grown to love.
Kettel and his neighbours have some concerns about the impending development in their backyard, particularly the high-rise variety that will not only increase traffic but also require new infrastructure to handle the numbers.
“Towers of this height are not traditionally part of the neighbourhood,” he says of the Camrost Felcorp project. “Leaside is singles and semis and walk-up apartments. In the 1980s we got some fourstorey development. But when you get to 16, 20, 28 storeys …”
Still, now that sales are underway, the staunch Leasider is willing to share his pride and joy with whoever buys in.
“It’s a done deal,” chuckles Kettel, the Manhattan-esque moniker still on his mind.
“We better welcome people!”