Con­dos get dog friendly

As city dwellers com­pete for green space, con­dos are start­ing to cater to ca­nines


When de­vel­op­ers de­signed some of Toronto’s dens­est condo com­mu­ni­ties, they never planned for the sheer vol­ume of one type of high-rise dweller: the dog.

Ac­cord­ing to city plan­ning staff, there are around three to five dogs per floor in con­dos. Un­for­tu­nately, many con­dos lack the in­fra­struc­ture to han­dle this pop­u­la­tion, caus­ing a slew of prob­lems for res­i­dents.

At The Spire, a lux­ury condo near Ade­laide and Church, res­i­dents footed the $500,000 bill to re­place their dog urine-con­tam­i­nated par­kette last sum­mer, and last month, the condo board at Quad Lofts near King and Spad­ina ruled that dog own­ers will have to pay an ad­di­tional $15 fee for each dog per month to off­set clean­ing costs.

In some condo com­plexes across the city, an un­likely turf war is brew­ing be­tween par­ents of young kids and dog own­ers battling it out over the few tiny green spa­ces. The con­flict has be-

come so in­tense at Rita Cox Park in Lib­erty Vil­lage that dog owner Sarah Gribeau­val has started an on­line pe­ti­tion propos­ing a new ded­i­cated dog park near Lam­port Sta­dium.

Val Ryn­nimeri, an ar­chi­tec­ture pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Wa­ter­loo, says part of the prob­lem is that de­vel­op­ers in dense condo com­mu­ni­ties like Lib­erty Vil­lage or Ci­tyPlace didn’t de­sign the spa­ces with dogs in mind. And since home own­er­ship has be­come so pro­hib­i­tive, more and more Toron­to­ni­ans are liv­ing in con­dos longterm and start­ing fam­i­lies – which in­clude their four-legged furry friends.

“No­body imag­ined there’d be that many dogs be­cause places like Ci­tyPlace had al­ways had tran­sient pop­u­la­tions. It was sup­posed to be for younger peo­ple, sin­gle peo­ple or cou­ples,” says Ryn­nimeri. “The great Cana­dian goal was that a condo would be a starter and then you’d even­tu­ally go buy a house on a nice ur­ban street.”

Ryn­nimeri, who co-su­per­vised Wa­ter­loo ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dent Sarah Gertler’s

2017 the­sis study­ing dogs in Ci­tyPlace, says al­though con­dos could be retro­fit­ted to be­come more dog ac­com­mo­dat­ing by build­ing ameni­ties like out­door dog runs in the podium level of a build­ing, it would be a lot eas­ier to en­sure that newer build­ings had dog-friendly el­e­ments al­ready in place for dogs.

That’s the think­ing be­hind a new study un­der­way by city plan­ning staff. “We’re try­ing to de­velop what we’re call­ing pet-friendly guide­lines for new de­vel­op­ments,” ex­plains James Parakh, the ur­ban de­sign man­ager for Toronto and East York District. “Most peo­ple won’t be liv­ing in a house with a back­yard where they can just open their back door and let their dog go out­side for recre­ation. So how do we ac­com­mo­date that?”

City staff and hired con­sul­tants are speak­ing with res­i­dents’ as­so­ci­a­tions, BIAs, dog off-leash park as­so­ci­a­tions and other stake­hold­ers. They hope to have a fi­nal re­port with rec­om­mended guide­lines – which could in­volve man- da­tory on-site pet fa­cil­i­ties like dog runs or wash­ing ar­eas – ready for coun­cil ap­proval next spring.

Un­til then, some de­vel­op­ers have al­ready seen the gap in the mar­ket. The Avro Con­do­mini­ums at Allen and Shep­pard will boast a dog run on the ground level, while the Liv­more, a new lux­ury pur­pose-built rental tower at Bay and Ger­rard, will have an on-site pet spa with two wash basins and blow dry­ers, plus a multi-level dog run and play area.

“Around 30 to 40 per cent of the peo­ple liv­ing at the Liv­more will have dogs, so it’s im­por­tant that we cre­ate a dog run that’s big enough to han­dle it and well-main­tained,” says Todd Nishimura of de­vel­oper Great West Life Realty Ad­vi­sors.

Nishimura notes th­ese pet ameni­ties are com­mon in dense Amer­i­can cities, but haven’t caught on in Canada yet. “It’s a missed op­por­tu­nity in pur­pose-built rental and condo de­vel­op­ments in Toronto,” says Nishimura. “[Amer­i­can de­vel­op­ers] al­ready un­der­stand that if you’re go­ing to launch a new com­mu­nity, you have to ap­peal to pet own­ers.”

Along with ameni­ties, when the first res­i­dents move in this fall, the Liv­more plans to or­ga­nize com­mu­ni­ty­ori­ented events like meet and greets for dog own­ers, as well as sourc­ing dog walk­ers, groomers and other ser­vices that could come right to the build­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Ryn­nimeri, th­ese kind of ameni­ties are not only good for the well-be­ing of pets, they also a great way to build re­la­tion­ships be­tween res­i­dents in con­dos, which of­ten lack the sense of com­mu­nity felt in older neigh­bour­hoods. “Peo­ple who live in apart­ment build­ings in Lon­don, Paris, Tokyo or Bei­jing have ac­com­mo­dated them­selves to that kind of so­cial life. But in Toronto, we don’t have those so­cial habits yet,” says Ryn­nimeri. “Pets are a great so­cial lubri­cant and [dog-friendly spa­ces] will make peo­ple feel like they’re part of a more per­ma­nent com­mu­nity.” saman­ | SamEd­ward­sTO

There are three to five dogs per floor in con­dos, ac­cord­ing to city plan­ning staff.

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