If you told me 2 years ago that I’d be showing condominium units in Regent Park I would have probably scrunched my nose and gave you a laugh of disbelief. Fast forward to present day and I’m driving with my client to Dundas Street East and Parliament area to show a 700-square-foot unit at Daniels‘ Paintbox Condominium, outfitted with modern harwood floors, granite kitchen counters, stainless steel applianaces and stunning views of the city.
When Regent Park was built in 1948, it was the country’s largest publicly funded community. It was designed to be a “garden city,” replacing streets with walkways and enclosed public spaces. Since then this stretch of Dundas Street has been lined with box-like housing that comprised the original Regent Park. Though the project won many awards, a number of the most basic assumptions were flawed. For instance, cutting a community off from the street grid and failing to distinguish between public and private property. It made Regent Park a city-within-a-city, but for all the wrong reasons. The new Regent Park aims to change all that. The strategy, though simple, has been successful. Mixing full-market housing with subsidized units, the new housing complex offers more amenities, better architecture and an enhanced public realm.
The demolition of the old buildings began in Frebuary 2006, and since then the neighbourhood aquired an Arts and Cultural Centre, a $60-million condominium development, aimed at bringing in middle-to-higher income earners, and retail tenants like Tim Horton’s, Sobeys, and an RBC branch. In the near future it’ll also welcome an $11-million aquatic centre and a new, six-acre community park and outdoor athletic facility.
As I stroll down Dundast Street East over to Paintbox Condominiums on Sackville Street, I pass by Daniels Spectrum, formerly dubbed the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre (top image). This new 60,000-square-foot space feels so in sync with the community. The modern interiors, with sophisticated hanging lamps and fresh finishes, with community-sourced art and unpretentious programs will quickly become a destination for many locals and visitors to Toronto. I get the feeling that a lot of thought and creativity was put into this project.
As I walk over to the Paintbox, a 26-storey condo tower, I’m greeted by a colourful sign on giant planters filled with seasonal flowers and greenery which is the entrance to the local bistro appropriately named Paint Box Bistro. This wallet-friendly spot (nothing priced over $18) is a for-profit social enterprise with a goal of providng training and career opportunities to people in the area and those in need. The kitchen is run by chef Matt Cowan (Simple Bistro, The Rosebud) turning out dishes with plenty of multicultural elements. The bistro’s takeout window privides street-friendly eats on-the-go.
After a quick snack at The Bistro, I head to the lobby of the Paintbox building where I’m greeted by a friendly front desk attendent. The buliding lobby has a practical, no BS design, with long couches in the front where your guests can wait comfortably, and a lounge offering free WiFi. Also worth noting, the building offers ample visitor parking, something always appreciated by urban dwellers and their guests. Other amenities in the building include fitness and party facilities, a theatre, and a 20,000-square-foot rooftop terrace with barbecue areas, amazing for sunsets…sounds cheesy, but they’re amazing.
The building interior is very well designed, with good size elevators and bright hallways with a floor-to-ceiling windows inviting natural light. The price of units here ranges from low $300s for 1 bedroom/1Den to low $400s for 2 bedroom/2 baths, including ensuite laundry, storage locker and parking. There are literally a handfull of buildings downtown that offer this price, and the finishes are better than some of other new buildings downtown Toronto. The units are very well laid out in a simple box-like design to maximize space. One bedroom + Den units offer two separate bathrooms, and kitchens offer ample storage space taking advantage of every wall and corner. Sunlight reaches the living/dining space through sliding balcony doors and floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedroom. The higher-floor units have amazing, unobstructed views of the downtown core, midtown and the lake, and the 100 square-foot balconies are a great spot to relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the summer sun.
I admit, it may not be the first location of choice for most buyers just yet, but Regent Park’s dramatic redevelopment is a start of what is yet to come in the neighbourhood with great potential for buyers and investors down the road. This was the case with my client who has been looking at condo units west of downtown before venturing out to Regent Park. But after seeing what the Paitbox and the neighbourhood offers for the price, the choice was obvious.
The old buildings of Regent Park are nearly all demolished and replaced with good urban design with environmental smarts, offering retail and plenty of green areas. The remainder of builidings are slated for demolition in a new phase of the Regent Park project beginning of 2014. But I have to wonder if it’s neccessary and wise to demolish all the builidings. Perhaps a few could be adapted and updated to retain some evidence of the 1950s and 60s that shaped the area, rather than erase it from our memory completely. Just a thought.
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