CityPlace hasn’t had the best reputation. From the get go it received negative criticism. Most was centred around the isolated location of the neighbourhood and the lack of services around. There was a common belief that master-planned developments hinder organic community growth. Add a bit of falling glass from the balconies and leaky parkades and you have a recipe for a PR disaster. Should the design be different? Should they have built it better? Those questions are still great conversation starters for the real estate savvy, but all the talk and criticism will not change the fact that the buildings are completed and not going anywhere.
Almost 8 years after construction began, the development is approaching completion, and as the neighbourhood grows, slowly unique community initiatives are being introduced, along with new services and fresh ideas. So for those of you who haven’t visited CityPlace lately or only heard the negative, here is my take on some of the recent changes in the neighbourhood.
Let’s start with the buildings. There are 20 of them and they’re all different. Yes, yes, they’re mostly all tall, glassy, cookie-cutter condo buildings. What I mean is, not all are the same quality. As some buildings definitely need attention others are just as good as any other outside of CityPlace. I know a number of residents living in the Apex building at Front and Spadina, as well as Harbourview Estates at Spadina and Bremner, who are happy with their condo units, never hear their neighbours, and think the condo board and management are doing a good job. But these buildings are older and more established. It’s true, often in the first year or two, there are issues that need the attention of a reliable and vigilant elected board of directors. Many of the older CityPlace buildings have made many positive changes, like addressing the performance of the building’s management, security issues, improving the outdoor space by adding a play area for kids, a dog run and designated “bathroom stops” for pets to preserve the green space.
With almost 13,000 people living in CityPlace, the neighbourhood had achieved the critical mass needed to support a number of community initiatives. As more buildings are occupied, sidewalks are busier, the park is greener and filling up with fitness junkies, kids and dogs. This summer, with the support of the CityPlace Residents’ Association, the neighbourhood launched the first CityPlace Farmers’ Market. It runs every Tuesday from 3:30pm to 7:30pm until October 15th at Canoe Landing Park, and offers residents everything from fresh organic fruit and veggies, to baked goods, dairy, and even fresh cut flowers.
Farmers’ Market is just the beginning. In addition to the local watering hole (did I just say that?), Fox and Fiddle , the people behind the successful Liberty Village spot, Williams Landing, are opening Hunters Landing on Fort York Blvd. Just like Williams Landing, this spot will be all about the patio, and although the summer is almost over, through in a few heat lamps and this 380 seat venue with a 2,000 square foot patio will be packed this fall. And since I’m on the topic of food, the City of Toronto just introduced a pilot project that loosens the reins on the street food scene. Starting August 1st, Canoe Landing will be one of five city parks where food trucks will be able to operate.
So although from the outside, it may not seem like there’s not much happening, there are people in CityPlace making positive changes. From group golf days to BBQ parties and movie nights, there are opportunities to get involved and meet the neighbours. An all-day community event, CityFest, is taking place August 17th offering everything from bands, DJs, food trucks and local artists. There’s also talk of outdoor movie screenings in the future, and if you’re looking to get involved in sport activities there is soccer, rugby, yoga and bootcamps available.
No, there are no mom-and-pop shops or trendy independent coffee shops (although the Spot latte is not bad at all). It’s not Queen West or King West. But those things are a 10 minute walk away, especially now that the pedestrian bridge has been completed over the Union Station rail corridor linking the neighbourhood to Front Street. So where to go for milk and eggs? Sobeys is the closest to many CityPlace residents, but there is also a Longos a short walk east, a Whole Foods is being built just to the north at Bathurst and Front, and the much-awaited Loblaws is being built on Lakeshore and Bathurst. In addition to the grocery stores, recently the land at Spadina and Front, the old location of Toyota dealership and current Globe and Mail offices, was purchased by RioCan and Allied Investment with plans to develop a shopping centre. Not to mention, CityPlace is a 5 minute walk to the waterfront that is going through positive changes itself, and is a great spot to relax on a hot summer afternoon.
So is it the Vertical Suburbia that it’s been labeled in the past? Well, to some it may seem like it is. Let’s face it, not everyone is interested in making friends and dropping off freshly baked apple pies at your door. With that many people living in a neighbourhood, you meet all kinds. But many people I talk to are pleasant and friendly, just like anywhere else. CityPlace is obviously not for everyone, but can’t be generalized either. It’s a big place with many buildings so whether you’re looking to rent or buy, do your research. Talk to a reputable real estate agent that knows the area and can share their opinion on the individual buildings.
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