Four kid-friendly Toronto condos, and the families who live in them
The phrase “family-friendly condo” was once an oxymoron. But as housing prices skyrocket, developers are starting to build with the under-12 set in mind. Here’s how four Toronto families are riding the wave.
The Condo Converts
Who: Elaine and James Evangelista and their 10-month-old daughter, Kara Elise
Where: Radiance Condos at Yonge and Sheppard
A year and a half ago, Elaine and James Evangelista were renting a bungalow near the Scarborough Bluffs that was so big they couldn’t afford to furnish it. So the 20-something couple—she works in HR, he’s a car salesman—moved into a cute 650-square-foot one-bedroom rental condo in North York’s Radiance Condos. As soon as they moved in, they discovered Elaine was pregnant. When Kara Elise was born, they started viewing their surroundings through the prism of parenthood. Kara may not have unlimited crawling space in the Evangelistas’ unit, but Elaine brings her downstairs for playtime in the ground floor kids’ room. And the pool allows kids of all ages—even infants—which is unusual. “Most condo pools have age limits,” she says, “but here’s my 10-month-old, dog-paddling in the pool.”
The pool, which is about four feet deep throughout, is quite warm, so Kara can dip right in. (Elaine frequently swam in the pool while she was pregnant, too.)
The ground floor playroom is stocked with toys, a toddler-sized slide and pop-up tents. Kara and Elaine have met many of the building’s residents there.
Radiance’s in-house lifestyle team occasionally arranges to show kids’ movies at the condo’s private—and cozy—screening room.
The Active Trio
Who: Shelly Dua, Raghu Balasa and their two-year-old son, Aiden
Where: Navy Wharf at CityPlace, Spadina and Lakeshore
There are 250 kids under four years old at CityPlace’s Navy Wharf condo cluster, where Shelly Dua and Raghu Balasa own an 1,100-square-foot unit. Raghu works for an aerial robotics start-up in Philadelphia, which has him hopping on a Porter flight once every two weeks (he walks to the airport). And he owns Bareburger, the local outpost of the New York City organic burger chain, at Dundas and Bay. They used to talk about buying a house someday, but day-to-day life in their kid-friendly building has wiped out any white-picket-fence dreams they once had. The biggest feature at CityPlace is the Superclub, which includes a basketball court that’s reserved every Thursday for the mini hoop-shooting set. There’s also an outdoor playground behind the building. And when they’re bored with all the on-site amenities, neighbourhood activities—like singalongs at the Amici School of Music—keep them busy.
The gym has a 25-metre pool, where private swim lessons for kids are available.
Shelly and Raghu hope Aiden will eventually attend the Montessori school at the foot of a CityPlace building on nearby Bremner Boulevard, which also features a daycare. (He’s been on the waitlist there for two years.)
The Superclub’s dedicated playroom is full of toys, books and play furniture. (There are toys in the gym, too, so Aiden can keep busy while his parents work out.)
The Uptown Crew
Who: Parthena and Frank Lauraitis and their seven-year-old daughter, Alithea
Where: Scenic Condos at Bayview and Eglinton
Four years ago, Parthena and Frank Lauraitis traded in their downtown condo for an uptown one. It’s not just that they wanted more space, or to escape the city: Parthena, a real estate agent, didn’t want to send her daughter, Alithea, to a downtown school. “Too much concrete,” she says. She and her husband, Frank, a radio producer, set their sights on Bennington Heights—the public school with a great reputation that is Margaret Atwood’s alma mater. They ensconced themselves in the school’s catchment in a penthouse at Scenic on Eglinton. The park across the street, which was once mostly pavement, was recently revitalized, after Councillor Jon Burnside recognized he needed to bring in some green because of the influx of kids to the area. The family’s strategic, school-motivated move worked out: Alithea is in second grade at Bennington, and loving it.
The building’s pool has an all-ages policy that allows Alithea to practise her underwater skills.
The play lounge has fabric walls, so tots can bounce around without getting too many bumped heads.
The Big Brood
Who: Wai-hin Chan, Kirby Hom and their three sons: Aaron, eight, Preston, 11, and Carson, 13
Where: 25 The Esplanade, at Front and Yonge
Raising three boys in 1,400 square feet sounds crazy, but this family is doing it happily. Their condo is a two-bedroom unit: the parents are in one, while the boys pile into the second—there’s one twin bed, and one bunk, plus a trundle that pulls out of the bottom bunk for sleepovers. They were one of the first families with children to move into the building, but it’s since become kid central. There’s an enormous terrace on the sixth floor where grade schoolers put finishing touches on snowmen in winter and ride bikes or dig around in a sandbox in the summer. Families coordinate group outings, and live harmoniously with their empty-nester neighbours through careful planning: on Halloween, for instance, the building’s parent Facebook group circulates a list of residents that want to be visited by trick-or-treaters.
The boys learned to ride their bikes on the terrace, where there’s a sandbox, too, for budding Bob the Builders. They also go up there to manoeuvre remote-controlled cars and planes and play Frisbee, though they’ve lost more than a few over the nearby train tracks. The condo board added a storage shed to store sports equipment in the summer, so parents no longer have to lug gear through the hallways. (In the winter, it’s used to store barbecue equipment.)