Editor’s Letter: The future of real estate is…friendly?
Toronto’s housing status quo may be bleak, but a heartening number of new residential developments are environmentally conscious, beautifully designed and relatively affordable
There’s no shortage of things to worry about when it comes to real estate: the astronomical prices, the cut-throat rental market, the lack of affordable housing. But there are glimmers of hope. Travel along any major artery in this city and you’ll quickly spot some shapely new tower, drool-worthy home or funky, space-age park. We’ve been awaiting an ambitious, tech-enhanced future of real estate for a long time. Finally, it’s here.
The revolution starts at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor, the site of the new Mirvish Village, which opens its doors later this year. I remember the outcry in 2016 when we learned that Honest Ed’s would be levelled and turned into a mixed-use, mixed-income development. The place was a part of Toronto history, hilarious and quirky, filled with punny signs and kind-hearted, white-haired staff. But let’s be real: it was also dusty, cavernous and cluttered with cheap miscellany. Seven years later, what’s not to love about its replacement? The new Mirvish Village will comprise 900 purpose-built rentals. It will feature an 8,000-student post-graduate educational centre, a shopping alley modelled on the markets of Tokyo and an indoor-outdoor entertainment complex. Its residents will also have access to an electric bike-share program.
There is an equally captivating project underway at the foot of Parliament Street: a smart-tech, zero-carbon community. It’s on the same 12-acre site as the erstwhile Sidewalk Labs, but this time around, Toronto property isn’t a plaything for Google’s parent company. The project, called Quayside, is expected to break ground in 2025 and will feature a gorgeous timber-frame showpiece building, a 200,000-square-foot cultural facility for the performing arts and at least 400 units designed for families—that is, two bedrooms or more.
Just north of the city, in Innisfil, there’s a mind-blowing planned development called the Orbit. It stretches out from a central hub in all directions, giving off sci-fi utopia vibes. Instead of the classic North American grid, the project’s streets will follow this wheel-spoke design, which makes for an improved pedestrian experience. The concept includes plans to eventually accommodate self-driving cars and delivery drones. It will also provide easy access to the new Innisfil GO station, which promises to zip commuters downtown every 15 minutes.
You’ll find more on these projects, along with a roundup of other examples of the exciting future of our city, here. We’re talking skinny condos with innovative bike and car storage, a super-smart home with a secret VR game room, a fully pedestrianized planned community in North York called Tyndale Green, tiny net-zero homes for less than $250,000, and other exciting initiatives. Of course, not all development is progress. If new construction exacerbates socioeconomic divides or harms the natural environment, we’ll all be taking a step backward. Thankfully, the projects we’ve highlighted in this issue have taken great pains to emphasize inclusivity. Across Quayside, the Orbit and Tyndale Green, for example, 15,000 affordable housing units will be added to the civic supply. They’re also all decidedly eco-friendly. These projects alone won’t solve the city’s problems, but the signal they send—that beauty and innovation can coexist alongside accessibility and sustainability—suggests we’re on the right track.
Malcolm Johnston is the editor of Toronto Life. He can be reached via email at [email protected].