Notable Toronto Neighborhoods
How We Can Help You Find Your Ideal Address
Opportunities to buy in the best neighborhoods abound from time to time. Keep in mind timing is everything. Knowing the quality of the neighborhoods is the primary requirement for acquiring the right property. When multiple-offers situation starts to run its course, the market will probably head for a setback. But it will bounce back, especially for a city like Toronto with its unique qualities. Let’s not forget in 1981, mortgage rate was over 22%. In 1991 it was 14%.
The classic upscale neighborhoods are good models for us to learn why certain neighborhoods are forever the most sought after. Classic Rosedale and Forest Hill are where the money is. Both neighborhoods were developed in the nineteenth century for the moneyed class. They are within fifteen minutes’ commute to the financial district. The country’s finest private schools are there. The quality of the original architecture which includes the setting for such architecture, is unsurpassed. Note that prestige and fine architecture always go hand in hand. Nearby street-front bakeries, pastry shops, shops and cafes provide the much needed break in the residents' hectic schedule. I have lived in many of these neighborhoods and shall hereby give you a subjective impression based on my personal experience.
ARCHITECTURE PRESTIGES SHOPS/CAFES SCHOOLS PRICE
Case in point : Yorkville has not always been the neighborhood for the elite. In the 1960s it was a den of iniquity. Jane Jacobs and her followers helped the redevelopment of the area and created the Hazelton Lanes. The rest is history. Yorkville is currently the most expensive neighborhood in Toronto.
There are many worthwhile neighborhoods in Toronto that may become the next hottest thing. We use the same criteria established above to pinpoint the best areas for our client to build their dream home in. The act of building itself is a contributing factor to make or break the potential of a neighborhood in becoming a hot commodity. Many residential areas in Toronto have already been spoiled by the overabundance of shoddy and ugly spec-built homes. These areas do not have any hope in gaining prestige in the future. Now let’s check out the already established neighborhoods (and a few up-and-coming ones) with the qualities to stay prestigious:
The neighborhood is mostly known for its shopping : Hazelton Lanes, Yorkville avenue and Hazelton Avenue's on-street shopping and its luxury condos. But hidden between or behind the shops are some exquisite Queen Anne style brick houses that have mostly been gutted and renovated. These are probably Toronto’s most expensive houses. Of course the neighborhood boasts the currently most expensive and exclusive condo building in Toronto, the Four Seasons. The plot of land just north of the Four Seasons is being redeveloped into even higher-end, if that’s at all possible, condos and rental apartments. Charles Street between St. Thomas and Queen’s Park is probably the most picturesque street in the city.
All along Elgin, Prince Arthur, Lowther, Boswell, Tranby, Bernard, Bedford and Admiral, you will find those beautifully proportioned rich red-brick Romanesque Arts and Craft houses, the style of which defines the character of the neighborhood. Needless to say, per square foot wise, these are the most expensive houses in Toronto. At the corner of Tranby and Avenue Road, are three of the most popular and well-stocked flower shops in the city. While the East Annex itself has no real on-street shopping of quality, it is just a short walk to Yorkville and Bloor St.
Classic Forest Hill
The original upscale neighborhood, Forest Hill contains such superb architecture as the houses that the Eatons built, the grand old stone mansions along the south-eastern section of Old Forest Hill Road, the prominent Upper Canada College and Bishop Strachan campuses and the stone church named after the Eaton family. Lately the neighborhood is strewn with ungainly pretenders some call monster homes, but this is now almost a fact of life and little can be done with the situation. The one lacking factor is a strip of good street-front shops and cafes. But Yorkville, Summerhill and St. Clair West are not too far away.
The neighborhood is made famous by the cluster of beautifully styled homes around the very elegant yellow brick Georgian mansion built in 1886 and once owned by an Eaton on Clarendon Avenue. The beautiful Gothic/Art Nouveau apartment at Clarendon and Avenue Rd., called the Claridge, was built in 1927 and has a ceiling in the lobby painted by the Group of Seven artist, J.E.H. MacDonald. South Hill has its share of historic and important architecture. The most exclusive street right now in the neighborhood is Glen Edyth Drive. It is a street that goes up a hill and ends in a cul de sac. On one side is the Nordheimer ravine. Many beautiful homes can be found on the street.
Summerhill / Crescent
Summerhill is both a street and a neighborhood. Crescent Road is a narrow bus route lined with narrow-fronted steep-gabled Queen Anne and Arts and Crafts style houses. The area is on the fringe of Rosedale and endowed with superb on-street shops and cafes. Marc Thuet has a bakery there. The now defunct Patachou was a local landmark for thirty-five years until two years ago. Back in its heydays, any time in the afternoon you would find Rosedale matrons enjoying their cups of tea and biting on their scones with Devonshire cream. The gorgeously transformed classical train station which is now a boutique liquor store is the local attraction. The 'five thieves' are five upscale street-front merchants selling grocery, meat, seafood, fruits and bread. Their quality is first class, so are the prices – hence the moniker. The richest residential streets are probably Cluny Dr., Chestnut Park and Rosedale Road.
More low-key than Forest Hill but no less powerful is its aura of wealth, old Rosedale is actually very pleasant and livable with its nearby ravines and walking trails, lush forests, parks and the beautiful vista from the very tall Glen Road Bridge. The style of the older Rosedale mansions are mostly Arts and Crafts – leaning on the Tudor and Gothic. Rosedale is known for its stone buildings that are extremely well built. So there you go : money buys prestige and good architecture which in turn create a long-lasting upscale neighborhood.
The avenues Hawthorn, Nanton, Dale, Maple, Powell are part of South Rosedale, but the most impressive streets are Elm Avenue, May Street and South Drive. South Rosedale is where apartment buildings and rooming houses co-exist harmoniously side by side with million dollar mansions. Elm Avenue has Toronto’s most beautiful turn-of-the century red brick Romanesque architecture. May Street is a short appendix of South Drive. The street is graced by a pair of lovely English Georgian stone houses and ends in May Square, a herring-bone paved courtyard flanked by some lovely red brick Arts and Crafts houses of modest scale. Of all the upscale mid-town neighborhoods, South Rosedale has the shortest commute to the downtown Financial District.
Heathdale / Cedarvale
The street of Heathdale was almost demolished to make way for the Spadina Expressway back in the 1960s. The scheme was vehemently opposed by citizens lead by Jane Jacobs. In the early 70s, it was totally dropped. The houses on the south side of Heathdale that were expropriated by the City were rented out at low rates. In the 90s, the city started selling them to private owners. Some homeowners took the lead in gutting and renovating the houses to make them very presentable thus enhancing the entire neighborhood. Redevelopment became fashionable and profitable. Today the houses on Heathdale Road backing onto the Cedarvale ravine are hot commodities. The west end of the street is within walking distance to the trendy café strip on St. Clair West. The best croissant can be found in Pain Perdu – a French bakery on St. Clair.
Forest Glen / Teddington
The most exclusive private club in the country, the Rosedale Golf Club, has its main entrance on Forest Glen Crescent. The golf course covers a vast area with houses greedily taking in the expansive view around its very extensive perimeters. Forest Glen Crescent, Riverview Drive and Teddington Park Avenue are on the edge of the golf course. While Riverview Drive is more esoteric in its taste in architecture, Forest Glen and Teddington Park have the loveliest architecture in this part of the city. The only thing lacking for the neighborhood is quality on-street shopping. Yonge Street, being too wide and too busy along that stretch, is not ideal for sitting out on the sidewalk for a cup of latte. However it is only a fifteen minute drive to Havergal College and Crescent School.
This used to be cottage country for urban Toronto. That explains why the original houses were mostly unremarkable and cottage-like. Most of them have been replaced by newer homes. There is no history or significant architecture to speak of. The excessively large homes built on relatively large lots close to the street could not recreate the country feel of the neighborhood. The setting is spectacular and the Don River does run through it. The few custom built houses are of exquisite taste but much of the new construction has been spec-built and indeed not very memorable. Hoggs Hollow has been the spec builders’ paradise for the last ten years.
It was the first ‘planned’ neighborhood of Canada. It was the brainchild of E. P. Taylor in the 1950s, built in the early 60s and then gradually went downhill until about ten years ago when it went through a rebirth and transformation. When Cadillac Fairview completed the ambitious and daring project called Shops at Don Mills, things started happening. An open-air upscale shopping mall in Canada, you say? It sounded absurd. Shoppers don’t like to walk outdoors to shop in the winter in Canada. But what about the Summerhill street-front shops and the Yorkville shopping streets? People would park a couple of blocks away and walk to their favorite stores there. Especially in upscale neighborhoods, the street-front shops and cafes are patronized by locals faithfully. Most of the houses in Don Mills are typical suburban and insignificant in terms of size and flamboyance. But the mid-century modern flavor is dominant in all the original structures, houses included. Many of the single story homes, although fairly small, were built in the 1950s and have the distinct period look. These are the so-called Ranch houses by the Americans or bungalows by the British. I have posted a blog on Don Mills’ Mid-Century Modern past. More recently, the Charles Correa (India) and Fumihiko Maki (Japan) designed Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum open in Don Mills and they are absolutely fabulous. The water garden in front is something to experience on a very hot day in summer. Don Mills is criss-crossed by numerous trails and ravines. The Edwards Gardens, a beautiful nature park and botanical garden, were created along the side of a ravine and dropped down to a brook at the bottom.
Sandfield Avenue Neighborhood
Just south of Yorkmills and east of Bayview, this patch of suburbia contains mostly very wide lots with wide-fronted bungalows or ranch houses. There are small pockets of so-called ranchland neighborhoods in this area that are worth looking into. While the original houses were built in the 1960s and not as authentically mid-century modern as the Don Mills version, the lots are much wider and the houses are suitable for remodelling into something quite spectacular. The architectural significance of this area is fairly low – ideal for some creative homeowners with imagination to do something that will make an impact. Shopping in suburbia is not as convenient as that in Yorkville or Summerhill. But Bayview is close by – so a drive for a café au lait and a pastry at Rahier only takes fifteen minutes.