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Things will be great when you’re downtown

Lauren Ferranti-Ballem
National Post · Friday, July 16, 2010

When complete strangers buy into a condo building, they’re in for a big surprise. It doesn’t take long before they’re going for a swim with one of their neighbours and befriending others at the pub, on the treadmill, or in the shops downstairs. Then it dawns on them: They’ve lucked in to a vibrant neighbourhood — and life is good. In a seven-part series, Post Homes takes a look at new condo communities within the city and the meeting places that make these neighbourhoods really hum. Part two: Downtown.

Let the kids have their condos. Let them fill their glittering jewel boxes in the city sky and live the adult life of maintenance fees, maxed credit cards and weekday hangovers. But as we well know, silly readers, condos aren’t just for kids. In fact, their elders, the ones who have flown the empty nest for a smaller, more sensational pad, may just be having more fun.

Valerie Rabold and her husband sold the family home in Markham and decamped for London recently — lofts that is. With their daughter on her way to university, the couple purchased their Esplanade condo four years ago. In the 12 months they’ve lived there, they have made an admirable effort to get a taste for the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

“We don’t eat much at home anymore,” Ms. Rabold says. “There are just too many reasons not to.” Among their favourite spots only steps away, The Hot House Café, The Jersey Giant pub and Jason George, and, in winter, when they’re willing only to dash from the elevator to table, the brand new Keg outpost, Spaghetti Factory, Scotland Yard and Fionn MacCool’s, all in a row right below their building.

With two other couples of foodie friends nearby, the six have made a pact to experiment: dinner at a new restaurant every month from now on. On the rare nights they do stay in, the Rabolds entertain on their large private, flower-studded terrace. Between meals, they enjoy meeting up at the St. Lawrence Market for both groceries and antiques and strolling the grounds of St. James Park a few blocks north. They have tickets to the opera, are members of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and marvel at the steady stream of action that often shuts down the streets: festivals like Woofstock, bike races and the occasional Hollywood production. “There’s never a dull moment,” Ms. Rabold says. “We should have made the move years ago.”

Just west is the site of 300 Front Street, a Tridel development at the foot of the CN Tower. When Niyousha Falaknazi, a 34-year-old banker, moves into her loft in the summer of 2012, she imagines attending all of the consumer shows at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre without having to stress about parking, and spending lots of time eating out, taking nighttime walks along Queen’s Quay and entertaining guests in a private cabana lounge around the building’s rooftop pool. “I want to be close to the lake and where it’s all happening,” she says. “People keep asking me where I will buy my groceries, but for me it’s more important to consider where — which bars and restaurants — I’ll spend my nights.”

Rooftop infinity pools, paparazzi-proof private cabanas, fire pits and outdoor kitchens, bars and showers — this ain’t Miami, it’s the future of amenities for Toronto condo dwellers. Situated as they are in bustling neighbourhoods, developers are nevertheless making a strong case for staying home. Renata Casey, a 28-year-old professional, can’t wait until it’s her turn to host family Thanksgiving — in the party room that spills on to a rooftop terrace 55 storeys high. The term party room may not be apt — it evokes stained carpet and folding chairs and tables. The amenity space at UCondos, Ms. Casey’s future home in the heart of Yorkville, is designed with the clean lines and soft lighting of a modern lounge, and an anything-but-modest skyline backdrop. “I can’t wait to share this view with my guests,” she says. “I almost prefer to stay in with these kinds of amenities.”

As she currently lives in the area, Ms. Casey’s not at a loss when she is forced to go out. She brunches with croissants at Le Pain Quotidien, uses the University of Toronto’s verdant campus for runs, and spends special occasions on One’s wraparound patio.

Shawn Foley, a first-time buyer at Nicholas Residences, just south of Bloor, enthusiastically adds to the list of quintessential Yorkville meeting places. Though his building isn’t slated for occupancy until spring of 2013, as he works in the area, he’s getting a head start, establishing residency on the patio at Hemingway’s, and classics like The Pilot and Roof Lounge at the Park Hyatt.

On the subject of high-end hotels and their swanky amenities, both The King Edward and Ritz-Carlton residences will play up their social spaces, with banquette-filled, oversized lobbies and buzzing bars. In the thick of the black-tie district, hemmed in by Roy Thompson Hall, a handful of theatres and the new film fest headquarters, the Ritz will offer a 21st-floor sky lounge for residents only, while one of Toronto’s oldest and most renowned meeting places, the King Eddy’s Concert Bar, will see a facelift. On the very same day she learned the historical hotel was converting a number of units to permanent residences, Nalina Williams, a self-employed event planner, purchased two condos in the building. “I love the history of the hotel and the area,” Ms. Williams says. “I look forward to entertaining my clients in the famous bar.”

There’s certainly no dearth of social options for residents of the new condos coming to downtown — among other notable mentions: the green space under the Gardiner that’s being prepped as a pedestrian-friendly outdoor vestibule for Panorama, a condo project by Raw Design architects that’s currently being occupied; the cobblestoned streets and niche boutiques leading to Gooderham in the Distillery District; and the deluxe gaming room at Chaz on Charles, sponsored by Sony and equipped with multiple screens, surround sound, wireless and leather articulating chairs that gamers could spend hours in — as if they needed convincing.


Posted on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 01:46PM by Registered CommenterElaine in , | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

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