Welcome to Urbaneer.com's November 2019 Home of the Month!
This feature typically provides a snapshot of the journey that one of our Urbaneer Buyers has recently taken to rent, or buy, a property purchase in the City of Toronto for imminent occupancy. However, this month I'm sharing the tale of an architect couple who want to build a multi-unit dwelling to age in place with their friends and family.
I first met these particularly wonderful architect clients back in 1997 when they, accompanying their kids, strolled down The Button Factory's Haunted Halloween Walkway at 200 Clinton Street. The Button Factory - a 13 unit condominium recently featured as our October 2019 - Home Of The Month - was the first loft conversion I was engaged in the concept, sales and marketing as the Toronto's original Innovative Space Specialist, where I had the good fortune to purchase one of the units for my personal residence. As a lover of Halloween - the only day of the year where one can legally frighten children - I enlisted my friends and convinced neighbours to turn the 275 foot long mews walkway into a Fright Night complete with haunted music, a dry ice cauldron, flash and flare fireworks, plus a roving bands of black-caped ghouls. For all my suspense building, it was the couple in Unit 13 at the end of the walkway who held court with the Grand Fear Finale that always involved a bit of theatre where someone always leapt out to the shrieks of terror and delight by the visiting crowd. Over the 17 years I was engaged in it, we saw crowds swell to several hundred visitors that consisted not only of neighbourhood children and their parents but Korean Tour Buses tapping into the thrill of the event.
And it was there where we made our introduction. Sharing a love for the neighbourhood, these architects were some of the early redevelopment pioneers in the evolution of College Street through the late 80s and early 90s, including their converting a former munitions factory on Croft Street into five freehold units and designing a collection of infill townhouses called Jersey Mews. As their careers were blossoming, I was launching The Movie House Conversion on Euclid Avenue followed by the Banquet Hall on Claremont Street. In 2004, I would sell them a dated semi-detached bungalow two blocks east of the Button Factory for $302,500, which they tore down and constructed their dreamy detached dwell complete with a green roof. I, in turn, would privately purchase their residence on Clinton Street which they rented back until the house was complete.
This is the bungalow purchased in 2004 for $302,500 that was torn down and replaced with a modest airy sun-drenched home with a green roof.
Over the decades we've shared our ideas on ageing in place, including the vision of a small condominium owned by family and friends as an ideal way to grow old. Given we're now *ahem* middle-aged, in 2018, this couple began an earnest search for a site where this could be realized. During this quest, these clients submitted offers on a handful of buildings located in the Central West end. One site was a pair of semi-detached dwellings with an existing 6400 square foot auto-repair garage situated in the rear of a 12,270 square foot L-shaped lot on a residential street in Bloorcourt Village for $3,000,000. It checked all the boxes as a potential multi-unit conversion though there was some uncertainty over whether the City would allow the garage to be converted to a more compatible use with ease. At the time we submitted our offer the site was being pursued by a development firm who had been negotiating for some time with a pair of Sellers who were fighting between themselves. Our bid was rejected, which ultimately was a gift as the sale never completed, presumably because the owners couldn't come to a meeting of the minds with each other.
Another site, containing a solid but dated commercial/residential building on a 47x135 foot corner lot with boulevard parking on College Street just west of Dovercourt, was listed for $6,900,000. We submitted a conditional offer, but there was a sticking point with the owner. This Seller was unwilling to approach, on our behalf, an existing commercial tenant with a long-term lease to inquire whether they would vacate early with compensation. He was very attached to honouring the existing tenancy even though most any Buyer would be wanting to redevelop the site into its highest and best use. The negotiations collapsed, and the site would later sell for $6,500,000 firm and binding, with the Buyer managing to buy out that tenants' lease for an unknown sum after the sale completed.
Earlier this year our Buyers managed to secure an Edwardian house on a corner 40x101 foot lot on College Street west of Dovercourt 'as-is where-is' with a 60-day condition on due diligence. Owned by a school, this detached dwelling had a clean 2018 Phase 1 Environmental Report and had already been gutted to the studs. With 5000 square feet above grade and a full 2500 square foot basement, what had once contained - according to the MLS listing- 16 bedrooms with 5 washrooms and 3 lounges - was instead a site ripe for redevelopment. Because the house was not in good repair and had very little architectural merit after so many haphazard changes, the Offer was submitted with the intent to demolish it and build new. Unfortunately, in a meeting with the City, the Housing Bureaucrats attended and said that because the Buyers were planning to demolish the existing house, the onus was on the Buyers to prove to them that the site had never been used as a rooming house or it would be classified as such. However, the City wouldn't commit to what proof would be satisfactory, alluding that affidavits from previous owners, if they could even be obtained, might suffice but were not a certainty. This is exactly the kind of obstacle which can stall and derail a redevelopment, with our Buyers extracting themselves from the purchase. The site, originally listed for $2,999,900, eventually sold for $2,450,000, but a building permit has yet to be issued for any changes to the site.
Needless to say, the quest to secure a piece of Toronto real estate is rarely easy, but it's increasingly complicated when one is trying to buy a site that can be elevated into a higher and better use as a redevelopment. In particular, there can be many hurdles and challenges when navigating the approvals and permit process, which often requires more time to complete than a Seller is often willing to allow in a conditional purchase.
Which is, in part, why the house these clients did purchase was a no-brainer in pursuing. An end-of-row house on a 20x96 foot corner lot with laneway access located south of Harbord Street east of Bathurst in the South Annex this dwelling, originally built in 1880, had been owned by the same family for decades. Situated on a street that has seen a number of vintage corner stores transformed into beautiful residences, what this house lacked as a structure, which is near obsolete in condition and charm, was outweighed by its stellar location.
As a realtor who focuses on several Toronto neighbourhoods, one of my favourites is the South Annex which contains Harbord Village. I love it for its proximity to all points north, south, east and west. The University of Toronto and the shops and eateries of Harbord Street (with its dedicated bike lanes) is just west, the culinary coolness of College Street and Kensington Market are a block south, and the Bathurst Street subway station and Koreatown are to the northwest. Truly, the site is within a stone’s throw of the effervescence of urban living, but just far enough removed from the hub-bub to create that sense of peace and calm that a quality residential area provides.
While the dwelling genuinely is past its prime, this is the kind of property which can be redeveloped into a multi-unit dwelling without too much complication. Three reasons include its existing height limit of 12 metres (many areas of the city are limited to 10 metres), the position of the existing dwelling close to the street which sets the precedence for setbacks, and Toronto's as-of-right to allow laneway housing. As the City addresses the need to accommodate more housing for the missing middle (links below), it's less concerned with density (and the number of units allowed) providing it is appropriately redeveloped within a commitment to scale and height limits. Here, with the right to build four storeys, the Buyers should be able to navigate the Committee Of Adjustment and achieve their objectives.
This site provides a unique opportunity to build a structure that will be, in essence, multipurpose. The most important aspect of it is that it provides an alternative to either, single family houses or traditional condo living - which the city in in dire need of! Being a home that will allow this couple to age in place is important, but as well, they will be contributing to the city housing stock in a subsection which is currently lacking. After all, a well-built unit designed for long-term occupancy is a boon to any neighbourhood! More specifically, the apartment sizes will be varied, to appeal to different demographics, but will all have two bedrooms or more to accomodate families. All of these goals - a home and a legacy - will be built in a form that will fit well into the existing residential neighborhood setting. Exciting!!
Here's some snaps from MLS of this listing:
Listed for $1,288,800, our well-informed buyer secured this property for $1,393,800!
Congrats to our Buyers!!!
Are you, or someone you love, considering a Toronto real estate purchase?
Here's a step by step summary of how I analyze listings of merit for my clients, including the preparation and delivery of our comprehensive due diligence packages for every property our Buyers identify as a possibility:
Did you enjoy this? You may also like these informative Urbaneer.com blogs on intensification, densification and redevelopment:
Thanks for reading!
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 322-8000
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