One of the great benefits of having spent decades in the Toronto real estate trenches is that I’ve had a bird’s eye view of Toronto’s ever-evolving neighbourhoods. Not only does my future’s forecasting help me identify macro-trends in housing, and my insight recognize the cusps of transformation, but I’ve personally witnessed the fascinating life cycles of multiple city neighbourhoods as they weave new textures and layers into Toronto’s ever-changing urban fabric.
I’m particularly fond of the enclave of Leslieville and Riverside, in part because of my personal connection to the east side of downtown, and also because of how this century neighbourhood has embraced both preservation and reinvention throughout its evolution. It’s become one of the more authentic and undeniably dynamic places to live and visit in our great city. It’s a great real estate story!
Check out this engaging story from BlogTO: “This Is What Leslieville Looked Like From 1910 to 2020″ and – while my own post is real estate centric, there’s a lot of information (including the underbelly of Toronto, The Good, anyone?) in one of my most popular blogs called Why Toronto’s East Side Real Estate Has Historically Been Cheaper. I love dipping into the curious historical perspectives and forces at play which shapes how neighbourhoods have changed over the last century.
My Love for Leslieville Spans Decades
I adore the neighbourhoods of Riverside and Leslieville which run along Queen Street east of the Don Valley towards The Beach, though their exact neighbourhood boundaries are a bit murky given this area has spent most of its life being called South Riverdale. As the neighbourhood has developed its own cachet and prices have skyrocketed accordingly, it has jettisoned the South Riverdale moniker for names that sound more, shall we say, fresh. And why not, when for a near-century residents have been regarded as the poor sister to tony Riverdale proper whose boundary runs north from Gerrard Street East. The name change has been more aggressively adopted over the past decade, matching the pace of the neighbourhood’s revitalization which, I might add, has been a topic of fascination by urban academics for the past forty years. I know this from my own contribution to the research in the late 80s when I wrote an Urban Studies Thesis funded by The Ministry Of Municipal Affairs called “Gentrification: Yuppie Porn In South Riverdale”. The thesis, which included a comprehensive review of past research exploring the movement of middle-class households into this working-class neighbourhood, also explored my early fascination with housing as a symbol of the self.
As part of my research, I wanted to explore the connections, if any, between a dwelling’s occupants and its facade. By assessing the housing stock according to their exterior impressions in a manner relevant to the times, I classified the houses as being in either original condition, upgraded condition, renovated or, if deemed a total sparkly showcase, bestowed my own personal “Yuppie Porn” classification. “Yuppie Porn” houses, which were relatively rare in South Riverdale in the 80s but have become an increasingly common staple in a neighbourhood (and city) of tired worn one-hundred-year-old buildings, are those which have undergone a substantial professionally-executed quality restoration/renovation. Typically the building components are all new, while as many original character details of the dwelling have been respectfully restored. Think chemically cleaned brick exteriors, architecturally-appropriate windows, wrought iron fencing, smart lighting, custom landscaping and stylish house numbers of the finest calibre. After cataloguing the housing stock according to this and other criteria I delivered direct mail surveys to the residents requesting details on their age, ethnicity, education, income, occupation and household structures.
The results were a fascinating indication of current and future housing trends. My research analysis quantified the original and upgraded housing stock as being principally occupied by long-time Anglo working-class residents and Chinese immigrants; the houses which had varying degrees of renovations tended to be more recent residents whose purchase was based on affordability and their willingness to complete the all-apparent do-it-yourself renovations; while the Yuppie Porn houses were, without exception, young highly-educated high-earning professional couples with no children who had neither the time nor inclination to renovate. These upwardly-mobile income-rich cash-poor Yuppies were leveraging themselves onto the property ladder to their max, and in the process acquiring the most luxurious property as close to the financial core as possible. The one compromise they were willing to make was choosing a location which, although convenient to work, was marginalized by the dilapidated properties that surrounded their castle, the mixed bag of residents who were their anonymous neighbours and, at the time, the presence of toxic noxious industries to the south. Sound familiar? Gentrification is alive and well in
South Riverdale, er, Riverside and Leslieville today!
If you’d like to learn a bit more about Gentrification, here’s my past blog called Gentrification, Densification, And The History Of Toronto Real Estate as well as two recent blogs on the gentrification of particular neighbourhoods: A Brief History On The Intensification Of The Danforth In Toronto and A Brief History On The Old & The Emerging New Dupont.
My Urban Studies thesis fulfilled the requirements for degree accreditation, fueled my interest in housing as a symbol of self, and propelled me into graduate school, while indulging my curiosity in the neighbourhood. How so? South Riverdale was the location of my own first purchase back in 1986 when my partner and I bought a barely habitable cat-sprayed cockroach-infested symphony-in-pink two bedroom semi for $87,000. It was a definite contender for being the cheapest house in the entire city and, as a full-time university student/waiter, was one of the few properties available within our shoestring budget.
Here’s a pic:
While from the age of seven I knew I would have a career in housing, until you purchase your first home, you will forever remain a real estate virgin. At the tender age of 23, I gave myself up for the overwhelming satisfaction of homeownership by purchasing the only house we could afford that didn’t contain tainted urea-formaldehyde insulation. Elated and aspirational with desire from the point of purchase until closing, on moving day my mood dramatically changed at the horrifying realization of what we had done. Walking into a crappy ghetto of a property with absolutely zero redeeming features and an extensive list of must-dos, despite my brave face and stiff upper lip, within the hour of getting the keys I broke down crying. By the next morning, having awoken to a lashing thunderstorm which had ripped off a section of the poorly patched roof leaving raindrops and tears pouring in the kitchen, I succumbed to the daunting realization we had bitten off more than we could chew. Whatever momentary pride I might have fleetingly held under the sanctity of homeownership, within 72 hours I had to concede defeat by wailing to my partner how I simply could not live there. Three weeks later, with a lot of sweat equity and a $3000 cash advance on the newly-acquired Visa that accompanied our entree into the exclusive perks of homeownership (here, have some more debt!), we sold our $87,000 house for $121,000. It would signal the beginning of my climb up a property ladder which, over a span of twenty-five years has crisscrossed seven Toronto neighbourhoods, both Canadian coasts, and includes a dozen personal residences en route to the next. Despite the tears, frustration, and “Why the hell do I do this?” proclamations rooted in success and failure, I cherish how it satiates and honours my creative expression.
And, after many years since losing my real estate virginity, perhaps one might say I had a nose for Leslieville?
Even then, one could smell the opportunity.
Like my punny segue?
Evidence that Leslieville has really emerged as a coveted neighbourhood is its reputation for some of the most enticing and interesting eateries in the city. It’s a lifestyle boon for residents and the kind of dining experience that people will travel to visit. One of my faves is ‘Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant’– which is easily found on the bustling Queen St. East streetscape, with this distinctive fibreglass nose hanging outside the front door.
Located on Queen Street East at Leslie, this vibrant destination with an eclectic crowd offers tasty Italian food at reasonable prices in a loud quirky setting. Perched at the bar (best for people-watching!) is a perfect spot to spend an evening grazing on fried calamari, fresh pasta in a tomato basil sauce, grilled salmon, osso buco and a plate of rapini and sweet potato mash.
I’m a fan of ‘The Nose’. It’s the ideal combination of flavourful food coming from a kitchen that cares; the super-friendly staff are attentive and there’s absolutely zero pretence. No one’s trying too hard, which I appreciate! That’s Leslieville to a T though – unpretentious, patient and utterly cool!
It’s where people can be themselves and position themselves for the future- in terms of real estate development and personal growth with having such fantastic, life-style enhancing amenities at every turn. That’s what drew me here to the area years ago to lay down my real estate roots with my first home, and what compels me to drive clients towards this hip hood.
Gauging from our people-watching at ‘Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant’, everyone was having a good time. That’s life in Leslieville!
Not only am I frequently selling unique urban homes in Riverside and Leslieville, but I constantly frequent the restaurants and retailers of Queen Street East because they are beguiling. Some of my faves include Te Aro Café for its top-notch coffee in a unique space splashed with industrial grit, the creative cocktails at Goods & Provisions, and the sweets and treats I indulge from Bobette & Belle Artisanal Pastries.
All in all, this nose knows Leslieville and the opportunities to live your best life there- years ago, and for the years to come!
For your next dinner out, check out:
Gio Rana’s Really Really Nice Restaurant
1220 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON M4M 1L7 (416) 469-5225
Can you imagine what life would be like if you were within walking distance to all of these must-visit places? Check out our new listing Living Luxe At The Logan Condo In Leslieville!
This fresh-to-market cool and contemporary condo boasts 3 beds, 3 baths and over 1,800 square feet of sublime indoor/outdoor space spread over 2 storeys! Offered for sale at $1,469,000!
Want to know more? Contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org!
If you have an interest in the history of Toronto’s neighbourhoods, try these blogs!
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