Welcome to my blog on housing, culture, and design in Canada, as experienced through the lens of a realtor celebrating his 31st year in the buying and selling of Toronto real estate.
After living and working near College and Bathurst Streets in three different and rather spectacular lofts located in three adaptive reuse loft conversions ranging from 8 to 18 units that I originally sold preconstruction as part of a development team and subsequently occupied personally and professionally for as many as 18 years (The Banquet Hall on Claremont, The Button Factory on Clinton & The Movie House on Euclid), I accidentally bought a 1960s purpose-built semi-detached duplex in Riverdale.
Well, let’s call it accidental by fate. When I had sold the property to my clients 12 years earlier, it was owned by a couple who had deconverted the 2 units in the late 1980s for use as a single-family residence. The configuration of the common stairwell and the 2bed 1bath upper unit remained, including the tiny open kitchen off the living room (now media room) which they kept for use as a coffee station. On the main floor, the walls separating the middle bedroom from the living room had been removed, along with the original kitchen, to create a large open-concept layout and a new kitchen had been installed down the hall past the 4-piece washroom into the former rear bedroom, where sliding doors were installed so the kitchen had direct access to the garden. My clients, who were two friends looking to co-purchase a property with two similarly-sized units, bought the house and moved in, each occupying a floor without making any further changes, beyond adding a deck and upgrading the kitchen in the upper unit and completing all the usual maintenance and repairs typical of homeownership.
As a realtor and a shelter expert, I am well aware that not everyone has an appreciation for the affordable utilitarian production-based Canadian shelter constructed in the mid-1950s through 1960s like the one I bought. Built to house a baby boom of new Canadians born by working-class immigrants in urban centres and bedroom communities across the country, how this particular piece of domestic urban infill came to be is unknown. But as an unadorned yellow-brick box topped by a low hip roof and punctured with a handful of apertures like so many others across the city, this pair of semi-detached homes splayed by two double-wide driveways 40 feet wide reeks of its suburban car-centric roots. From the street, the property is all hard surfaces and manmade materials, which is jarring given the streetscape is predominantly verdant, with a series of manicured front gardens in front of a tidy collection of Victorian and Edwardian residences nestled under a canopy of mature trees.
When it came time to relist this multi-functional shelter, my clients no longer lived in the dwelling, having co-purchased an elegant purpose-built Edwardian duplex in Dufferin Grove for their personal use. Instead, this plain practical purpose-built duplex with a single-family friendly layout was now rented by two families.
Albeit weathered, if not a tad weary, it had potential and possibility. My clients asked for a sum that I considered fair and reasonable. In this respect, I never envisioned it would be for sale for a week without an acceptable offer.
Although the upper unit was rented by a quiet young professional couple with a pensive child, the main floor open-plan studio apartment was occupied by a couple with a colicky baby, a toddler in her terrible twos, a mangy cat, an excitable barking dog that was prone to accidentally pee, a mountain of plastic soldiers and headless Barbies and, most maddeningly to me, a tv perpetually blaring Home Shopping Network deals. It was sensory overload. As I stood on the front-drive gushing with enthusiasm for all of its potential amazingness to a gay couple with a teenage daughter who lived in a house a few streets south that lacked onsite parking (this gem has three car parking plus a garage!) I realized as their disappointment was turning to disinterest I was realizing the house had all the insouciant qualities I had been searching for – save for the house wasn’t located within my specific geography of College Streets Little Italy and Trinity Bellwoods Park. However, by the end of that day, I had bought the property from my clients for its asking price. Not long after the ink was dry, it dawned on me I would soon be starting a new chapter of city life that I had never intended.
Instead of scary, however, the prospect of discovering an entirely new quadrant of the city was exciting, and all that it required was walking out the front door of my Riverdale Swell Dwell and seeing where curiosity took me.
Even though I consider myself familiar with Riverdale – as it’s one of the 48 city neighbourhoods I’ve sold property during the thirty years I’ve been a realtor and several friends have called it their home – the truth is that you never know an area until you’ve strolled through it countless times over an extended period of time. If you’ve only passed through looking out the window of the streetcar, cycled by commuting to your destination, or drive the streets in pursuit of Open Houses, then I’ll say at best you may have informed an impression of the neighbourhood, but I’m not confident you truly know it. Knowing it comes from walking it, where you can see, hear, smell, and even feel the synergetic nuances of a place as you pass through and, over time, come to recognize it when it’s familiar and when it’s in a state of flux.
Neighbourhoods may appear to be complementary and cohesive, but when you walk them frequently you notice their secrets are on full display. You see who is house proud and who is not. You can hear where the families live and identify the quiet ones who keep their blinds drawn. You recognize who is making use of different public spaces, and how it changes throughout the course of the day. You feel the temperament of the landscape shift as you navigate the different zones designed to serve the community, whether that be the high street, the Farmer’s Market in the community park, or the laneways of the residential streets. It’s only when you actively engage in being present with your neighbourhood, will you come to know and find your place in belonging.
Located east of the Don Valley to Pape Avenue, this relaxed friendly central east-side residential enclave runs south of The Danforth to Gerrard where it abuts the formerly named South Riverdale and the more recently rebranded Riverside Neighbourhood. Home to a collection of lush tree-lined streets containing an eclectic range of Victorian and Edwardian residences primarily constructed between the 1880s and the Great Depression, it’s long been a bastion of middle-class respectability with the occasional pomp and circumstance. It’s definitely the ‘fancier’ sister to the modest plain sister that is the housing stock south of Gerrard, which housed the English, Irish, and Scottish immigrant railway workers and other industries to the south towards Lake Ontario. Between these two historical slices of white bread is delicious Litte Chinatown on Gerrard Street East at Broadview. It’s got flavour, colour, and all of the grit that all of downtown Toronto had in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, Little Chinatown is one of the last true multi-cultural Toronto ethnic pockets in a city that once defined itself by this uniqueness.
Over the years I’ve settled into my new normal in Riverdale, and come to enjoy its verdant leafiness in all seasons but winter, its cute village vibe, the convenience of walking or biking everywhere, and the relative quiet – at least on my little street! Just as I’ve come to know my neighbours over time, I’ve also developed relationships and routines with many various shops and services catering to this community. Curious to know some of my faves? Here are just a few of the many fab places that make Riverdale a great place to put down roots!
An excellent bistro serving some of the best French cuisine in Riverdale!
Rooster Coffee House
Here’s where a can get a good brew with a stellar view!
Riverdale Park East
Perfect for a stroll with an ice cream cone and a good friend! Check out that view!
Right on the Danforth, the experts here have expertise in all things cycle-related! (It’s where I purchase my latest bike!)
Sit, chat, read, nosh! Great selection of breakfast & lunch eats in a cozy atmosphere!
What place to wander and soak up the sun!
Yes, I often wake up and pinch myself in gratitude that the universe has brought me to a place where I belong. I personally believe – after serving Buyer & Sellers for over 3 decades – that we end up exactly where our Home is meant to be for that moment in time. Not sure if the property you’re considering is right for you?
Check out my posts:
Curious to learn more about Riverdale?
Check out our Riverdale/Playter Estates Neighbourhood Page which includes City Stats, a flavour video, and our collection of blogs about this area’s amazing amenities!
Can you picture yourself ensconced in the heart of Riverdale, with your happy home perched on one of the quiet, verdant avenues where every essential amenity is just a short stroll away?
Allow us to introduce this fab 4bed 3.5bath refreshed semi-detached Edwardian on Hampton Avenue we recently had the pleasure of selling. Dreamy!!
We called it: Hip, Hip, Hooray for 140 Hampton Avenue In Riverdale – now SOLD!!
Have you seen this special one-bedroom loft in Printer’s Row – just an 8-minute stroll from beautiful Riverdale Park East – that we also SOLD in this neighbourhood? We call it: A Sun-Kissed Contemporary Loft In Riverdale’s Printers Row
Here another nearby loft that we SOLD – also by Bob Mitchell! Heavenly Sanctuary In A Converted Riverdale Church, is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Carrot too!
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Thanks for reading!
-The Urbaneer Team
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-800
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