Refurbish A Quaint Cottage + Add A Garden Suite – Or – Build To Suit On A 30.8′ x  102.5′ Foot Lot In Danforth Village

offered at $699,000

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One of the unanticipated surprises many newcomers discover when they first arrive in Toronto, Ontario, Canada is that our City is a collection of urban villages whose threads weave a colourful patchwork quilt of intersecting pockets, each with its own vibe and characteristics that lend incredible texture to the overall fabric of the City. One such neighbourhood is East York, which sits north of The Danforth, unfolding eastward from Broadview to Victoria Park. This lovely, leafy residential enclave offers stellar amenities, the charm of family-centric village life, and easy access to some of the biggest and best green spaces in the city!

Welcome to 5 Holborne Avenue!

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A Village In A City: The History Of East York

Back in the early 1900s when Old East York Township was in its infancy – much of the lands north of The Danforth from Donlands east to Woodbine Avenue in what is now called Danforth Village – was known as the ‘Clergy Reserves’ or ‘Glebe Land’. Under the original system of land grants in Ontario, this bucolic landscape of fields, grassy knolls, and copses of trees had been designated for the use of the church, but as the City’s population boom began it fueled arguments over which church should have the use of the land. Apparently, this led to the land being sold after the construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct and the Leslie Bridge.

Starting around 1918, this area was subdivided into lots and Danforth Village, as we now know it, began its evolution as an early suburb. The streets located north of Danforth Avenue up to Cosburn Avenue were the first to be developed, while the majority of dwellings constructed north of Cosburn Avenue date post WWII and after. In 1967 East York Township amalgamated with Leaside and incorporated as a borough of the City of Toronto.

Today East York is very much part of the urban fabric, having all of the benefits of being centrally located while retaining all the spirit of a close-knit community. Fun Fact: In 1900; the population of Toronto was 210,000; in 1911 the population was 377,000; by 1921 Hogtown had 522,000 residents; in 1931 the number of residents had grown to 810,467 (data from the City of Toronto)! Toronto’s population almost quadrupled in just 30 years! Isn’t that amazing? When The Danforth was developed in the 20s, 30s and 40s, it was a time when Toronto started seeing the property development industry growing. Developers would purchase several lots in proximity to each other and construct multiple brick-and-frame family-friendly dwellings to meet the enormous demand to live within commuting distance of downtown. The Danforth was effectively the precursor to the master-planned suburbs we see today.


East York Township. Looking east on Cosburn Avenue from Greenwood Avenue, 1924. 


In the Toronto Archive photo above dated 1924, from the vantage point of Greenwood Avenue looking east on Cosburn Avenue you can see a row of houses on Linnsmore Crescent on the right – built as early as 1918 through the 1940s. In the background left is East York Collegiate which was built in 1927, and in the background centre is Michael Garron Hospital which was constructed in 1929. From this vantage point, this listing at 5 Holborne Avenue would be located between the school and the hospital. It was surrounded by mostly fields for its early years, and The Beck Family – who originally built this stick-frame bungalow and are selling it for the first time since it was constructed – would have watched East York Collegiate (completed 1927) and Michael Garron Hospital (finished 1929) being constructed from the ground up! How neat is that?

Today, the residents of this Danforth ‘village in a city’ are demographically mixed. Comprising three generations: Zoomers who have made this neighbourhood their home for decades; urban professional Gen X couples who selected this family-friendly neighbourhood because of the abundance of parks and recreation, the calibre of the public schools, and the easy access to downtown Toronto in the past 25 years and; more recently, the current generation of young adults – many who grew up in the area – who are making their first purchase in one of the many new mid-rise condominiums that are being constructed along Danforth Avenue as part of the city’s Smart Growth Plan that intelligently intensifies and densifies main streets to accommodate our growing population.

Given East York was predominantly developed over a period spanning fifty years, the housing stock is varied; with Edwardian 2-storey brick-and-frame-constructed detached, semi-detached, and row houses being the dominant housing typology constructed starting in the 1915’s and on the blocks located north of Danforth Avenue to Cosburn Avenue and modest and highly-efficient 2-bed post-war bungalows which tend to be located north of Cosburn Avenue. In the 1960s through 1970s, a number of mid and high-rise rental buildings were built, spawning a more diverse blend of housing type thread into the architectural fabric of East York. Since the 1980’s, East York has seen both property owners and small developers extend and top up original bungalows to become larger 2-storey single-family homes or, alternatively, replace them entirely with new custom bespoke executive residences. This is the life cycle of a neighbourhood!




What We Love About This Community

One of our favourite qualities about East York is its flavourful Mom & Pop storefronts dotted throughout the area which sell the necessities of everyday life. Often nestled in little groupings along portions of Pape, Donlands, Cosburn, Coxwell, and Woodbine Avenues, these collections of businesses – and their proprietors – offer all the feel-good community spirit more typical of a small Ontario town than a bright lights big city. In fact, the original Olde East York Shopping Plaza on Coxwell Avenue at Plains Road is just a 3-minute cycle or a 7-minute stroll from this property, making everyday errands extremely convenient. Totalling around 30 retailers and services, they’re situated in a collection of modest near-identical 2-storey 20-foot-wide commercial/residential buildings built from 1948 to 1951. Save for the LCBO that dominates the strip with its massing and branding (and oh-so-convenient parking), the rhythm of the vernacular, the sidewalk promenade, and the abundance of diagonal parking lining both sides of the boulevard pay homage to the 1950s when the automobile reigned supreme. Harkening to simpler times, yet with some very recognizable brands (there’s a Starbucks for those days when you crave a premium brew, and a Timmies when a Double Double & a Donut is a must), amidst several cafes and take-out destinations you’ll find dry cleaners, barbers, the Coxwell Animal Clinic, Waynes Supermarket, and the LCBO, amongst other interesting purveyors. If you’re hangry for a substantial sandwich and a pint of local craft brew head to Knuckle Sandwich. Craving something sweet? Indulge at mon K patisserie for their traditional French and Japanese-influenced baked goods. Want great Canadian comfort take-out? Eden Chinese Food has been serving the community since 1959.

Incidentally, just around the corner from 5 Holborne is East York Deli where you can eat in, order online, and even hire them for catering! There are also international options nearby, like Butter Chicken Roti (Indian), Skara (Greek), and Little Coxwell (Vietnamese). And, of course, much much more to serve you along The Danforth too – from dinners to date nights!

Let’s talk recreation! A 6-minute drive will land you at the perfect place for recreation and working up a sweat: the East York Community Centre! But if you’d prefer to exercise outdoors, how about a hike or a bike? It’s an easy 10-minute stroll to the entrance of Coxwell Ravine Park, which is on the East side of the Don Valley Parkway. It’s part of the extensive East Don Valley Trail system that includes Todmorden Mills Park, Linkwood Lane Park, Taylor Creek, the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, and more! Not many Toronto homeowners can claim proximity to such a wealth of green space and opportunities for fantastic outdoor recreation and living! For those that like a quieter sojourn on a Saturday afternoon,  or if you’re someone for whom books = bliss, the  S. Walter Stewart Branch of the Toronto Public Library is just three blocks east.

This property is located a hop, a skip, and a jump from Route 70 – the TTC bus that runs north and south along Coxwell.  On days of inclement weather, it connects you quickly (and while keeping you dry should you find yourself in the midst of a cloudburst) to the Bloor-Danforth Subway Line at Coxwell Station, where you can then zip across the City with speed – wherever you need to go! Work in health care? This property is a short five-minute stroll to the Michael Garron Hospital at Mortimer and Coxwell, so if shift work is part of your daily life, the proximity offers loads of convenience and extra Zzzzzs! Have a car? East York is also convenient for downtown drivers, being about a 15-minute drive to the central business district!

This location is a dream for growing families with kids in school. It’s just a 6-minute walk away from reputable RH McGregor Elementary School (which offers programming from JK to Grade 5), and 8 minutes from Cosburn Middle School  (which services Grades 6 through 8). And kids can finish out high school mere blocks away at East York Collegiate – just a 5-minute walk, door-to-door!

Life is good in family-friendly East York!




5 Holborne Avenue: A Property With Endless Possibilities

Listed for the first time since it was constructed by the family in 1922, 5 Holborne is well-situated on the preferred south side of a quiet avenue that does not directly intersect with Coxwell Avenue, which means traffic is predominantly local and limited. And yet, it is lickety-split commuter-friendly by foot, bike, or public transportation being just one block east of Coxwell Avenue (and the East York Civic Centre), two blocks north of Mortimer Avenue (and Michael Garron Hospital), and two blocks south of Cosburn Avenue (and East York Collegiate). The property comprises a 2 bedroom bungalow of just over 700 square feet with a small shed and private drive situated on a generous lot with dimensions of approximately 30.8 x 102.5 feet according to Land Registry records.


The Evolving Neighbourhood

As an urban historian, I’m fascinated with the life cycle of housing and the evolution of neighbourhoods, particularly as they’re shaped by the fashions and forces of a free market and constrained by the materiality and utility of their built form. I recently wrote more about this in my post called Gaudy Or Grand: Behind The Doors Of Multi-Million Dollar Mansions In Bridle Path & St Andrews-Windfields (Plus Lessons On The Lifecycles Of Neighbourhoods & Houses).

As a Toronto realtor celebrating 31 years in a dynamic occupation, I also revel in my front-row seat witnessing the City of Neighbourhoods transform from a provincial industrial port city in decline into a glittering post-modern metropolis expanding into its digital future. And given we’re in the early days of new economies, Toronto’s rebirth is in its infancy. Despite our current shifting real estate market, which I write about in Topsy Turvy: Insights From The Toronto Real Estate Trenches and in Is The Toronto Condo Market In A Precarious State?, the long-term forecast for Toronto is, in my opinion, up, up, and up.

This bungalow and Holborne Avenue – the street it’s located on near Coxwell & Mortimer – represent a microcosm of the evolution of Toronto shelter and serve to demonstrate how the vernacular of our built environments have changed in size and appearance over the span of 100 years. Just walking down this one block shows how the typology of the freehold property market in this ‘early suburb’ of Toronto has adapted to the city’s expansion and growth.




We Love The Bungalow – 1910s to 1950s 

Did you know bungalows first came onto the housing architecture scene in Bengal, India in the 19th century, when India was under British rule? These single-storey, small-footprint dwellings were initially built with the intention of becoming vacation homes; that is in part why the bungalow design often exudes a “cottage” feel. They were favoured largely because their small size and straightforward footprint could be built quickly and efficiently.

Over the years, this housing style gained popularity in the United Kingdom and then later in North America as an affordable, practical dwelling marketed primarily to the working class. In Toronto, although there are some striking examples of Victorian cottage-like bungalows in Cabbagetown and Corktown, as well as several working-class bungalows located downtown near Trinity Bellwoods Park and in Little Portugal, one is more likely to see this housing type in the early working-class suburbs of the 1920s and beyond. Areas such as Swansea, South Kingsway, and Mimico to the west – as well as neighbourhoods like East York, Leaside, and North Toronto – were filled with these economical modest homes. The building type really took off in popularity thanks in part to national housing programs which helped the post-war economic recovery and provided affordable housing for returning vets. Given the age of many of these homes, you will often find a number of character details from bungalows built during this heyday; those constructed in Toronto during the 1920s through 1940s will often have wood trim, built-in shelving, and leaded glass window details on opposite sides of their brick fireplaces. Incidentally, these details are very much present in our listing at 5 Holborne Avenue.

On the section of Holborne where our listing is located – which is between Binswood and Fairside Avenues -there are a total of 53 properties. Originally the mix of housing on this street was predominantly bungalows with a handful of 2-storey residences. Today, just 14 residences built between 1917 (No. 19) and 1924 appear similar to when they were constructed and 4 residences that were built between 1941 and 1953 follow the bungalow typology. According to Land Registry, a further 5 houses were constructed during this time period but they have since been substantially renovated and appear more contemporary.  All in all, one-third of the existing housing stock reflects their original housing typology (and 9% were subsequently substantially renovated at a later date not recorded on Land Registry). And 56% of the existing housing stock was constructed in the 1960s replacing older original dwellings.



The 1960s Through 1980s

Of the 53 residences spanning the block, 9 residences – or about 17% – were constructed during the thirty-year period spanning the 1960s through the 1980s. Three houses date from the 1960s, one of which is 33 Holborne – the only purpose-built multi-unit dwelling constructed on this section of the street – as well as the only pair of semis on the street (No. 45 & 47). Five houses, including the ‘four sisters’ in the photo above at Nos. 34, 36, 38 & 40 are the products of the 1970s. One handsome residence at No. 29 was newly constructed on its 40-foot lot in 1986. For those who know their architectural styles, I bet if you took a stroll you would be able to identify these properties by their decade.




From the 1990s To 2010

Starting in the 1990s small-scale developers started purchasing the aging single-family residences on the premium lots with 40 and 50-foot frontages and, after navigating the City’s urban planning and permit process successfully, were granted approvals to sever each property into two parcels of land from which the original aging and obsolete dwelling was demolished and two new larger detached houses were constructed in its place. This process gained traction because there were pre-existing examples of single-family residences on 20-foot-wide lots across the central core of the City that set precedence, plus the City recognized that newly constructed larger residences generated a revenue stream of permit fees and higher taxes. As a result, dwellings that had originally been limited to being no larger than 60% of the total square footage of the lot could get approvals to be as large as the total square footage of the lot (known as 1 times coverage), providing the envelope of the dwelling complied with the setback and height criteria mandated in each specific location. In other words, as long as the ‘minor variances’ requested by the developer or property owner were reasonable, approvals would be granted. For the past 30 years, small-scale developers still follow this process and protocol of bureaucracy to acquire approvals for this ‘highest and best use’.

To date, 9 properties on this section of Holborne Avenue have been severed to create 18 new homes with lot frontages ranging from 20 to 25 feet wide, and a further 4 new houses have been constructed on existing single-family lots. Seven of these – all located on the south side of the avenue – went up in the 1990s. These are identifiable because they have facades of stucco or pink brick, and sloping driveways that lead to a garage below grade. Nine were created in the decade of the 00s which can be a little more tricky to identify, in part because the City of Toronto banned reverse-sloping driveways in the mid-2000s  so one pair completed in 2003 (No 2 & 2A Holborne) have sloping driveways, while the remaining do not. They either have front pad parking pads or drive-in garages at grade. However, all of them have more architectural embellishment than the dwellings built in the 1990s (which was a period of economic austerity) including stone fronts or stone detailing like quoins surrounding the fenestration on the front facade.




A Fresh New Look For Domesticity

In 2017, three newly constructed 2-storey + lower level houses at 6, 8 & 12 Holborne Avenue reflected a growing trend in domestic architecture in Toronto that I -as a realtor representing real estate developers – had been promoting as ‘New Modern Masterpieces‘. Custom-built to exacting specifications using luxury materials, the developers of this new breed of domestic bliss rejected architectural tradition and replaced it with contemporary cubes comprised of clean lines, expansive walls of glass, soaring ceilings, and indulgent materials. Catering to the executive class who value quality and attention to detail, these residences offer architecturally elevated living in a city that has historically been very conservative in its housing.

Since then, three more residences – 1B & 1C + 15 Holborne – have been completed in this section of Holborne Avenue since January 2022. 1B & 1C Holborne Avenue sold for an average price of $2,320,000 a year ago. 15 Holborne is not currently on the market, but what’s interesting to me is that this is the first 3-storey + lower level dwelling to be constructed on this portion of the street. To accomplish this the owner elected to forgo a built-in garage and instead have surface parking. This may not appeal to a person who owns a Tesla, but with the futures forecast calling for driverless cars in less than 2 decades, it certainly is forward-thinking.

With 41% of the dwellings on this section of Holborne Avenue being constructed since the 1990s, and over a quarter of those being built in the past 6 years, it stands to reason that the future of this property includes the construction of a new dwelling. But we want to point out that, depending on a prospective purchaser’s particular needs, there are a number of interesting options available, some of which are only recently possible due to the City of Toronto’s own recent initiatives to create housing alternatives. These include retaining or replacing the existing bungalow and adding a Garden Suite as-of-right so two friends or family members can age-in place; or going to the Committee of Adjustment to get approvals to construct a multi-generational family home, an income property, or a small condominium having as many as 4 units. How amazing is that?


A Home To Age In Place For Life, Not Profit

Don’t you love a vintage home that retains a lot of its original character? We do! And this residence has it in spades, with its wood floors, built-in shelving, and adorable Edwardian windows flanking the faux fireplace. But we also acknowledge that this home – built in 1922 – will need substantial updating. Many of the windows are older, the furnace is at the end of its life expectancy, the kitchen and washroom are ‘vintage’, and the crawl space at the front of the dwelling should be assessed and all wood/soil contact addressed. Because of this, many prospective purchasers will decide it would be better to demolish the existing structure and build a new dwelling in its place. And while we see the future value in this, for anyone who is seeking a charming space to age in place for the balance of their life, investing the funds to extend the life span of this ‘cottage in the city’ is less expensive than constructing a new dwelling that has more longevity. It’s really a matter of your personal point of view.

We believe housing is a right and not a privilege, and although much attention is paid to the ‘highest and best use’ of a site based on economics and profit, this modest dwelling may speak to the person who wants to live the balance of their life simply, honestly, and easily – while being engaged in Toronto’s dynamic culturally-rich urban landscape.

This property is an economical alternative to purchasing a skybox condominium in a busier higher-density location. It offers the opportunity to customize to your taste. You can create a sun-drenched window-wrapped morning-cuppa-sipping retreat, and turn the garden into a bee-pollinating veggie-producing self-sustaining oasis. For the individual seeking their final age-in-place residence without the need for a car, it’s an easy bike ride to superb everyday amenities (tennis courts, library, and farmer’s market), health care, and all the Bright-Light Big-City vibes you desire.

This dwelling could be the next potential home for that now-retired slightly-eccentric professor or caftan-wearing theatre critic who celebrates their quirky non-conformist perspective on life. Yes, they’re a Zoomer with sufficient capital for just this type of purchase, but they’re not called Moneybags. They’re just acutely aware of the quality of life they’d like to lead from here on in. They don’t covet fancy; they want comfort.  And community.

Our intention here is to communicate that this dwelling could have one more chapter of life for someone seeking a Home, before a builder/developer brings their focus to building a House. Whether they work with the existing structure (with all its existing charms) or construct a new small residence just for them, we think this would be a magical property to age-in-place. And we like to believe Ms. Marian Beck who was born in this house in the 1920s and lived her life here until last Autumn would agree.


An As Of Right New Residence

On this site, a Buyer has the as-of-rights to build a new dwelling that must be setback 1 metre from the side yard property line (meaning a new dwelling could be built about 25 feet wide), be no taller than 8.5 meters above grade (that’s nearly 28 feet tall) and does not exceed 55 feet in length. This means you could construct as-of-right a residence having 1896 square feet plus a full basement. Want one-level living? You could build a ‘bungaloft’ of about 1375 square feet with front pad parking. Personally, we believe this site would be an excellent opportunity to construct a compact efficient 2-bed 2-bath one-level residence with or without a basement with a carport or garage. We’re thinking Post-War bungaloft modesty with a Mid-Century Modern vibe. Something around 800 square feet with vaulted ceilings, french doors connecting to the garden, and unadorned mid-grade finishes. It would be lovely to show Torontonians a monster McMansion is not the only option.


Two (Or More) Homes To Age In Place Co-Housing Style

In the interest of full disclosure, we the listing realtors co-purchased a legal triplex 15 years ago with the intention that it would be the destination where we collectively age in place. We each intend to occupy a unit, while the third suite generates the income to offset the operating expenses. While we’re still many years away from retirement, we proactively decided this was our preferred option over Assisted Living or Long Term Care. If this is something you and your bestie have discussed, consider this real estate offering as a co-housing opportunity where two or more friends collectively purchase the property and redevelop it for themselves.

If there are two of you, one dwelling could be the existing residence renovated to suit (or a new one constructed in its place), and the second dwelling could be constructed as of right as a Garden Suite. You would each occupy your own detached houses but you would jointly own them together, which is a requirement by the City of Toronto.




A Garden Suite By Lanescape

We reached out to our friends at Lanescape who provided their opinion that a Garden Suite is feasible for this site. We welcome forwarding this to you. Note if the site is redeveloped what can subsequently be constructed will vary depending on the siting of a new dwelling. At this moment in time, the criteria that must be met to be approved are as follows:
–  it can have a footprint of up to 60 square metres (645sf) providing it does not exceed 40% of the rear yard
– if the Garden Suite has a second storey, it can be as large as 120 square metres (1291sf) with an optional basement (to total 1936sf)
– the height can be up to 6 metres (19.7feet) for a 2-storey build
– the dwelling must be 5 to 7.5 metres setback from the rear wall of the principal dwelling
– note side and rear setbacks and angular plane requirements exist for all sides
– the Garden Suite cannot be larger than the primary residence


A Multi-Generational Family Residence, A Co-Housing Opportunity For 4 Friends, An Income Property Or A Small Condominium

The City of Toronto recently completed its Multiplex Study is one component of the City’s Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods (EHON) initiative. This study focuses on permitting multiplexes – residential buildings containing up to four units – across Toronto’s low-rise neighbourhoods. Finally! How fantastic is this?

It’s feasible that in the near future, this property could be redeveloped to have as many as four residences. This makes it an exceptional opportunity for three generations to live independently under one roof. It creates the opportunity for four friends to age in place together. It could be an excellent investment property. Better still, invest the capital at the time of redevelopment to allow each suite to be separately deeded. By developing it as a 4-unit condominium, you could sell the suites over time as required, and surround yourself with your chosen family.

It is feasible one could go to the Committee of Adjustment and apply for minor variance approvals to construct a residence totaling 3160 square feet above grade plus a lower level. This could translate into 4 floors of 1050 square feet each (including common areas) which would allow for four 3-bedroom residences.

The City bylaws state dwellings should be no longer than 55 feet long and 27 feet tall. Following these mandates, one could construct a dwelling 19 feet wide and retain the existing private driveway to run along the east side of the dwelling, if required.

We’ve long recommended that the highest and best use of any site is one where the property is an ‘accordion dwelling’, meaning that it could be used as a Single Family Dwelling, or by locking doors it could instantly become multi-units with accessible onsite laundry (or in each suite). The permutations and possibilities are staggering!




A New Executive Residence

We know this premium parcel of land (in particular the width) is an attractive opportunity for a small-scale builder to construct a custom residence for an end user seeking this desirable neighbourhood. The site’s highest and best use can be obtained with minor variance approvals thru the Committee of Adjustment which will typically grant approvals to construct a dwelling comprising, 1 times coverage above grade. Steve is well-versed in Navigating The Committee Of Adjustment, so if you’d like to have a conversation about this, please don’t hesitate to connect with him (

This is an Estate Sale undergoing probate. The Executors agree to allow the Buyer to act as their representative in making an application to the City of Toronto Committee of Adjustment or Building Department for the purposes of applications, approvals and/or permits, providing the Buyer incurs all expenses associated with this.


Could this be your next Forever Home or a savvy investment? Interested in booking a private tour of this dwelling? Contact Steven Fudge ( or James Ormston (