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2011 Villain: CityPlace

Nominated for: taking a sloppy approach to city-building, despite its name.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past twelve months. From December 12–23, the candidates for Mightiest and Meanest—and new this year, a reader’s write-in option! From December 26–29 you’ll be able to vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year, and we’ll reveal the results December 30.

Toronto’s condo market is on fire. Almost unaffected by the recession, some 150-plus condo towers are currently under construction in the city, making Toronto North America’s condo construction king: we’re currently building almost twice as many as our next closest competitor, Mexico City. But are too many units going up too quickly? What’s going to happen when the boom goes bust?

At Spadina Avenue and Bremmer Boulevard sits CityPlace, the supposed jewel in Toronto’s high-rise condo crown. The building is being developed by Concord, and when it’s done it’ll be the largest residential development in our city’s history. As The Grid‘s Edward Keenan notes, the former railway lands are slated to contain more than 8,000 new homes within 26 towers. The problem, he argues, is that they’re potentially “a slum in the making,” Toronto’s next St. James Town, or worse. In the article, Keenan cites the development’s lack of community, separation from the city, and high number of owner-investors as the seeds of its downfall.

CityPlace also faces another problem: it’s not well built. From poor insulation to water leaks, to high-pitched screeching noises from improperly sealed doors (we’ve experienced this last one ourselves), CityPlace, which is just a few years old, already seems like it’s about to fall apart. And owners are starting to take action, with lawsuits already being filled against CityPlace developer Concord Adex.

Compounding these concerns are some vexing planning issues, especially the fact that—bounded by rail lines on the north, a hard-to-access stretch of Bathurst on the west, and the Gardiner on the south—CityPlace is a fairly isolated community for all its proximity to downtown. If one hallmark of a slum is that outsiders rarely venture there, it’s a grim sign that CityPlace can be so easily skirted. When a collection of banks and a Fox and Fiddle are your neighbourhood hotspots, you’re probably not going attract much in the way of outside visitors.

And if CityPlace is heading for ghettoization, it probably won’t be going alone. Quick, cheaply built CityPlace-style investments are popping up across the city. If condo developers don’t start thinking long-term, these developments are going to go the same way of many of Toronto’s ill-conceived “towers in a park” residential projects.


  • Anonymous

    I assume when the boom goes bust it will mean a lot of cheap condos for first-time buyers. A little silver lining?

    • Steve Michalowicz

      I think I had that Hayek vs Keynes rap stuck in my head.

  • Anonymous

    The biggest difference between St James town and City Place, is the former is rental owned by one owner per building, City Place is owned by 1000′s of owners. Rentals are full of ‘transient’ people that run and scatter when faced with a landlord that refuse to fix the place up. Home owners will fight to protect their investments. St James will be torn down, City Place will mature and prosper.

    • Bryan Cook

      The problem with the theory is that a large number of the owners are absentee. therefore their concern is maintaining their income. If push comes to shove absent owners will vote for austerity measure to cut the condo fees which they pay. There will be a future battle between the resident and absent owners.

    • Chris Dart

      Yeah, City Place is actually worse, because I’m not going to pull a fake stat out of my ass here, but anecdotally, WELL over half the owners are actually landlords. These are functionally rental buildings, and the condo industry really has made very few bones about that.

      They’re not going to fight for the value of their investments. When things start needing fixing, they’ll take the money they’ve made and sell the unit for whatever they can get.

      Also, St. Jamestown is much better constructed, and if you’ve ever lived there, has MORE of a sense of community. There are children there. There are old people. It’s real life.

  • Bryan Cook

    Th ebiggest problem for Cityplace West is that Fort York blvd is not finished. Until it reaches Bathurst or they open Dan Leckie way the only way in and out is Spadina.

  • Peter

    I find it incredible that everyone assumes that neighbourhoods are born and mature overnight.
    I’ve lived in CityPlace for two years and yes there are things that annoy be about it, but also, I’ve seen the neighbourhood slowly change and improve.

    Specifically I’m talking about new businesses opening up, the pedestrian ramp over the rail tracks apparently being close to being done, and Fort York getting closer to opening up.

    Every neighbourhood has problems. Find one that doesn’t. So I have no idea why CityPlace is picked out of every neighbourhood in Toronto as a “villian”…is it because it is new and therefore an easy target? Then admit that’s the reason.

  • Chris

    Another stupid article based on complete hearsay? Not every building in Cityplace is built the same, and just because one building has problems doesn’t mean they all do. Mine has had ZERO issues. Bathurst is hard to access? No duh. Fort York Blvd. isn’t open to Bathurst yet because its still under construction. Banks, Fox and Fiddle are 2 outlets, but many more are on the way. Again, the neighbourhood is still under construction. A little research (Which I always thought was part of a journalists job, but I guess that skill is lacking from most these days) goes a long way.

  • xil


  • Robert

    “When a collection of banks and a Fox and Fiddle are your neighbourhood hotspots, you’re probably not going attract much in the way of outside visitors.”

    I guess outside visitors have stopped coming to the Rogers Centre and the CN Tower. Clearly, the new aquarium will fail because of CityPlace. A neighbourhood extends well beyond my condo lobby. Take a 10 minute walk in any direction and you will find not only hot spots but some cool ones too. Neighbourhoods need services too, and CityPlace has them all including grocery stores, drycleaners, dentists, medical clinics.

    In terms of the owner versus investor argument, how is this different from any condo development in the downtown core? If this ratio is going to be a problem, the impact will be felt beyond Spadina and Bremner.

    I lived at Isabella and Sherbourne, next to St. James Town for five years. To compare the two communities is laughable.

  • John

    Lived in West One for 2 years, hated every minute of it. Cityplace is a shithole. 2/3 of the owners DON’T EVEN LIVE IN THE COUNTRY!! Worst money I ever spent and I can only hope that those of you who truly believe this “community” will thrive come to realize this. With foreign investors who couldn’t give two shits about who they rent to, CityPlace is destined to turn into a very undesirable place. How do you feel about college-age kids that live in these buildings, sometimes 4 or more in a 2 bedroom unit… blasting music night and day, partying, smoking dope on the balconies and rooftops … May as well live on campus at UofT or York…

  • Enayat Jahanshahi

    The elevators in Montage one of the towers in City Place have had many problems since the first year of being occupied by residents. As I was informed by owners of other towers they have the same problems with their elevators . It seems that the elevators have been choosen from the less expensive ones in the market.