2011 Villain: CityPlace
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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.