Manhattanization of Toronto’s Downtown

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I have talked about the “Manhattanization of Toronto” for over 10 years. At first slowly, and then steadily, and finally abruptly, the condo marketplace has populated our core with many tens of thousands of people living in over one hundred thousand new condominium homes.

The transformation of Toronto is nothing short of miraculous and the envy of every city and every country. What everyone wants is a safe, fun, vibrant, rich downtown. We have it, and it keeps getting better and better; new hotels, new restaurants, new theatres, new public building expansions, and many new office buildings. All cities desire high paying office jobs. Why has this happened to Toronto? Why are we so fortunate?

I will tell you why. There is only one reason. Condominiums. That’s right, plain and simple. You can thank condominiums and those that enabled their success. All those new venues need people to fill them. The hotels need the condominiums attached to fund their existence. Without condos, we would have none of the 6 new 4 plus star hotels. The office buildings happened because the smart, young people that companies want to attract are living in downtown condominiums where they can live, play, and work in the city’s core.

Of course, existing residents fought every new project tooth and nail. “Not in my backyard,” they shouted. “I can live here, but by golly, you can’t! Your 20 storey tower will block the view from my 20th-floor condo.” The visionary Toronto planning department, that fights literally every single project that they see proposed, will take credit for their forward thinking ideas and thoughtful planning. None of which is a reality. More likely it was the hard-heading, optimistic developer that refused to listen to the negative nonsense and plunged ahead anyways, fraught with risk. Thank you, for the odd open-minded and forward thinking city councillor, a rare bird, that enabled some great ideas to come to light, overruling the myopic views of our esteemed planning staff.

Perhaps we can thank our ex-mayor and his willing council who overtaxed the condo industry to such an extent that now a 500SQFT apartment has some $25,000 in city fees, taxes, and tariffs to tack on to any sale price. Even this did not kill the golden goose, our great condo machine of central Toronto.

Then came the HST that inflated new condominium costs by a horrifying amount. This boneheaded real estate tax added $30,000 to any $500,000 new home. In Toronto, that now gets you a moderate sized condo of 750SQFT – lifestyles of the rich and famous await!

Even this has not been the nail in the coffin for our rugged condo machine, although all of the above may be eventually. Now the Canadian Urban Institute “think tank” recommends to our city and its political power brokers that we should now prevent some land from being rezoned for residential condominiums. This would be to protect some land for high-rise offices to the detriment of the condominium business. Wow, by limiting the supply of residential land we will just add further to the price of condos by raising the cost of residentially zoned land due to its scarcity. Does anyone recall who brought us to the dance? Eventually, that gal is going to crumble under the weight of the nonstop abuse.