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Chicago Finds a Way to Improve Public Housing: Libraries

 

CHICAGO — Cabrini-Green, the Robert Taylor Homes: demolished years ago, Chicago’s most notorious projects continue to haunt the city, conjuring up the troubled legacy of postwar public housing in America.

By the 1970s, Washington wanted out of the public housing business, politicians blaming the system’s ills on poor residents and tower-in-the-park-style architecture, channeling tax breaks toward white flight and suburban sprawl. Now the nation’s richest cities invent all sorts of new ways not to solve the affordable housing crisis.

Is any city doing public housing right these days?

I recently visited three sites that the Chicago Housing Authority has just or nearly completed. These small, community-enhancing, public-private ventures, built swiftly and well, are the opposite of Cabrini-Green and Robert Taylor. With a few dozen apartments each, they’re costlier per unit than the typical public housing developments, and they’re not going to make a big dent in a city with a dwindling population but a growing gap between the number of affordable apartments and the demand for them.

That said, they’re instructive. As Cabrini-Green and other isolated, troubled old mega-sites proved, bigger isn’t necessarily better. These are integrated works of bespoke architecture, their exceptional design central to their social and civic agenda.

And they share another distinctive feature, too: each project includes a new branch library (“co-location” is the term of art). The libraries are devised as outward-facing hubs for the surrounding neighborhoods, already attracting a mix of toddlers, retirees, after-school teens, job-seekers, not to mention the traditional readers, nappers and borrowers of DVDs.

Co-location is of course not a new idea. Other cities today link subsidized housing developments with libraries, New York included, but Chicago’s outgoing mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has made a point of touting the concept, and seeing it through in ways other mayors haven’t.

He leaves office next week with his reputation still tainted by the uproar several years ago following the release of the video of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald. The city’s downtown glistens but poorer residents south and west of downtown struggle with shuttered schools and unending gang violence.

These three new housing projects, on the city’s north and west sides, are clearly part of what Mr. Emanuel hopes will be his ultimate legacy. The projects mix public housing units with heavily-subsidized apartments and, in one case, market-rate ones. 

 

Mr. Emanuel talked often as mayor about the value of public space and good design. People don’t only need affordable apartments, as he has said. Healthy neighborhoods are not simply collections of houses. They also require things like decent transit, parks, stores, playgrounds and libraries.

Mr. Emanuel extended the city’s subway system, network of bike lanes and popular Riverwalk. He completed the elevated, long-discussed 606, Chicago’s version of New York’s High Line; brought marquee stores like Whole Foods and Mariano’s to grocery-starved neighborhoods like Englewood, and parks like La Villita, replacing a former Superfund site, to communities like Little Village.

He also commissioned leading local architects to design a string of small, civic gems, including two boathouses by Studio Gang and a new branch library in Chinatown by Brian Lee, from the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which I have stopped into on a couple of occasions. It’s a neighborhood linchpin and landmark.

Mr. Emanuel’s predecessor, Richard M. Daley, who tore down what remained of Cabrini and began to replace old, debased developments with New Urbanist-style mixed-income ones, gave Chicago Millennium Park and loads of planted flowers. He built cookie-cutter library branches, police and fire stations. I toured the Edgewater library one morning, a two-story, brick-and-concrete box, about as inviting from the outside as a motor vehicle bureau office and ostensibly indistinguishable from one.

The cookie-cutter model was conceived to lower building costs and insure a kind of architectural equivalence across diverse neighborhoods. Library officials tell me the one-size-fits-all design invariably needed some tweaking, from site to site, so it didn’t turn out to be especially economical. And the common denominator obviously did nothing to beautify Chicago or celebrate communities with distinct personalities and desires.

Mr. Emanuel adopted a different model. Capitalizing on the city’s architectural heritage, he touted striking new civic architecture as an advertisement for the city and a source of community pride. Distinguished civic buildings in underserved neighborhoods constituted their own brand of equity. Good architecture costs more but it pays a dividend over time.

The three new housing projects partner the Chicago Housing Authority with the Chicago Public Library system and two private developers, Evergreen Real Estate Group and Related Companies. Working with Eugene E. Jones, Jr., who runs the Housing Authority, Mr. Emanuel persuaded federal officials that public libraries could be co-located with public housing projects without putting federal housing subsidies at risk.

That freed up streams of money for the co-location idea, which was partly strategic: the library helped sway community groups resistant to public housing in their neighborhoods. 

 

But co-location was also just plain good urban planning. In cities across the country, branch libraries, which futurologists not long ago predicted would be made obsolete by technology, have instead morphed into indispensable and bustling neighborhood centers and cultural incubators, offering music lessons, employment advice, citizenship training, entrepreneurship classes and English-as-a-second-language instruction. They are places with computers and free broadband access. (One in three Chicagoans lacks ready access to high-speed internet.)

For longtime neighborhood residents and tenants of the new housing projects, the branches at the same time provide common ground in a city siloed by race and class.

A city-run architecture competition in 2016 attracted submissions from 32 local firms. The winners were John Ronan, the architect who did the beautiful Poetry Foundation headquarters in downtown Chicago; Mr. Lee from Skidmore; and Ralph Johnson, who also designed the O’Hare international terminal, from the local office of Perkins + Will.

The libraries share real estate with the apartments but maintain separate entrances. The apartment blocks are designed to command views from a distance; the glassed-in libraries, to command the street.

Mr. Johnson’s project, the $34 million Northtown Affordable Apartments and Public Library, near Warren Park, is a four-story snaking structure, shaped like a twisty garden hose, trimmed in fluorescent green, backing onto a historic bungalow district, along a stretch of avenue that features a Jiffy Lube and Mobil station. It’s meant to be, and is, a beacon and an eye-catcher.

The building’s upper floors include 44 one-bedroom apartments for seniors. They perch atop a bright, glazed, double-height, 16,000 square foot library, which curves around an interior, teardrop-shaped garden, the library’s roof doubling as a terrace for the housing tenants. The apartments I saw looked great, with floor-to-ceiling windows. A community garden in the back helps negotiate the tricky transition between the bungalows and the busy avenue.

Mr. Ronan’s Independence Library and Apartments, in Chicago’s Irving Park neighborhood, a $33.4 million project, tells a similar story. Evergreen is again the developer. The apartments, one- and two-bedrooms, as at Northtown, are all subsidized for 44 seniors and the library occupies the ground floor. The six-story apartment block is a vivid, snowy white tower with rounded corners, clad in corrugated metal, punctuated by multicolored balconies.

The library juts toward the street. It’s a soaring, two-level affair, with a music studio and makers’ workshop tucked into a corner, towering concrete columns, bleacher seats and a mezzanine facing a big, teak-lined roof deck that is accessible from the apartments. The place is welcoming and richly detailed. Light pours in from three directions. Patterned wallpapers, among other touches of color, soften a vocabulary of exposed and striated concrete, with the corrugated metal on the outside serving as radiant paneling for distributing heat inside.

Mr. Lee’s project, the Taylor Street Apartments and Little Italy Branch Library, encountered the fiercest community resistance. The blowback ended up reducing the size of the apartment tower and stepping its mass back from the street.

The $41 million project includes 73 apartments, seven of them market-rate. Related is the developer. At seven stories, clad in Aztec-brick and chestnut-colored panels, the building at once stands out from but also echoes aspects of the neighborhood. There are two floors with glassed-in, single-loaded corridors, the sort of perk you mostly find in high-end residential developments. A double-height library, with a curtain wall and bright orange acoustic baffles, anchors the street.

When I stopped by, moms clustered with toddlers in a bright corner of the library. The place was quiet, dignified and cheerful. Upstairs, views onto empty lots suggested more development coming. The area is gentrifying.

Like the other two, the project seemed both bulwark and boon. This may not be the only way to solve America’s affordable housing problem, but it’s a start. 

Preconstruction condo buyers must do research to avoid cancellations: Experts
 
For many prospective homebuyers who want something brand new or need more time to save money, preconstruction condominiums present a tempting opportunity.

But buying a preconstruction condo rather than an existing unit comes with risks, including the rare case of a builder scrapping the project entirely, and experts say there's no way for buyers to fully protect themselves from that worst-case scenario.

"That's sort of the nature of buying a condominium unit from plans," said Denise Lash, the founder of Lash Condo Law in Toronto. "With that comes the risk and there really isn't much you can do."

So far this year, two projects representing 239 condominium units in the Greater Toronto Area have been cancelled, according to data from Urbanation Inc. Between 2016 and 2018, builders scrapped plans for 6,729 units.

There are a number of reasons for which projects fail to materialize, wrote spokeswoman Pauline Lierman in an email, including financing, poor sales or a redesign, such as changing the product from condos to townhouses.

All sale agreements will have a built-in clause that allows a builder to cancel a project under certain circumstances, said Lash.

"They need to have a way out," she said if, for example, the bank suddenly refuses to lend the company the necessary funds. "That's just the way it is."

While purchasers would eventually have their deposits refunded, possibly with some interest, they would find themselves back in the hunt for a condo when prices may be higher and now unaffordable for them, she said.

Lawyer Lisa Laredo always tells her clients to research the builder first, adding most of the big builders that have been around for a long time tend to get the job done.

"Who are you buying it from and what is their track record?" said the real estate, wills and estate lawyer.

Prospective buyers should also look at the way the company will construct the building and unit, she said, including the materials they're using and if they're building to standard or above.

Lash suggests buyers hire a lawyer to look over the sale agreement to avoid some other risks of preconstruction condos.

Contracts may allow the builder to make sweeping changes, she said.

One client of hers purchased a unit that by move-in had been significantly altered. Changes included a balcony that faced the common outdoor area, a new location above the party room and a column in the middle of the living room, Lash said.

"It was all subject to change if you read the documents," she said.

It's possible to add some protections in, like restricting the ability for ceiling height in the unit to be reduced, Lash said.

Without a lawyer, buyers can also be hit with hefty closing fees, said Laredo, who has seen agreements that include $10,000 to $15,000 in additional costs at closing for things like installing meters or conducting the final inspection.

These aren't hidden costs if someone reads and understands the agreement, but otherwise can be an unwelcome surprise.

"That can be very difficult for a first-time buyer. All those amounts make a difference, especially if they're just trying to get into the market."

It's possible to have the builder agree to cap costs for certain or all categories, said Lash.

"Most projects that I've seen, there's some kind of negotiation on the added cost."
Get smart: Looking at the future of homes
 
Connectivity is expected to be a growing trend in the future. And, not just in your home, but also in your surroundings

There’s been a lot of hype about the next-generation urban lifestyle in a fully integrated, tech-saturated world. It’s a life where phones and sensors manage everything from music and appliances, control sidewalk temperatures, traffic flow and even arrange autonomous transport.

But how close to reality is it? Closer than some may think…

If the Sidewalk Toronto project is any indication, there’s plenty of innovative thinking going into making downtown living affordable and flexible enough to accommodate more than single professionals in one-bedroom condos. The project is a joint effort by Waterfront Toronto, the tri-level government organization, which oversees development of the area, and Sidewalk Labs, a research firm owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, to create a new kind of mixed-use, complete community at Quayside in the southeast end of the city.

What’s the appeal for potential buyers? What’s the price? And how long will they have to wait? Indications are it could lead to lower costs and happen sooner than many might think. Sidewalk Toronto’s projections are that if all goes according to plan, they will be breaking ground on their first two residential buildings by 2021 with occupancy in 2024. These will be the first two of 10 buildings planned the first phase of the project.

“Until now we have been building a lot of tall and sprawl in the way of mostly one-bedroom condo developments,” said Cherise Burda, executive director of the Ryerson City Building Institute in Toronto. “But we still haven’t addressed young families who find themselves having to travel long distances, and depend on their cars in order to have family-appropriate homes. Many younger buyers don’t want to live outside the city. They want to walk to work, or grab a bike share service.”

The path to the future of downtown housing is more than technology superimposed on buildings, managing thermostats and blinds using your mobile phone, or hailing a ride share service, she stressed. “New manufacturing and construction approaches can be used to improve housing flexibility to accommodate different family sizes; enable developments to be built on smaller parcels of land; and reduce construction costs. Ultimately being able to offer properties at an affordable price will be an easy sell.”


Sidewalk Toronto is a project that is taking the concept by the horns and providing a glimpse into the future of real estate development along the waterfront, Burda said. “One of the good points about that project is that technology is part of a bigger plan.”

Residences will be a significant departure from what buyers have been used to seeing. “These buildings will be extensions of the public realm,” said Jesse Shapins, director of public realm for Sidewalk Labs. “It’s not just what’s in your home but how it connects to other spaces, including the street, transit, cycling, vehicles and buildings. There is nothing being done of this scope in terms of building innovation and looking at every facet of a built environment.”

Sidewalk Labs is exploring a number of innovation and sustainability strategies, such as prefabrication of components off-site that can be assembled on arrival, and modular suite designs with movable walls that can be adapted for changing family needs.

“Imagine a world where you can start small and grow the unit as the family grows. We are always asking ourselves, what that would look like,” said Annie Koo, assistant director of development for Sidewalk Labs. “We can see multi-generational families living in connected units. We’re also exploring ideas such as on demand off-site storage facilities, and built-in multi-purpose furniture.”

Michael Bernstein, president of Juno Advisors, a real estate infrastructure specialist who served as an advisor on Waterfront Toronto from January to July 2018, says the concepts around modular construction are still very nascent but evolving quickly.

“We are seeing U.S.-based prefab/Lego type homes using 3D printed materials and recycled goods, windows with cellular connectors, and ‘greener’ cement embedded with carbon. These themes play along with buildings that are faster to build, better, cheaper and cleaner.”

Bernstein believes the Sidewalk project could influence planning on a global scale. “There are not many projects looking at areas so close to the downtown core. It is unique in that it is right next door to one of North America’s largest and fastest growing cities.”

Consumers for the most part are on board with the concept of an integrated lifestyle, Shapins said. “There are those that view a family neighbourhood as single family homes with yards and cars. That can still work for some. But a lot of people love the idea of being closer to their job, walking to get the things they need. They also recognize that lifestyle can have a substantial impact on the future of the environment and sustainable development. So we all have to think differently about what that family neighbourhood can be.”




Architects and developers are excited at exploring concepts that are scalable, reliable, replicable, and more environmentally friendly, he added. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm to learn and they are recognizing the need for a lot more family friendly housing, in concert with ground floor spaces, communities, public spaces and retail.”

Architects IBI Group in Toronto has made a significant pivot in the way it works and the kinds of buildings they create, said Mansoor Kazerouni, global director, buildings for IBI Living+ in Toronto. “Infusing them with technology and having them be informed by technology are definitely the way of the future,” he said. “But we know it can’t be done in isolation.”

To that end, IBI has created a dedicated Smart City Sandbox office on St. Clair Avenue in partnership with organizations that include Ellis Don, Ontario Power Generation, The Weather Network, Ontario Centres of Excellence, and Slate to explore a range of integrated concepts for residents, from intelligent climate control and service delivery, to in-building, co-working spaces and last mile autonomous vehicle integration.

As for public acceptance, Bruno Peters, director of IBI”s Smart City Taskforce, said that despite the talk around technology, buying decisions to some extent will still boil down to cost and convenience. At the same time, there is also an increased expectation there will be more focus on environmental responsibility.

“We are already starting to see building design adapting to how packages are delivered, or how people order goods and services with locker systems and curbside management that give residents a reason to live there and stay. But it will also depend on the market desire. How motivated will they be to spend the money to take advantage of those innovations?”

Kazerouni contends that millennials “don’t think twice about it. It’s simply second nature for them. Many of those types of services are here and happening and readily embraced by residents, such a pick up/drop off bays for ride share services, electronic parcel storage, and on-site workspaces.

Everything people are talking about is already in motion in various developments to some degree, he added. “What we would love to see is for it to all come together in a single smart community. When that happens, residents will be able to better communicate and participate not only in how their homes perform, but also their local communities and cities.”

But when these concepts transition to reality, what does that mean for homebuyers? Will they flock to those development communities, or resist such a wholesale change in their way of living?

The answer for the most part seems to be that development projects have to be transformative in order to tackle the growing urban housing crisis. With that, buyers will be willing to embrace the new way of living and working once they realize the benefits that go beyond gadgets and convenience.
RAPID RESIDENTIAL GROWTH AND ULTRA DENSITY
One of the Best Toronto neighbourhood, here is why ;

The Bloor-Yorkville node has experienced explosive residential intensification,

with 33 condominium projects in various stages of development totaling more than 9,500 units.

With an average sale price of $1,557 per sq. ft.,

these projects are set to infuse a distinctly refined consumer into the node complemented by exceptional retail space to further fortify the dominance of this leading mixed use neighbourhood.

An additional 500,000 sq. ft. of new retail area will come to market in the near term, expected to dramatically increase the foot traffic and add density to the area’s robust retail landscape.

Well known retailers that will soon enter the immediate area include Eataly due to open in the Manulife Centre, drawing significant foot traffic to the area.

A flagship Apple Store is slated to occupy 25,000 sq. ft. of space over two levels anchoring the node at the base of the new 1 Bloor West residential development.
 
 
End-users flooding condo market to detriment of renters
 
The new mortgage rules have redirected Toronto’s would-be low-rise home buyers to the condo market, driving up prices and, in the process, deterring condo investors from purchasing units renters desperately rely on.

The B-20 mortgage rule stipulating stringent stress testing, even for insured mortgages, has drastically reduced purchasing power, and house hunters have reasoned affording less house in the form of condos is better than nothing.

But Davelle Morrison, a sales agent with Bosley Real Estate, says the increased demand for condominiums is resulting in bidding wars, and that’s bad news for real estate investors whose units pump supply into a rental market that has a vacancy rate of around 1%.

“The mortgage rules changed on January 1, so someone with a mortgage of over 20% down will have that additional stress and it’s kicked a lot of people out of the housing market and into the condo market,” she said. “The condo market is off the hook right now. For my real estate investor condo clients, it’s a bit of a challenge because the numbers need to work, and for the numbers to work they need a one-bedroom condo for under $500,000, but to stay cash flow-positive they need to put down more than 20%.”

While end-users battle through bidding wars in the condo market, renters are enduring them too because of high demand and low supply. Investor-owned condos were sustaining the rental market, but in having to compete with more buyers for their investment properties they’re charging higher rents.

“That’s one reason rents increased drastically last year, because now renters have to play a game of musical chairs to figure out when they’re going to find a place to rent—and there are so few places to rent—so landlords are increasing the prices on them,” said Morrison. “For my own rental property, I put it up in July charging $1,375 a month and thought I’d increase to $1,400, and I had seven applications within 36 and so I increased the rent to $1,500 because I could.”

Morrison says that may keep existing landlords in the market, but it’s still little solace because their holdings are rent controlled.

“Some landlords have chosen to get out with the new Wynne rules [rent control],” added Morrison. “Landlords have said that if they can’t increase rent as much as they want, they’re putting their condos up for sale, and that means there will be fewer rentals available.”

Zia Abbas, owner and president of Realty Point, says that the condo market is still worthwhile for short-term investors because prices are increasing so quickly. However, he advises investors buy preconstruction units so that the value appreciation in the years leading up to closing provides enough insulation.

Abbas also advises investors to set their sights on the low-rise housing market.

“Since the low-rise market has dropped, investors should be smart enough to pick the best of the best cities and locations,” said Abbas. “For example, Richmond Hill has the biggest hit in terms of prices dropping. Even Mississauga and Oakville are places you can find great deals.”
Transit is increasingly a deal-breaker for Canadian homebuyers
 
 
Busy lives and the changing trends in how we get around is driving greater demand for homes close to good transit links.

In a new survey released Tuesday, 28% of ‘modern family’ homeowners in major Canadian metros said that transit-friendliness is one of their top 3 homebuying criteria.

Sotheby’s International Realty Canada and Mustel Group’s Modern Family Home Ownership Trends Report: Neighbourhoods “in Transit” shows that transit links are more important than car-friendliness (17%) with cycle-friendly neighbourhoods trailing on 4%.

“Transportation and housing have always been inextricably linked. Investments into any transportation infrastracture, whether rapid transit, bus lines, roads, or bikelanes, not only have a direct impact on a community’s quality of life, but often, real estate values,” says Brad Henderson, President and CEO, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

In Toronto and Vancouver, the importance of transit-friendly neighbourhoods was a priority for around 3 in 10 homebuyers, far outpacing the 13% in Vancouver and 17% in Toronto who rank car-friendliness as a leading location factor.

“The importance that many of today’s young families are placing on neighbourhood public transit access when home buying reflects changing attitudes and values, the strains of cost of living, as well as improvements to transit infrastructure made to date. These priorities also point to what this influential group of buyers will deem prime real estate locations in the future,” added Henderson.

Cutting the commute
As work-life balance becomes increasingly important, living closer to work is a priority for modern families.

More than half (57%) of survey respondents said they had bought a home within 30 minutes commute of their work or school; 15% live within 10 minutes and 42% live 10-29 minutes away.

Those in Calgary (69%) are most likely to live within half an hour of their work or school while this is true for around 6 in 10 in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto.

Young urban families living in Toronto and Vancouver are the most likely to have purchased a home with a commute time of over an hour, at rates of 12% and 13% respectively.

Staying safe

Safety remains the top priority for homebuyers across all regions and overall 48% said safety was a top 3 location factor.

This rises to 45% of modern families in Vancouver, 50% in Calgary, 51% in Toronto and 46% in Montreal.

“Metropolitan areas across Canada have been grappling with balancing the needs of growing populations, and various priorities in transportation, ” says Josh O’Neill, General Manager of Mustel Group. “This report sheds light on the specific needs and priorities of young urban families when it comes to the neighbourhoods in which they live and buy real estate, with findings that highlight the importance of the issue of transportation for this cohort.”
Yonge - Church Corridor Toronto Condos

 

Church - Yonge Corridor Downtown Toronto 1st Quarter

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Difference

Sales

 

139

 

 

152

 

- 9%

Average Original Listing  Price

 

$728,455

 

 

$570,989

 

+ 28%

Average Sold Price

 

$737,963

 

 

$571,267

 

+ 29%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days on Market

 

22

 

 

6

 

+ 331%

Downtown Toronto's Church - Yonge Corridor condo market showed a very strong price increase in the 1st quarter of 2019 but, sales were down dramatically. Church - Yonge had 139 units sold down by 9% from the 1st quarter 2018. Sales price per unit continued to rise as the average price grew from $570,989 in the first quarter to over $728,000, again up by 28%.

An interesting fact this quarter is that we found agents struggling in pricing units. This was due to a huge shift in prices; agents that are not familiar with the Church Street market priced condos too high or too low. Sellers in many cases were not getting the best value for their condo units. It is very important that seller's work with real estate agents that are very familiar with the area so that you may get the most up-to-date stats maximizing your return. This is the only downtown location the condos were selling at 99% of listing price.

We don't have a crystal ball but I feel that the Church - Yonge Corridor will continue to be a very strong market.

We are seeing buyers who were looking at Bay Street and Yorkville move further east to Church for much better value for their money. 

 

Hyatt and Mizrahi Developments Announce Plans for Andaz Toronto – Yorkville
 
Hyatt Hotels Corporation (NYSE: H) announced today that a Hyatt affiliate has entered into a management agreement with Mizrahi Developments to build a 160-room luxury Andaz hotel at the prestigious address of One Bloor Street West in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Slated to open in 2022, the first Andaz hotel in Toronto will be the hotel component of The One, a commercial and residential luxury mixed-use tower that is expected to be the tallest building in Canada, upon completion. The Andaz brand features 18 hotels globally and is designed to attract inspired expressives: well-traveled creative individuals who embrace their own personal style.

Situated at the iconic intersection of Yonge and Bloor streets, the new Andaz Toronto – Yorkville will enable guests to go beyond the familiar and provide connectivity to the bustle of downtown with the distinguished vibrancy of midtown’s high-end Yorkville neighborhood. Converging over the city’s two main subway lines, the location marks the eastern gate of Toronto’s upscale commercial strip along Bloor Street, offering unparalleled living, working, shopping, dining and entertaining experiences. The hotel will occupy floors 4 through 16 of the mixed-use tower, offering more than 15 luxury suites, more than 12,000 square feet of event and conference space, food and beverage experiences, a spa, and more. The hotel’s contemporary, beverage-forward culinary concept is currently under development and will be managed by one of Toronto’s leading restaurant groups. More details will be announced in coming months.

“Yonge and Bloor streets are the crossroads to one of the most multi-cultural places in the world,” said Scott Richer, vice president of real estate and development, Canada for Hyatt “Given the confluence of architecture, design and sheer quality that this project represents, we could not have found a more suitable location to bring the immersive and vibrant Andaz brand to Toronto.”

“It is an honor to announce this prestigious and significant project,” said Sam Mizrahi, owner, Mizrahi Developments. “This serves as validation for almost a decade of vision and hard work by the collective team, and it is a true testament to Toronto’s growing importance on the global scene.”

One Bloor West’s more-than 1,000-foot, 85-story exoskeletal design is the collaboration of Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Norman Foster and Toronto-based Core Architects. In addition to its striking exterior, this architectural method gives way to column-free space throughout the building, providing for a fluid lobby and public space that will be designed to invoke to invoke a barrier-free and unscripted experience that is signature to the Andaz brand. Complemented by landscaped sidewalks and generous setbacks, the design intention of the project is to balance its density with public spaces that are inviting and open. Toronto’s innovative DesignAgency has been commissioned to design the hotel’s interiors.

Hyatt currently has nine properties open in Canada under the Park Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place, Thompson Hotels and The Unbound Collection by Hyatt brands. Hyatt currently has more than 20 full- and select-service hotels under development under the following brands: Andaz, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt Place, Hyatt House.
It looks like Jollibee is coming to downtown Toronto
 
It’s clear: Toronto is here for Jollibee.

Dedicated fried chicken lovers had no problem waiting in line when the first location opened in the city.

And now, it’s looking like Torontonians are about to have a lot more access to this grub.

Multiple job postings are seeking hires for a Jollibee Downtown location at 335 Yonge Street, a North York location at 79 Billy Bishop Way and a Thornhill location at 1 Promenade Circle.

 
 
Alongside these three new Toronto locations, there are postings for hires in Edmonton and Calgary, too. So even if you’re on the road travelling, you’ll be able to get your fill of Filipino fast-food all across Canada.

Beloved for Jolly Crispy Chicken with sides including fries, steamed rice, buttered corn, and mashed potatoes and gravy, this spot serves up the ultimate comfort food.

Fried chicken can also be paired with sweet, hot-dog-studded Jolly Spaghetti, or with shrimp, egg, and pork crackling-topped Palabok Fiesta. Signature cheeseburgers, Burger Steaks blanketed in gravy and mushrooms with a side of rice, and deep fried Peach-Mango hand-pies round out the menu.

And we’re drooling for all of it.

There are currently two Jollibee locations in the GTA.
Hold up: Did Mississauga just become the food capital of the GTA?

Mouth-watering baked on-premise pies, authentic hand-made Italian pasta, charcuterie boards, fresh fish, gourmet chips, sweet-whiskey pork ribs. All of this (with a dash of healthy options, if that’s your vibe) can be found in the heart of one of the GTA’s biggest cities, Mississauga.

While Toronto has always had the most diverse food scene in Canada (don’t @ us, Vancouver), there’s no guarantee that it will stay that way forever. Eventually, someone’s gonna come for that crown. Someone with a 905 area code.

 

Now open to the public, The Food District at Square One is gearing up to be the newest foodie hot spot for tourists and locals alike. In response to the growing interest in today’s food culture, The Food District will focus on offering local, handmade, and high-quality foods, branding itself as the newest elevated food concept, right in the heart of Mississauga.

If you’re a serious food connoisseur, you can sign up for cooking classes at The Food District to learn how to create your own signature dishes in the comfort of your home, too. You’ll be the most popular host of all time, we swear.

Stretching over 40,000 sq. ft., it will offer an outstanding array of specialty products as well as a space to meet, explore, and most importantly, share the love of food through tastings, cooking classes, dinner parties, book signings, and other special events at The District Kitchen. Honestly, we can’t think of anywhere else we’d rather be.

 

Square One is the latest major shopping centre to take its food services to the next level, with nearly two dozen premium providers set to open, including Blackjack BBQ, Bake Three Fifty (where you can build the cupcake, ice-cream sandwich, or milkshake of your dreams), La Carnita, Pier 87 Fish Market & Grill, among others.

The launch of The Food District will be held on April 4 at 10 am — it’s bound to be the talk of the town among foodies, so you won’t want to miss this. Life’s too short to be hangry, and that’s what The Food District is here for!

A whole new world of flavour is waiting for you at The Food District at Square One Shopping Centre. Plus, you’ll already be at a top-tier shopping centre, so you may as well make a day of it. Or risk some serious FOMO. 

The ROM is offering FREE entry on the third Monday of every month

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is offering Torontonians the perfect reason to ditch their regular Monday night plans.

Starting Monday, April 15, the museum will be offering free admission to all visitors, every third Monday evening of the month.

On 3rd Monday Nights Free, ROM guests will be able to explore the museum’s galleries and collections from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, free of charge.

With complimentary access and extended hours, visitors are invited to explore art, culture, and nature in the museum’s 40 permanent galleries.

“3rd Monday Nights Free builds on our ongoing commitment to open the doors of the Museum to as many visitors as possible,” says Josh Basseches, ROM Director and CEO.

“The ROM is a vital part of the cultural and community life of our city and province, and with the launch of this new initiative, visitors now have a chance to enjoy a night at their Museum at no cost. We’re grateful to TD Bank Group and The Bennett Family Foundation for making this possible.”

Access to feature exhibitions will be specially ticketed during this time and not included in the free admission. Feature exhibition tickets can be purchased onsite during 3rd Monday Nights Free.

On April 15, rally up your family and friends and attend the launch 3rd Monday Nights Free with an opening night celebration, which promises to be a “lively and engaging evening for visitors of all ages.” 

You'll be able to fly from downtown Toronto to Bruce Peninsula this summer

If you’ve ever wanted to visit the clear blue waters of Bruce Peninsula National Park during the summer, but don’t want to spend nearly four hours driving, we’ve got some good news for you.

Starting in May, you’ll be able to fly directly from downtown Toronto with FLYGTA directly to Wiarton Keppel International Airport, which is close to the Grey Bruce Region which is home to the Bruce Peninsula and Tobermory—meaning you can get to this beach paradise in about 40 minutes of air time.

Operating on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, the 2019 flight service begins on May 24, with a guarantee to continue through October 28, and possibly through the winter season.

Flights are available for booking starting Tuesday, April 2, and FLYGTA’s website is showing flights as costing $175 total one-way, with flights departing as early as 1 pm.

“The Township of Georgian Bluffs is excited about having FLYGTA provide regularly scheduled flights between Wiarton and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport,” said Township of Georgian Bluffs Mayor, Dwight Burley.

“This opens up huge opportunities for business, leisure and tourism for the Grey Bruce Region. This 40-minute flight allows Grey Bruce Region to be connected to the world and its opportunities while allowing businesses and residents the opportunity to live and operate in the most beautiful, safe and cleanest region Ontario offers,” said Burley. 

 

 The Bruce Peninsula is home to a natural wonder that you’ll have to experience in person to believe it exists.

Near the town of Tobermory, The Grotto is known as one of the top tourist attractions in the province. The Grotto is a natural wonder and a memorable place to experience Ontario as you’ve never seen it.

But to further entice you to book a trip north, Tobermory is also home to over 20 historic shipwrecks, not to mention Flowerpot Island, which is a little getaway island famous for its natural “flowerpot” rock pillars, caves, historic light station and rare plants.

Average price of homes within walking distance of every GO Transit station (MAP)
 
With soaring real estate prices within the City of Toronto, many are looking just outside of the city to buy property. And for commuters, being close to a GO Transit station ranges from added bonus to downright necessary.

Real estate website Zoocasa collected the average 2018 sold prices for homes within a 2 km radius of each of the 66 GO Train stations across the GTHA. They then averaged out commute times sourced from GO Transit and scored them based on arrival times at Union Station at approximately 8:30 am on weekdays.

The data was used to map out the most affordable, and least affordable, homes along the GO Transit line.

The study found that, to score the greatest value, home buyers had better be prepared for a long ride.

According to Zoocasa, two of the least expensive options include homes for sale in Hamilton; West Harbour station, located on the Lakeshore West line, tops the list as most affordable, with an average home price of $365,927 and a 71-minute commute, along with Hamilton station, which comes in third at $414,372, and a 72-minute commute.

The most expensive GO station to live nearby is King City, where the average home costs $1,595,656, though commute time comes in at 43 minutes. That’s followed by Port Credit ($1,361,029 and 25 minutes), Lincolnville ($1,308,108 and 79 minutes), Centennial ($1,040,488 and 52 minutes), and Maple ($1,021,813 and 35 minutes).

5 GO Train Stops with the lowest home prices
1 – West Harbour

Line: Lakeshore West
Home Price: $365,927
Commute Time: 71 minutes

2 – Kitchener

Line: Kitchener
Home Price: $403,907
Commute Time: 111 minutes

3 – Hamilton

Line: Lakeshore West
Home Price: $414,372
Commute Time: 72 minutes

4 – Allendale Waterfront

Line: Barrie
Home Price: $467,152
Commute Time: 105 minutes

5 – Cooksville

Line: Milton
Home Price: $473,874
Commute Time: 33 minutes

5 GO Train Stops with the highest home prices
1 – King City

Line: Barrie
Home Price: $1,595,656
Commute Time: 43 minutes

2 – Port Credit

Line: Lakeshore West
Home Price: $1,361,029
Commute Time: 25 minutes

3 – Lincolnville

Line: Stouffville
Home Price: $1,308,108
Commute Time: 79 minutes

4 – Centennial

Line: Stouffville
Home Price: $1,040,488
Commute Time: 52 minutes

5 – Maple

Line: Barrie
Home Price: $1,021,813
Commute Time: 35 minutes

5 most affordable stops 15–30 minutes from Union Station
1 – Etobicoke North

Line: Kitchener
Home Price: $545,152
Commute Time: 26 minutes

2 – York University

Line: Barrie
Home Price: $563,416
Commute Time: 24 minutes

3 – Kennedy

Line: Stouffville
Home Price: $579,509
Commute Time: 24 minutes

4 – Dixie

Line: Milton
Home Price: $594,842
Commute Time: 27 minutes

5 – Downsview Park

Line: Barrie
Home Price: $598,768
Commute Time: 20 minutes

5 most affordable stops 31–45 minutes from Union Station
1 – Cooksville

Line: Milton
Home Price: $473,874
Commute Time: 33 minutes

2 – Malton

Line: Kitchener
Home Price: $546,356
Commute Time: 32 minutes

3 – Agincourt

Line: Stouffville
Home Price: $550,659
Commute Time: 31 minutes

4 – Whitby

Line: Lakeshore East
Home Price: $551,945
Commute Time: 44 minutes

5 – Ajax

Line: Lakeshore East
Home Price: $582,158
Commute Time: 36 minutes

5 most affordable stops 46–60 minutes from Union Station
1– Oshawa

Line: Lakeshore East
Home Price: $482,794
Commute Time: 50 minutes

2 – Meadowvale

Line: Milton
Home Price: $557,634
Commute Time: 51 minutes

3 – Unionville

Line: Stouffville
Home Price: $632,575
Commute Time: 46 minutes

4 – Brampton

Line: Kitchener
Home Price: $664,528
Commute Time: 48 minutes

5 – Mount Pleasant

Line: Kitchener
Home Price: $707,442
Commute Time: 55 minutes

5 most affordable stops 1 hour+ from Union Station
1 – West Harbour

Line: Lakeshore West
Home Price: $365,927
Commute Time: 71 minutes

2 – Kitchener

Line: Kitchener
Home Price: $403,907
Commute Time: 111 minutes

3 – Hamilton

Line: Lakeshore West
Home Price: $414,372
Commute Time: 72 minutes

4 – Allandale Waterfront

Line: Barrie
Home Price: $467,152
Commute Time: 105 minutes

5 – Guelph

Line: Kitchener
Home Price: $518,042
Commute Time: 87 minutes
This is how much you need to make to buy the average home in Toronto

 

It’s time to make a pact: no more avocado toast.

And that’s just the first step to saving up enough dough to purchase a home in Toronto.

According to new data from Zoocasa, buying a house in Toronto is only accessible to those within the top 10% income group, as the city’s houses have a benchmark price of $873,100.

Toronto is the second-priciest Canadian city to dwell on the list. Vancouver buyers must be within the top 2.5% tier to buy a home, with the city’s benchmark of $1,441,000, sourced from the Canadian Real Estate Association and local real estate boards.

The study calculated the minimum income required to qualify for a mortgage in the above 13 census metropolitan areas (CMAs) across Canada. The calculations assume a 20% down payment, 3.75% mortgage rate, and 30-year amortization.

Findings were then cross referenced with income tax filings as reported by Statistics Canada to determine which income group buyers must align with in order to be able to purchase.

Findings show that it’s not just home-prices that call for buyers to be in such spaces of income. Similar requirements apply for apartments and condos, too.

According to the study, those in Vancouver and Toronto must still have an income within the top 25% to swing respective prices of $656,900 and $522,300.

On the flip-side, the study highlighted the most affordable place in Canada to buy a home: The Prairies.

It’s noted that for those within the top 75% income group in Regina, affording a home is feasible with a benchmark property costs $275,900. Saskatoon and Winnipeg are both close behind; incomes in the top 50% can afford homes priced at $301,900 and $326,433, respectively.

And even apartment purchasers can enjoy greater affordability in those places, with units accessible to the top 75% income group at respective benchmark prices of $160,200, $170,800, and 227,538.

So on top of quitting your avocado toast habit, there’s something else to consider: moving to Regina. 

Canadian housing affordability has actually improved, and it’s going to get better: report
 
For the first time in more than three years, owning a home has become more affordable in Canada, according to a new report from one of the country’s biggest banks — and the trend is expected to continue.

“Home ownership costs dipped almost everywhere in Canada in the fourth quarter of 2018,” reads RBC’s most recent Housing Trends and Affordability report.

RBC measures affordability by looking at how much of a median household income is needed to afford an average-priced home in markets across Canada.

According to RBC, the typical Canadian household would need to fork over 51.9 percent of its income to afford a home in the fourth quarter of 2018. While hefty, that’s down 0.7 percentage points from the previous reading.

The bank’s calculations assume a household has a 25-percent downpayment and a 25-year mortgage with a five-year fixed rate. The average home, including houses and condos, has a price tag of $562,000.
 
 

Even the country’s most expensive cities saw some relief.

In the Vancouver area, the country’s priciest market with average homes over the $1-million mark, the affordability measure eased by 2.6 percentage points on a quarterly basis, although owning a home would still eat up 84.7 percent of a median household income.

The Toronto area saw the measure drop a full percentage point. But here, too, a substantial chunk (66.1 percent) of annual income is needed to cover ownership costs, with the average home running buyers $850,100.

“Buying a home in Vancouver, Toronto, Victoria and, increasingly, Montreal is still a stretch for ordinary Canadians,” notes RBC.

However, there are still plenty of Canadian markets where buying a home won’t break the bank, with a number of cities in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada remaining relatively affordable.

“A small majority of the markets that we track, in fact, boast affordability levels that are within historical norms,” reads the report, highlighting Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Saint John, Halifax and St. John’s.

In fact, St. John’s, the most affordable market of the 14 major ones, a median-earning household would only need to set aside 28.5 percent of its pre-tax yearly income to own a home, down 0.7 percentage points compared to Q3.

Homes in the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador were going for an average of $298,700 last quarter.

“So the affordability strains present in Canada are still confined to a few — but large — markets,” says RBC.

The bank suggests the overall improvement in Canadian housing affordability might persist. “The dip in home ownership costs in the fourth quarter may not be an aberration,” RBC states.

The disappointing performance of the Canadian economy in the fourth quarter has led many observers, including RBC, to downwardly revise their projections for interest rates this year. At the same time, RBC anticipates home prices will remain flat, creating a recipe for further improvements to affordability.

“And with the tight labour market poised to keep household income growing, the stars are aligning for more affordability relief in the period ahead,” RBC concludes. 
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