05/03/2017 01:49 EDT | Updated 05/04/2017 10:27 EDT

Toronto CityPlace: Growing Problem Or Just A Growing Neighbourhood?

I'll admit it, several years ago I had a very poor opinion of the CityPlace neighbourhood in Toronto. Back then, this neighbourhood of tall condo buildings built around Fort York Blvd and Spadina Ave was a huge construction site. It was dirty, the buildings were all under a constant state of repair, and there were no amenities nearby.

About 90% of the units were filled with renters and it seemed like living in CityPlace was almost a rite of passage for young professionals in Toronto before they could save up and live somewhere they actually enjoyed.

Then in 2013, when Fort York Blvd opened through Bathurst St, things began to change. Local businesses and restaurants started to pop up in the neighbourhood, many of them now with very loyal followings. A brand new Public Library opened, and became a hub for the local community. A large sports turf was completed with an attached dog park and splash pad, offering local park space. Finally, the community really started to grow as renters moved out and owners moved in, bringing a local Residents Association, and a community Facebook group with over 7,000 members.

I spoke with Lai-King Hum who is a member of the CityPlace Residents Association about the recent changes to the community. "There has been a real energy for a couple of years now. We've seen amazing community participation in events like the local farmers market, an annual Halloween trail for kids, and the Cityfest music festival" she says. "We are also looking towards the future and have applied for landscaping grants, an improved dog park, and a permanent farmers market structure."

Perhaps one of the best signs for the future of CityPlace is the upcoming construction of two new schools and a community centre just steps away from Fort York Blvd and Spadina Ave. Slated to open in 2019, these modern schools have an innovative design with a green roof, and make an effort to have the space be functional for both the students and the local community. One of the key components of neighbourhood gentrification is the presence of children and families.

toronto cityplace

Toronto's CityPlace condominiums with a connecting bridge. Aug. 23, 2015. (Photo: Hstiver/Getty Images)

Right now it is impossible to walk along Fort York Blvd without running into a series of strollers and children who live in the towers above. Since there are many larger two and three bedroom units in most buildings, these family friendly condos have become a viable alternative for those priced out of the housing market.

Last August when plans for the Raildeck park were announced, it spurred an increase in real estate activity in the CityPlace area. The chance to have immediate access to this unique urban park, combined with what was then a very reasonable price per square foot, saw a huge increase in demand for these units. The public opinion of the neighbourhood was shifting, and with that it became a more desirable place to live. Since then prices for some units have gone up over 50%, outpacing even detached house prices in Toronto. There are bidding wars for almost all units, and demand is continuing to grow.

Even with all the positive things happening, the CityPlace neighbourhood still faces challenges. Some buildings still have issues with poor construction, flooding, and a lack of working elevators. Not everyone shares the sense of community and there are definitely still lots of people who see CityPlace more as a temporary crash pad than a long term home.

Even with these issues, CityPlace has come a long way from where it was several years ago. Some growing pains are to be expected when building a brand new community from scratch, but Toronto should consider CityPlace a good example of how a vertical community should be planned.

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