Seeking out the city’s latest micro-hoods

Geary restaurants have made Wallace Emerson cool, and north Leaside beckons


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The new Broadview Hotel was central to the rebirth of Riverside

Toronto is famous for its neighbourhoods. The pattern of adjoining urban villages is the map of the city. But within these areas, smaller hoods — micro-hoods — are the up-and-coming destinations of the city. 

These are the blocks pulsing with creativity and energy as a result of large projects such as transit, cycling or recreational infrastructure or other forms of renewal such as artists studios or restaurants.

They are the places that can still offer value as they don’t yet have mass-market appeal, but they are definitely getting there.

North Leaside set for growth
Just north of Eglinton, this micro-hood has sometimes been considered the little brother to the grown-up part of Leaside, further south along Bayview, . 

But as the arrival of the Crosstown LRT draws near, this northerly quarter of the neighbourhood may not always be the more affordable end. 

North Leaside is a micro-hood on the rise. As the heavy construction equipment clears off Eglinton, there will be a fancy new bit of gleaming urban infrastructure to zip residents to Yonge in a flash. Gasoline fume–spewing buses on Eglinton will disappear. 

North Leaside will take on a new, more sophisticated and more urban tone. No longer the sidekick, it’ll be its own destination as new developments, restaurants and shops return to the area. 

Oh, and there’s a Whole Foods, so things are already shaping up nicely.

Patrick Rocca, a local broker, has no time for anyone talking down the micro-hood. 

“North Leaside is nice regardless,” he said. “It’s a fantastic neighbourhood.” 

Homes are still selling at a quick pace. According to Rocca, north Leaside homes go for anywhere between $1.1 million and $3.5 million. He cautions buyers against speculating on the pending arrival of the LRT.  

“I think the LRT is already largely built into the prices in that area. I think that’s been priced-in for a while,” he said.

Leslieville’s cheaper cousin
Another micro-hood emerging in the east end is at the intersection of Broadview and Queen. For a long time it was not just dingy, but downright seedy: obscene-sized hamburgers served to customers sitting in seats taken out of ’70s-era vans, across the road from the infamous strip club, Jilly’s. 

Cherished businesses for some, sure, but now moved out and replaced by something decidedly more stylish and contemporary. 

The Romanesque-style new Broadview Hotel, circa 1893, has been renovated and is now home to a swanky boutique hotel, restaurant and gorgeous rooftop patio. 

The couple of blocks along Queen to either side of Broadview have been updated into a micro-hood reflective of Toronto in 2018. 

“You’re looking at neighbourhoods that are transitioning,” said Steven Fudge, a sales rep and member of the Urbaneer.com group. 

The Riverside micro-hood has a happening nightlife with the nearby Prohibition Pub attracting a younger crowd, a new cidery and plenty of fine restaurants, such as Lynn Crawford’s Ruby Watchco, as well as a few new craft breweries such as Eastbound Brewing Company and Salter Street Brewery. 

There are new condominium developments emerging, and boutique infill projects abound. The housing stock includes plenty of Victorian row houses and other character abodes that attract renovators, designers and young couples willing to put in the work to craft their own dream homes.

Homes are fast approaching the $1 million zone. 

Annex families dig Dufferin Grove
The quick take on this west end gem is that it’s the more affordable downtown alternative to the pricey Annex. Centered around Dufferin Grove Park, there’s a family-friendly, nature-loving vibe along the leafy streets that are lined with great examples of early 1900s-era homes. 

Here, the lots are deep. The many coach houses in the hood will benefit from upcoming changes to rules around laneway housing. 

Like its pricier sibling the Annex, real estate in the area is hot, and homes rarely sit very long and are generally selling quickest in the $1.2 million range. 

There are more semi-detached homes in the area than anything other housing style, which continues to attract families.

Dufferin Grove Park is the centre of community life and home to a beloved pizza oven that is cared for by the same volunteers who edit and update the extensive “unofficial” website for the park. It is also home to a wonderful, long-running farmer’s market.

“It’s what the Annex was 25 years ago,” according to a local realtor. 

Foodies flock to Wallace Emerson
Another newly emerging micro-hood is Geary Avenue, north of Bloor Street, along the railway corridor above Dupont Street in the west end. 

It was not long ago that there were only auto body shops along this stretch of industrially zoned land. Today however, the Geary strip is home to the hottest restaurant district in town as well as a fantastic craft brewery and other cool and unique shops. 

There is a new linear park in the works along the hydro corridor that could also help transform the area even further. 

“What I find amazing about that area … I love how it is evolving,” said Fudge. 

As for housing, Dupont is already the site of some new mid-level condos. A new development slated for the site of the Galleria Mall will bring major change to the area, but for now it is still a mix of new and traditional .

“Davenport was at bottom of the escarpment. It was a hike to get up to St. Clair. Then Dupont has the rail corridor that bisects that area. That little pocket has lacked neighbourhood identity. It was a destination for affordability,” he said. 

Thanks to a hot restaurant district and creative industries, the area is bursting with possibility and since the price point is still under $1 million and there is a large percentage of semi-detached homes, it is attracting young buyers looking for their first homes as well as families interested in an affordable but still central location.

Fudge had a property on offer near Geary. 

“It listed somewhere in the 700s. But it sold in the 900s. The buyer was a corporate lawyer, and his wife was completing her PhD. They consciously identified the house and the neighbourhood because, although psychologically it seems remote, it’s actually very central,” said Fudge. 

Buyers are often millennial and more likely to cycle to work. 

“They are more unconventional in their lifestyle. They like that,” said Fudge. “I think this is what’s happening with these fringe neighbourhoods. There is an expression of the unconventional. It’s got that cachet.”

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