As a young professional, working in the heart of Toronto can be exhilarating. That initial, heady fast pace, however, can dissolve into an exhausting rat race, if you don’t have a share in Toronto real estate, as a renter or homeowner.
That out-of-city commute has its problems (traffic congestion, construction, winter road conditions, the risk of work-burnout), so a better idea might be to ditch the car and consider moving close to the downtown core, where the action is and where you can use public transit, walk or bicycle to work.
Living in the city! Easier said than done, but not impossible, especially if you buddy-up with a roomie to share the dream!
Start your search in a neighbourhood-in-progress:
Several gentrified neighbourhoods, in different phases of development, are quickly catching the eye of well-paid millennials, and for good reason. These communities inside a city are quickly becoming established as tremendous hubs of refurbished living accommodations, flourishing local retail businesses, greenspaces and parks, ample leisure activities, not to mention grass-root opportunities to contribute to your local arts, entertainment or cultural scene.
In particular, each location offers a unique community feel, a sense of belonging.
Neighbourhoods-in-transition can translate (arguably) to affordability, especially if you jump on new neighbourhood opportunities, rather than hang back and wait. Why snap to it? As gentrification raises sites from ruination and an area becomes more established, so, too, do the rents and property-prices.
Be warned that buying and renting anywhere in Toronto are not for the weak-kneed. If you’re in an entry-level position, count on making at least an annual $38,000, a conservative figure allowing you to scrape by in a studio-condo of your own or a small rented one-bedroom/bachelor apartment.
Here are five popular Toronto neighbourhoods:
Beaconsfield Village (Dundas West/Little Portugal):
Beaconsfield Village, located in the Queen West area, and once home to first-generation Portuguese and Italian immigrants after World War Two, offers two wonderful worlds: Old World charm with its renovated Victorian homes and mix of condo/apartment developments. Emerging from your abode on a mature tree-lined street, you’ll encounter within minutes the modern metropolis with its food markets, cafés, galleries, night-life, and retail shops of every description.
Young single professionals, including those starting families, have redefined this century-old enclave as a sizzling urban destination, while artists have followed the exodus of many of the nightclubs and galleries westward along Queen (and where rents, incidentally, may still be obtained for less).
The neighbourhood also offers a third world: Trinity Bellwoods Park, one of the largest and oldest green spaces (plus dog park) right in the heart of downtown Toronto.
Some favourite area highlights include:
- West Queen West Art and Design District
- Portuguese, Italian and, more recently, Brazilian influences
- Queen Street’s Drake Hotel (where I once met comedian Martin Short and Kiefer Sutherland) and the neighbouring Gladstone Hotel with its unique arts events
- The Beaver, depicted as a “cool little dive bar”, established by the late artist/music promoter Will Munro
Church Wellesley Village:
Church Wellesley Village, the home of Toronto’s original LGBTQ community, is still going strong as a comfortable and supportive community that offers a town-like atmosphere in the city’s heart − only a block away from bustling Yonge Street.
The Village is home to a thriving mix of alternative lifestyles, restaurants and lively nightlife, cafés, food-markets and clothing stores. The festive atmosphere at key points of the year is unlike anywhere else in the city, with celebrations for the annual Pride − one of Toronto’s biggest summer festivals and one of the largest Prides in the world.
Favourite bars and dance-clubs at Church and Wellesley are:
- Pegasus On Church,
- Crews & Tangos,
- Black Eagle
Or kick back with friends at these two fun licensed restaurants with patios: Churchmouse & Firkin or O’Grady’s.
Leslieville creates a page-turning chapter in Toronto’s history. Located in the Queen East area, the enclave was once dominated by tanning factories and metal processing plants. When they shut down, the parcel gained a reputation as “seedy” and contaminated.
In the last 20 years, however, several prime areas have been cleaned up and reclaimed. Sought-after film studios have long replaced the factory-scape and the area is a coveted neighbourhood choice, especially by “cool young families looking for backyards close to the city core,” one source notes. Artists also favour this area.
Touted as one of the best brunch destinations ever, Leslieville has many unique cafés from which to choose. Visitors love browsing the vintage furniture, chic fashion and design shops.
The Little India Bazaar, between Greenwood and Coxwell − a cultural, gem of wonderful ethnic foods and wares of all sorts. A great day out for both family and friends!
Older TO residents remember this conclave in the King West area as a series of abandoned, eerie-looking manufacturing plants, and the home of two long-closed penal prisons − but not to the young professional.
Despite the 25- to 45-minute public transit ride to the downtown core (depending on street location), numerous millennials are flocking to the new Liberty Village luxury-condo developments – dubbed the ideal place to “work, play and live.”
The shimmer of futuristically inspired condos combined with the area’s historical afterglow is precisely this neighbourhood’s draw, not to mention the charm of old factories repurposed as restaurants (including the eatery in the renovated chapel of the men’s prison), galleries, design, retail and commercial businesses.
To live here is a plausible goal if you earn an established upper-middle, double-figure income and are looking to start in a small studio.
- Liberty Village’s array of luxury developments, Liberty Central Phase 2 by CanAlfa is planned for 2018, south of King Street West: the tower will be designed with panoramic views of the lake, the parkland and Toronto’s stunning skyline.
- To improve transit, Liberty Village recently made the list as one of the new GO Train stops that will be integrated along the Barrie and Kitchener GO Transit lines (time-lines yet to be disclosed).
Located east of downtown within “Old” Toronto, the Beach is a desirable neighbourhood, especially for young professionals with young families in tow. The stately Victorian homes are to die for, but many rental opportunities are available at fantastic prices, in comparison to other city parts, and well worth the hour it may take you to get to the core, or bike it in 45 minutes.
What’s not to like? Lake Ontario at your fingertips, several gorgeous parks, including the historic boardwalk! Living here, quite simply, translates to breathing more deeply − a true, relaxed refuge from your busy day downtown.
Despite the Beach’s more established neighbourhood status, there’s nothing stodgy or closed about it. It’s hip and eclectic with a good mix of cultures and economies.
As a family-friendly community, the Beach boasts one of the city’s strongest school zones, well-documented for their exceptional standards.
Besides unique shopping, fine dining and cool coffee houses, recreational activities are year-round, from ice skating to volleyball, keeping you and your young family fit for those hazy days at the beach.
Community and celebration go together, and the Beach is no exception, hosting many large-scale events throughout the year, such as community skates, fireworks by the water, the annual TIFF screenings, and the renowned Beach Jazz Festival.
Many other neighbourhoods abound in Toronto that are Home Sweet Home to many thousands. A good real-estate agent can help guide you in your decision to move to the city.
Zoocasa is a real estate brokerage based in Toronto.
Sheila O’Hearn is a freelance and creative writer, and has worn many hats throughout her career, from general staff reporter to magazine editor. She has a keen interest in business entrepreneurship and currently writes for several outlets. Check out her LinkedIn for more info.
Writer: Sheila O’Hearn
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