Mixed use infill properties in Toronto.

As condominiums are fast becoming the staple of Toronto housing, property owners and renters are looking to alternative and more favorable conditions to escape the monotony of a condo as their living space of choice. Toronto, which is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada and by far the largest. A metropolitan hub, this well sought-after city is struggling to accommodate all who wish to come and live here.

What is a condo?

Condo’s are currently the highest selling type of property for 2018, nearly doubling the next detached house coming in second. These apartment buildings differ from regular apartments as they are deemed as independently sellable. They exist in a large building or complex of buildings just like an apartment building and are a very common occurrence in the United States and Canada.

What is a mixed-use infill property?

The difference between a condo and an infill property lies in the broad definition that an infill plot seems to have. Infill plots don’t have a definite definition as they can be situated anywhere. Generally, they are the infilling of a small gap in an otherwise built up area. When this definition is used to describe central downtown Toronto rather than countryside or village scenarios, it tends to describe the ‘filling in’ of underused buildings and landscapes across the city.

In the 60s and 70s, high-density neighborhoods across Toronto were developed. These condos were dubbed ‘Towers in the Park’ due to their immense size, built some way from the street and surrounded by lawn and parking. Back some 40 to 50 years ago, this style of suburban apartment housing was seen to be ideal. Over time, it became apparent that the residents of these towers began to complain that they were separated from local amenities. There were long walking distances from anything that was beyond their own building, which for families with young children or for the elderly was not desirable. The green spaces were also seen to be under-utilized, resulting in wasted space that Toronto cannot afford to have.

Toronto was one of the first cities to adopt redevelopment of such buildings. In 1986, a zoning bylaw was passed allowing retail and residential to be mixed. This was due to the growing popularity of the city even back then, increasing the demand for more social housing. Laws are constantly adapting here in Toronto, 2013 refined the law with a focus outside the downtown area as Toronto continues to grow and expand. With regulations allowing, the development of high-rise condos throughout the city transpired with a healthy supply of retail amenities and available transit at hand.

Redevelopment of the older style condos are underway throughout the city, resulting in these multi-use infill properties. Such infill properties include amenities for residents, underground parking spaces, spaces for bicycles, retail spaces, institutional spaces, outdoor spaces and of course, residential spaces. The potential for these is enormous, allowing for residents to pick and choose what cultural amenities they would like to associate with and live amongst.

The benefits of creating mixed use infill properties vary from more affordable housing, due to the potential for smaller units, to more accessible housing for starter homes, young family homes to senior housing. With local amenities closer, walkable neighborhoods are a definite positive. You can reduce the distances between housing, workplaces, retail businesses and other amenities, which reduce the need for cars on a daily basis. Results show that residents have easier access to fresh, healthy foods as local green grocers and farmers markets can be easily accessed rather than a supermarket. Residents talk of a sense of place and there are definite stronger neighborhood characters within these infill properties, as opposed to simple condo apartment blocks.

Many builder’s architects’ and city planners have been working diligently, to make use of any underutilized buildings, empty lots or available space within built-up areas across Toronto to create these mixed-use infill properties. By creating commercial buildings and housing from run-down buildings within densely populated areas, there is less need to begin over-developing rural areas and spreading an already vastly growing Toronto city center. This creates a unique living situation allowing you to live in a unit, rent the remaining units and the commercial space. Allowing you to take advantage and join a community that you enjoy.

Very much a desirable place to live, these buildings have been repurposed and modernized to give you all the modern-day comforts of a new home. Each infill property has a unique energy or vibe about it, and in general are very safe and welcoming communities for you to engage with.

Young single professionals have different values and needs and find an area within Toronto that caters more to their needs. Perhaps funky restaurants and a few high-end clubs close at hand are high on a young professional’s wish list. Young families again would look for schooling close by, parks and grocers. Of course, this is only stereotyping and people are free to live wherever and with whomever they like. A mix of ages and family types is healthy within a strong and happy community.

Mixed use infill properties have been the way forward for Toronto’s densely populated urban areas for several decades and with massive construction underway, there seems to be no end in sight of these great uses of space. The residents have access to local amenities and have a strong sense of belonging.