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Golden Mile Secondary Plan Transforms Parking Lots Into Density

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If there is any indication of the power of transformation that public transit has in Toronto, one need not look much further than Eglinton Avenue. It seems that every week on UrbanToronto, we publish a story on a development, master plan, or City planning study that is a direct result of the upcoming Crosstown LRT, which will (hopefully) be complete in three years’ time. This week is no different, as we turn our focus to Scarborough’s Golden Mile.

Currently consisting of strip malls, big box retail, and asphalt parking lots as far as the eye can see, the Golden Mile stretches along Eglinton East between Victoria Park and Birchmount and will soon be home to five new LRT stations. Signalled out as a focus area in the Eglinton Connects study, the City is now working on a new secondary plan for the area in conjunction with SvN Architects + Planners. The City and design team presented their work to Toronto’s Design Review Panel (DRP) recently.

Golden Mile Secondary Plan, SvN Architects + Planners, TorontoAerial view of the current Golden Mile, image via Google Maps.

At the DRP, Panel members were presented with three options that are being considered for the secondary plan, with details shown of the preferred option. Each of the three models displayed an ambitious and rather incredible increase in the density along this stretch, essentially building one of the city’s densest neighbourhoods from a blank slate.

Golden Mile Secondary Plan, SvN Architects + Planners, TorontoThree alternatives for the Golden Mile Secondary Plan, image courtesy of City of Toronto.

The three alternatives are based on a new finer-grained street grid which would chop up the mega-blocks that currently dominate the landscape. Of note are three main east-west thoroughfares: O’Connor Drive, which would be realigned to form the southern border of the district running parallel to Eglinton all the way to Birchmount with a jog at Warden; Eglinton Avenue, which will contain the main transit, office, and retail uses of the district; and a new Golden Mile Boulevard to the north of Eglinton, envisioned as the main spine of the neighbourhood, with a jog at Hakimi Avenue. Hakimi will become the new north-south neighbourhood spine at the centre of the district.

Golden Mile Secondary Plan, SvN Architects + Planners, TorontoProposed block plan for the Golden Mile, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

Also consistent across all three alternatives is the parks and public realm plan, which would see three major parks added to the district. The West and East Parks provide secondary green spaces at either end of the district, while the Central Park bridges between Eglinton and the Ashtonbee Reservoir Park to the north, which connects to the future Meadoway along the hydro corridor, and also provides a transition to the Centennial College campus north of the Golden Mile district. Other smaller green spaces are planned, including a South Park and a reconfigured Victoria Park-Eglinton Parkette, relieving it of its current isolation at the centre of a busy traffic triangle.

Golden Mile Secondary Plan, SvN Architects + Planners, TorontoKey structural elements of the Golden Mile Secondary Plan, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

Alternative One would see predominantly mid-rises constructed along Eglinton, with taller buildings concentrated to the north of Golden Mile Boulevard along key north-south streets. The tall buildings would be kept away from the major parks, and a transition in built form would be provided to the adjacent low-rise neighbourhoods.

Golden Mile Secondary Plan, SvN Architects + Planners, TorontoAlternative One for the Golden Mile Secondary Plan, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

Alternative Two would focus tall building density at three important gateways: the west end of the district, the north centre area of the district, and the east end of the district. The remainder of the neighbourhood would be predominantly mid-rise, with appropriate transition to the adjacent low-rise areas.

Golden Mile Secondary Plan, SvN Architects + Planners, TorontoAlternative Two for the Golden Mile Secondary Plan, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

Alternative Three would concentrate tall building density at the five transit nodes, with a central hub at the middle of the district around Hakimi/Warden and Eglinton. In this proposal, Eglinton Square Mall would be left untouched, joining a handful of other large-format retail in the area. The remainder of the district would be mid- and low-rise buildings.

Golden Mile Secondary Plan, SvN Architects + Planners, TorontoAlternative Three of the Golden Mile Secondary Plan, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

All three options are similar in their density and floor space index (which hovers around 2.1-2.3), the ratio of open space to population, the range of housing forms, and the net gain in employment. They differ in their built form, net gain in retail floor area, ratio of people to jobs, and number of distinct districts. The City also noted that all three options have traffic congestion and transit capacity issues, particularly along north-south routes, with Alternative One being the worst culprit.

The City is opting for a combination of Alternative Two and Three as their preferred choice, with density concentrated at transit nodes and a central hub, and the block breakdown and public realm plan as stated above.

The Golden Mile district is also envisioned as being composed of four character areas: the West District, presenting a commercial gateway into the area; the Central District north of Eglinton, which would be the social and cultural hub; the Employment District stretching south of Eglinton, serving mainly as mid-rise employment lands; and the East District, envisioned as more of a residential area.

Golden Mile Secondary Plan, SvN Architects + Planners, TorontoCharacter areas of the Golden Mile Secondary Plan, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

The Panel offered some words of caution and some suggestions to improve the secondary plan. First, they were unanimous in their opinion that Eglinton should be the main spine of the neighbourhood rather than Golden Mile Boulevard. They argued that as the main retail street where people would be “dumped from transit”, it should play a more prominent role as the connecting street. They also criticized the lack of public realm focus on Eglinton, and suggested that pulling the West and East Parks down to Eglinton, as was done to the Central Park, would create greater connectivity in the neighbourhood. Panelists argued that “there is an opportunity to create a grand boulevard feel” along Eglinton, which is currently lacking in the proposal.

Panel members also urged the design team not to think of the boundaries of the district as such hard edges, and to focus more on the transition to adjacent neighbourhoods. Of particular note was the inclusion of institutional uses, and forming a stronger connection to Centennial College just north of the Golden Mile. Panelists also expressed concern about the transit capacity and traffic congestion issues raised by the City, warning that these could have a detrimental effect on the success of the plan if left unaddressed.

The biggest criticism from the Panel was the lack of a unifying character that connects the four character areas and gives the Golden Mile a distinct identity within the city. They suggested that this secondary plan needs a character study to define what this neighbourhood is, in order to have “a reason why people want to go there, why developers what to develop, and why people what to buy or rent there”. Otherwise, it becomes just another generic development zone in the city, with no uniqueness that would create a true neighbourhood.

Golden Mile Secondary Plan, SvN Architects + Planners, TorontoAerial view of the current Golden Mile, image via Google Maps.

The Golden Mile secondary plan will go before City Council for approval in early 2019. If passed, it will provide the framework for the future development of the district for years to come. For now, work will continue on fully developing the plan, hopefully taking into account the Panel’s comments.

We will keep you updated as the secondary plan evolves, but in the meantime you can get in on the discussion by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.

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Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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