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Ryerson Makes the Case for a Downtown Yonge Street Revival

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Welcome to Yonge Street, home to Toronto’s most famous thoroughfare—the Yonge-Dundas Square, College Park, The Eaton Centre and many more. It forms the spine—and is arguable the heart of—the city; with theatres, high rising towers, 20th century fine-tuned retail stores, before stretching down to the Lake, then past Bloor Street, midtown, uptown, out-of-town, and into the seemingly infinite north.

However, despite its appearance as the ‘front doorstep’ to the city, the apparent lack of infrastructure suggests otherwise. The view from the northside of Dundas reveals relatively narrow sidewalks, an apparent lack of public amenities, and the generally car-dominated street-level experience that creates a false impression on the reality of a regular pedestrian and transit hub.

Yonge and Gould, where Ryerson meets Toronto. Photo by Dominic Ali via Ryerson CYonge and Gould, where Ryerson meets Toronto. Photo by Dominic Ali via Ryerson CBI.

But, the fortune of the street is about to change as a new report from Ryerson University’s City Building Institute (CBI) suggests that they have joined the ongoing push to renovate downtown Yonge Street. Ryerson argues for a pedestrian-oriented public realm that would completely transform the street into an ‘outdoor living room’ — and an exhibition for the university itself.

In study Can Ryerson Benefit From A Better Yonge Street?, authored by Dr. Zhixi Cecilia Zhuang, it builds on a robust body of research and public consultation regarding the future of the corridor. Utilizing a combination of both public input and hard data, the Downtown Yonge BIA’s 2014 Yonge Love community consultation series created a convincing case for authorizing the street’s transformation.

A Yonge Love graphic showing road users on Yonge Street. Image via Downtown YongA Yonge Love graphic showing road users on Yonge Street. Image via Downtown Yonge BIA.

“We found that [street redesigns] offer universities many benefits, for example Improved safety and street life, healthier environments, better mobility options, increased opportunities for inclusion, deepened campus and city integrations, and stronger institutional identities,” said Dr. Zhuang.

The data—which covered the area from Grosvenor to Richmond—revealed that only 13% of almost 600,000 daytime visitors in the area are drivers, compared to the 40% that walk, and the 49% that use public transit. Thus, it was rather expected that Yonge Love respondents’ greatest priorities were for a walkable (70%), clean (69%), and pedestrian-friendly (67%) environment.

Yonge Love survey results. Yonge Love survey results.

Also, recently, the Downtown Yonge BIA’s 22 traffic counters found that pedestrians consistently outnumbered vehicles from October 2017 and 2018 — even during the winter periods.

According to the City of Toronto, “[d]aily pedestrian volumes on Yonge Street at Dundas Street are approaching 100,000 per day and represent Toronto’s busiest intersection.”

This signifies that a more pedestrian-friendlier environment could be an advantage for businesses. More importantly, having an improved pedestrian experience would present opportunities to create a more safe, accessible, and inclusive public realm.

The Downtown Yonge BIA's breakdown of street-level activity. The Downtown Yonge BIA’s breakdown of street-level activity.

Nonetheless, what effect would it have on the Ryerson University? Irrespective of the fact that a campus is situated just northeast of Yonge & Dundas, the university has still lacked a strong presence on the street. However, that is bound to change with the opening of the school’s Student Learning Centre (SLC) in 2015, the university rolled out a grand welcome to the campus, with a cascade of public seating and hangout space leading way to a building that angles out towards Yonge.

Today, the intersection of Yonge & Gould is an attractive and spontaneous location, and a key spot for witnessing some of Toronto’s awesome soccer tricks—hinting to a dormant campus energy, which disappears as the Gould Street campus paves way to Yonge.

The benefits for Ryerson University are quite obvious as through better integrating pedestrian-oriented Gould Street with Yonge, the reportnotes that the university can now demand a stronger civic identity through partnerships with the City of Toronto and the Downtown Yonge BIA.

While pedestrian activity promotes more active street life—fostering a greater sense of belonging and inclusion—the report equally highlights the opportunities for green urbanism.

“If Ryerson were to engage in the Downtown Yonge Street improvements, it could open opportunities to partner with the City of Toronto and the Downtown Yonge BIA on longer-term sustainability initiatives in the neighbourhood,” said the report. “For example, promoting green infrastructure and pedestrian-focused environmental design encourages carbon footprint reduction and advances wellness initiatives.”

“Utilizing pedestrian-priority pathways as linear parks or green streets can further the benefits to the city. Pedestrian-friendly urban spaces also help diversify mobility options and promote active transportation.”

The advocacy for a transformation from Ryerson is built on the back of the firm public support evidenced through the Downtown Yonge BIA’s polling and the involvement by BIA indicates business continuity. Also, the ongoing initiative by CouncillorKristyn Wong-Tam, Yonge Tomorrow Study will provide crucial support from the municipality.

Being an important part of daily life and civic consciousness, Yonge Street is key to Toronto. However, despite being a relatively cheap task, creating an improved public realm is long overdue, but with the input of local stakeholders it makes it alot more urgent.

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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