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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Leaside, a dream neighbourhood in Toronto

The Bank of Canada has raised interest rates again, making it more difficult for people to get a mortgage at an affordable rate. The key overnight lending rate has been raised from 0.5% to 0.75%.

With that in mind it makes sense to me that people might want to consider buying a house in a region of Toronto which is often overlooked.

Leaside is a small but quiet neighbourhood right in the middle of Toronto. Most of the homes in Leaside are traditional detached two-storey designs dating from the 1930s and 1940s, all-brick constructed, with distinctive intermixing of cut stone around entryways and front bay windows. Homes in Leaside often have exterior details such as leaded glass windows, arched / peaked entrances and broad wooden door casings. Its a level of artistry that hasn't been seen in decades and for someone like myself who enjoys older architecture, a pleasure. Inside you will typically see traditional wooden mouldings, baseboards, and floors... the type of things you'd see when visiting your grandparents.

Or in my case, my parents' farm... or the 1920s apartment building I currently live in.

I look at the architecture of some of the homes in Leaside and I just drool. They're "perfect", almost idealized, like a Carl Schaefer painting.

Not all the homes in Leaside are what I'd call affordable. Some of the really nice homes are $900,000 or more. Depending on where you look however there are more economical alternatives. South Leaside has a variety of semis and bungalows with price ranges hovering around $500,000.

The reason for this is because Leaside is a good place for anyone in the upper middle-class wage bracket. So that means people like myself probably couldn't afford to live there... but I can still dream right?

Sure, its not the multi-million dollar homes of Rosedale... and its not one of the soon-to-be-a-slum condos by the waterfront either. Its just a nice quiet neighbourhood with the following perks:

#1. Conveniently close to both Yonge Street and the Don Valley Parkway. Commute time to downtown is 15-30 minutes.

#2. Cycling distance from downtown. In fact there's plenty of bicycle lanes and trails in the surrounding region. (As a bicycle mechanic, I appreciate these things.)

#3. Abundant local parkland. Serena Gundy Park, David A. Balfour Park, Moore Park Ravine, Flemingdon Park, Sunnybrook Park, Blythwood Ravine, Sherwood Park.

#4. Lots of local schools for children and teens. Maurice Cody School, Blythwood School, Bessborough Drive School, Rolph Road School, Leaside High School, Northern Secondary School, Marshall McLuhan Secondary, North Toronto CI, Don Mills CI.

#5. Oh and its only a short bicycle ride to the Ontario Science Centre, a huge chunk of parkland, fishing in the Don River and the archery range just south of the OSC (as someone who enjoys the sport of archery I can appreciate that).

The area is named after the Lea family from Lancashire, England who arrived in Canada in 1819. John and Mary Lea later built the first brick house in York township in 1829. In 1841 their son William later bought additional land and built an octagonal home which he dubbed "Leaside". The house is no longer there, but its location was where the Leaside Memorial Gardens is now.

I did manage to find a painting of the octagonal home however, shown here.

A lot has changed since Leaside was once prime farmland. Now there's three subway stations nearby, Eglinton, Davisville and Bayview, a plethora of restaurants, boutiques and a combination of small "family businesses" and larger retail stores.

The history of the area includes:

The Leaside Junction Station, one of the busiest train stations and train yards in Toronto from 1894 to 1969.

The Leaside Viaduct, a bridge built in 1927 across the Don Valley.

Residential construction in Leaside didn't begin until the 1930s. In 1967 Leaside became part of East York and eventualled was amalgamated with Toronto in 1997. The area is popular with families, since it has such quiet streets, very little crime and a large number of schools / parkland. Many parents consider it to be one of the ideal locations in Toronto to raise kids.

In the 1990s a number of "exclusive" condos and townhouses were built in the region, attracting more families to the area. Many of Leaside's local shops are geared towards children and mothers, although the area also boasts antique shops, specialty stores and pubs. There's also libraries, community centres, indoor ice arena and an indoor swimming pool, curling rink and an auditorium. The local Sunnybrook Park even has horseback riding stables.

Seriously, freaking horse stables! Who wouldn't want to live in Leaside???

Well, maybe if you were allergic to horses or you have Hippophobia (the fear of horses)... but otherwise, com'on! Leaside is like a dream neighbourhood most people can only fantasize about living in. Of course, if you have a good job and can afford to live there that is another matter entirely.

Learn more about Leaside here:
Leaside : Prime Toronto Neighbourhoods
Search Leaside Homes
A Brief History of Leaside

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