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The dense Toronto real estate landscape is seeing families with young kids increasingly opt for condo living over the (unaffordable and unattainable) single-family home. But aside from condo building amenities like security, fitness facilities, and guest suites, what are families with young kids looking for in the neighbourhoods and communities they will choose to call home? In general, the right mix of lifestyle and value is ideal. But what lifestyle factors are most coveted?
Even though small-space condo living has its advantages (like decluttering, energy efficiency, and accessibility), kids will always be full of energy and will need to run around expending it. Communal leisure spaces like public parks, playgrounds, public pools, and walking/biking paths mean families can enjoy the leisure and health benefits of a backyard without the all the mowing, raking, and shoveling that suburban dwellers have to do. The Empire Midtown development is in close proximity to three city parks within two square kilometres: the Walter Saunders Memorial Park (basketball courts, playground, and bike trail), the Fairbanks Memorial Park (community centre, outdoor pool, and bocce courts), and the massive Cedarvale Park, one of Toronto’s biggest green spaces; the latter boasts a baseball diamond, tennis courts, one of the city’s most beloved dog parks, and a skating rink.
Easy access to downtown from an area with medium density housing means families can live day-to-day in a quieter and more expansive community, but can commute to the hustle-and-bustle of Toronto’s densest areas when they want to access the premium art, culture, and entertainment offerings for which the city is renowned. Along the western segments of Eglinton, the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (the $5.3 billion, 19-kilometre east-west rail line set for completion in 2021) and its connection to existing TTC infrastructure is set to drastically transform ease of access from midtown to denser areas. Public transit is a key, sought-after ingredient in family life, as commute times to and from workplaces are reduced in favour of school pick-ups, family dinners, and quality time shared between working parents and young kids.
One of the advantages that urban living offers over its suburban counterpart is local shopping, and especially buying local produce. Small fruit-and-vegetable stores often stock locally-sourced produce at a fraction of what similar items cost at big-box grocery stores. Locally-sourced food has more nutrients and flavour, less adverse effects on the environment, and best of all, it supports the local economy. Families with kids are certainly attuned to the proximity and quality of local produce shops as alternatives to chain grocery stores.
And as much as kids are a delight, sometimes parents with young ones need a break. A neighbourhood with community centres and recreational activities is key to giving mom and dad a much-needed rest. Only two blocks away from the Empire Midtown, the Fairbank Memorial Park Community Centre is a multilevel facility that offers a diverse range of programs including arts, music, dance, fitness and sports. But the Centre isn’t only for kids; their recreational programming caters to community members of all ages from preschool to children, youth, adults and seniors. Community Centres are also a great way to meet neighbours, and especially to make friends with other families with young children.
Finally, millennials with young children are often investing in “starter condos” with the intent to resell and move up to a larger property in the medium-term. This means property values and neighbourhood gentrification predictions are key to the choices young families make. There are a few ways prospective buyers can identify an undervalued neighbourhood so they can get the most out of their property investment: looking for social diversity, proximity to wealthier neighbours, and availability of underused large-scale spaces (land, warehouses, and industrial buildings—such spaces can be snapped up by art and culture organizations) are just a few. Read our post on how to spot an undervalued neighbourhood to get the details.
Between the density of shops, access to community and recreational services, and the wide variety of green spaces in the medium-density midtown core, families with young kids who opt for condo living can enjoy an efficient, diverse, affordable, and community-oriented lifestyle in the city.