A couple months ago I was at a community park helping out a local initiative to clean up the Kensington Market neighbourhood. Attending this gathering was Toronto City Councillor Joe Cressy, who stopped by to say hello and chat. During our conversation, Joe alluded to the creation of a new park south of King Street West. I remember thinking: where could they possibly fit a park of any substantial size downtown?
Fast forward to today and the recent announcement of Rail Deck Park, an exciting new initiative that has Toronto buzzing. Rail Deck Park is a planned 21 acre ’signature park’ that will be built above the railway tracks between Bathurst Street and the Rogers Centre.
An infrastructure project of this magnitude is bound to have a big impact on real estate in the area. Let’s take a look at the nearby condominiums that stand to gain the most.
The most obvious benefactors of this park are the owners of CityPlace condos south of the railway tracks between Spadina & Bathurst, particularly the North facing units on lower floors. While the park’s design isn’t yet decided and isn’t public knowledge, we can assume the park will not only be visually appealing, but also act as a noise barrier for the busy railroad tracks below. Upon completion, the decreased railway noise will have the effect of increasing the value of many of the less expensive units in CityPlace which currently deal with railroad noise and the eye sore the rail corridor. These units—typically only considered by investors—will now be considered by young professionals as well.
The addition of a Rail Deck Park will also positively impact CityPlace condos as a whole. The lack of green space in CityPlace is becoming more apparent as the density intensifies with the completion of the towers in the West end of the complex. The vision for CityPlace is for it to become a true community: Plans for two schools, a daycare and a community centre have been approved and are moving forward. Rail Deck Park will contribute to, and improve upon, these initiatives by providing a more stimulating and accessible space to exercise the body and minds of young children. A more engaging and convenient lifestyle will mean less turnover and more owner occupied units.
In addition to the increase in community facilities, access to and from CityPlace should improve greatly. In the renderings available, there is no sign of the current pedestrian bridge at Portland Street. It is most likely to be removed as there would be little need for it once the canopy is in place. Although there are many unknowns about how access from the South (CityPlace) side of the park will work, it appears access from Front Street will be wide open, creating a more open concept environment for community members. From this vantage point, it appears that the Rail Deck Park will enable greater mobility and between King West, CityPlace, and the lakeshore.
Another condo that stands to benefit is 550 Front Street West. This aging condominium fronting the North side of Front Street at Portland would be greatly enhanced by the addition of the park. The balcony units on the South side overlooking the rail corridor sell at a discount and have historically been less attractive. With Rail Deck Park in place, many of these units—many with great balconies—will acquire a beautiful view overlooking a lush green space. An added bonus here: less noise pollution. Once the park is approved, a speculative investment on a south facing unit in this complex may be a good play.
Additional options are 560 Front Street West and the upcoming Minto development on the corner of Front & Bathurst. At this point, it may be a strategic move to be much more diligent with speculating on both these buildings if you plan on living in the unit. Since 560 Front St W has very little southern exposure, fairly bland layouts, and has under-performed as an investment to date, it could be best to take a more wait-and-see approach. Same with the new Minto Development ‘Westside’, as this developer tends to over promise and under deliver (although rumour is a few south facing suites were snatched up shortly after the park was announced).
Rail Deck Park will also figure as a selling feature for the residential portion of the new big project, The Well. It was announced recently that the city has come to terms with developer Tridel for the 7.5 acres project spanning North – South from Front to Wellington and East – West from Spadina to Draper. The main parcels of land to be used include the current parking lot at Front and Spadina, and the Globe and Mail head office on Front Street. Rental apartment and residential condominiums will occupy about half the approved density. Rumours of rather large retail anchor tenants being pursued for the retail/commercial aspect of the development only add to the value of this project. As it will likely be finished before Rail Deck Park, early investors in this project stand to benefit from the re-development of Front Street. Similar to CityPlace, the units on lower floors facing the park will now be more attractive. Rail Deck Park will surely be used as a selling feature for the residential aspect of this development.
Finally, much of the real estate in King West stands to reap the benefits of more green space. The neighbourhood has become very congested and less family friendly, as it has transitioned into the new entertainment district. Hopefully the additional green space starts a new discussion about raising kids in the area. You can also expect the retail on Front Street West to become more valuable. Front Street between Bathurst and Spadina will no longer be a relative dead zone. Rail Deck Park will open up Front Street and bring people to an otherwise under-utilized area. Additionally, more grade level commercial space will be brought online with the development of The Well and Minto Westside. This in turn will make a fledgling neighbourhood even more attractive and greater access will hopefully draw people away from crowded Trinity Bellwoods park.
Remember, at this point Rail Deck Park is little more then an ambitious vision from Mayor John Tory and Councillor Joe Cressy, but it is visions like these that Toronto sorely needs.
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