37 ALVIN AVE. TORONTO
Asking price: $1,999,000
Lot size: 125-by-24 feet
Taxes: $16,714.00 (2012)
Listing agents: Arthur Parks, Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.
Mixed-use homes are rarely featured in the glossy home and décor magazines. They’re too often seen as strictly an investment, an income-generator. But 37 Alvin Ave. challenges all of the stereotypes of a commercial-residential building.
Steps away from the bustling intersection of Yonge and St. Clair, this three-storey Victorian home looks perfectly domestic on the outside. But the Alvin abode is not a regular home. Its main floor is currently a podiatrist’s office and perched above it on the upper two floors is the perfect little nest for empty-nesters looking for a real estate opportunity that’s both a cozy, quiet urban home and a source of revenue.
John Morris fell for the duality of 37 Alvin in 2007. Having owned 10 different homes over his life – some as investments, others as family dwellings – he liked that he could be a landlord in a highly sought-after neighbourhood. But he and his wife, Saverina Allevato, were also blown away by the designer apartment suite on the upper floors, which quickly became their landing spot when they came to Toronto for work during the week before retreating to their Lake Simcoe family home on the weekends.
“When you walk up the stairs [to get to the apartment], you can’t help but say ‘wow’ and wonder, ‘where did this [part of the home] come from?’” said Ms. Allevato.
The back story
The home is believed to have been built around the turn of the 20th century, says Arthur Parks, who is a broker with Chestnut Park. Prior to Mr. Morris’s ownership, it was owned by a doctor and before that, a couple who had had it since the late 1970s and really elevated it from a standard row house to a luxury apartment situated above a quiet office.
In the mid-1990s, the owners had renowned Toronto-based builder J.F. (Joe) Brennan – who has designed many a millionaire’s home in Rosedale, the U.S. and the Bahamas – redo the house. Multiple offices were built on the first floor, including a small reception area. And the upstairs was opened up with the second story becoming a large kitchen with a walk-out deck and a shared formal dining room with a spacious living space. The top level was divvied up into two large bedrooms, both with plenty of closet space, and two bathrooms (one of which is en suite).
The décor on the upper levels is clean, yet detailed. Mr. Brennan left a few little wooden stars embedded into his hardwood floors. He also turned one of the supporting beams into an enclosed column light and created miniature duplicates to sit atop of the staircase posts. The end result is a welcoming, warm condo-esque space without all of the downsides of a condo, like condo fees.
Of course, those wary of being a landlord might fear that the maintenance on a mixed-use home would be astronomical. But Mr. Morris and Ms. Allevato deny this.
“This property really requires minimal upkeep,” said Mr. Morris, pointing out that even the backyard, which has no grass, only perennial bushes, requires little work to keep it ravishing in the summer months.
That said, they have made small improvements to 37 Alvin in the last five years. They’ve re-shingled the roof, waterproofed the basement and taken out some of the carpeting in the apartment suite and replaced it with Brazilian cherry wood floors. They’ve given the kitchen (plus its adjoining laundry nook) new appliances, including a Liebherr refrigerator and a Miele stove.
Their biggest project was replacing the old wood-burning fireplace with a smaller, gas-burning unit that’s framed with marble and heats the open space just as efficiently, says Mr. Morris.
The fireplace is one of the reasons why Ms. Allevato and Mr. Morris love the living room so much, citing that it’s a warm space (both literally and figuratively) to relax at the end of the day or entertain a small cohort of guests.
“You can’t find a space like this in a condo. Condo living rooms are always small. You always have to push your furniture up against a wall,” said Mr. Morris while pointing out that his living room takes advantage of the whole width of the house.
Mr. Morris, who is a lawyer, and Ms. Allevato, who is a teacher, are also quick to name the location of the home as one of its finest features. It takes no more than a minute to get to the shopping plaza at 12 St. Clair St. E., which has a grocery store, a gym and access to the subway station.
Despite being in the heart of midtown Toronto, 37 Alvin is also around the corner from many of Toronto’s parks and paths, like the Moore Park ravine, which eventually connects with Toronto’s Brickworks.
But above all else, Mr. Morris enjoys having a commercial tenant below him.
“Having a tenant downstairs made us feel very secure, like someone was looking after the house when we were out,” he said. “It’s really more of a partnership … It’s way less [stress] than having a residential tenant.”
“[Our tenant] has his time and when he’s done for the day, we’re here, just getting home,” said Ms. Allevato.
A perfect arrangement for homeowners who want a multi-tasking property.
Editor's Note: Due to an editing error, the original print and online versions of this story referred to J.F. (Joe) Brennan as an architect. Mr. Brennan is not licensed as an architect in Ontario. This online version has been corrected.