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Lily Miao and her husband Dong Wang outside their newly completed home in the west end of Milton. (J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail/J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail)
Lily Miao and her husband Dong Wang outside their newly completed home in the west end of Milton. (J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail/J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail)

communities

Young, ambitious and house-hungry? Head to Milton Add to ...

Still, driving through Milton, you can’t help but notice all of the typical fast-food chains such as Extreme Pita and Hero Burger. And most sit-down restaurants are the usual suspects, such as Boston Pizza and Shoeless Joe’s. In fact, when Ms. Spinelli first moved to Milton, there was such little choice that she couldn’t even get into a place like East Side Mario’s on a Friday night. It was too crammed.

Social life, though, is only one of many factors. To some, work commutes are just as important, and Milton’s location can be convenient. Ms. Miao, for instance, works near Square One in Mississauga, and her husband works in Guelph, so the town is practically equidistant from their offices. And for those with jobs downtown, the GO train extends all the way to Milton.



Shiny and new, with a few bumps in the road ahead

Unlike so many of Toronto’s public spaces, which were built years ago, much of Milton is brand new. Take the sparkling $39-million Milton Centre for the Arts, which opened last fall. Designed by +VG Architects, the centre has a 500-seat theatre, a space for community art exhibitions, and it is attached to the new flagship branch of Milton’s public library.

Milton’s town hall is also in pristine condition after an $18-million expansion wrapped up in 2010. Redeveloped with the environment in mind, the building in the heart of older Milton now boasts a LEED certification and has earned praise from the architectural community.

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These transformations are only taking place now because growth was stunted until the late 1990s. For decades, Milton didn’t have the capacity to pump wastewater and water to and from Lake Ontario, 20 minutes to the south. That finally changed in the late 1980s when plans were put in place for what Mayor Krantz calls “the big pipe.”

Because Milton had such a small tax base, the town had long struggled to fund the upfront costs of building such a water system. To help, developers such as Mattamy Homes stepped in, offering to absorb some of the fees because, in their view, the long-term rewards would be worth it. In the decade since, the developer has profited handsomely from building the massive Hawthorne Village community where Ms. Miao and Mr. Wang live. Over 10,000 families now call the Mattamy-built neighbourhood home.

But not everything is brand spanking new in this town – at least not yet. Money is badly needed to widen main arteries such as Derry Road and Bronte Road, and to build underpasses that allow drivers to dodge the train tracks that cut through the heart of the town. Last year alone, Milton budgeted $39.3-million, half of its capital budget, for road developments because so many residents say the trip to the 401, the nearest highway, is a nightmare before and after work.



Milton residents also worry about rapidly escalating house prices. In mid-2008, the average house price was $336,041. At the end of 2011 it was $427,249. That’s a 27 per cent jump in 2 1/2 years. The rapid rise has prompted the Spinellis to cash in the $100,000 in equity they earned from their first semi-detached home and put it toward their current fully detached house on the west side of town.

Despite these worries, residents love Milton’s small-town allure. In the older part there are bungalows and two-storey homes with quaint porches, and the list of Top 20 employers is folksy enough to include Chudleigh’s Apple Farm.

“It now feels kind of like Mississauga did when I was a child became it’s getting bigger and it’s booming,” she says. “But there’s still that small downtown Main Street where you can get that old-town feel.”

DO THE MATH

$325,000

Milton: 85 Bronte St. S.

What you get:

A three-bedroom, two-storey detached house in Old Milton



Features:

Detached garage



A quarter-acre of land



Wide plank hardwood floor



Toronto: 255 Richmond St. E.

What you get:

A one-bedroom condominium in the Moss Park neighbourhood.



Features:

Walk-in closet



Close to subway



Building has 24-hour concierge, gym



$620,000

Milton: 894 Yates Dr.



What you get:

Four-bedroom, three-bathroom 3,000-sq-ft home



Features:

Granite counters



Gas fireplace



Attached garage



Toronto: 55 Norseman St.



What you get:

A three-bedroom bungalow in Etobicoke



Features:

“Minutes to downtown, golf and the airport”



45-by-110-foot lot



“Good bones”



$869,000

Milton: 86 Martin St.

What you get:

A four-bedroom century home in downtown Milton



Features:

Renovated with self-contained nanny suite



Private dock on pond



Half-acre lot



Toronto: 619 Clinton St.



What you get:

A one-bedroom bungalow in Seaton Village



Features:

20-by-125-foot lot



Two-car garage off lane



“Huge potential”

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