Daniels was chosen as the developer in 2006—no surprise, since it would be hard to find one more adept at working both government and corporate contacts. The neighbourhood is being rebuilt in five phases. Everyone agreed that the area needed retailers, and Cohen says that it was vital to attract Tim Hortons, RBC, Sobeys and others into the first phase, since they would draw in condo buyers and other businesses. The area also needed more recreational facilities, so Daniels has built the $38-million Daniels Spectrum arts complex. Ottawa and Ontario each contributed $12 million, and more than 100 corporate and private donors supplied the rest. Next up: a new soccer field and athletic centre.
Those venues help Daniels sell condos, too. Buyers love having the amenities nearby, and it means they don’t need pools and gyms in their own buildings, which would inflate maintenance fees.
Even Ibrahim has benefited from corporate largesse. She now is an engagement worker at the Community Centre for Learning and Development, an agency in the Daniels Centre of Learning, which is partially funded by the TCHC, but also by Daniels. “Other people would just make money and not care how the community grows,” she says.
Sellar and Fritsch are unabashed left-wingers, but they’re living in Regent Park for more than idealistic reasons. They married in 2007, and began searching for a home to buy in late 2009. “The bidding wars were insane,” says Sellar. Fritsch says that they first looked at the redevelopment “more or less to gawk,” but liked what they saw. The first phase was nearly complete, so they wouldn’t have to wait years for construction, as with a typical condo project. Regent Park is within walking distance of their offices, as well as downtown attractions such as St. Lawrence Market. There were two new daycare centres slated for the neighbourhood. And because a lot of people in Toronto were wary of the area, it looked like a bargain. The couple bought a large two-bedroom condo in March, 2010, for a modest $360,000. “I saw it as a stigma discount,” says Fritsch.
This past June, the couple sold the condo for $395,000 and bought their townhouse. “We doubled down,” says Sellar. One attraction is that the townhouse is new—no structural flaws, decrepit wiring or any of the other headaches that they might find in an older house. Regent Park also seems to have passed the tipping point between scary and hip, and prices have surged. In April, TCHC applied for permission to boost density in the next three phases—raising the height of proposed condo towers and adding almost 2,000 more market units.
But the process of tearing down the old Regent Park, relocating residents to other TCHC buildings nearby, then moving them back into new units, is time-consuming; only half of the residents are in newly built homes. Does the grand tradeoff between profit and purpose seem just to Sellar and Fritsch? “In a perfect world, social housing would be appropriately funded by the government,” says Sellar. “But somebody has to provide the capital to support it around here.”
Mark Demian, 24, and Aylar Jalilpour, 25
For young first-time buyers who want to live near their jobs downtown, a detached house, or even an old row house or semi, is out of the question in Toronto, even if they can afford to pay more than $300,000. For that kind of money, say hello to a one-bedroom condo—and a small one at that.
In September, Demian and Jalilpour got the keys to their unit in Daniels’s new Cinema Tower, next to the TIFF Bell Lightbox and the 46-storey residential tower that rises from it. Opened in September, 2010, the Lightbox is the headquarters of the Toronto International Film Festival. With its five cinemas and other attractions, it is the hub of the Entertainment District, a dense mix of posh condos, restaurants and nightclubs that have replaced warehouses and parking lots over the past decade. In the Cinema Tower, suite models are named after movie directors: “Ours is called the Scorsese, I think,” says Jalilpour.
It’s hardly glamorous, though—an open kitchen and living/dining room, bedroom and bathroom packed into 585 square feet, plus a small balcony. Price: $380,000. In any case, TIFF hype had less to do with the couple’s purchase than practical factors. They’re getting married in January. They both work downtown—Jalilpour in Toronto’s children’s services department and Demian in IT with Ticketmaster—but still live with their parents in the suburbs. “I’m tired of the commuting,” says Jalilpour. “It can be four hours a day.”
They were players in the condo market previously. In 2011, as an investment, they signed up to buy a two-bedroom unit in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto, for $435,000. They’re still scheduled to close—in June, 2016.