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The Globe and Mail

The challenge at CityPlace: redefining condo life

Neighbours check out food tents at Douglas Coupland’s Canoe Landing Park.

Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

CityPlace, the condo super-complex nestled in the waterfront-neighbouring rail lands between Spadina and Bathurst, boasts some 11,000 residents. By the time the glass behemoth is completed (at a to-be-determined date in the next few years), it will comprise over two dozen high- and mid-rise towers and potentially rival the population of a small city.

In other words, CityPlace will redefine public perceptions of what it means to live in a condo community – but it faces the challenge of pulling off "community" in the first place.

Last weekend, CityPlace residents made a decisive stride in that direction with CityFest, a daylong festival held at Canoe Landing Park, the Douglas Coupland sculpture-bedecked green space adjacent to the condos. The event was touted as the development's coming-out party, replete with 20 corporate sponsorships and a "CityPlace Got Talent" show featuring performers handpicked from within and near to the complex. It was, as co-organizers Phuong Dinh and Tiberiu Scrieciu explained, a chance to prove that living in a condo cluster the size of a village doesn't preclude functioning like one.

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"It's a growing, vibrant community," said Mr. Phuong, a 26-year-old consultant who has lived in CityPlace for a year and a half and serves on the condo complex's social committee. "You constantly see new faces, from young families moving in to older people who move into the neighbourhood and a lot of urban professionals."

"There are a lot of activities happening within every condo at CityPlace, which really helps to break barriers and make it easy get to know your neighbours," said Mr. Scrieciu, pointing to a number of resident-organized endeavours that include Zumba classes and twice-yearly socials.

Though Mr. Scrieciu, like Mr. Phuong, fits neatly into the condo-dwelling prototype of a twentysomething professional, he was careful to stress the increased diversity of the community in the five years since he became a denizen ("It's more of a healthy mix now"). Sure enough, young couples could be spotted on the park's Astroturfed sports lawn with children in tow, while retirement-age pairs strolled around the festival food tents and watched their neighbours onstage.

The event also drew curious neighbours and passersby, including Wendy Fisher, a consultant who lives near CityPlace at Bathurst and Queen's Quay. Ms. Fisher was once skeptical about the complex's unfolding into a functioning neighbourhood, but her outlook has changed.

"It wasn't a community at first, but it's becoming one," she said, adding that it's been heartening to see so many families decide to make the downtown space their homes.

While those in attendance at CityFest seemed enthusiastic about taking in the event's offerings – and the afternoon's ideal weather – people appeared to keep mostly to themselves and the companions they'd brought with them.

Jordan Smith, an art director who has lived in CityPlace for four years and came to scope out CityFest's happenings with his partner, said he hadn't met any new people at the event that day, and sheepishly admitted that he "[doesn't] really" know the neighbours on his floor; like many of the residents he's encountered, Mr. Smith simply spends more time at work than he does in his condo building. But, he contends that the development's rapid population boom has accelerated an energy shift.

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"When we first moved in, there was nothing here," said Mr. Smith, gesturing to the surrounding park and bustle. Now, there are people to meet and a physical space for interaction. "It does feel more like there's a sense of community here," he added.

For their part, the event's co-organizers hope to make CityFest an annual event. Said Mr. Scrieciu: "We want [to continue] celebrating CityPlace and the community."

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