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The Future of Leaside: From Garden Neighbourhood to Growth Hotspot

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Once its own relatively exclusive bubble, Leaside is in the midst of a massive transformation that will open the coveted neighbourhood up to the rest of the city.

The anticipated Eglinton Crosstown LRT light rail transit line, and a handful of shiny new condo developments, will breathe new life into the green space and family-filled neighbourhood. Leaside’s longtime location off of the subway line (it was accessible via bus from Davisville or Eglinton TTC stations) contributed to its relative aloofness from the rest of Toronto. Now, the neighbourhood is on the cusp of becoming highly accessible, something that will likely lead to significant population growth in the not-too-distant future.

Currently slated for completion in 2022, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT will add 25 stations running east-west along Eglinton – from Black Creek Drive in the west to Kennedy Station in the east – including one at Bayview and Eglinton (“Leaside” Station), and another at Laird and Eglinton (“Laird” station). The Crosstown will link to 54 bus routes, three TTC subway stations, the UP Express, and the Kitchener, Barrie, and Stouffville GO lines.

With new transit comes new residential developments and an influx of people to populate them.

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“Density and transit belong together. The Leaside residents are lucky to enjoy this immense investment in infrastructure along Eglinton East,” says Naama Blonder, an architect and urban planner with Smart Density. “While the entire area will see dramatic changes, it’s important to remember that Toronto needs more housing, and businesses need more people – these are just some of the benefits density could bring to a neighbourhood like Leaside.”

Central to the Leaside neighbourhood, the beloved Bayview Avenue retail channel – which extends from approximately Davisville Avenue to just south of Eglinton Avenue – is surrounded by residential streets and green space. The LRT will help revitalize the strip, which – while still undoubtedly vibrant and bustling – has experienced a concerning handful of shuttered storefronts in recent years. This is the often-inevitable by-product of gentrification and increasing commercial real estate costs.

Of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t exactly helped the Bayview strip, making its strong resurgence and growth all the more valuable. The neighbourhood’s business owners are hopeful and confident that the headache-inducing LRT construction will be worth the temporary pain for the long-term gain.

Trae Zammit, chair of the Leaside-Bayview Business Improvement Association (BIA) and owner of longtime Bayview business The Smokin’ Cigar, believes the large-scale change will only render the already desired neighbourhood more popular, and its businesses more successful as a result.

“The LRT and new development means a tremendous amount of new families will enter the neighbourhood, and we’ll likely see an influx of younger established residents who will hopefully become repeat customers along the Bayview strip and in the new retail along Eglinton,” says Zammit. “Those who move into the convenient units along Eglinton will be more prone to get out and walk and shop local – something we always encourage at the Bayview-Leaside BIA.”

Mayor John Tory echoes this optimism.

Before the pandemic, Toronto was the fastest growing city in North America,” says Mayor Tory. “That success will continue in the wake of the pandemic and our city will continue to grow. A decade from now, I am confident that the investments we have made in transit including the Eglinton Crosstown will ensure Leaside is a dynamic neighbourhood where people live, work, and play.”

On the living front, perhaps the most exciting development is the anticipated Upper East Village master-planned community. Construction is currently underway on the luxury Camrost Felcorp Inc. project, which will feature spacious condos and townhomes in a convenient and leafy enclave at Brentcliffe Rd. and Eglinton Ave. East. In three separate brick and glass buildings, Upper East Village will house a host of upscale units, which will vary in size from one-bedroom to three-bedroom plus family-room suites. Common themes include thoughtful design features, contemporary finishes, and indulgent lifestyle amenities. 

Catering to everyone from young urban families to recent empty nesters, the development will feature large, elegant units with two and three bedrooms. The expansive, three-story townhomes offer space and privacy, and are complete with front yards on a tree-lined boulevard. The development also shines in its amenity offerings, with things like a fitness/yoga centre, indoor pool, spacious party room, rooftop terrace with BBQs, a half-acre park with outdoor gardens, a fire pit lounge, and well-curated retail space.

Beyond new buildings plentiful in the amenity department, the entire neighbourhood will have to adapt to accommodate growing and changing demographics.

“We know transit will bring increased density to an appropriate scale and in the right places, but we will have to manage that growth and make sure the investments necessary to support that growth, including schools, libraries, recreation facilities and child care centres, are made,” says Mayor Tory. “It is my hope that 10 years from now, the investments that the City is making in this community to ensure it is more walkable and pedestrian-friendly will have helped ensure residents can safely enjoy their neighbourhood.”

Despite the change, Mayor Tory says he believes that much of Leaside will retain its unique character over the next 10 years. “With sound planning and good management, we can achieve that, while still accepting the jobs and housing we need close to transit, so that we can remain a liveable city of opportunity,” he says.

Leaside’s revitalization – and subsequent appeal – will hold strong for decades to come.  “This isn’t going to be a short-term success story,” says Zammit. “Once people enter the neighbourhood, they are usually here to stay – or they return. Their siblings end up moving into the neighbourhood, their kids get married and re-enter the neighbourhood – it doesn’t lose its appeal.”

One thing’s for sure, if you’re looking for the right Toronto neighbourhood to grow in, doing so in Leaside – a neighbourhood that’s already considered one of the city’s best – will be a choice that only gets better with age.

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