According to the 2016 Preliminary Neighbourhood Census Profile for Leaside-Bennington, there are 2,190 ‘Millennials’ living in Leaside. That compares to 5,260 ‘Gen-Xers’, 3,795 ‘Baby Boomers’ and 1,090 ‘Matures’. In 2017 Statistics Canada reported the proportion of Millennials (20 to 34 in 2017), surpassed that of Baby Boomers (53 to 71), in the Canadian work force and will shortly do the same to us Gen-Xers, becoming the largest generational cohort to lead. There has been much academic work on generational differences in the workforce, but not so much for what this particular demographic shift means for our neighbourhoods. I suspect that this shift will also occur in Leaside as the group also becomes the largest cohort of residents. So, last month, armed with a list of questions, I embarked on a quest to speak with some Millennials living in Leaside to learn more.
Apparently, Millennial does not equal ‘Hipster’ – a sometimes loathed, sometimes widely followed trendsetting subset of the generation. Surprisingly, upon further research Hipsters can include my own Gen-Xers too (sadly, or maybe happily, I am by no means a Hipster as my kids can attest). Alas, we apparently will rarely if ever see a Hipster in Leaside as I am told they seldom venture north of Bloor and congregate and live mostly on the lower west side of the city (think: The Junction, Ossington, Liberty Village, et al). Leaside has an abundance of Millennials because at the younger end of the age category many grew up in the ’hood and are still living with their parents.
I sought out individuals who had chosen to buy in Leaside over many other neighbourhoods. Will their increasing presence add to the local economy? Will it affect property values? These residents are purchasing the growing number of condominium units coming onto the market. According to my sample, Millennials love city life, are huge foodies, love to try new places all over the city, are out of their home more than 75% of the time, and eventually came to the conclusion that “on occasion downtown did not feel homey or safe.” Originally the Millennials I spoke with weren’t sold on Leaside…Yonge & Eglinton has “so much more to offer,” there was Yonge & Lawrence, the Distillery district (“not yet fully established”), then there is “the burbs.”
A quandary shared with this maturing generation is, although nearly everyone loves the city, many grew up wanting a front lawn and a backyard…but, along with proximity to the city and all it has to offer, that is “just not a financially feasible option.” It boils down to individual priorities. Friends have already taken the plunge, while others, like my new friends, have firmly chosen to live in the city and accept the compromises that implies. What would they like to see in Leaside? Many “more ‘indie’ restaurants and shops.” Adamson BBQ is on their list to try, but they would love to see our local retailers tailoring more offerings to their generation and they are willing to work with owner-operators to make things happen. For now, in answer to my two questions, most of their discretionary and entertainment dollars are being spent elsewhere, and with regard to when they will be ready for a move-up property, well that’s TBD.
What we already know
“Maybe Leaside will never get or will never need that trendy hole in the wall, but it’s the fact that Leaside is an established neighbourhood that is perfectly positioned to access those places quickly at any time that makes it so amazing.”
Proud new Leaside residents
After four months of living in and working from their beautiful new home (both are digital media and marketing gurus), they have already experienced firsthand what we Leasiders already know. The neighbourhood is “awesome.” They didn’t think it would make a difference…but seeing the mature trees, relatively wide streets, people walking dogs, kids playing street hockey, people saying hello to one another, the pride people seem to take in their gardens, convenient access to day-to-day necessities, and the proximity to everything they love about the downtown core… Leaside is now home. One day, will they want to purchase a detached home in Leaside? They used to say to themselves, “If we had $6 million, we would buy a condo in Yorkville.” Now they are at least thinking about other options.