Leaside Then and Now

Donegall Drive Photo By Stan Flemming
Donegall Drive Photo By Stan Flemming

Thirty, even 20 years ago, when Leaside homes changed hands, the new owners might put in a new kitchen or upgrade the bathroom. Some settled for a new coat of paint. It was pretty big news if more extensive renovations were planned.

Not any more.

These days, regardless whether a house has been bought by a developer or by people who are actually going to move in, there seems to be an overwhelming desire to redesign the house completely, or demolish it totally. They buy, and then replace what was once referred to as a ‘typical Leaside house’ or bungalow with a different, much more ambitious, model. We see geometric boxes cheek-by-jowl with traditional Georgian designs, and Disney-esque turreted affairs nestled between examples of original Leaside Tudor architecture.

The pace of single home redevelopment has reached such a fever pitch that many streets in Leaside have seen the majority of original homes added onto or replaced. One hardly remembers what the street used to look like. New owners apply to the Committee of Adjustment for minor and major (and sometimes multiple) variances, many of which are granted. So changeth neighbourhoods.

I do not criticize owners who need or desire more space, or homes more suited to their family size or lifestyles, but eventually there is a cumulative impact on the look and density of the area.

It would be interesting to know how many of us moved into Leaside for the long term, the quality of life, versus how many regard their move into Leaside mainly as an economic investment, perhaps with thoughts of eventually ‘moving up’ into Lawrence Park, or perhaps Bennington Heights, or merely to rebuild and sell.

With the soaring prices of Leaside homes, economics is an obvious consideration, and for many residents their homes are, in effect, their retirement plans. But for others, Leaside is regarded as a stepping stone, an investment. For still others, it’s the place where we want to stay. Home.

I am frequently asked: why do people buy in Leaside, especially those who replace the house they’ve just bought with a more massive new building? Do they buy for the small-town ambiance and amenities that Leaside is known for? The quality of life and scale of the community’s layout? If so, is there a bit of a contradiction, if, once they’ve bought for these reasons, the result is that whole streetscapes, in no time at all, are replaced with very different ones?

When the Fripp family discovered Leaside and bought our house long ago, Leaside was a very much more homogeneous neighbourhood than it is now. In the questionnaire for the first Leaside traffic study LPOA did for the Borough of East York in the 1970s, one of the first questions we asked was: ‘How long have you lived in Leaside?’ Many residents had lived here for more than 40 years! Some had first lived in apartments at Thorncliffe before moving into a house in Leaside; others had begun married life in a Leaside bungalow, trading upward into a semi or detached home as their families grew. Some had bought their parents’ house, and their parents had downsized into a Leaside bungalow. All of them stayed in Leaside. Most viewed Leaside as the beginning and the end of their living pattern. Leaside was virtually a balanced ecosystem.

Not any more, I suspect.

I’d be interested to know what our readers think.

The March LPOA board meeting, usually on the first Wednesday of each month, has been moved to THURSDAY, March 2nd, to permit the scheduling of a traffic consultation meeting for North Leaside on Wednesday, March 1st. The traffic meeting on March 1st is at the William Lea Room (Leaside Gardens) and the March 2nd rescheduled monthly LPOA board meeting is at our usual Trace Manes building venue.

The following month reverts to our regular pattern: the April meeting of the LPOA board will be on WEDNESDAY, April 5th, in the Trace Manes building at 7:30 p.m. These meetings are always open to the public. We invite you to attend, whether for help or advice on local matters, or just to listen.

About Carol Burtin Fripp 139 Articles
Carol Burtin Fripp is Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, and is Chair of the LRA's Traffic Committee. Over the years, she has served on numerous East York and City task forces. Now a retired television producer (TVO and CBC), she writes Leaside Life's monthly LRA column, and has created a daily international current affairs newsletter read from Newfoundland to New Zealand.