It would be hard to miss the large “Upper East Village” postcard in your mailbox; it seems to arrive about once a month. The development application that used to be known only by a street address (939 Eglinton Ave. East) has become a high-profile condo marketing campaign built on the “Upper East Side” moniker, an allusion to a well-known upper-class neighbourhood in New York City.
A 48-page glossy magazine “Celebrating Toronto’s Upper East Side” went out to area residents earlier this year, featuring “10 Reasons to Love The Upper East Side” (as well as “5 Poses to Prevent Back Pain”), and the top 10 reasons to love Toronto’s Upper East Side from “Eat Drink and Be Merry” to “Leaside Locals,” noting famous past and present Leasiders from Stephen Harper to Doug Gilmour. It even offered up cocktail recipes “with an East Side twist,” such as a gin-citrus blend called the Upper East Ender, and the beer-based Upper East Side Walkerk promising to “raise the bar on your hosting game.” And it gave shout-outs to an array of local establishments like De La Mer and Hollywood Gelato on Bayview.
“In my four decades developing neighbourhoods throughout the GTA, never have I encountered a space with more character and opportunity than the charming community of Leaside. Taking into consideration the magnetism of an area that attracts those with a zest and vibrancy for life, with its abundant green space and interconnected parklands and trails, its many cafés and quaint shops, not to mention some of the city’s most coveted public and private schools, it’s no wonder that this plentiful location has developed into Toronto’s very own Upper East Side,” enthuses David Feldman, president and CEO, Camrost Felcorp, also responsible for upscale projects like Imperial Village at Avenue Rd. and St. Clair Ave. W. and Yorkville Private Residences of the Cumberland Tower and Suites.
So, there we have it – while suite size, price, amenities and architecture are important, more and more, a building’s neighbourhood is considered the ultimate draw. Sure, but why Upper East Side, not Leaside? Will Leaside disappear into the Upper East Side haze? No mention of Leaside’s history as an independent municipality for over 50 years from 1913 to 1967, its distinctive town plan designed on garden city principles in 1912 by Montreal landscape architect Frederick Todd, its rich railway and industrial history, its wide diversity of housing types. Not to mention the amazing story of the development’s site beginning with the Leaside Aerodrome, followed by wallpaper manufacturing (and possible camouflage for wartime defence industry activity), and post-war Davis and Henderson financial services manufacturing.
Time will tell whether “Upper East Side” will prevail, but it’s interesting that this is not the first time the moniker has been used in Toronto. Back in 2012 writer Suzanne Wintrop dubbed the Sheppard East area as Upper East Side in an article in the Financial Post. When you think about it, the Sheppard subway project stimulated development along Sheppard in similar fashion to that of Eglinton Crosstown along Eglinton. We will see if other hot condo projects farther east adopt the moniker, like at Leslie and Don Mills. No sign of this yet.