Although we were expecting it, we couldn’t help having a sense of foreboding back in 2016 when construction began on the new midrise Upper House condominium at Laird Drive and Malcolm Road. Drawing from the original marketing materials, the Upper House development was originally marketed as a 74-unit, “luxury boutique condo” located “where you want to live.…[with] all that Leaside has to offer and more. Say ‘Hi’ to neighbours,” and “Of course we’re pet friendly…[and] Yes, there’s a pet spa. This is Leaside after all.”
For the most part, I agree with the original marketing sentiment about the location. After all, we live next door! Full disclosure: unlike many of the residents who will be similarly affected when the new midrise development projects planned for Laird and Bayview are completed, we purchased with the full knowledge that the old post office building at 2 Laird would be replaced by the Upper House (now known as 25 Malcolm Road). After living through the experience from ground-breaking to occupancy, through this month’s column I aim to highlight some of the pros and cons that the continuing intensification of Leaside will have for those residents living near all the proposed new midrise buildings on the horizon.
The number of homes tripled, local business benefits
Setting aside the impact on property values and the inconvenience of construction, where we still are dealing with unresolved issues with the developer, I decided to focus on the impact on overall “liveability” after the building was occupied in 2018, namely: the impact on local businesses, traffic, parking, personal safety and ‘petiquette’. To make the effort as productive as possible, I was joined by Neil Pirhonen, president of the Upper House condo corporation. We had a frank and open discussion about post-construction liveability for all residents on our shared street.
To begin, speaking with several of our local businesses, I found that the influx of new customers from the Upper House has been a welcome addition to the bottom line and is a positive outcome for the community. The success of these local business owners is paramount to having a wide variety of goods and services readily available for the convenience of us all.
The first item I raised with Neil was the increase in activity on the street from residents, tenants, visitors and deliveries to the building. Clearly, with the number of homes tripling on our street, there is a notable difference. As expected, both vehicle and foot traffic has increased and Neil noted that residents living near future developments should ensure that new builds have planned for adequate parking. When combined with the fact that the average number of vehicles per Leaside household has increased, it is worth it for existing residents to ensure there is adequate visitor-resident parking before a project is approved since there is little recourse afterwards, and poor planning will lead to increased competition for street parking.
Increased security deters porch pirates and mischievous tweens
Although there are a lot more ‘strangers’ on the street, concerning the general feeling about personal safety, I confirm we have always felt safe. The opportunity for our kids to play road hockey or catch on our street in a carefree manner was not an option before the new midrise so this has not been a factor for us. What I do find though is that an increase in overall activity on the street, together with the visible Upper House security cameras and concierge, all contribute to deterring the likes of unwanted late-night door knocking shenanigans by mischievous tweens and those pesky porch pirates. For the record, Neil also confirmed that there are no Airbnb units in the building as a policy.
Next up was ‘petiquette’. Although there are no hard and fast rules beyond common sense and basic manners, the main issue we discussed was how to manage the number of pets that need to ‘go’, where they go and where the subsequent output is deposited. Interestingly, with half of residents being pet owners, Neil reported that their condo board has initiated a campaign to encourage residents to direct the ‘activity’ in a way that minimizes damage to their own gardens as well as nearby residences. Unable to find any relevant bylaws that govern pet relief or the disposal of waste in other people’s bins, I leave this issue up to the responsibility of individual pet owners to determine how these actions might be perceived, if not breaking any laws.
Leaside is not going to be a ‘condominium neighbourhood’ anytime soon. We face a different challenge. With the arrival of the midrise built-form, our challenge is to figure out how different (if at all) are the lifestyles, attitudes and interests of Leaside’s incumbent homeowners and the newest residents, in an effort to be neighbourly for the benefit of the community as a whole. Mr. Pirhonen’s efforts to willingly engage the local community bodes well for the successful integration of the Upper House residents with the wider community. I’m glad he reached out to say “hi” as all good neighbours do.
How will the arrival of midrise buildings in Leaside affect liveability? Research shows that 80 per cent of homeowners are okay with other individuals using their bins. Where do you stand? Should the LRA take steps to diversify the board to ensure condominium and rental buildings are well represented? Let us know at .