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Is this the future of the subdivision in Toronto?

Posted by Derek Flack / August 14, 2014

Crafthouse TorontoJust mention the word subdivision and one tends to picture row upon row of brick houses of the most boring design. To be fair, that's pretty much what you get in most developments spread around the GTA, which is what makes this Crafthouse by Orchard Ridge Homes so darn interesting. Picked up by Curbed the other day, this development near Bayview and Finch features 20 ultra modern homes that would look very much at home in a place like Cedarvale as they do near the northern edge of the city.

Crafthouse TorontoWhile Toronto isn't home to as much subdivision construction these days (much of it having moved outside the city proper), developments of this size aren't exactly rare either. So perhaps the design work by architect Peter Vishnovsky will get developers thinking differently about how these communities are put together. They don't have to be bland and conservative by definition.

Crafthouse TorontoThat said, one should bear in mind that these homes start at almost $1.8 million - hardly in keeping with the general positioning of a subdivision as an affordable alternative to downtown home ownership. No, this is something far more luxurious, where the architecture is actually one of the chief selling points. One wonders if a trickle down effect is at all possible, one in which less expensive developments start getting a little bit bolder with their designs.





TJ / August 14, 2014 at 08:43 am
This is a gorgeous house in a great neighbourhood. If you got in earlier (maybe around 9-12 months ago), the price was $1.4 million I believe.

If they built these houses outside of the nice areas of Toronto and built it in one of the suburbs, it would probably be closer to $1-1.2 million.
Steve / August 14, 2014 at 08:57 am
Is this the future? Why because they are using contemporary architecture, a style that has been around for the better part of a century. This is subdivision a throw back to a failed idea of the post war modern urban planning that has destroyed many NA cities. Not the future more like the past with better clothing.
Skye / August 14, 2014 at 08:59 am
Now THAT'S an improvement over the thousands of vanilla townhomes that sprawl all over the GTA. Sure, they're expensive, but Bayview and Finch is pricey real estate and has been for some time. I'd love one of these.
Exactly / August 14, 2014 at 09:24 am
@Steve! Bang on. You're absolutely right
mike in parkdale / August 14, 2014 at 09:43 am
The future of the Suburbs is a better plan for density. The house illustrated sure looks nicer than what you see out there now, but it would do nothing to address the downside of sprawl.
Jake replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / August 14, 2014 at 09:48 am
@mike in parkdale not sure what you're expecting from Bayview & Sheppard, a pretty low-dense neighbourhood that has seen its fair share of condo build explosion already.
Potrzebie replying to a comment from Steve / August 14, 2014 at 09:49 am
Steve wrote: "...a failed idea of the post war modern urban planning that has destroyed many NA cities."

I know what you're saying, but I think it's way too simplistic.

Consider the state of the world in the mid '50s: The hydrogen bomb has just been developed, so nobody's thinking that the core of the city is a safe place to raise a family. Fuel and land are cheap. Sprawling bungalows and big roads seemed like a very solid idea.

Go to those same 1950s subdivisions today, and I guarantee you'll find the areas are still in high demand. There's no shortage of people looking for a massive lot for a dream McMansion.

Less leafy subdivisions have often found new life as ethnic enclaves (as established people move back downtown in search of fashionable urban life). Ever explored Brampton strip-malls? They're bustling.

Failure? I don't think so. Unfashionable and awkwardly planned? Certainly.

Jake replying to a comment from TJ / August 14, 2014 at 09:49 am
The price of the development was $600K less? I don't think so. From memory they were always in the 1.8-2M range, as per Paul Johnston's site.
Jake / August 14, 2014 at 09:50 am
I wonder if a massive subdivision was every built in modern style like this, if it would sell. Most likely not. People love the faux-chateau big-box style. Furthermore, the whole point of modern is that it stands out. A big subdivision of all modern homes would just look the same plain-jane vanilla as the ugly subdivisions do now I think.

I'm a huge fan of this project.
Cookie Cutter / August 14, 2014 at 09:53 am
Why do sub divisions homes all have to be cookie cutters of each other? I guess its whats quick and easiest to come up with a few designs and roll them out. I wonder how design was approached back in the day in Toronto. Walking down streets of Toronto that have 90-100 year old homes on them they were once a subdivision but many homes still remain quite unique from one another.
r / August 14, 2014 at 10:08 am
This 'sub division' is being built on a fairly small plot of land that used to be a school... it used to have a great wide open area that kids used to play in. that is all gone, they have placed a small jungle gym, but the basketball courts, baseball diamond and soccer fields are gone.

Not to mention the houses themselves do not fit the neighborhood at all, looking at them by themselves may be fine, but zoom out and it looks VERY foreign in the area. There have been new developments in the Bayview Village that have kept with an updated similar style and look great, but these modern houses in a contemporary style area looks silly.

As well I saw these being constructed and some idiot decisions were made (i.e. laying sod in December AFTER the ice storms and the ground was frozen). I'd be interested what other areas were rushed in the construction.

The price tag itself isn't (unfortunately) unrealistic, small bungalows are going for 1 mill... however those are then being torn down and replaced by large houses, so for these to be 1.4 Mill, its what market would dictate in the area.
keven / August 14, 2014 at 10:34 am
I'm confused by the logs underneath the gas fireplace.
seanm / August 14, 2014 at 10:53 am
Personally I think the houses look fantastic, but there's still a fundamental issue with the way subdivisions are constructed that goes beyond aesthetics.

Realistically speaking, many people still choose to live outside of downtown areas because they want more space- high density living can't be forced on everyone no matter how much more sustainable it is in the long run.

The real vision I see for planning future subdivisions is building environmentally sustainable neighbourhoods that offset their larger physical footprint with green technologies; entire subdivisions that are off the grid and generate their own power needs. These neighbourhoods are often built en-masse, so use the scale to integrate modern power generation and waste management technologies that are too expensive for the average family implement on their own.
Skye replying to a comment from Cookie Cutter / August 14, 2014 at 10:56 am
That depends on which older Toronto neighbourhoods you're looking at.

Sure, the former mansions on Jarvis are all pretty unique, but those were built by wealthy people who had the money to pay for unique and beautiful designs.

Wander into the Annex, Cabbagetown and (as a more recent example) Leaside, though, and all the homes pretty much resemble one another.

Ever seen pictures of Leaside from the 1930s, before it had trees? It looks pretty similar to the cookie-cutter subdivisions of the GTA today.
Thug Ford / August 14, 2014 at 10:57 am
The word "craft" is quickly becoming overused.
Joey replying to a comment from Cookie Cutter / August 14, 2014 at 11:00 am
@Cookie Cutter: Suburban homes are similar in style because they're cheaper and faster to build. If all the houses are the same, you can buy materials in bulk and save money; construction workers only have to spend time learning how to build one house. Also, I've found that for some people the cookie cutter look represents neatness, safety/security, predictability (as opposed to the city which which they view as ugly, dirty and dangerous).
chris / August 14, 2014 at 11:39 am
I have seen single versions of these houses in other neighbourhoods. I like them. They remind me more of a slightly updated Bauhaus design from the 1930's. Bauhaus was for the every. man, these seem to be for the man with the most money
jameson / August 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm
It's tough to judge the quality of the subdivision by simply the front shot of the house and the interiors.

A quality subdivision will have programmed open space and have a connection to the outer community. Good design is more than architectural.
Jess replying to a comment from chris / August 14, 2014 at 12:19 pm
What about women?
vin / August 14, 2014 at 12:29 pm
My family and I checked out these houses last weekend. They are very nice indeed. I think there is still 1 lot going for 1.8, and a couple in the 2.2, and 1-2 in the 2.5 range. I think these prices are well worth it for the new build, design, and area.
Some great things that my family noticed was the amount of storage in the kitchen and the spacious closets in the bedrooms. The downside was the incredibly small backyard (enough for a set of patio furniture, not much room for throwing a frisby etc) but I guess that's what happens when you want more indoor space. The washroom layout also seemed a little awkward to us because there was a dividing wall, with the double sinks on one side of the wall and the toilet/bath on the other side. Lastly, I would have put nicer stair railings in. Perhaps glass panels would have looked much better. But we liked it overall, just not for us.
Steve replying to a comment from Potrzebie / August 14, 2014 at 12:44 pm
The postwar suburbs had little to with the safety of the inner city, cheap gas and plenty of land we only see it that way from were we stand today. The idea was that a modern world had no need for cities. We saw the massive destruction not only in Toronto but in the hollowing out of many American cities after the war.
Grid Street patterns were dismissed, as were through streets, a subdivision was built with cul-de-sac, streets curving back to themselves and streets that cut at angles. The idea was to cut down on traffic, instead this created the congestion we see today. Buildings were placed on large lots with sweeping private green spaces, buildings did not relate to the street, they were connected via pathways. Causing many problems with crime and drug isolating children from the community. Zoning was changed to not allow mixed use. Of course malls in Brampton are busy were else are you going to shop. Communities are a place were people are supposed to work live and socialize. This modern urban planning creates a society isolated from itself, creating bland communities lacking vibrancy and individualism.
Because people want the big house isolated on large lot does not mean it is good way to build a city, it is just something they have been told they need.
You see many cities building city centres with mixed use planning, residential, retail, commercial, art and entertainment. The way cities have been built for millennia. Toronto is building rapidly to gain back what it lost and move itself into the 21st century and position it self for the future.
This suburban tract of houses is throw back to a failed ideology.
mike in parkdale / August 14, 2014 at 02:19 pm
You seem angry Rick. Ps. I live in a house, in the city. Imagine that!
kn replying to a comment from Steve / August 14, 2014 at 03:42 pm
I pretty much agree with you Steve, but I'm not too sure Toronto isn't just blindly mimicking the "NY city" model of what a modern city should be. The centre is becoming uncomfortably densified by a single typology, high rise condos, mostly for singles, which is pushing families out into what seems to be the only other solution - the suburbs. There's a critical relationship there that needs to be understood. As you pointed out, diversity is the key to building intimate communities. Diversity of housing stock, mixed use, a community you can live and walk in most of the time. Local businesses run by people living in your community. 80 story buildings are not necessarily the solution, especially in our climate, and neither is the sprawling suburbs where you don't even know your neighbour 3 doors away.
Moaz Ahmad / August 14, 2014 at 04:34 pm
Reminds me of the Val Homes on Valermo Drive in South Etobicoke (Alderwood) ... also built on the site of an old school.
archive / August 14, 2014 at 04:38 pm
Urbancorp has been trying to sell this type of project in South Etobicoke. Of course they haven't got full approvals and are waiting for a decision by the OMB.

Urbancorp doesn't have the best reputation and their product is low quality is buyer beware.

Anna Yaroslava / August 15, 2014 at 03:20 am
This house looks a lot like the one that was used in Orphan Black as Beth's place...
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