Which neighbourhood in Toronto is best for two young people just starting out?
October 24, 2005 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Moving to Toronto-filter. I'm trying to decide between Midtown, Yonge and Eglinton, Yonge and St. Clair; or something more in the West end, like Queen and Dufferin, King and Dufferin, etc. If any Mefites live in the area, what are your experiences? How livable is the West end, really?

Here's the back story. I'm a twenty-something just finishing up graduate school and about to join the working world. My girlfriend just about to start her grad school experience. We're looking for easy access to transit, as well as some infrastructure nearby like grocery stores, markets, etc.

I know the Yonge and Eg area pretty well, although I've never actually lived there. It seems to be a mecca for the 23-29 age group. I'm not nearly as familiar with the King/Queen and Dufferin areas. Those seem like the two front-runners for a reasonable amount of space in the $1000-1250 per month price range.

So, this is a general question. Are the neighboruhoods livable? Loud? Is the King streetcar a pain in the ass to take every morning? And on and on... any relevant experiences or advice would be lovely. Or even alternate neighbourhood suggestions.

(Extra points if this causes some kind of turf-war between "Young and Eligible" and the West Village.)
posted by generichuman to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm at Yonge and Davisville (right between Eglinton and St. Clair). I find it very middle-of-the-road. It's not the soul destroying car-requiring depot depot wasteland of the dreaded suburbs, but neither is it the happening downtown scene. (Can you tell which direction I'm thinking of moving in?)

Basically, it's easy enough to get anywhere interesting by subway, and there are decent shops nearby, but everything is slightly more expensive than it should be.
posted by Capn at 11:18 AM on October 24, 2005

college and dovercourt is a great area. ymca, little italy / portugal, college streetcar every few minutes.
posted by dawdle at 11:26 AM on October 24, 2005

You need to be more specific about what you're looking for. Do you go out clubbing? Like to browse art galleries? Want a huge selection of restaurants to choose from? Do you want to be near a park? Where's the grad school? Where's your job likely to be?

The Liberty Village area is cheap but a little isolated. It feels to me as if you won't often get out from there, which is also how I feel about the waterfront condos.

Toronto west of Bathurst, east of High Park is a nice place, overall. It's a short ride to the city center yet very liveable, as a rule. Exactly where you want to live within that area depends on exactly what you want. Queen St. is "hip". College is a slightly more refined/mature cool. Dufferin Grove Park is full of hippies.

As for loud, you may want to avoid living ON the main streets, but rather find somewhere a block away, make sure you're not living over a nightclub, etc. Suggest you just take a day to walk or bicycle the whole area.
posted by jellicle at 11:37 AM on October 24, 2005

I vote for the St. Lawrence area. Downtown, great neighbourhood, easy access to the subway/streetcars, the St. Lawrence Market, the Esplanade, King East, Church St, and you get more bang for your buck East of Yonge. You can easily find 1 bedroom new condo apartments (600-700 sq ft) in the area for under 1200. A lot quieter and more peaceful than Parkdale or Yonge and Eg. I've lived in all three areas and am much happier walking to the market on weekends, being 4 minutes walking distance from work, and being a short transit ride to anywhere.
posted by loquax at 11:40 AM on October 24, 2005

i would say avoid yonge in general. either go west or east, and for god's sake don't live north of dupont. honestly i can't imagine why anyone would want to live around any part of yonge. it's garish, loud, corporate - the face toronto presents to the world because it hasn't yet learned to be proud of its friendlier parts.

also, take care not to equate queen and dufferin with king and dufferin. the west is eclectic, and dufferin spans many diverse neighbourhoods. king is pretty much yuppie territory until you get west of dufferin. and i wouldn't call queen & dufferin the "west end" - it's more like the western limits of downtown.

the west is more laid back, but it's starting to get interesting - whether that interesting will be gentrified, corporate faux-bohemian hipster whitewash, or something more vibrant remains to be seen. i have hope for the latter.

in the west side you can live in a quaint place, in a quiet neighbourhood, but still have access to parkdale proper, the market, the annex, the club district... and be relatively close to the city's greatest parks (dufferin grove, bellwoods, high park, christie pits). there's lots to do at Y&E, but if you don't like what's around there, it will start to feel really northerly really quickly.

the west has some nifty hangouts, and lots of good roti, shwarma, and pasta. and the streetcars are a breeze, excepting dundas at peak hours.

if you want to live in a cookie-cutter townhome, frequent the drake, and have starbucks, please: stay away. but if you appreciate a bit more of a village feel, an eclectic and often rough around the edges mix of people, and some young hip families, go west.
posted by poweredbybeard at 11:47 AM on October 24, 2005

I lived in the High Park area, specifically Roncesvalles. It's a great neighbourhood. Excellent transit access (you can get on the King, Dundas, and College streetcars all within one block of Roncesvalles and Howard Park), lots of good rentals, and plenty of amenities (like High Park itself, for example). It's close enough to downtown to be convenient, and far enough to be quiet at night. Also: great Polish restaurants.
posted by Succa at 11:49 AM on October 24, 2005

Response by poster: I should have been more specific about my question. I know my way around Toronto really well. But, I grew up in the dreaded Burbs, so I've never actually lived in the city itself. I know where the pubs, galleries, etc are. Just not what day to day life is like in places like King West village.

The advice about things at Y&E being slightly more expensive than they ought be is well taken.

I'd like to be a short transit ride from the downtown core, (my preference is streetcars or subway, since buses do nothing for 8 year old boy in me.)

For some reason, silly suburban me has always pictured anything west of Bathurst as sort of questionable. I was hoping to dispel that feeling a bit.
posted by generichuman at 11:51 AM on October 24, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, these responses are helping get rid of that feeling. I'm not sure where it came from.
posted by generichuman at 11:54 AM on October 24, 2005

My answer to a previous question: Being transferred ... to Toronto.

If you are looking for an apartment in a house: I wouldn't go near the Annex... Well what I mean to say is, I would go near the Annex, but not in the Annex.

If you are looking for an apartment in a building: I think the best deals in rent downtown are in and around The (Gay) Village.

If you want to live: As for north of Bloor... I'm sure there are "some nice places" up there too...

posted by Chuckles at 12:02 PM on October 24, 2005

Oh ya, King West has an under publicized odour problem: Slaughter in Hogtown.
posted by Chuckles at 12:06 PM on October 24, 2005

No, rent in the gaybourhood is ridiculous, for the most part. It's right downtown... I used to live at Yonge & Wellsley, paying $1500 for two bedrooms. Now I'm on Roncesvalles, in a larger 3br apartment, for $1200.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:26 PM on October 24, 2005

Response by poster: Remind me to get on the streetcar headed for Roncesvalles and actually see it. I've never really been there.
posted by generichuman at 12:30 PM on October 24, 2005

I know my way around Toronto really well.

Ugh... then i was a little long winded.

Roncy's nice... but I always figured that specific area was a bit expensive, considering the big houses around there. But that's complete supposition. There are nice places just east of there if my guess is correct.

As for west-side heebie-jeebies... I felt that way too until I moved "out here" for financial reasons. Been here three years, never going back. I can get anywhere worth going west of the Don on my bike in under half an hour. Under ten if it's west of Spadina and the traffic lights are forgiving. YMMV.

And ditto on the village being expensive. Hell, you'll pay 8 bucks for a domestic beer there.
posted by poweredbybeard at 12:39 PM on October 24, 2005

dirtynumbagelboy, click through...
posted by Chuckles at 12:41 PM on October 24, 2005

Okay, I give up... I thought repetativeness was fround on around here... Oh well...
I wouldn't go near the Annex... Well what I mean to say is, I would go near the Annex, but not in the Annex. The real estate agents call my neighborhood Palmerston and/or the South Annex, the rent can be 10-20% less and it is just as 'safe', although less snooty (I happen to like that it is less snooty, but to each his own I suppose). In both cases you are looking for apartments in houses unless you want to pay ridiculous rates.

I think the best deals in rent downtown are in and around The (Gay) Village (my circle is a bit larger than the actual Village I guess...). The further east or south you go the worse the neighborhood, but last year I saw a huge (800+ sq.ft) and beautiful 1 bedroom on Isabella for ~$1000/month and a reasonably sized (~500 sq.ft) bachelor on Carleton for ~$650/month, although the park, Allen Gardens, might be a bit dodgy - both of those were apartments in buildings.

As for north of Bloor... I'm sure there are some nice places up there too...
posted by Chuckles at 12:47 PM on October 24, 2005

I think you'll find the Roncesvalles area less "questionable," as you say, than Queen and Dufferin (though Q&D isn't bad). Bloor West between, say, Dundas and Jane is also quite nice, and close to the subway. As was said above, you won't want something on a main street.
posted by transient at 12:53 PM on October 24, 2005

Doesn't anybody live in the Beaches anymore?
posted by timeistight at 1:17 PM on October 24, 2005

yuppies still live in the beaches
posted by dawdle at 1:35 PM on October 24, 2005

i, too, lived in high park area (quebec ave, 2 blocks from bloor W., which was pretty nice and 2 blocks from subway station.
but if you want to be near clubs, etc., i recommend something close to little italy.
i still vote for high park area though.
posted by grafholic at 2:56 PM on October 24, 2005

Best answer: Your question is too vague and you’re being given bad advice. Also parochial advice, as Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods, and residents ferociously defend theirs.

You need a really good reason to live on a streetcar line. They regularly are blocked solid. A single streetcar, when disabled for any reason, will tie up the entire line for never less than 20 minutes (that’s how long it takes the trucks and another streetcar to get there). It is a falsehood that streetcar service is regular, especially on the 506 College line, which does indeed arrive every few minutes, but the numerical value of “few” changes each time. Extreme weather can shut down the entire streetcar system, including last Christmas (I think December 24), when ice on the underside of the power wires disabled every streetcar in the city. (The TTC has winter shoes for the power take-ups, but they were not installed on the streetcars. I asked.)

Plus there is no such thing as an air-conditioned streetcar. We had like 10 days over 30° just in June 2005. You don’t want that. Did you also know that many streetcars are unheated in the winter, and the TTC knows all about it but will not remove them from service, deeming it not a safety issue?

Further, streetcars are filthy most of the time and are nearing the end of their lifespans.

If you really had to live on a bus line you’d be much better off, in fact. The old GM Fishbowl and Classic buses, and the very oldest Orions and Flyers, are being phased out. Every new bus has air conditioning and wheelchair access. A typical ride in a low-floor bus in the summer is extremely pleasant by comparison to everything but the subway.

Yeah, lots of people could not imagine living north of Bloor. You have to have upper-middle-class sensibilities to fit in there. That’s just reality. (Unless you’re talking about edge-case “neighbourhoods” like Christie north of Dupont.)

Among “cool” people, there is an incomprehensible, quasi-religious bias toward the west end, preferably west of Spadina. They just don’t think there is a city east of Yonge St. It simply never enters into their consciousness that any place that isn’t right handy to Bloor St. West, College St., or Queen St. West (or, according to the hip new consensual hallucination, Dundas St. West) could possibly be livable. They think the neverland east of Yonge is supernaturally far away from “everything” (why, because you can’t walk to Dooney’s or the Dip?), but seem never to have measured the travel time from the subway to their vaunted Roncesvalles. And once you move there, the Poles and Russians will simply sneer at you. Then again, so will the kool kidz.

St. Lawrence is an excellent compromise on any level. There’s nowhere you can’t get to, with four bus lines, two streetcars (four at rush hour), and a major subway nexus all right there. You can’t beat the shopping; if you don’t want to shop at St. Lawrence Market (or you can’t, since it’s Sunday or Monday), you have a highly functional Dominion that runs 24/7. Plus it’s a superb example of Toronto multiculturalism.

Little-known fact: The former Cityhome, which now has a mile-long name I can never remember (Toronto Community Housing Authority or something), runs many apartment buildings in Toronto, most of which have market-rate units that are usually slightly less expensive. They have buildings in St. Lawrence and many, many other neighbourhoods.

Consider renting somebody’s condo.

The Beach is very far away from everything. Not only yuppies live there, but there aren’t a lot of poor people, and there are a lot of children and dogs. Apartment buildings can be dilapidated there. (I have coffee there every morning and know it well.)

Riverdale is extremely nice in nearly every imaginable respect, but is not inexpensive, and if you don’t want to live in a high-rise, the rental stock is not numerous.

Let me put in a word, in my own ferocious, parochial way, for South Riverdale, where I live (Weblog entries). It is a neighbourhood where you never need to feel eccentric, with excellent grocery shopping and a few “cool” amenities, like two separate Macintosh dealers. It’s viewed as a kind of flyover state by nearly everyone in the city – which helps in some ways, as they leave us the fuck alone. It’s a quick bus ride to the subway (two lines) or a longer one via streetcar (also two). Some will admittedly find the mixed nature of the neighbourhood not quite the mix they like, since Queen St. East has numerous social-housing complexes. (But that is social housing Toronto style, with brand-new buildings and no crack dealers.) Rental stock tends to be houses.

Have you considered a sublet for a month or two while you shop around?
posted by joeclark at 3:58 PM on October 24, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice folks! I should have left lest wiggle room in the question.

And searched through the archives, better. My bad.
posted by generichuman at 5:00 PM on October 24, 2005

joeclark writes "Among “cool” people, there is an incomprehensible, quasi-religious bias toward the west end, preferably west of Spadina. They just don’t think there is a city east of Yonge St. It simply never enters into their consciousness that any place that isn’t right handy to Bloor St. West, College St., or Queen St. West (or, according to the hip new consensual hallucination, Dundas St. West) could possibly be livable. They think the neverland east of Yonge is supernaturally far away from “everything” (why, because you can’t walk to Dooney’s or the Dip?), but seem never to have measured the travel time from the subway to their vaunted Roncesvalles. And once you move there, the Poles and Russians will simply sneer at you. Then again, so will the kool kidz."

Wow. Someone sure has a bee in their bonnet. You started out fine. It is true that Torontonians tend to be very defensive in their choice of neighbourhood however, your derision is misguided (and given your later statements, a little hypocritical). Toronto is a great city because of it's diversity. The fact that people feel so strongly for their choice of neighbourhood (for whatever reasons) is, IMO, a good thing and should not necessarily be an insult (unless it gets to ridiculous extremes).

generichuman, just move here. Find a place without a lease/mortgage for a decent price and just explore the city yourself. I've lived in this city for almost 10 years and while I find High Park to be my personal choice for location, there are plenty of other neighbourhoods that are quite enjoyable and I try to get around the city as much as possible.
posted by purephase at 5:28 PM on October 24, 2005

and for god's sake don't live north of dupont.

Um, ignore horseshit like this. I live a few houses south of St. Clair between Bathurst and Spadina (a block from St. Clair West Subway). I have a park directly across the street from me, a large ravine a block away, a huge park/ravine 2 blocks away in the other direction, a hardware store, a huge grocery store, liquor store, 2 banks (and 5 diff ATMs), 3 dry cleaners, Shoppers' Drugmart, a Library, a 24 hr convenience store, and a community centre all less than a block or two from me. A little further but within a 10 minute walk I have Italian, Thai, Greek, Peruvian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Chinese, Korean, and Jamaican restaurants, not to mention every major fast food chain except Burger King. Also got the best ice cream joint in the city.

I can walk to Bloor and Spadina/Bathurst (annex) in about 15 minutes or subway there in 3. I can be at Bloor and University/Bay in 10 minutes, Queen West in 13, Dundas and Yonge in 17, Yonge and Eg in 25, High Park in 20.

A couple months ago my landlord sold my house and I was supposed to move. I looked solid for 2 months for a place comparable to my own in High Park and elsewhere in the West end and found zip. I checked classifieds of 3 papers as well as online resources like viewit.ca and even enlisted the help of some MeFites who kept an eye out for signs.

Every place I looked at was either shitty, small, dark, loud, or all of the above. I talked to my new landlord and worked it out so I can stay here. I pay $848 a month plus $40 hydro. I have a 2 bedroom floor of a house that's about 1070 square feet not counting the storage room or laundry rooms. The majority of places I checked out during my search were literally half that size to maybe 700 sq ft max and all were about a grand, some as much as $1200. (I didn't look at basements, which are cheaper and larger.) With maybe 3 exceptions every place I looked at could fit in my current Kitchen and Living Room.

Though I don't think that my area is the greatest in the city, it's better than many in lots of ways (size of apartment, rent, convenience to subway, pretty quiet, very safe, dog friendly (I have one)). Advice like "don't move north of Dupont" is ridiculous as will just about every blanket statement on any area in Toronto.

For the most part, I think Joe Clark's advice is the soundest in that he seems to be speaking from experience rather than someone who just loves his part of town. For my part, in my 37 years in this city, I've lived in East York, Riverdale, North York, midtown (where I am and others), downtown, little India, the Danforth, and the Beaches (all before I was 25). I've lived where I am the longest I've ever been in one place.
posted by dobbs at 6:17 PM on October 24, 2005

I'm not being hypocritical. I was not claiming that west-of-Spadina is terrible and South Riverdale isn't. I was dissing the fanboys of all genders, as fanboys deserve.
posted by joeclark at 9:45 PM on October 24, 2005

The Beach is very far away from everything.

Actually, Toronto is very far away from everything.
posted by timeistight at 9:16 AM on October 25, 2005

Compared to where, TimeIsTight?

posted by joeclark at 10:09 AM on October 25, 2005

Joeclark, Toronto is very far from Brisbane, Australia. My partner and I are moving to Toronto in June/July this year and I've found this thread very helpful.

Are there any Cellular Phone providers to avoid? Anyone able to compare to Australian service providers?

Thanks. Sorry to hijack your question, generichuman, but good luck with your move!
posted by dantodd at 4:45 AM on March 28, 2006

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