How noisy is noisy in Toronto?
July 22, 2008 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Is it (will it be) that noisy at Charles Street around Bloor and Yonge?

I'm moving to Toronto with my wife next month to go to graduate school. We haven't found a place yet, and I just got an e-mail this morning from the U of T telling me that I've been offered a two-bedroom place at their 35 Charles Street West family housing building. Sounds great, except we need to reply in two days, and the letter says:

It is a busy, noisy neighbourhood. Immediately north of building 30, there are two new high rise building developments planned, one of which is already under construction. If your family is bothered by noise, particularly if one or more members in the family will be at the apartment throughout the day, you may be very unhappy living on the north side of 30 Charles St West as it is closest to the construction.

We're currently living in a central part of Calgary and have both lived in noisier parts of Tokyo and Yokohama so a good amount of city noise won't be of much concern to either of us. Neither me nor me wife need to be in the apartment during the day (although it would be nice if I could study there from time to time), but I would be unhappy if we were woken up every Saturday morning at 8 from the nearby construction.

I'm going to ask a friend in Toronto to try and see the room, but I'm not sure if he'll be able to make it before Thursday.. So if you're in Toronto, have you noticed any huge amounts of noise and dust in the area of Charles Street? Should I look for other things, or would it be silly for me to pass on this cheap, central apartment?

Also, has anyone lived at the Charles Street residences? Are they any good?
posted by mariokrat to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
What floor is it on? In my experience if you're on, say, the 30th floor all the street noise in the world won't carry up.
posted by kate blank at 8:59 AM on July 22, 2008

The location is pretty good as far as convenience and such but yeah, I imagine it's pretty noisy even without construction going on. Yonge is the street that divides the city between east and west (as far as street names go) and Bloor is the line that many people consider the divider between downtown and uptown. As a result, Yonge and Bloor is one of the busiest (traffic-wise and pedestrian-wise) intersections in the city. I would not want to live there and I live one story above a building construction business that has (beep beep) trucks going from 7 to 7 six days a week.

35 Charles West is one block south and one block west of Yonge and Bloor so you're pretty much in the thick of it. They aren't big blocks, either. However, as kate blank says, much of it will have to do with the floor you're on.

Note that I have not lived in Tokyo and Yokohama so am not familiar with your reference points. That said, personally, I find the area around Balmuto / Charles / St. Nicholas / La Scala to be a bit sketchy, also. There is no denying the residences look like "family housing" in the bad sense of the term.

Also, it might help if you clarify "cheap rent".
posted by dobbs at 9:09 AM on July 22, 2008

The apartment is on the 10th floor, and rent is $1000 for a two-bedroom with heat/water/electricity included. This sounds cheap compared to what I've found in Toronto, and even to what I'm paying now ($900 with utilities for 1 bedroom.)
posted by mariokrat at 9:13 AM on July 22, 2008

A couple of my friends lived in that building for a year or 2. They were on the 9th floor (or was it the 5th?), facing east, and I don't remember noticing street noise from inside the apartment. The streets immediately surrounding the building are relatively quiet, and the noise from Yonge won't travel that far. The building is full of poorly behaved kids (we referred to them as "urchins"), occasionally intense cooking odours, and had noticeable cockroach issues. It is quite institutional and more like a low income housing project than a graduate residence. On the plus side, the rents are cheap, the apartments are a good size and the location is great.

The developments they are talking about are on Balmuto, north of Charles and south of Bloor. If you look at the google maps satellite image it where you see a parking lot in the picture. So if you're actually at 35 Charles a lot of the noise will be attenuated by 30 charles, and you could avoid a lot of any dust etc. by using St. Mary to access your building.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:35 AM on July 22, 2008

What sevenyearlurk said. The building ain't exactly luxurious, but it's a steal at that price. The noise from Yonge is barely audible, unless there's something going on, e.g. the Pride parade or the semi-weekly protests at the Church of Scientology around the corner.
posted by greatgefilte at 9:48 AM on July 22, 2008

If you accept, are you locked in for any length of time? I imagine these units are in high demand given their price and location and if you decide you want to move, they will have a waiting list a mile long. Why not accept the apartment now, and if you don't like it, move?

Don't underestimate the benefits of having an apartment in a central location all arranged for when you move. I know from experience that it is a real pain showing up in a new, unfamiliar city and trying to find a place to live on the spot. Even if this apartment turns out to be not to your liking, having it for the first year will really help you get settled in the city until you get to know where you really want to live.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:49 AM on July 22, 2008

You should be fine on the 10th floor, especially at that price. It's highly unlikely that there will be regular construction on Saturdays. Besides, you're right across from people in the Manulife Centre who (a) are closer to the construction, and (b) are paying a LOT more than you, so their noise complaints will be fast and frequent, and should keep the builders in line.

I've never been inside the buildings (although they look a little dingy from the outside), but it is a great location to live in the city. I spent four happy years on Charles West, albeit in the pre-condo era.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:55 AM on July 22, 2008

My friends lived there for couple of years. I did not notice much outside noise inside of their apartment. And yes, what sevenyearlurk said -- the building feels like low-income housing project. Rooms are not spacious, and they have kitchenet instead of real kitchen.
posted by ivanka at 9:55 AM on July 22, 2008

It is quite institutional and more like a low income housing project than a graduate residence.

They were indeed provincially-owned public housing buildings as recently as 7 years ago (see here) They're centrally located and really inexpensive for downtown Toronto, but it's only worth it to the extent that you can tolerate the joys of living in low-rent housing.
posted by thisjax at 10:06 AM on July 22, 2008

Thanks for all the great responses. The general consensus seems to be that it's a great deal for the location, if we can live with less than luxurious conditions. The good part is that the lease is month-to-month, which means we can look for something else after we have the chance to look around if Charles Street turns out to be intolerable..

One remaining question is about what Dobbs said regarding the sketchiness of the neighborhood. My wife had a bad home invasion experience when she was a kid, and would prefer to live in an area that didn't feel unsafe. What sort of atmosphere is it around Charles Street? Is it well-lit with a lot of foot traffic?
posted by mariokrat at 10:56 AM on July 22, 2008

I'm not sure why dobbs thinks it's sketchy, I've always thought it's rather unsketchy. You have the Manulife Centre right there, and other expensive condos all around. Rabba and 7 West are open 24/7, there's a great little Pakistani restaurant on the corner, and a Shoppers Drug Mart a few steps away. It's definitely well-lit and safe, and not as sketchy as some of the areas a bit south on Yonge. I mean, there was that shooting outside the Brass Rail a while back, but these days it seems like no area downtown is immune to the occasional act of violence.
posted by greatgefilte at 11:19 AM on July 22, 2008

I would not be concerned about safety.

As dobbs mentioned, Bloor & Yonge is one of the busiest intersections in Toronto. There is lots of foot traffic around there day & night, which in my opinion adds to safety. There's a 24-hour grocery store at the base of 35 Charles as well.

I wouldn't describe the area as particularly sketchy, myself. I live at the corner of Sketch Avenue & Crackhead Lane, so I know it when I see it. I have walked through that neighbourhood billions of times, at every hour of the day and night, without ever feeling threatened (I'm a guy, mind you, but a fey and weak one). There are a fair number of panhandlers around there. There's also a strip club right at Yonge & Charles (on the far corner from where your building is), and a passerby was shot to death in front of it last summer when an ejected patron decided to start waving a gun around. This is atypical.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:27 AM on July 22, 2008

Where will your office and classes be? 35 Charles West is on the north east corner of the campus, so if your classes are closer to the opposite corner, you will have a 15-20 minute walk.

Just to echo what was said above, this is a nice area of town, if a bit commercial and desolate in stretches. Very low sketch quotient.
posted by sid at 12:05 PM on July 22, 2008

I don't live in Toronto, but do spend a couple of weeks there every year for the Toronto Film Festival, and usually a couple of other random weekends during the year, at a hotel a couple of blocks from there. For whatever it's worth, as a woman who's pretty wary of sketchy areas, I find that area not particularly worrisome. The only thing that affects me at all is that if I go to a midnight movie showing at the Ryerson so I'm walking back around 2-3 a.m., I would be a little uncomfortable doing that on my own, so I only go to post-midnight movies if I have someone to walk back with. If your wife doesn't plan on roaming the streets alone after about 2 a.m., though, I think she'd be fine in that area.
posted by Stacey at 3:18 PM on July 22, 2008

I'm pretty surprised that anyone doesn't find st. nicholas / la scala sketchy. Hell, I lived in Regent Park for two years in the 70s and I find the people in front of that building weird (we're talking about the building next to/behind the Rabba, right?). Any building that has people hanging out doing nothing 24/7 triggers my sketch-o-meter.

Yeah, Yonge and Bloor isn't that sketchy (or far) and neither is the stretch on Balmuto next to Manulife but that whole block that Rabba's on squicks me out.

Also... $1000 for a roach infested 2 br is a "steal"? I pay a grand inclusive for my 1000sf loft with 14 foot high ceilings and no insects. Sure, I ain't at Y&B (I'm at Dundas West and Sorauren), but I'm certainly conveniently located.

I mean, I don't think $1000 is a ripoff (though bugs...) but I fail to see how it's a steal. Two minutes on CL reveals apartments in much better (imo) locations for the same or not much more (especially if you're sharing the rent!).

Since it's month to month, sure, move in and look for something better in the meantime.
posted by dobbs at 10:19 PM on July 22, 2008

dobbs, have you been there recently? I pass by there all the time and the people hanging out in front of the building are generally kids playing, and often their parents sitting around and watching. Given the location, the price is very inexpensive -- a 2 bedroom in the high rise at 25 St. Mary goes for around $1400. But I think as long as mariokrat know's what he's getting into (i.e. noise, odours, roaches, etc.), then caveat emptor.
posted by greatgefilte at 8:52 AM on July 23, 2008

This demands a repost of my noisy Toronto store:
The night before the 1994 World Cup final, I was headed home from a get together with friends, down around the University of Toronto. It was about 2:15am or so, which meant taking the all night Yonge St. bus; all the way North.

I had to wait at the stop, College and Yonge, for about 30min. It normally wouldn't have taken so long, but there was a traffic jam of cars waving Brazilian and Italian flags, and hundreds of people on the street. All of them honking horns, blowing whistles, and screaming madly and excitedly.

Then, suddenly, a big splash of water! It was bout ten feet in front of me, splashing near the curb. I had no idea where it came from, but I didn't really think about it. A few minutes later, splash again. This happened several times at even intervals. Eventually it dawned on me, that is about the amount of time it takes to fill a bucket with water!

One of the residents of the condo on the south-east corner of Carlton and Yonge must have been upset by the noise. This person was dumping buckets from their balcony, three or four floors up, aiming at the loudest of the cars.

Finally the bus came, and it was packed! I managed to squeeze myself a bit of space up front - nearby was a dreadlocked guy with a Jamaican accent. He yelled, "Brraaaazzzzzillll!"

And in response, the rest of the people at the front of the bus screamed, "BRRRRAAAAZZZZZILLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!"

Then, the people at the back of the bus screamed, "Vive l'Italiaaa!!!"

And the dreadlock guy screamed, "Vive le Brazzilll!!!"

And his chorus at the front of the bus called, "BRRAAAZZZZILLLLLL!!!!!!!"

Then another guy, "G-G-G-Goalllllll Brrrazzzillll !!!!!"

And the bus returned, "BRRAZZZILLLL!!!!!!!"

This went on for several minutes. Sometimes the call would be a star player, "G-G-G-Goallll, Romariooo!!" Or, "G-G-G-Goallll, B-bagiooo!!"

At one point some weird preppy frat-boy screamed, "AAARR-GO-SSS!!!!!" The idiot!

Some other guy screamed, "JAMMMAICA!"

To witch the preppy guys started singing Bob Marley, “Lets get together and feel all right..” In this incredibly stupid tone, which could only have come from a preppy frat-boy.

After 5-10 minutes - it seemed to be much longer, but it couldn't have been - the driver called out the stop at Bloor, and the dreadlock guy got off. Only after yelling one last time, "BBBRRRRAAAAAAZZZZILLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!"
[deleted - a bunch of stuff about satellite images and exact locations, because somebody else beat me to it]

As for dobbs' comparable apartments.. He's picking out places in converted houses. Personally, I much prefer that, but some people insist on proper apartment buildings, and they are generally a bit more expensive.
posted by Chuckles at 7:09 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks again for the responses (and your story Chuckles. I think I'm going to like living in Toronto.) Keeping dobbs's reservations in mind, my wife and I have decided to go ahead and rent the place. The convenience of having some place to go in a new city is too good to pass up, especially when I know the landlord won't be (too) sketchy and that we can move out almost right away if we don't like it. It'll be a nice place to start, and it'll give us the time to find our feet in Toronto and eventually get into a nicer place.
posted by mariokrat at 2:15 PM on July 24, 2008

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