Toronto real estate review

In today's post, some useful information from realtor Patti Zane:

Looking for the Diamond in the Rough

Every single one of us would love to buy a property that suddenly shoots up in value after our purchase. At the very least we would like to know that our investment is a solid one. But many neighborhoods are experiencing sellers’ markets currently and those diamonds are becoming harder to find. I can offer four pieces of advice:

1) Look at neighborhood first. Identify long range factors that will attract buyers.

2) Reward is related to risk. If you are willing to take a gamble on a neighborhood which others see as undesirable, you just might be rewarded sometime in the future.

3) Don’t be silly. If your desired neighborhood is experiencing a sellers’ market and you need a home within a specific timeframe, be willing to accept a compromise. Very few homes will meet all your needs initially but with a little work and patience, any property can be improved.

4) Opt out of multiple offer situations. Many buyers have had success looking for homes that have been on the market for a while, possibly stigmatized as a result. They may offer other clues that could translate into savings in your pocket.

Toronto real estate will continue to be a good investment. Read on to find out more.

Everybody’s Talking about Public Transit
Source: Toronto Star, July 13, 2007 by Tess Kalinowski

On June 15, Premier Dalton McGuinty introduced Move Ontario 2020 to greatly improve public transit in Ontario. That’s very good news! On a smaller more local scale the TTC plans a $100 million modernization process for nine (9) subway stations, beginning with Pape. Pape leads the way because it is “destined to become the south terminus on the Don Mills line of the Transit City streetcar plan”. The streetcar plan was announced just prior to Move Ontario 2020 by the TTC. Museum will be given an Egyptian theme in keeping with recent renovations to the ROM, Osgoode and St. Patrick will be tied in with the new opera house and Art Gallery renovations respectively. Dufferin and Bloor-Yonge stations will also be affected, Islington will be demolished and rebuilt and Kipling is slated for major changes (see story to follow). I’m excited!

New Transit Hub at Kipling Station
Source: Canadian Business Online, August 14, 2007

“The Kipling station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line will be redeveloped into a flagship transit hub” announced Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield, Environment Minister Laurel Broten and GO Transit Chairman Peter Smith on August 12, 2007.

A $30 million investment over three (3) years, commencing 2008
Owned and operated by GO Transit
LEED certified building, fully accessible for persons with disabilities
Better connection between Mississauga Transit, TTC and GO Transit systems.

Parks -They’re a good thing
Christopher Hume, in an article appearing in the Toronto Star on July 13 tells us the many ways in which parks are important, particularly if we live in the city.

“Parks are not civic frills but urban necessities” he says. With 80% of Canadians now living in cities, and interior spaces getting ever smaller, parks are to many, an extension of their home. In the same way that coffee shops are considered the living rooms of condo dwellers, parks are essential as an extension of space, for activities and socializing.

“Despite having been financially starved for more than a decade, Toronto’s park system could be on the verge of a renaissance. If the proposed waterfront parks are built as designed, this city will be an international leader,” he says.

While in Toronto, you might want to visit some of these parks, before the weather gets too cold:
Harbourfront (including the brand new HTO) and the waterfront trail (with an extensive westerly line), High Park, and the Beach. If you are traveling outside of Toronto, look for High Line Park in Manhattan (due to be completed summer 2008), the Millennium Park in Chicago and the Olympic Sculpture Garden in Seattle.

If you’re considering a move into Toronto, have faith that work on waterfront parks, the Don River Park and the Lower Don Lands will enhance property values in surrounding neighborhoods. And as older neighborhoods go through the gentrification process local parks are used more and maintenance of them by the City improves.

Toronto Life’s the Next Hot Neighborhoods
Source: Toronto Life, September 2007

1. Beaconsfield Village (area bounded by Dundas Street West, Dovercourt Road, Queen Street West, Dufferin Street)
2. Hillcrest (St. Clair Avenue West, Bathurst Street, Davenport Road, Oakwood Avenue)
3. The Junction (Dundas Street West including north to railway lines, Keele Street, Woodside/Glendonwynne/Humberside Avenue, Runnymede Road)
4. Leslieville (Gerrard Street East, Coxwell Avenue, Eastern Avenue, Carlaw Avenue)
5. Mimico (Lakeshore railway lines, Park Lawn Road, Lakeshore Boulevard West including streets to south of Lakeshore, Dwight Avenue)

Trinity Bellwoods – What they said then
Source: Toronto Life Real Estate Guide 2001

“This is the sort of neighborhood would-be renovators dream about. The geographical focus is the huge and well-used Trinity Bellwoods Park (appropriately, the 1998 movie Dog Park was filmed here). There are pockets where the housing stock is far from promising. Many buyers are willing to bet on its future: last year the average selling price reached almost $280,000, up $50,000 from the year before.”

Trinity Bellwoods – What they say now
Source: Toronto Life Real Estate Guide 2007

“The epicenter of Toronto cool. The area exudes an invigorating sense of calm and community. Average 2006 sale price: $385,000”.

Patti Zane, Sales Representative

Should tax funds go to religious schools?

In the Ontario provincial election campaign, the issue of public funding for faith-based schools has dominated discussions between candidates and voters.

The opposition Progressive Conservative Party, under leader John Tory, has proposed extending public funding to all faith-based schools in the province.

Currently in Ontario the public system is based on an old division of responsibilities between "secular" schools and "separate" Catholic schools. It's a separation that pre-dates Canada's 1867 union as a country.

As outlined this weekend in an interesting article by Lynda Hurst in the Toronto Star, the population in Ontario in the 1800s consisted of a Protestant majority and a vulnerable Catholic minority. In the city of York, which later became Toronto, Northern Irish and Scottish Protestants did not like the arrival of thousands of Irish Catholics between 1845 and 1849. After many attempts at integrating the Catholics into the public school system, two laws were passed in 1855 and 1863 that gave Ontario's religious minority the right to finance a separate system by directing their property taxes to that aim.

Ontario's population has changed dramatically since then. The province is now a diverse, multicultural demographic reality. Religious groups -- Jewish, Muslim and Sikh to name just three -- have financed their own schools for those parents who wish to educate their children in their preferred religious setting.

What John Tory is proposing is to direct public funding to these schools with the object of ensuring that these schools follow the Ontario curriculum. Why should Catholic schools receive funding, while all these others do not, he asks? Is this not better than allowing these students to possibly drift away from a standardized curriculum? It may be one approach to fairness.

Some immigrant groups have applauded this proposal, but many voters seem perplexed by it or opposed to it.

The ruling Liberal Party under Dalton McGuinty has jumped on this issue and labelled it divisive and bad for the province. The Liberals advocate a strong central education system where children of all faiths come together and learn together. Under an umbrella of shared values and diversity, of multicultural integration with one curriculum, lies a better road for education, they say.

Personally, I'm in favour of keeping schools as secular as possible. Religion has an important role to play in society, but it should not form the basis of a separate education system. We must learn about each other and about other religions, but not build ideological walls between us. I'm concerned that this proposal may result in segregationist tendencies that are not positive for a multicultural society.

What occurred in Ontario in the 1800s was a historical precedent that, in my opinion, should not be amplified and used as a model for the 21st century.

Voters go to the polls on October 10th. We'll see what they say.


What's wrong with the news business?

Are you getting tired of the news yet?

Too much about war, murder, scandal, petty crimes, anxiety, fear. Too many accusations and counter accusations.

Tell me something new, but uplifting. Help me learn how I can make this place better.

Tell me who's doing amazing things. WhIch patient surprised their doctor today?

Tell me where I can go to see people making this a better world...

Global view: travel blogs for everyone

Not so long ago, travelers embarking on long voyages used to rely on letters, postcards and long distance phone calls to connect with relatives and friends at home.
Now, as the popularity of the Internet grows, people have much more interesting ways to stay in touch over great distances.

Growing in popularity are free online blogging sites that allow you to keep a journal and post your latest adventures on the web. Travel blogs are not only a great way to keep engaging, personalized notes of your travels, but also a convenient and free way for friends to stay in touch.

Former ABC anchor Peter Jennings, a real globe trotter, used to say that he did his best writing when he was on assignment overseas. He would talk to local people, observe intensely and then capture his thoughts in a notebook, often sitting on the sidewalk. It’s this same freshness and authenticity that comes through in many travel blogs.

What's especially appealing about these sites is that travelers can upload their latest photographs and videos, pick up advice from other people on the road and read comments posted by those who are following from home.

A number of these web pages also provide great ideas on how to blog from portable devices, how to recharge batteries in remote areas, or whether one should favour either a laptop or a PDA when traveling in Asia.

My personal favorite is . The layout is clean and clear, the stories engaging. Photography plays an important role on this site.

Another favorite is You’ll find lots of great stories here, good advice and forums where travelers exchange views and useful information.

You might want to also try and

There really is a wealth of information, experiences and great storytelling out there.

Nomadic life never looked so good.

If you’d like to suggest other sites for travelogues or web logs, don’t be shy, post a comment. :)

Photos: courtesy

Talk about crazy driving

Have you ever driven in reverse gear for a block or so? It’s awkward with a single gear. It’s also hard on the neck.

Now imagine doing that for a lot longer than a block. A whole lot longer.

It was in fact on this day, back in 1930, that two intrepid (some might say crazy) motorists, Charles Creighton and James Hargis, completed an astounding feat.
Traveling in a 1929 Ford Model A, the two New Jersey men returned to New York after having completed a round trip to Los Angeles driving the whole way in reverse gear!

That’s a total of 7, 180 miles (11,488 kilometers) in reverse. It took them 42 days.

Now think about the roads of the day. In 1930 many weren’t paved. And the Model A was a primitive car by our standards.

As soon as they parked their car, they must've looked around desperately for a chiropractor.
Photo courtesy:

Eavesdropping on air traffic control

Around the world, airports attract a curious breed of aficionados: plane watchers who like to get close to an active runway and observe incoming and outgoing aircraft from underneath the flight path. Some bring their children to experience the thrill.

Like avid bird watchers, some keep logbooks of the planes they see and share the information with like-minded aviation buffs. For these people, watching planes is a serious hobby; like those who do the same with certain types of trains ("train spotters"), they call their activity "plane spotting."

Others, like me, enjoy another aviation-related hobby: listening to the chatter between air traffic controllers and the planes around major airports. As a youth, I used to listen on a portable multi band radio, twirling the dial ever so gently to find just the right frequency to eavesdrop on these professional communications. It was quite a thrill to hear these voices through the static and imagine the decisions being made in the cockpit or the radar room.

Now, thanks to the Internet, this activity is accessible to a lot more people, the reach is global and the quality is crystal-clear.

If you'd like to try it out, go to and choose an airport nearest you. The site offers a ranking of the more popular air traffic control towers, based on how many people are listening at any time. Listeners seem to like hearing controllers and pilots around JFK in New York; Las Vegas, Nevada; Sydney, Australia; Boston, Toronto and Hong Kong; but this varies according to the time of day.

Compared to some years ago, you can hear a noticeable increase in the number of women's voices in the cockpit, especially from U.S. airlines. The industry is changing.

You will need a media player to listen. Mine loads on iTunes.
Sometimes the signal from controllers at a certain airport is not available on the web and the site lets you know when communications are "up" or "down", location by location.

No time wasted.

If you'd like to know more about plane spotting, try


Thoughts on travel

Do you agree with any of the following quotes related to travel?
(If you'd like to add your own observations, post a comment below.)

He who would travel happily must travel light.
(Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything.
(Charles Kuralt)

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. (George Moore)

The saying "Getting there is half the fun" became obsolete with the advent of commercial airlines.
(Henry J. Tillman)

Travel is only glamorous in retrospect.
(Paul Theroux)

Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.
(Sigmund Freud)

These are from Michael and Laura Moncur's interesting quotations website:


To an observer in space, does our planet even exist?

If intelligent life is out there, way out there, would Earth even be visible? The strange answer is "no," but not because we are small or hard to see; but rather because to an observer far away our planet may not exist - yet.
Yes, indeed, another mind-challenging concept from the world of science.

An astrophysicist held an interesting discussion on Canadian radio earlier this year. The topic was the expanding universe, the speed of light and relative distances.

The scientist reminded listeners that when we see light from the stars, we're actually looking back in time. When we look at our nearest star, our sun, we're not seeing how the sun looks now, but how it looked a full eight minutes ago. That's how long it takes light to travel the distance from the sun to the earth.

The really interesting concept relates to other solar systems and galaxies. If we turn the thought around and place ourselves in the role of an observer from far away looking at the earth, then that observer would also be seeing OUR past.

They say the Milky Way, our home galaxy, is about 100,000 light years across. If someone's out there watching us from the other end of our own galaxy, they may be seeing Earth not as it is now, but only as it was when our species, Homo Sapiens, was just distinguishing itself from our "cousins," the Neandertals. No cities, no technology.

And that's just our own galaxy. The universe has millions of galaxies. Any observer watching from any of the other galaxies in our universe would see Earth much earlier in it's history.

So all the observations in space are true only as measurements of the past. Since the size of space is so enormous, even at the relatively fast speed of light, at 300,000 kilometers per second (186,000 miles per second), it takes a relatively long time for light to travel across these vast distances.

Finally, then, if intelligent life were searching for us from 5 billion light years away, they would not see us at all ! To them, we still don't exist. That's because Earth is calculated to be about 4.5 billion years old.

5 billion years ago, our solar system probably was just a loose collection of gases.


For more thoughts on our universe, see posts in August (Are parallel universes real?)

Devil's Bridge

In an age of steel, bolts and rivets, it's inspiring to witness an architectural marvel of natural material that speaks to the ingenuity of humankind.

This is the case with the "Devil's Bridge," one of thousands such marvels to be found in Europe.

This bridge is found in the Piedmont region of Italy, in the Lanzo area, and is known as "Ponte del Roc," but more familiarly in Italian as "Ponte del Diavolo."

The bridge spans the Stura River and was built in the late 1300s along what was then an old mule trail that descended from the Alps to the city of Torino in the Po River Valley. The bridge rises above the level of the water in a curved peak 15 meters high, providing travelers a sturdy passage from Mount Buriasco to Mount Mombasso on the other side. The arched gate used to have a door in it and a sentinel was mounted to guard it during medieval times. Soldiers would close the gate and block movement during times of plagues and war.

Numerous legends have swirled around this bridge like the water that flows fast and gurgles in the rock potholes below it. How did it come to be known as "Devil's Bridge?"

The most famous of these stories claims the devil himself built the bridge in a single night in exchange for the sacrificial soul of a local resident. However, a more likely explanation relates to something as certain as death itself: taxation. When the bridge was built, the local authorities in 1377 decided to impose a tax on wine to help pay for the bridge. They decreed that the wine tax should remain in effect for a period of 10 years. To this proposition, local residents are said to have responded: "To hell with the bridge!" (The Italian phrase was, "Al diavolo il ponte.")

The tax stayed.

Whatever the legend, "Devil's Bridge" has stood the test of time, through winter freezes and summer heat. To the hikers and mountain bikers who use it today, it remains a steadfast reminder that age-old construction methods were impressively reliable and that the resulting structures were elegant, too.

For more information, see (Italian site).
Photos: Duilio Zane