Taking Liberty

The industrial zone that turned into a happening 'hood.

Lindsay Forsey, National Post
Published:Saturday, July 11, 2009


With this week's news from the Toronto Real Estate Board that June was the busiest resale season on record, posting a 27% gain over June 2008, it seems as though the market's back with a vengeance. Historically low mortgage rates are giving first-time buyers the confidence to make the decision to buy, and they are the ones making up the bulk of these new transactions. Every week this summer, Post Homes will look at the first-time options in selected neighbourhoods and the amenities around those buildings that will help create a real community. This week, Toronto's hottest and most successful first-timer neighbourhood, Liberty Village.

If you're looking for a neighbourhood in which everything you need -- including 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and organic pet food -- is within view from your condo balcony, it's going to take a village. Liberty Village.

The 39-hectare former industrial zone located at King Street West and Dufferin Street is fast becoming a self-sustaining microcosm. Amenities are interspersed among historic factory buildings converted into office and living spaces. The locals are casually cool, successful 30-and 40-somethings, many of whom also work in the neighbourhood. There are more than 400 businesses in Liberty Village, including some of the city's top arts and media talent.

The Village vibe is more sophisticated than that of its sister 'hood, West Queen West, and the hipsters have yet to fully infiltrate. Trendy home decor retailer West Elm moved in last year and smaller independent retailers, such as Haveli Home, which sells new and vintage home furnishings from India, are stocked with unique finds.

For sustenance, there's a Metro supermarket, plus such specialty shops as Atelier Thuet where you can pick up foie gras terrine and Russian caviar. Fix your java jones at Balzac's Coffee (a second Toronto location for the Distillery District darling), do your banking and hit the LCBO, all in time for spin class at one of several local fitness centres. There's also a rock-climbing facility, yoga studios, acupuncture, massage therapy and a family fertility clinic in the 'hood.

Dozens of restaurants have opened in the area. If you fancy a night out, there's Maro, a swanky supper club with bottle service and late-night dancing. And when you're feeling low-key, you can grab a flick at Blockbuster and hunker down at home with a Magic Oven organic pizza, spelt crust optional. There are excellent restos (think Mildred's Temple Kitchen) for brunch through dinner.

Liberty Village is also home

to one of Toronto's five MyMarkets -- certified local farmers' markets -- where the vendors are Greenbelt farmers and sell only what they produce. This year, the market is open Sundays from 9 a. m. to 2 p. m. until Nov. 1 and is located at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Liberty Street.

Whether you're hopping on the streetcar or driving an enviro-friendly AutoShare hybrid, it's a short commute from downtown west to the city centre, with a direct route via King Street. Both the Exhibition GO Train station and the Gardiner Expressway are also easily accessible.


South of Liberty Village, along Lake Shore Boulevard, there's much to see and do. Bicycle and walking paths trace the shoreline. Head west and stop in at Sunnyside Pavilion in the summer months for a cold beverage and people-watching. Catch a Toronto FC match at BMO Field, sample the goods at the Amsterdam Brewery or rock out to a concert at Molson Amphitheatre. Historic Fort York hosts a number of music festivals and, this year, the inaugural Conscious Food Festival, promoting sustainable eating habits.

The stretch of King West from Sudbury Street to Bathurst Street is still developing a "neighbourhood" feel. It offers practical conveniences, though, like optometrists, dentists and doctors, as well as veterinarians and doggy daycares. Just east of Bathurst is the Turkish-inspired Hammam Spa -- a well-deserved indulgence for any city-dweller.

Tucked away on quieter residential streets in the area are such popular restaurants as Niagara Street Cafe, at King and Niagara streets, and Politica at King and Strachan Avenue. Niagara Street Junior Public School teaches kindergarten to Grade Six. Stanley Park covers the north and south sides of King Street between Walnut Avenue and Stanley Terrace and is home to community slo-pitch baseball leagues. South Stanley Park has an off-leash dog area.

One block north of Stanley Park at Queen Street West and Strachan Avenue is the sprawling Trinity Bellwoods Park, equipped with tennis courts, Trinity Community Recreation Centre, with an indoor pool, and another larger off-leash dog area.

West Queen West continues to thrive, with one-off cafes and shops opening regularly. White Squirrel Coffee Shop (an homage to the park's legendary albino squirrel) sells Greg's Ice Cream. La Brehandaise Creperie and Poutini's House of Poutine (open til 3:30 a. m. Thursday to Saturday) are other new kids on the block. And, of course, Queen West is the gateway to the hip new Ossington strip.

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Roger Townsend

Roger Townsend

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