East Chinatown is a tiny stretch of Gerrard Street East which is now in a full swing shopping mode. Gentrification has arrived in the form of a budding restaurant row. You’ll find some of the coolest up and coming shops, the early discoveries of what is sure to be Toronto’s next real estate hot spot. If you’re looking for growth in a seedling hip neighbourhood, East Chinatown is on the verge of thriving with potential to outdo its neighbouring areas, Riverdale and Riverside in the process.
East Chinatown is located on Gerrard Street East between Broadview and Carlaw Avenues. It came to life in the 1970s but has a history that goes a little further back. The Don River was a prominent landmark that attracted British settlers to its shores in the late 18th century. Families settled homesteads in the valley, where they built their lives around a number of industries including timber, hay, potash and various crops. In the 1800's, the main neighbourhoods of South Riverdale and Leslieville, attracted a wide selection of industries including factories, processing plants, dairies, tanneries, and a wide selection of brickyards.
In the 1850s the Grand Trunk Railway was the catalyst for new roads, bridges, homes and other infrastructure changes that continued to attract more businesses and residents to the area. Unfortunately, the industry of the area also created some messes, including a massive garbage dump and pockmocked lands due to shale mining for the area’s many brickyards. By the 1920s and 30s the once respectable homes were overrun by rooming houses, squatters and criminals.
Following World War II, the area attracted a wide selection of people including Greek, Chinese, Italian and African immigrants who settled in the area of Riverdale. The Don River became so polluted by the 1950s politicians and residents started a long battle to clean up the once highly desirable waters and land.
As rent and property values soared during the 1950s and 60s in Toronto’s first downtown Chinatown along Spadina, many Chinese Canadians were forced to migrate to the east end. This found them in East Chinatown, which became established as a Chinatown of its own rights by the early 1970s.
Charlie Cheung moved his Chinese butchers, Charlie’s Meat to 383 Broadview Avenue starting a trend for other Chinese businesses to follow. The community began to blossom as Chinese restaurants and grocers took up space in the storefronts. The Pearl Court Restaurant opened in 1982 and became a hot spot for many Torontonians as well as the site for community events. In fact, the late Jack Layton, the MP for the area for many years, often held events here. In 2013, the Don Jail Roadway was officially named Jack Layton Way.
Although dubbed East Chinatown, there are probably more Vietnamese restaurants and immigrants dominating the area today. When Toronto put in its bid for the 2008 Olympics, the area business owners took another hit as the property became more desirable and rents began to rise. As well, the construction of what became known as the "Studio District", in South Riverdale also made property more desirable.
Today, the area’s proximity to the city and highly desirable Riverdale and Riverside neighbourhoods has led to a slow gentrification. A wave of residents and business owners has started to arrive, breathing new life into the area.
East Chinatown is ideally located in the small strip that runs along Gerrard St. E. between Broadview Avenue to roughly Howland Road. It’s a streetcar’s ride to downtown Toronto, and Broadview subway station where you can access the Bloor Danforth subway line. The Don Valley Parkway is also right there, and cyclists can ride to work in less than half an hour.
The area is minutes to all the exciting amenities of Riverdale, the Danforth and even Leslieville. If you don’t want to travel to the Eaton Centre, Gerrard Square is right there. But perhaps more exciting, is the prospect of what is yet to come.
While the reasonably small strip of Gerrard is still emerging, that hasn’t stopped some brave new businesses from moving in while the going’s good. Many up and coming savvy business owners will continue to take advantage of lower rents, making this the ideal time to look for an affordable home in the area. You’ll also find some of the best Chinese and Vietnamese authentic dining experiences available on this side of the Don River.
As well locals love the idea that the neighbourhood has its own entry via the Zhong Hua Men gate which is fondly titled the Toronto Chinese Archway. An assortment of eclectic homes on the area’s side streets, the rejuvenation of Hubbard Park and the migration of trendy shops and restaurants are all signs pointing to East Chinatown becoming one of Toronto’s hippest hoods.
While East Chinatown originally attracted people moving away from the high cost of living in Downtown Chinatown, many of those families have left the area for more affordable housing north of Toronto. As a result, today you’ll find a larger population of Vietnamese families, but also see more families of all backgrounds finding the relatively affordable housing and lifestyle appealing. Despite a rise in property values, there’s still a pocket of homes and businesses available below the prices of the most desirable areas of Toronto, keeping East Chinatown a growing concern for families, young professionals and those who found the area when searching the more expensive Riverdale and Riverside neighborhoods.
The Best Part
Nothing is more exciting than the prospect of purchasing a property in an area that’s about to discover its true calling. As more and more young business owners discover the opportunities of East Chinatown, savvy home buyers could become part of something new, on the verge of becoming something great.
The Worst Part
The area does appear a little rough around the edges which can be depressing for some homeowners. As well, there aren’t any schools in the immediate area which makes it less attractive for families.
The Real Estate
This area is full of surprises, offering a selection of homes that range from bungalows to condos and million-dollar properties to under $600k fixer-uppers. Because it’s experiencing another gentrification, there are plenty of bargains to be found here. However, there are still many higher end homes being sold by smart professionals who purchased and renovated their homes in the late 90s and into the early part of 2000. From townhouses to condos and semi-detached to detached, the area offers endless possibilities to suit just about any budget.
There actually aren’t any schools located within the borders of this neighbourhood.
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