Toronto lofts aren’t abounding, and they certainly aren’t inexpensive either. Nevertheless, those who want a unique home with a dash of history and all the benefits of condo living are encouraged to be patient — it’ll be worth it in the end. Perhaps it’s the rarity of lofts that makes them so special in the first place.
Before we say much else, it’s probably wise to describe exactly what a loft is. The first thing that probably comes to mind when one thinks of a loft is the fact that it’s found within a repurposed, pre-existing building. However, that’s only one half of the equation. Older edifices that once served other purposes, and that have since been transformed into residential buildings, are known as hard lofts. Soft lofts, on the other hand, are contemporary condos built from the ground up, yet they differ from standard condos through the addition of design elements borrowed from hard loft conversions.
So what exactly can one expect to find in Toronto lofts that can't be found in most Toronto condos for sale? Since many hard lofts exist within formerly industrial buildings, many of their most valued features were once functional, rather than aesthetic. Depending on a building’s former life, the lofts within might include exposed brick, concrete columns, exposed pipes and ductwork, and wooden posts and beams. Lofts also tend to be characterized by wide, open spaces, high ceilings, and window-covered walls, which would have been beneficial to factories or warehouses back in the day. And seeing as they’re built anew, developers and architects may choose to include any combination of these elements in their soft lofts.
While industrial lofts — warehouse and factory conversions — are the most common type of Toronto lofts, practically any existing structure can be transformed into a residential one. Church and school conversions are two other loft styles that appear on the Toronto market from time to time. Church conversions may boast stained glass windows or vaulted ceilings, and lofts found within former schools are anything but industrial.
Something to keep in mind when looking to buy a Toronto loft is whether access to amenities is important. Larger hard loft conversions may contain a gym or party room, but those who prefer access to everything under the sun will want to opt for a newer build. It’s also far more common to come across a soft loft suite with a balcony, as private outdoor spaces weren’t a concern for those building factories and warehouses.
Whether buying or renting a Toronto loft, one should know in advance that this type of home comes at a premium. Lofts lie within the top 20 percent of prices in a given neighbourhood, but for a logical reason: there’s simply too much demand and too little supply in the loft market in Toronto. That said, it’s much easier to find a condo for sale in Toronto than one for rent, as most investors who purchase units to rent out tend to prefer multiple identical condos over a single, unique loft suite.
Toronto lofts may be rarer than standard condos, buy savvy home hunters know just where to look in order to up their chances of finding what they’re looking for. Those looking for authentic conversions can keep an eye on formerly industrial neighbourhoods, such as Leslieville, the St. Lawrence Market, Queen West, and King West.
In fact, King West is ideal for buyers and renters in search of both hard and soft lofts in Toronto. Once largely occupied by the Massey Harris Company, King Street West has since become much more glamorous. Ironically, the agricultural equipment company’s former headquarters is now one of the most desirable hard lofts in the city. Constructed in 1899, modern-day buyers and renters flock to the Massey Harris Lofts for its 13.5 foot ceilings, massive windows, and original brick and wood elements.
King West was also formerly home to Toronto’s textile and fabric industries, something Freed Developments clearly kept in mind when naming the Fashion District Lofts at 10 Morrison Street. This 10-storey soft loft was built in 2008, and contains just enough exposed concrete to make the suites feel perfectly industrial.
The nearby Queen West neighbourhood has a slightly sweeter history: the most coveted hard lofts in the neighbourhood reside within buildings that once housed a chocolate factory and a candy factory. The Candy Factory Lofts at 993 Queen West was converted in 2000 by the Metro Ontario Group, and contains 121 units that range from 900 to over 4,000 square feet. Constructed in the 1930s, modern-day residents get to live amongst historical relics while still having access to underground parking and a rooftop terrace with barbecues.
Then there’s the Chocolate Company Lofts, a 2005-conversion that resulted in the creation of 144 homes. Originally occupied by the Paterson Chocolate Company, the structure dates back to 1912. Best of all, the 6-storey addition created during the renovation process means even those looking for a soft loft can enjoy living inside a piece of Toronto’s history.
Toronto’s Old Town — situated within the St. Lawrence neighbourhood — isn’t called old town for nothing. The 10 blocks between Front Street, Adelaide, Berkeley, and George were the first in the city to be developed, and by the time neighbourhoods were given nicknames in the early 19th century, this area already felt old to Toronto residents. More than 200 years later, history fanatics will be pleased to learn that some of the area’s former warehouses have been preserved and carefully transformed into authentic hard lofts. Residents of the St Lawrence Market Lofts, for example, live within a building that’s been standing since before Canada’s confederation.
Many Toronto lofts can also be found in the east end, specifically in the Leslieville neighbourhood. Once home to light industry, a number of former warehouses and factories have been converted into some truly rustic hard lofts. Built in 1916, the Wrigley Lofts occupies a former chewing gum factory. Homes inside cover anywhere from 300 to 3,000 square feet, yet soaring ceiling heights make every unit feel larger than life.