February 2015 in Yorkville

Tuesday Mar 03rd, 2015



Toronto has been recently ranked the best city to live in the world by international magazine The Economist. The ranking aggregates Toronto's performance across a range of indexes, which include safety, livability and cost of living. National level rankings like the Economist's Democracy and Global Food Security Index were also factored into the overall rank. So, we're the best...Torontonians, give yourself a pat on the back. 

The overall rankings come as part of a new survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit that ranks cities based on how safe they are. According to this report, Toronto is the safest city in North America and eighth-ranked city in the world, trailing Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Sydney and Zurich. The safety index is ranked according to the following criteria: digital security, health security, infrastructure and personal safety.

In the overall rankings (what the Economist calls the "index of indexes") Toronto has only one category in which it doesn't rank in the top 10 globally. Can you guess what it is?

YEP - Cost of living.

In this category, our city comes in at 70th place. That's not really surprising, and for what it's worth, most of the other cities in the top 10 of the overall rankings are deemed to be more expensive than Toronto. 

I guess we should remind ourselves of how good we have it the next time we're inclined to complain about tough commutes and winter weather (yeah, right -- like we're going to stop complaining).


A part of Toronto's history started to come down piece by piece on the weekend of the 18th, just days after Coucillor Kristyn Wong-Tam took steps to have the 114-year-old Stollery's building designated a heritage site. 

"I was really appalled to see such a sudden attempt by new owners to get rid of the building so quickly," said Adam Birrell, who has lived in the neighbourhood for six years. The building with familiar green awnings sits at the corner of Yonge & Bloor and has been owned by the retailer of British and European apparel since 1901 - when shoppers arrived by horse and buggy and Wilfrid Laurier was prime minister.

Birrell, who has previously worked to preserve heritage properties in Thornhill, is concerned the building is being taken down before the city can determine whether it has heritage value. If the site already was listed as a heritage property, it couldn't be torn down as easily. 

But developer Sam Mizrahi says he doesn't think the building deserves preservation. "We don't feel there is any heritage value to it and neither did anyone else for the last 100 years," he said.

And Mizrahi is well within his legal rights. He bought the building in October for a whopping CAD$300 million and applied for a demolition permit earlier in January. It was approved mid-month and the work started right away. 

Wong-Tam noted that the city must issue a permit when all statutory requirements are met according to provincial law. She asked it be considered for heritage designation at a January 13th community council meeting - the first opportunity she said she had to bring up the issue after the election. "I moved as quickly as I could," she said. Wong-Tam said she isn't certain it deserved heritage designation but she thinks it should have been looked at. That process would have taken the heritage preservation council at least 4-5 months, she said. 

The sudden movement on the property has had Wong-Tam fielding calls from those concerned in the neighbourhood. "This demolition is coming as a surprise, in my opinion, to the residents and business operators on Bloor," Wong-Tam Said. 

Mizrahi says demolition is a "long-process" and one he got started to be able to determine the requirements for putting up a new structure in its place. "You can't do it with a building that is sitting on top of there," he said. 

Wong-Tam's concerned that Mizrahi has not made a development application yet, raising questions about what will replace Stollerys, how long it will take to get that structure in place and whether it will mean an eyesore on one of the city's most important street corners.

But Mizrahi says he has no intention of keeping the lot vacant for long. He says he understands the "iconic" nature of the spot he's purchased and is envisioning a project worthy of it. He's hired prominent British architect Norman Foster to build a retail and residential building to rival the landmarks of New York, Chicago and London, he says. 

But Birrell thinks tearing down the building in place now is simply "a lack of foresight and imagination." He thinks there is good reason to keep the art-deco detailing, arched windows and carved stonework. 

"You don't get that back," said Birrell.


Looking back, it does seem unlikely that a Swiss billionaire baron would be seeking love on the Internet, but when Antoinette met Albert Rosenberg on eHarmony in February 2012, she just figured she got lucky. Along with the European title, he was also charming, successful, dashing and, yes, mega-rich, hard at work on his latest venture, a Canadian merchant bank called Marwa Holdings. He was educated at Harvard, fluent in French and German, a world traveller. Rosenberg had a thriving medical software business back in Zurich and a sizable trust in the multimillions. He was heir to the Ovaltine fortune, a direct descenent of Albert Wander, who invented the popular Swiss malt drink back in 1904. This was how he supported his lavish lifestyle. Or so he said...

Antoinette was 54 when she met Rosenberg and working at an Etobicoke medical clinic as an executive director (she requested that her real name was not used). She was divorced with two 20-something daughters and had recently restored a 100-year old townhouse in Bloor West Village. She was comfortable and content, with a close circle of friends. Life changed dramatically on the arm of her new beau: she entered a social sphere of Bay Street lawyers, bankers and brokers who dealt in the seven figures. Her new boyfriend introduced her to fine food and the best of French wines. He lived in a penthouse apartment in the Minto building at the corner of Bay & Yorkville, and brought her to swanky restaurants like Sassafraz on Cumberland, Cafe Boulud at the Four Seasons and One at the Hazelton Hotel.

After dating for just a few months, they decided to move in together. Rosenberg convinced Antoinette to sell her home and quit her job. He told her that he would invest the profits from that sale as well as some of her retirement savings in his company. He drew up a contract and said he would make her director of Marwa, which loaned large sums of money at high interest rates. They got married in March 2013, scarcely a year after they'd met. Antoinette took Rosenberg's name. The ring was a family heirloom of such great value that Rosenberg instructed Antoinette to leave it in their safe whenever she went out. 

Everything in their shared home was his - on Rosenberg's insistence, Antoinette has sold or given away most of her belongings. Her furnishings weren't up to snuff in her new abode. Rosenberg had a taste for the luxury brands like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Armani, Gucci. Shopping was a daily pastime and Yorkville boutique owners greeted him by name, fawning over him from the moment he walked in. Often, the Rosenbergs would take a post-dinner stroll through the neighbourhood or hop into his Porsche Carrera convertible for a spin. Yorkvillers knew them, and would smile and wave like humble villagers paying respects to their feudal lord.

One summer day, a few months into the marriage, Antoinette was looking at bank records when she noticed something curious. There was another woman's name attached to the Marwa corporate documents: Michaela Zavoianu. She appeared to have signing authority on the company bank account, an Antoinette had never even heard of her. When she questioned her husband, he told her it was nothing to be concerned about. Around the same time, she brought her engagement ring to Birks on Bloor for resizing. The Birks clerk was impressed by the bauble until he pulled out his magnifying glass and saw that it was costume jewellery. 
One late-August evening, the Rosenbergs were out for a walk. She wanted to talk about their marital issues. She hoped they could find a way to improve things, but rather than understanding, Rosenberg reacted to her words with anger, grabbing her arm in a way that was violent enough to leave bruises. Soon after, Antoinette met with detectives at 53 Division, and told them about her husband's physical and emotional abuse. She also said she had suspicions about whether everything he'd told her about his finances was true.

After Antoinette went to the police, Rosenberg's stories started to unravel. While he spent the night in a holding cell, she went through all of their personal financial records. She printed out bank statements and contact information and anything else she could find, and handed it all to the police. The victims they interviewed - many of them educated, high-earning men - would dissolve into tears while telling their stories. They were devastated and furious, and still they would refer to the man who stole their savings as Mr. Rosenberg. The cops had a different name for him: Baron von Bullshit. They charged him with domestic assault and eight counts of fraud, totalling CAD$1.2 million. Rosenberg plead guilty to all charges. Rosenberg was sentenced to five years imprisonment.



For Toronto novelist and lawyer Robert Rotenberg, it's what the city's Reference Library doesn't have that also makes it the perfect place to work on a novel.

Click here to listen to Robert Rotenberg's interview on Metro Morning.

"I can't do anything else there but write," the man behind books such asStranglehold, Old City Hall and Stray Bullets said Thursday in an interview on CBC's Radio's Metro Morning. "My clients can't get to me, I can't do laundry or make a salad. It's quiet and it's central."

And the space is about to get better for Toronto writers who like to shape their novels, screenplays or political polemics in the city's massive library. Scribes like Rotenberg can now work in the new Writers' Room which comes complete with work stations, power outlets and access to wireless internet. 

Writers can apply to use one of the room's four work stations for a three-month period. For Rotenberg - who has a deep love of wandering the library's stacks and newspaper collection - the room will offer a place to park the research material he uses in his writing. "It's fantastic," he said. "You need a place to leave your junk...your papers, your newspapers, your clippings and just leave your stuff around. This will give writers wandering from coffee shop to coffee shop a place where they can be. "It's kind of like opening an art space where people can get a start. It speaks to what a library should be."
Sometimes Rotenberg uses the library to research a specific topic. At other times, he's seeking a piece of information to inspire him. "People say 'You can find everything on Google', but there's not that sense of adventure, wandering and surprise," he said. 

"You need some blank space. You need to let your mind wander and physically wander." Any writer, published or not, can apply to use the Reference Library's Writers' Room for a three-month period with an option to renew, depending on availability. Booking the room requires a library card and the room is only available during the Reference Library's opening hours.

Interested writers can apply here to use the room, or click here for more information.
Located at 35 Hazelton Avenue, the Heliconian Club was built in 1871 and was originally named the Olivet Church. When the Primitive Methodists abandoned the property in 1875 in favour of the property on the corner of Hazelton and Scollard, this structure was destined for the wrecking ball. Fortunately, this never happened and the building still stands today, much as it looked the day it was built.

The brick schoolhouse that was supposed to be erected on this site never was, but the building was used as a schoolhouse until 1923 when the Toronto Heliconian Club purchased it. Ms. Mary Smart formed the Club in 1909. Mary was a teacher of singing at the Royal Conservatory of Music who felt strongly that women engaging in painting, music and writing shared a common bond and would benefit from meeting together. The fact the Club is still pursuing her goals over 100 years later is a testament to her ideas and her passion for the cultivation of creativity.

Today, the Club provides women in the arts the opportunity to meet socially and intellectually. Today's members include women of great distinction, as well as those in the early stages of their career. 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but yes - Yorkville is losing yet another local neighbourhood hot spot, Lettieri - this one to the ever-present condo expansion phenomenon taking place in Yorkville. It also happens to be my favourite patio. A great place to be seen and take in the activities in Yorkville on a sunny summer afternoon and watch the comings and goings right across the street from Sassafraz.

Lettieri Cafe and Espresso Bar, located on the northeast corner of Bellair and Cumberland, has been given the boot by the landlord. They have to vacate the premises completely by the end of February to make way for the Toronto developer Minto's new project dubbed Yorkville Park. Lettieri is not planning to open in the area any time soon, though that may change. If you move around the city, you will see other Lettieri franchised locations but its future in Yorkville is quickly coming to a close.

So where can you get your cappuccino fix?

Caffe Bacio, on Cumberland and across from Lettieri, has recently changed ownership. The new owners are friendly and serve arguably the best cappucino's in the area.

When I need a quick fresh lunch, I always stop by for the soup of the day and the pear and warm cheese sandwich. I'm craving one of their panini's just writing about the place. Great spot, nice people, amazing food and an all day breakfast menu that will keep you coming back. And, it's licensed. Does it get any better?

Be your own lawyer and put everything you expect on closing in your offer. This includes mirrors, closet organizers, window coverings, lighting, TV wall mounts, etc. Even consider recording serial numbers if you suspect the owner of committing a bait and switch. Consider taking photos of other items that are to remain in the property. Ask for two complete sets of keys. Make sure the seller understands they cannot replace any item before closing. Also add that the property must be left in a clean and broom swept condition so that you do not have to pay to remove the seller's junk. Consider paying two deposits, the first upon acceptance of the offer and the second once you exit the conditional period. A prudent Realtor will guide you through this process.  

It's wonderful to be part of something big, especially when it involves some of the best and most creative cuisine from around the world that Toronto has to offer. 

Winterlicious is when major restaurants around the city offer limited menus of prix fixe lunches and dinners at a discount. Where a dinner at one of the featured restaurants would normally cost you $100, it will end up costing you only $45. Now that's a good deal! This is an ideal opportunity to indulge in dishes that you don't typically order. From the most exotic, to something more traditional, this is the time where you can be adventurous and order a dish you can't pronounce.

2015 Hottest Tickets - The Four Season's Cafe Boulud, The Shangri-La'sMomofuko, and the flagship of Oliver & Bonacini's empire, Canoe. Winterlicious 2015 is on through February 12th.

Check out BlogTO's guide of must-hit restaurants.



The 10th annual Bloor-Yorkville IceFest is back with ice sculpture displays, events and more. Over the course of the weekend (Feb. 21-22), artists will complete an ice sculpture winter scene made from 35,000 pounds of ice. This year's ice display theme is Heat Wave, bringing a hint of the tropics to the cold Toronto winter. The fest also includes ice carving demonstrations and street performers and the 14th annual Sassafraz Ice Carving Competition, where ice carvers will create sculptures to be voted on by the public.

The January Effect was alive and well this month in our real estate market. With buyers and sellers failing to participate in the treacherous winter conditions and opting to postpone their real estate decisions, transaction volumes were down 6.25% this period. Given the last period's volumes were down 12%, we can begin to slowly see the market pick up pace as it gets into gear for our spring market. 

Prices also took a little bit of a dip this month with the average Yorkville condo price falling to approximately $1,110,380, a 3.1% decrease from last period. 
A little bit of background on Yorkville condos - the more expensive condominiums tend to be the permanent residences of many, the turnover is less and the closings are longer. The less expensive suites tend to be occupied on a temporary basis, held as investments and leased to tenants. These are the suites that tend to move throughout the winter months. As such, the average prices this time of year are often lower than that of the spring and summer months, and even the annual averages. The bears do not hibernate during winter in this real estate market.

Even in the quiet months of our market, an overriding trend remains constant; the overwhelming dominance of 2-bedroom suites being bought and/or sold. They still represent almost half of all Yorkville transactions - that is a statistic that cannot be ignored.

If you have any questions about Yorkville or our real estate market, please don't hesitate to reach out. We always enjoy hearing from our readers.   
Wishing all a prosperous market ahead,

Matt Smith, MBA 
- Donald Trump

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