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Could the Scarborough RT really become a High Line–style elevated park?

THE IDEA

Last Friday at city hall, TTC CEO Andy Byford surprised city councillors by reminding them that his staff are still looking into the possibility of transforming the Scarborough RT into an elevated linear park, in the vein of Manhattan’s High Line. (Council voted in favour of studying the seemingly far-fetched proposal back in October 2013.) The details still have to be worked out, but the idea is to wait until 2023, when the RT is supposed to be replaced by a subway, then cover the disused elevated tracks with biking paths, benches and greenery.

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WOULD IT WORK?

Some variation of the idea already has worked, albeit in a much different context. Since its creation, New York City’s High Line, a reclaimed elevated railway on the west side of Manhattan, has attracted millions of tourists, stimulated economic activity and inspired imitators in scads of cities, from San Francisco to Seoul. But can the Big Apple’s winning formula be applied somewhere like suburban Scarborough and produce the same result?

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The Informer

Events

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Let Zun Lee’s photographs challenge your notions of black fatherhood

Carlos and Selah Richardson enjoying an afternoon at the Georgia Aquarium. Atlanta, GA. (Image: Zun Lee)

Carlos and Selah Richardson enjoying an afternoon at the Georgia Aquarium. Atlanta, GA. (Image: Zun Lee)

Zun Lees images of black fatherhood are refreshingly candid. The Toronto photographer’s black-and-white shots—a father and son running across the road with a football, a infant’s hand wrapped around his dad’s finger, a weeping man with his kid in the background—don’t focus on poverty or despair. They capture life in all its ambiguity, revealing the reality behind the familiar caricatures of deadbeat absentee dads and exacting patriarchs. Lee, whose own biological father left his mother after she became pregnant, took the photos over several years as he developed relationships and occasionally lived with black fathers and families across the United States. The resulting shots, displayed in an exhibition called Father Figure at the BAND Gallery, document joy, pain and vulnerability through the smallest of gestures—a protective embrace, a caring glance, a gentle smile.

To Apr. 2. BAND Gallery, 1 Lansdowne Ave., 2nd Floor, 647-701-4323, band-rand.com.

The Informer

Real Estate

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Condo of the Week: $500,000 to live in a former ball bearing factory near Roncesvalles

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Address: 347 Sorauren Ave, Unit 112A
Neighbourhood: Roncesvalles
Agents: Colette Chaput-Villamizar, Royal LePage Estate Realty, Brokerage
Price: $499,000

The Place: A loft on the first floor of a former ball bearing factory.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Watch Toronto Life’s Kelly Pullen talk McMansions on Global’s Morning Show

This month’s cover story, by Toronto Life senior editor Kelly Pullen, is about the vicious fights that sometimes ensue when wealthy Forest Hill residents object to the ostentatious home remodelling plans of their even-wealthier neighbours. Last week, Pullen went on Global’s Morning Show to talk about what happens when city planning, mega-wealth and community standards come into conflict with one another. Watch video of it above.

The Informer

People

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How to make and lose money, from an investment advisor and a professional poker player

Anyone can work for money, but some people have ways of making money work for them, instead. Here, two very different approaches to the problem.


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AN INVESTMENT ADVISOR, ON HOW TO GET RICH WITHOUT TRYING

“The best way to make money without working for it? Winning the lottery. Wait, don’t write that. I’m kidding. The best way is to start a regular savings and investment strategy at the earliest age possible. Regardless of the dollar amount, no matter how small it is, the earlier you start contributing to an RSP or a TFSA, the better. The benefit of compound interest on a tax-secured account over the long term is very significant. Also, don’t get too wrapped up in trying to predict what the market will do. A majority of gains can be attributed to a relatively small number of really good days. Those really good, strong days tend to happen after the worst days in the market.”

Kathryn Del Greco, a vice president and investment advisor at TD Bank.


A PROFESSIONAL POKER PLAYER, ON HOW TO COPE WITH LOSING A LOT OF MONEY

“In high-stakes poker, you win or lose a lot of money every day, and the money doesn’t feel real all the time. It can come and go so easily. The worst time of my poker career would probably be the night I won $40,000, and then, the next night, lost $80,000. When everything’s going wrong like that, you really start gambling. You’re trying to win back the money you lost. It becomes degenerate behaviour. You’ll see a lot of inexperienced players getting emotionally upset, screaming, throwing stuff, letting it really effect them. To get past a big loss, you just have to kind of accept it and deal with it. There’s always something to look forward to. For me, I can just think of the next tournament I’m excited about.”

Mike Leah, an Innisfil-based professional poker player with $3.8 million in tournament winnings.


Know an expert with wisdom to spare? Tell us about them at unsolicitedadvice@torontolife.com

The Informer

Events

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Hear Dan Mangan’s ambitious art rock at Massey Hall

(Image: Norman Wong)

(Image: Norman Wong)

The Vancouver artist Dan Mangan built his name on easy, likeable songs: palatable indie-folk melodies with quiet acoustic guitars and humble harmonies. By all accounts, they worked, because the songwriter has earned a pair of Junos and a Polaris nod. Instead of sticking to a winning formula, though, Mangan has taken a bold turn on his latest album, Club Meds, which he released with his new backing band, Blacksmith, in January. The new music is ambitious, in the experimental vein of Radiohead, toying with reverb-drenched layers of foreign sounds and effects. It incorporates elements of jazz, art-rock aesthetics and Mangan’s croaky, emotive baritone. The result, heard best in tracks like anthemic single “Vessel,” is an inspired, mature offering. See for yourself when Mangan shares the stage with the equally talented local songwriter Hayden at Massey Hall this weekend. The show is sold out, but a few tickets may still be available online.

Sat. Feb. 28. $18.94. Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., 416-872-4255, masseyhall.com.

The Informer

Politics

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Someone’s going to pay thousands of dollars for Rob Ford’s crack-confession tie

now-what-newRob Ford started putting all sorts of crap (sorry, “memorabilia”) from his office on eBay last week, but it doesn’t get any better than the latest thing up for bid: the very tie he wore when he finally admitted to smoking crack. Ford’s description of the tie on eBay doesn’t specifically mention the item’s historical significance, but it’s unmistakable. The tie is covered in football logos that date it to the mid-nineties, so for it not to be the actual crack tie would mean Ford somehow owns more than one identical 20-year-old piece of novelty neckwear. Granted, he’s a frugal man, so it’s possible. (The description does note, though, that “there is only one of these in existence.”) The bidding is up to $2,125.

The Informer

Features

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McMansion Wars: inside the nasty neighbour-versus-neighbour feuds of Forest Hill

McMansion Wars

The house that used to be at 212 Vesta Drive sold for $1.25 million in 2009. The buyers demolished it without a permit and erected this three-storey mini-mansion, many aspects of which exceeded the zoning bylaws for the area. Angry neighbours formed a residents’ association and spent three years fighting the owners. In the fall of 2012, the owners won at the OMB.

In the spring of 2009, 212 Vesta Drive—a four-bedroom 1930s Tudor on a 40-foot-wide lot—went up for sale. It was a pretty house with green trim that had been, in the words of the Forest Hill listing agent, “lovingly maintained with original charm and character.” The list price was $1.1 million, and cars full of eager bidders lined the street on offer night. There were 13 bids. Carmela Serebryany-Harris and Geoffrey Harris, a young couple with one child and another on the way, presented the winner at $1.25 million.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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House of the Week: $1.4 million to live in a Cabbagetown laneway

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Address: 7 Millington Street
Neighbourhood: Cabbagetown-South St. Jamestown
Agent: Richard Silver, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, Brokerage
Price: $1,399,000

The Place: A completely upgraded, contemporary laneway home in Cabbagetown.

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The Informer

Culture

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See a strange, secretive, practically silent opera

The Whisper Opera

(Image: Armen Elliot)

It doesn’t feel like an opera at all. Instead of a palatial hall, The Whisper Opera is performed in the Theatre Centre for an audience of 52 people. The stage juts out into the crowd, draped in boudoirish ­curtains. The musicians ply their instruments gingerly, making faint melodies that sound like they’re coming from another room: the percussionist, for example, rubs two cowbells together and hits a glockenspiel with his fingers, and the cellist plays with a toothed mute stilling the strings. The soprano Tony Arnold doesn’t sing her words so much as breathe them. If you’re sitting more than five feet from the stage, you might not hear anything.

The Pulitzer-winning ­American composer David Lang has made a career of minimalist mischief. He conceived The Whisper Opera as a kind of unrecordable, sacrosanct event—something that could only be experienced live, in a theatre, in person. For the libretto, he cobbled together Internet secrets, googling phrases like “When I’m alone, I…” and “I wish I wasn’t so….” There’s no plot, just an impressionistic collection of ghostly phrases too private to be spoken at full volume.

The effect is as much performance art as it is music: the performers sit cross-legged on the stage, so close you can touch their shoelaces; the hushed music requires active listening to pick up; the singer practically murmurs secrets in your ear. It’s gimmicky, but it works. The piece is strange, singular and jarringly intimate. That’s something you can’t get on YouTube.

Feb. 26 to Mar. 1. $67.50. The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W., 416-534-9261, tickets.rcmusic.ca.

The Informer

People

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Q&A: Sam Mizrahi, the developer who snagged Toronto’s most coveted piece of real estate

(Image: Claire Foster)

(Image: Claire Foster)

There’s not a developer in Canada who wouldn’t pay dearly for the rights to the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor, and last fall, Sam Mizrahi, a businessman best known until five years ago for his upscale dry cleaning company, became the lucky real estate investor to snag it. If Mizrahi gets what he says he wants, the coming condo tower—which he calls “The One,” after its iconic address, One Bloor West—will be an 80-storey skyscraper designed by the famed British architect Norman Foster. The development, of course, has already caused controversy: the site’s former occupant for 114 years, the men’s clothing store Stollerys, was quickly dismantled just a few days after the city approved a demolition permit, even as councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam moved to have the building evaluated for heritage designation. We met up with Mizrahi to talk about the new development, the value of historical preservation and the future of Toronto.

A few years ago you were known mostly for your dry cleaning business. Now you own one of the most coveted pieces of real estate in the country. How did that happen so fast?
I’ve often been asked what the similarities are between those two businesses. It’s about addressing niches. With Dove Cleaners, we created a premium, high-end, attention-to-detail business. The real estate market that I’ve gone into is the same niche market. It’s the same customer as the Dove customer.

There were many, many people who wanted to get their hands on the Stollerys site. How did you do it?
The process took close to 11 months. The one thing that I did differently was to understand what the property owners felt and wanted, besides the financial aspect of the transaction. There’s more to it than just money. When you have people who have owned the property for 114 years, it becomes a very emotional decision. It’s not just the numbers. It’s a matter of sharing the same value system. You have to have a great deal of empathy.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Sale of the Week: the $1.95-million Annex rebuild that got three bully offers

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Address: 4 Lennox Street
Neighbourhood: University
Agent: Dragi Dodevski, Royal LePage Your Community Realty, Brokerage

The Property: This contemporary University of Toronto–area home has excellent curb appeal, thanks to a premium cedar-and-aluminium exterior. It has a Bulthaup kitchen, high ceilings, a second-floor family room and a unique interior design with high-quality finishes.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: do we have to disclose our black-mould discovery?

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(Image: David Goehring/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,

My wife and I blew our budget on a detached home and during a minor reno found black mould in the basement, which looks like it was patched over by the previous owners. We suspect it runs up the wall and into the kitchen. After some hemming and hawing, we’ve decided to sell and downsize to a semi, which makes more sense for us financially. Our question: are we legally, ethically or otherwise obligated to tell our agent and prospective buyers about the mould, or can we just pretend we never noticed?

—Fungus Among Us, Riverdale

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The Informer

Columns

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Try as we might, we can’t ignore Rob Ford—and neither should John Tory

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

Promises, promises. John Tory assured us he would make city hall boring again. He even held up boredom as an ideal, the grand capital-P Promise embodied by his administration. “If anybody said city hall was boring but productive—better results, but boring—I would take that as a major compliment, as a badge of honour and as a sure ticket to re-election,” he told the National Post’s Natalie Alcoba last December. Then came former mayor Rob Ford’s turn at the microphone.

On January 19, Ford, now demoted back to his old job as councillor for Etobicoke North’s Ward 2, attacked Tory’s plan to expand transit service, happily drawing a comparison to his own time as mayor: “If he wants to undo all the money I saved that’s up to him, but that’s not what the people voted him to do.” Tory and Ford traded verbal jabs all through the rest of January, but Ford landed more punches, at one point saying Tory was “making David Miller look fiscally responsible.” The best comeback Tory could muster was “I won the election.” As if that would shut Ford up. The ex-mayor won’t stop upping the ante: last week he got himself thrown out of a council meeting over a $20,000 proposal to send a delegation to Milan for Expo 2015. That story led the CBC’s local evening newscast. They carried Ford’s scrum live.

Ford’s return to prominence is welcomed by approximately nobody in the city’s political class. His renewed presence on television newscasts acts like a kind of post-traumatic stress trigger. To some degree, his rise from the ashes is a media creation: the Tory administration’s efforts at workmanlike dullness have created a vacuum. The only thing that abhors a vacuum more than nature is a news broadcast, and Ford can be counted on to fill it. The shtick he’s pulling now is the same shtick he was pulling a decade ago: confrontational, conflict-driven, sound-bite politics.

But the media are always buying that, no matter who’s selling. The fact is that Ford is more skilled than any of his council colleagues at using the media to his own ends, and it’s those ends Tory truly needs to worry about. Rob Ford single-handedly built one of the most powerful political movements in recent Canadian history: you can dismay or decry Ford Nation all you want but you cannot dismiss it, not even now. During last year’s campaign, when Ford’s health forced him to pass the baton to his lesser brother Doug, Ford Nation still nearly delivered an upset victory. Today Ford Nation is like the creature in Little Shop of Horrors: weakened, it needs to be fed. Ford is feeding it. And Tory is letting him.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Condo of the Week: $445,000 for a Cinema Tower unit with a quintessential Toronto view

Address: 21 Widmer Street, Unit 2410
Neighbourhood: Waterfront Communities-The Island
Agents: Yannick Picard, Sutton Group Associates Realty Inc., Brokerage
Price: $445,000

The Place: A compact one-bedroom halfway up the Cinema Tower, with a balcony offering the quintessential Toronto view (CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Lake Ontario).

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