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Real Estate


The Sell: a developer builds a million-dollar pet project in a dodgy east-end pocket

The Sell

The Seller: Rambod Nasrin, the 36-year-old president of Upside Development.

The Property: An 800-square-foot 1950s bungalow near Coxwell and Cosburn recently converted into a 2,400-square-foot three-bedroom.

The Story: In 2010, after almost a decade working for the construction giant Tridel, Nasrin decided to branch out on his own. He was tired of churning out functional, formulaic buildings. His plan was to buy a cheap house on a decent-sized lot, tear it down and build a modernist masterpiece on top. Nasrin chose the area near Coxwell and Cosburn because he saw a glut of young buyers coming to the neighbourhood, and he thought they might be interested in something other than the boring brick and stucco houses that were already there. He found a bungalow for $424,000 that fit the bill, but it was a risk. There was no precedent for this kind of modern architecture in the area—and no precedent for the price Nasrin would have to list it at to make any money. Still, he believed in the power of good design, and decided to take a chance.

The Prep: Nasrin spent four months on the design process with architect Andrew Reeves of Linebox Studio. After waiting on permits for four months, he spent another five months in construction (they modified the original foundation and built right on top of it). The house was staged with mid-century furniture, and he covered the walls with work by local artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.

The Offers: More than 200 people attended the two open houses in the spring. The crowd included neighbourhood contractors who brought cameras to capture details for use in their own work. There were three offers total, all from young couples—the target market—but two withdrew, not wanting to get entangled in a bidding war. The third offered the asking price, with no stipulations, and the deal was done within an hour. One of Nasrin’s next jobs is a commission from someone who saw the house and wants something similar done on his own lot.

  • Mark

    That area is hardly dodgy, there is a new Starbucks at the corner. I guess it could be dodgy if you are comparing it to the bridle path or forest hill. I guess you could be afraid of the high school students or people who use the library there. People who use public services scare me too.

  • Neil

    Nice design and welcomed change to the normal top ups; but one correction….to call the neighbourhood as dodgy is just ignorant, short sighted and wrong. East York is one of the most up and coming locations in the city and these types of projects and house price is indicative of just that.

    Suggest the the author and editor check themselves as I expect much more from Toronto Life Magazine.

  • Not dodgy

    Hardly a dodgy neighbourhood. One of my neighbours who works in the financial district was complaining about the glut of Bay St. executives who have discovered the neighbourhood and have been moving in (his boss is one of them). Well, there goes the neighbourhood.

  • Tracey Dey

    Its sad that the working class areas of the east end are referred to as dodgy.. the author should cross the viaduct once in a while. The engine that serves the city lives here and they are not dodgy while cleaning your office or preparing your lunch order downtown. Take that extra step to educate yourself before making ill informed pronouncements about environments and people you do not understand.

  • Penny

    We just moved from this “dodgy” neighbourhood after being born and raised there. There are at least 5 schools all within walking distance of each other, a fabby newly renovated library, walk to buses and subways, and so on. We never had a problem with crime or break-ins. Parks are abundant and yearly Canada day parades and celebrations are well known. I can go on and on. We now live in the Kingsway neighbourhood and there is noooooo comparision. I miss the Danforth, the friendly neighbour and the walk-friendly sidewalks. We moved to the area for a much needed change and don’t regret it. I would never describe our previous neighbourhood as dodgy. Yes, it was working class, but the inhabitants are far from “dodgy”.

  • Len

    Which real estate agent sold this place? Need to speak to him.

  • Nuno from East York

    First of all, this house didn’t sell for $1.13M it sold for $1.130M – check your facts.

    Second, have you considered that calling this neighbourhood dodgy simply reflects poorly on you and your writers? Countless homes in East York (M4J or E03) have sold over a $1M and they will continue to sell. Even if they didn’t, dodgy implies a lack of safety or dangerous. There is a large park in the centre of this dodgy area, Starbucks just opened at Coxwell/Plains and another location has been thriving at Jones/Danforth. The point of living in East York is all about safety, walking down the street and speaking to neighbours, walking your dog along the quiet streets yet having the Danforth minutes away and shopping along Pape, Donlands and Coxwell. Quiet is a possible word to describe this area in general but dodgy is incorrect.

    I have been a long time subscriber of Toronto Life but this b/s for reporting and storytelling is making me question whether I should continue supporting a magazine that is so blind. NOT everyone lives between Yonge and Ossington – not everyone wants to, not everyone thinks it’s the ‘best part of Toronto’. Your job is to report the facts and to try to reach & represent your entire community. This could’ve been an awesome article about a great renovation to a beautiful house, but the angle you decided to take is cheesy and in poor taste.

    I’m extremely disappointing in Toronto Life. I except more for your journalists and editors.

    If you’d like to know more about an area that you clearly have no knowledge on, follow @EastYork_TO and many other East End twitter accounts. Seriously.

    Not happy.

  • Nuno from East York

    Slightly humbled – so my glasses are foggy and $1.13 and $1.130 is the same. But still! :)

  • David G

    Not entirely sure where the author gets off brandishing this pocket of East York as ‘dodgy’? Perhaps the housing prices in this pocket have temoporarily stunted the author’s ability to process what ‘dodgy’ means.

    If ‘dodgy’ means great restaurants, big lots, safety, talkative neighbours, parks and green space, and easy access to all that downtown has to offer, I couldn’t be happier to live in a ‘dodgy’ area.

  • Veronica C

    I have to laugh at “dodgy”. The folks at Toronto Life must never make it over the Don Valley. This year, there were 192 nominations for the East York Blooming Contest. That’s a lot of gorgeous front yards – and attentive home owners. Every year, East York does a great job winning at the City Wide contest. Previous comments accurately describe our area. East York has a long, proud history of community involvement.
    I’m proud East Yorker, “dodgy” and all.

  • Vlad

    “Dodgy” people don’t know the difference between $1.13M and $1.130M, whereas people west of Yonge do.

  • Peter Visima

    It’s a shame that writers do not do their homework. I have lived in East York for almost 50 years. My children were born here and I have owned two homes here. My wife was born here and there is no basis for this writer calling our neighbourhood “dodgy.”

    East York is a hidden gem of Toronto. Schools, libraries, hospital, farmers’ market, the Danforth, and our proximity to downtown, the DVP, the 401, the Gardiner Expressway make us a perfect location in the GTA.

  • Nancy Visima

    “Dodgy”: risky; dangerous; not good or reliable (Oxford English Dictionary)
    Nothing could be further from the truth. This neighbourhood has been my home for all of my nearly 60 years, and we currently live just two blocks from the house that’s profiled in this article. I know this neighbourhood intimately and walk its streets and use public transit here without fear, even after dark.

    People don’t leave this area once they’re here. If they need a bigger home, they don’t move, they renovate; we did so ourselves many years ago. We have always boasted about our amazing location, with every amenity within walking distance: schools at every level (primary, middle, secondary), doctors’ offices and a major hospital we can see from our front door, civic centre, parks, library, tennis courts, public transit, shopping, close proximity to downtown, and more. Housing prices here are continually on the rise and reflective of the fact that this neighbourhood is absolutely a good and reliable place in which to live.