While the workers on site were secretive about the renovation, I was able to get inside the Plank Road building on Tuesday for a brief look around.
It looks rough. And good. And it looks like it’s getting better.
According to the workers, the building has been empty for 60 years and has suffered many fires. Still, while some of the wood is charred inside, the space is undeniably beautiful and the building’s bones are strong.
I wasn’t able to take pictures, but the building has three floors with a central staircase and two large rooms on the main floor. The workers are replacing at least the joists and the interior walls; they said they are “basically cleaning up, fixing walls and stuff”. Some of the old framing remains, though, and the space looks like it will be open and inviting.
The workers had no idea when the building would be done, and it will certainly be a while. There is a lot of work left to do.
They said, though, that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the building; it just suffers from “old age”. That can’t be a surprise: the Plank Road building is one of the oldest buildings in Ontario. In fact, it is older than Canada; it was built a quarter-century before Confederation.
According to the workers, the building’s owner will be putting the space up for rent when renovations are complete.
Prospective homebuyers will be feeling the pinch as mortgage rates rise, especially as prices in Toronto hit new record highs. Prospective Westonites stand to benefit, though: prices in Weston are still substantially below the district and city averages, and growth in prices is slow.
According to the Toronto Real Estate board, last month the average home in Weston’s district sold for $318,000. This is up only slightly from $313,000 in April of 2009. Weston is still much cheaper than neighbouring areas; in western Toronto (including Weston), the average home sold for $404,000: 27% more than here. The average home in all of Toronto sold for $373,000: 17% more.
In what may be a sign that few people know about Weston, homes here sell more slowly than elsewhere. Local real estate spent an average of 31 days on the market, far more than the average of 22 in the western district and 21 for Toronto as a whole.
Despite homesellers’ wait, many more properties did sell compared to last year. 104 homes changed owners in sector W04, compared to only 54 in April of last year. This is likely due to the terrible economic uncertainty of early 2009.
There is a downside, of course, to the affordable real estate in Weston. Those looking to sell their homes here are unable to capitalize on the large price increases the rest of Toronto has seen.