Corktown is a vibrant little pocket north of the Distillery District and the Canary District that's becoming one of the most sought-after communities for Toronto loft lovers. There are some stellar Corktown lofts that offer great value.
For real estate purposes, we think of Corktown as running south of Queen to Front, between Parliament and the DVP. But if you look at the historic definition of Corktown (before the two districts occupying its southern quadrants were carved out), it would be considered closer to what the Corktown Residents & Business Association covers in their mandate: Shuter Street south to the rail corridor (located just above the DVP), between the Don River to the east and and Berkeley Street to the west.
Modern map of Corktown, Toronto by SimonP, licensed under CC 3.0 via wikimedia.
While it has good name recognition (most Torontonians have heard of Corktown), it lacks some of the brand power of its neighbours like the Distillery and Riverside; most people can'tt tell you exactly where Corktown is or what's there.
Part of the problem is that the Canary District has been carved out of Corktown as it's own, separate little pocket. It's been receiving the lion's share of press thanks to the PanAM Games and the revitalization of the Don Lands through the multi-million dollar Waterfront Toronto initiative. As well, the Distillery District is such a well-known hotspot both for tourists and locals that it overshadows Corktown in the popular mindset.
We'd hate to see Corktown lose its individuality and start to blend with its neighbours to the south because there's a lot of potential in this charming pocket. We're going to take you through a little about Corktown today along with the loft buildings that fall within its borders.
Corktown is one of Toronto's oldest neighbourhoods. It was settled in the early 1800s by Irish immigrants from the County of Cork who largely worked in Toronto's brickyards and breweries, mostly located just outside of Corktown's modern day borders. Its name was likely derived from the workers' home county although some believe it was named for the local cork manufacturers.
Historic photo of Corktown - Queen St E Looking Towards Don River Bridge. Photo taken September 19, 1910. Courtesy of the Corktown Residents & Business Association from the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 2104.
Although the heart of Corktown was largely residential even at inception (worker's cottages and small, row-houses), it's often considered a formerly-industrial area because of its proximity to local industry - breweries, distilleries and brickyards.
It was home to Toronto's first free, public school, the Enoch Turner School, and was the site of Toronto's first Roman Catholic Church, St. Paul's. It's also home to Toronto's oldest standing church, the Little Trinity Anglican Church built in 1843, pictured below.
Historic Photos of Trinity Church. Photo taken in 1913. Courtesy of the Corktown Residents & Business Association from the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 281.
Corktown's a bit of an enigma for some today. While Corktown has a long, rich history, we can also think of it as one of Toronto's newest neighbourhoods as it's been transformed into an edgy, residential community over the last decade.
Its mix of historic and contemporary architecture, proximity to the core, youthful energy and an increasing selection of cafés and bars make this area highly desirable to young buyers. It's a great 'hood to consider buying a condo or loft in if you want everything within walking distance but are looking for an area with more character than the Core.
Stretch of typical, historic row-houses found along Queen in Corktown. Photo by SimonP, licensed under CC 3.0 via wikimedia.
Corktown has an eclectic mix of property types. Historic, Victorian row houses – some of the oldest in the city, built between 1850 and 1860 – sit alongside funky, Corktown lofts. You'll find new built soft lofts and condos too, as well as townhomes which offer great value in the face of skyrocketing freehold home prices.
Here's a round-up of the lofts in Corktown that are well worth a look if you want the best of both worlds - a smaller, community feel than downtown affords while still being steps to transit, amenities and vibrant night life.
Our favourite hard loft in the area, the Vinegar Co. Lofts are located just west of the DVP at 19 River Street. Once the Queen City Vinegar Company, this buillding was converted into residential lofts in 2009 featuring exposed wood beams, high ceiling and sandblasted brick walls.
One and two bedroom units are available with various layouts. Our favourite features of this loft building are the massive, warehouse style windows and the polished concrete floors.
Converted from a historic vinegar factory around 100 years of age, the Queen City Vinegar Co. Lofts offer true loft living in downtown Toronto. Located conveniently near the DVP and Queen Street East, the building houses 38 suites and is only 5-stories tall. Polished concrete floors, exposed brick and massive warehouse-style windows are available in all suites.
Next door you'll find the Corktown Lofts at 21 River Street. This is a seriously inconsipicous loft building; the rather bland façade and diminuitive scale hides some stylish lofts.
With just eight units, lofts rarely become available for sale here but when they do, you'll want to check them out. You'll get a beautiful, authentic post-and-beam space, just minutes walk to some of the best neighbourhood revitalizations that Toronto's ever seen - just across the bridge from vibrant Riverside, steps to the burgeoning community of the Canary District and a few blocks from rapidly transforming Regent Park.
Located at 393 King St E (King near Parliament), The Derby Lofts is a low-rise, soft loft development with just 26 units. The lofts here are two-storey units with open concept main living spaces with both one and two bedroom layouts. The best features are the soaring, 16' ceilings and stunning, floor-to-ceiling windows that flood these lofts with light. And let's not forget - private rooftop terraces.
Much like the Corktown Lofts, this is one of the most deceiving lofts in Toronto. At face value, this building doesn't look appealing but there are a few truly stunning units featuring exposed wood beams, original brick and 12' ceilings.
With just 11 units in total, the Carhart Lofts aren't very well known by the public and listings don't hit the market often. This is an old jean factory, converted into beautiful hard lofts in 1999. Units here are spacious and range from one bedrooms to two-bedrooms plus den. There's also an expansive three-bedroom unit in the basement that spans the entire length of the building. It's located just around the corner from the Vinegar Co. Lofts on Queen St E.
This is the development that first brought a massive influx of residential units to the area. Corktown District I & II are both mid-rise, soft loft developments offering 134 and 192 units respectively. This newer condo community is comprised of multiple soft loft buildings located at 52 Sumach, 510 King St E and 549 to 569 King St E.
Corktown District interiors feature polished concrete floors, 10' ceilings and contemporary finishes. Most have a private balcony or terrace. They're built by Streetcar Developments, known for their love (and transformation) of the east end.
Rendering of River City community © Urban Capital.
River City is the other major condo community in the area, this one by Urban Capital. It consists of multiple soft loft buildings stretching from 32-51 Trolley Crescent with River City III under development at 100 Lower River St E.
At the lower edge of Corktown near the Canary District, the River City developments are bringing close to a thousand new, soft loft units to the area offering a variety of layouts and sizes. Most feature 9' exposed concrete ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and large balconies. Amenities are plentiful here (one of the benefits of going soft loft) including a great fitness facility, various lounges and outdoor courtyards.
There are a number of other condos and lofts for sale in Toronto just a few blocks outside of Corktown's unofficial borders that many would still call Corktown. Buildings like the Canary District and Canary Park as well as the Trinity Lofts on Trinity Street are also worth a look if you're interested in moving to this area.