Sheppard. The condo corridor.

Shane Baghai arrived in Canada in 1973 and put his engineering education to use as a designer of home heating and cooling systems. A decade later, the Iranian-born, London-bred gentleman was one of North America’s busiest custom homebuilders, with many of his projects rooted in North York.

A man of foresight, Mr. Baghai realized the potential for growth along Sheppard Avenue East between Yonge Street and Victoria Park Avenue and, as such, became a fan of then-Mayor Mel Lastman and his proposed Sheppard subway line. The 5.5-kilometre subway line officially opened in November 2002, with five stations dotted from Yonge Street to Don Mills Road.

Today, another outspoken mayor, this one named Rob Ford, is murmuring about extending the subway. With 29 high-rise buildings in the works or in planning stages along the Sheppard Avenue stretch comprising 5,865 condominium units, according to Urbanation, developers like Mr. Baghai are thrilled.

“Sheppard Avenue will become a busy corridor in the next 10 years,” says Mr. Baghai, whose series of St. Gabriel condos and townhomes is down to 33 available units at St. Gabriel Manor with occupancy this spring. “You’ll see [towers with six-storey podiums] popping up all the way from Bayview Avenue to as far as the eye can see. … This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

According to RealNet, 2010 ended with the Sheppard Corridor ranking third out of 19 active high-density development areas across the GTA based on the number of projects, units and sales. But it ranked 13th when it came to average unit pricing: $485 per square foot compared to the average GTA price of $547. RealNet president George Carras attributes the area’s popularity to low price, highway access, public transportation and convenient shopping. Well-known developers such as Menkes, Daniels, Monarch and Cityzen Fernbrook all have a presence, with signs adorning every major intersection to beckon potential buyers to take a peek.

The largest development by far is Concord Adex’s Concord Park Place, an L-shaped, 45-acre master-planned community consisting of 15 high-rise and mid-rise buildings with 5,000 condos and townhomes plus a park, school and community centre. Its price per square foot is $570. Spokesman Brian Fong says most buyers hail from the neighbourhood, with young people buying first and their parents following.

“Downtown is still the core, but [this area] is a second downtown,” Mr. Fong says. “It’s a win-win situation: The more people gather in one location, the more positive noise generated to call for the government or the city to improve that area.”

Retailers are enjoying the upswing, too. In his regular jaunts around the ’hood, Mr. Baghai has learned that fast food restaurants and convenience stores are doing brisk business, with pizzeria owners telling him their delivery orders have risen 25% in recent years. Loblaws at Bayview Village is always hopping, and Whole Foods Market’s fourth Greater Toronto Area location will take over most of the 60,000 sq. ft. of retail space at Tridel’s Hullmark Centre at the southeast corner of Yonge and Sheppard.

Melissa Evans-Lee, Bayview Village’s marketing director, recalls standing in the mall’s parking lot one day last year and “all you could see were cranes dotting the horizon.” The amount of activity is staggering, she says, with more than 20,000 new residents expected over the next few years. Many will be thirtysomething professionals who want the conveniences of downtown without living in the thick of it.

“Our new neighbours are moving into fabulous condos with luxurious finishings and hotel-like amenities,” she says. “They want the fabulous life, which we are more than happy to contribute to.”

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Article from the National Post.