Investment capital is moving further and further away from the core. We’ve already seen it East & West along the 401. As a result, I find myself often providing detailed market analysis and planning reviews for clients in smaller and smaller municipalities.
I have a lot of groups looking for high-margin infill sites, and a lot of groups looking for bigger pieces of land. You have to do a lot more primary research as you move away from the core. Primary research often means you’re getting your own data and drawing your own conclusions – and I find that to be pretty exciting most of the time. A lot of my investors are comparing opportunities in two markets, and it really requires me to evaluate each critically so that I can understand which may be the best fit.
One such comparison has really fascinated me:
Innisfil and Georgina.
These municipalities function in a relatively similar fashion right now, and a lot of people believe that is going to change. Exactly how and why it ought to change is the nature of my curiosity and research, because it’s important I at least have a theory to present to my clients. But what’s more important to me is how these municipalities function leading up to that change, and how they will function moving forward.
White Collar vs. Blue Collar Theory
Today, these towns can be very loosely characterized by a small difference in the labour force they provide to the urban agglomeration of Toronto. Innisfil is marginally more white-collar than Georgina. There is only one or two reasons things evolved that way, which can be explained pretty succinctly as “infrastructure” and “proximity to a regional centre”. Things will likely continue to be that way as a result of Innisfil’s incoming GO train station. Moreso, it’s worth evaluating whether you want to be catering to an audience at either end of the spectrum – but I guess we are in the age of pandering to extremes.
My philosophy around the role of white- and blue-collar professions in the next few decades is one of the primary reasons I’ve been so interested in presenting the dichotomy between these two small towns. And I will be presenting a follow-up post to this explaining why I believe that’s so important from the perspectives of household income and retirement.
Same same… but different
Innisfil and Georgina are pretty rural municipalities, but there is a distinct difference in their history that has led them down this white-collar path. Around 1952, Highway 400 was constructed, connecting the City of Barrie to the City of Toronto. By comparison, Georgina received its 400-series Highway 404 about three or four years ago. So, as of 1952, if you were driving ’til you qualified, and if you were preferential to driving a provincially-maintained highway for your commute, you were more likely to land in Innisfil than Georgina. For a while, that gave Georgina, and especially Keswick a bit of infamy as a rough and tumble sort of place.
Based on the information we’re being presented with today, most people would argue that Innisfil will see its renaissance sooner than Georgina for one simple reason. Note below that there’s a big yellow dot in Innisfil on the go train map. That’s an important yellow dot.
For those of you who don’t know, Innisfil is getting a Go Train station. I’d be surprised if you didn’t know, though, because they’ve done a pretty damn good job of making sure everyone knows. Most notably, they attached a master-planned core called The Orbit to the train, which is one of the coolest and most ambitious concepts I’ve seen lately. It also resembles a Dr. Seuss town, and to that, I tip my tall red and white hat. If we’re developing fantasy cities, I would much rather see us building Dr. Seuss than futuristic glass pencils a la iRobot. Also Friday Harbour.
I would argue, however, that the GO-train may just reiterate what’s already there by creating greater connectivity to Toronto and decreasing automobile dependence, which is frankly, something that tradespeople won’t benefit from.
Georgina may never see a GO Train Station. In the map above, there’s actually supposed to be a yellow dot in Aurora as well (proper map below), as they’re getting an $84-million extension to the Richmond Hill line, which, if extended, could actually reach Mt. Albert and Georgina, albeit in Pefferlaw. I tried to trace the train line on a map to show you where it goes, but the distances between villages are so vast it was nearly impossible. If you’re interested, here’s where the line will end, you can click + drag it all the way to Beaverton and beyond if you so fancy. It could actually be worth your while to know where these train tracks run in the event you need to escape in an apocalyptic wasteland where the highways are full. I digress.
There are no plans for Georgina to see a Go Train Station. Perhaps this is why Georgina is not as ambitious about the future of their municipality, nor its potential to become a master-planned Dr. Seuss utopia of 150,000 like Innisfil. A bit of that could have to do with the fact that the LSRCA watershed boundary engulfs most of Georgina, but only 50% of Innisfil’s regional municipality, but I don’t know how large of a role that plays.
The biggest questions I have, given the new information associated with contrasting the potential futures of these functionally identical towns, is:
- how the historic formation of these municipalities will play a role in their growth
- Georgina has more historic cores/historic density and microurbanism with a secondary plan attached to it
- Innisfil has large serviced tracts of land and subdivisions, allowing for large-scale development and economies of scale
- which municipality will see millennial demand
- which municipality will see boomer demand
- which municipality is likely to have property values accelerate further/faster
- this is especially interesting because values can also be a value of household income, so the difference in employment does play a role here
- future demand will also be an important component