| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Financial District : Development News

57 Financial District Articles | Page: | Show All

Design review panel suggests 'pencil towers' for Chelsea Hotel redevelopment

The plan to demolish the Chelsea Hotel at Yonge and Gerrard, replacing it with a cluster of tall buildings and open pedestrian spaces, got generally favourable reviews at the City of Toronto Design Review Panel last month.
“Panel members were appreciative of this remarkable opportunity to transform the site from the existing “Chelsea Hotel blight” to a pedestrian-oriented area with open space connections,” state the minutes to the April panel meeting. “Several members noted the significant improvements from the first iteration of the project shown in the presentation.”
The proposal from Great Eagle Hotels would replace the hotel, which currently has 1,590 rooms in a single 26-storey building, with four mixed-use towers containing residential, hotel, office and retail space. There’d be towers of 80, 74, 50 and 46 storeys, challenging the skyline dominance of the 74-storey Aura building to the north. The complex would provide 1,897 residential units, 300 hotel suites and 5,776 square metres of office and commercial space. The existing building was built in 1975 as apartments and a hostel, but was modified into a hotel, with a 600-room addition built in 1990. Not surprisingly to anyone who’s taken a look at it, the building is not a candidate for designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Experts on the city’s review panel liked the “porosity” that the multiple buildings will bring to the block, particularly the creation of new north-south and west-east connections. Several members suggested that the design needs a strong connection to Yonge Street, with bold visual elements and a welcoming pedestrian experience. Despite its size, the current building is relatively hidden from Yonge Street.
The separation space between the towers and the setback from neighbouring properties were concerns for some members. One suggestion was moving the south tower further west, which might also help enclose the back of 18 Elm Street and provide better views to the northeast tower looking south.
“A panel member noted that ‘pencil towers’ (towers with smaller floorplates) are likely possible here and would improve setback conditions,” state the minutes.
The panel’s feedback are non-binding, but will have an effect on planning decisions for the project.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto Design Review Panel

Condo on stilts give Widmer Street heritage homes some breathing room

Throughout Toronto’s tower boom, there’s been a growing reliance on a particular idea of what a tall building should be: a podium of several stories that pretty much fills the site and provides retail space at street level, on which sits a more slender point-tower reaching for the sky.
But the six yellow-brick townhouses at 8-20 Widmer Street just south of Adelaide, all of them built between 1876 and 1878 and all of them listed historic properties, gave Scott Shields Architects a unique opportunity to think beyond the podium for the Clairville Holdings’ 56-storey, 583-unit condo tower slated for the block. Rather than absorb the townhouses into the larger structure, the proposal, filed with the city for approval earlier this month, pushes the tower back from the street. The tower’s upper stories are supported by diagonal stilts rising up from behind the three-storey townhouses.
“We love heritage and the owner of the property loves heritage. The townhouse are pretty, but to be honest, they’re in pretty rough shape,” says Deborah Scott, principal at Scott Shields. “There are lot of steps to get up, then about three steps to get down to the basement, which is not ideal for turning them into commercial/retail.” So after excavating the site and building underground parking beneath the townhouses, they will be restored to essentially what they already are: six individual homes, with patios out front and a laneway behind them, separating them from the tower.
To the south of the site, where there’s a large laneway between the proposed building and King Street’s Hyatt Regency, Clairville has proposed a parkette that will also serve as the pedestrian entrance to the tower. “We wanted to let the townhouses be on their own. We’re not filling up the lower level with mass. We’re leaving it light and airy,” says Scott. “In this part of downtown, with more space at the base, nobody cares how high you are anymore, I think.”
About three storeys above the townhouses—six storeys from the ground—the tower gets wider, providing something of a canopy over the heritage properties. The idea for the stilts came, in part, from the Standard Hotel in New York City, under which the High Line elevated park passes. “They have some amazing columns that hold their building up, and they’re so beautiful. We can make these columns so refined. They will be angled a bit. They’re also like tree trunks.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Deborah Scott

City considers requiring more space between tall buildings

How close is too close?
At a public consultation last week, downtown residents got a chance to speak up about the appropriate distances between highrise buildings.
As part of TOcore, a three-year study by City Planning into how to positively manage growth in Toronto’s downtown, the city held a meeting to talk about tower separation. That is, how far tall buildings should be set back from property lines and how much space there should be between two towers on a single site to avoid excessive shadowing, pedestrian-level wind and blocked views.
Recommendations that came into effect in 2013 suggests that there should be a setback of 12.5 metres or greater for all tall building towers from the side and rear property lines or centre line of an abutting lane, and for more than one tower on the same site, the setback should be 25 metres or greater. But the current zoning, which requires a setback of only 5.5 metres, is considered outdated amidst Toronto’s current avalanche of 40-plus-storey towers.
Proposed changes to the official plan would require base building height for tall building development to be consistent with the existing streetwall of the block. The new plan might also restrict tall buildings from being built on small sites. The City Planning department would also like more widespread use of “block planning” where numerous tall buildings are proposed, or where the individual lots are too small to accommodate the required setbacks. “These plans take into consideration where towers could possibly be located on any given block to ensure appropriate tower placement, massing, scale and setbacks,” states the slides presented at the consultation.
“Once we review the comments we’ll start making revisions, work with other community planners who typically review tall buildings and host an online consultation where we’ll post policies and have people comment on them,” says assistant planner George Pantazis, who expects this phase of TOcore to be complete by June. About 20 people gave feedback at the meeting.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: George Pantazis

Confused pedestrians rejoice! Improvements coming to PATH system signage

For almost a century, Toronto’s downtown has been criss-crossed with underground passages that have allowed pedestrians to avoid the weather and traffic, if not each other.

After a growth spurt in the 1960s and ’70s, there are now more than 30 kilometres of pedestrian walkways known as PATH connecting the basements of 75 buildings and 1,200 retailers, mostly in the financial district, with more tunnels planned in downtown south and toward the St. Lawrence Market area.

Despite iconic signage and maps designed in 1988 by Gottschalk, Ash International, and Keith Muller Ltd., navigating PATH is not for the easily befuddled. PATH has evolved haphazardly and inconsistently. There are maps in most building entrances, but it’s hard for a neophyte to know when they’ve left one building and entered another, or find their way into the system at all. So the Toronto Financial District BIA is doing a survey with the intention of improving the PATH wayfinding system.

“Last year we completed a PATH audit where we looked at every PATH location, every PATH sign and every PATH map to identify the key problems that are currently out there,” says Tim Kocur, communications manager at the BIA.

The seeds of the initiative started in 2011, before the founding of the BIA, when the city initiated a master plan study to shape the growth and enhancement of the pedestrian network over the next 30 years. The plan found that “many tourists and first time users of the network in particular, have difficulty interpreting the existing signage and mapping to find their way. It’s also clear that many people simply do not know how and where to enter the PATH. Connections between the PATH and the street are often difficult to find, and poorly signed. Survey work by the Master Plan
team indicates that about 25 per cent of entrances to the network are indicated by signage.” That plan suggested a separate study on wayfinding and signage, a project the BIA has taken on.

The ’80s-era logo will not likely change. “The PATH is an extremely well-known brand. The original branding firm did an excellent job. It’s very well used by the city and by the buildings. When you say PATH, most people in the downtown core know exactly what you’re talking about,” says Kocur.

Kocur says the BIA expects to have a proposed new map ready in May for further public and stakeholder input.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Tim Kocur

Province picks AECOM to oversee construction of new downtown courthouse

The province has chosen the Canadian arm of the international architectural firm AECOM to manage the planning, design and compliance of the construction of the new courthouse for downtown Toronto.

Years in the making, the proposed high-rise will bring eight facilities together under one roof on the site of what is currently a parking lot on Centre Avenue, just off University Avenue, saving money and increasing efficiency if all goes according to plan.

“Once completed, the new Toronto courthouse will be a state-of-the-art facility that will enable the province to continue delivering high-quality justice services for generations to come, while creating hundreds of jobs and stimulating our economy during the construction process,” said Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure during the announcement. “We are one step closer to turning this vision into reality.”

The new courthouse's design will feature “video conferencing to allow witnesses to appear from remote locations and in-custody individuals to appear from jail; closed-circuit television to enable children and other vulnerable individuals to appear before the court from a private room; courtroom video/audio systems to allow counsel to display video evidence recorded in various formats and for the simultaneous viewing of evidence; a single point of entry with magnetometers, baggage scanners, continuous video surveillance, and separate corridors for judiciary, members of the public and the accused for security reasons; barrier-free access to all courtroom,” states the news release.

AECOM will be expected to produce a building design that meets LEED Silver standards, with a focus on energy efficiency, healthy indoor environments and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Once the planning, design and compliance aspects are completed, the Ministry of the Attorney General and Infrastructure Ontario will issue a request for qualifications, probably in the spring of 2016, for a team to design, build, finance and maintain the project using provincial alternative financing and procurement methods.

Based in Los Angeles, AECOM has designed, built, financed and operated infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries. Its companies had revenue of $18 billion in the last fiscal year.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Infrastructure Ontario

Budget committee hears request for major bike infrastructure boost

The City of Toronto budget committee has heard a proposal to boost the cycling infrastructure budget to $20 million, more than double the current $8 million Toronto now spends.
The proposal comes on the recommendation of the Toronto Board of Health and would implement a “minimum grid” of cycling infrastructure by 2018. Without making a decision on the spending proposal, the budget committee voted to refer the item to the City Manager and the General Manager of Transportation Services for consideration for the 2016 budget and 2017-2025 Capital Plan.
“Despite the many health benefits, people who walk and cycle are at increased risk of injury or death as a result of collisions with motor vehicles when compared to people travelling in cars or using public transit. Concerns about safety can result in people being less likely to travel using these modes of active transportation,” states the letter from the board. “Implementing measures to slow driver speeds is an essential way to improve safety. Reducing posted speed limits as well as changes to the built environment such as designing streets that include narrower and fewer travel lanes, medians, and other traffic calming measures are effective ways to reduce speeds and therefore prevent injuries and deaths. Increased education for pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicle drivers will also improve safety by improving knowledge and skills.”
While rates of collisions that have resulted in pedestrian or cyclist injury declined in Toronto between 2003 and 2012, the total number of cyclist injuries is increasing considerably due to increased numbers of cyclists each year. “In addition, there has been an increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities in the last two years," states the letter.
A survey submitted by the group Cycle Toronto states that 73 per cent of Torontonians say a lack of cycling infrastructure is holding them back from riding more often. “A grid of protected bike lanes on main streets supported by a network of bicycle boulevards on residential roadways is a vital way to get Torontonians moving. Ridership rises when biking is easy, safe and comfortable,” says the document.
Meanwhile, the city is extending the separated bike lanes, known as cycle tracks, along Richmond and Adelaide streets eastward from University Avenue. Both cycle tracks will now connect from Parliament Street in the east to Bathurst Street in the west. Peter Street will also get bicycle lanes from King Street to Queen Street.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City Clerk’s Office

Traffic and density concerns at site of former World's Biggest Bookstore

At the community meeting over the redevelopment of the former home of the World’s Biggest Bookstore, locals expressed concern about more than the density and design of the proposed 35-storey building.
Lifetime Developments has applied to turn the prime location at 20 Edward Street, between Bay and Yonge, into a mixed-use building with a three-storey commercial base and one-storey mezzanine. The proposal, which includes 629 residential units, would require changes to height restrictions for the flight path for Sick Kids Hospital helipad. There are five loading spaces proposed with direct access from the laneway to the north, a laneway, says Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, that’s already in heavy use.
“There’s also concern about what kind of retail they will be attractive, whether it will be sensitive to the environment on Yonge Street,” says Wong-Tam.
Ward 27 has been hit with an avalanche of development applications over the past few years, particularly along the Yonge Street corridor. While much of the public debate has focused on building height and what the exteriors look like—sheer glass towers versus playful post-modern articulation—Wong-Tam worries that there hasn’t been enough focus on what the buildings are doing at street level, the impact on transportation and the impact of years of construction on neighbourhoods.
“The residents and business owners know that development is part of downtown life but they’re asking for better consideration of traffic movement, for complete streets and for opportunities to improve the public realm and urban conditions, including open spaces like parks and civic squares. That constantly comes up,” says Wong-Tam. “They’re also asking for more affordable housing. How is it we can add more and more density in the downtown core and not consider issues such as housing?”
Wong-Tam says the developers alone are not responsible for these frustrations. She says the planning process often doesn’t ask the right questions.

The site plan approval for 20 Edward Street is still under review.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Kristyn Wong-Tam

City rolling out cycling survey, new cycling routes

Slowly but surely, the city is making some progress on intensifying its cycling infrastructure.
This month city staff are expected to recommend that the separated cycle tracks on Richmond and Adelaide streets, installed last year, should be extended to Parliament, connecting them with the Sherbourne track that’s the main north-south route in the city’s downtown eastside. The Richmond and Adelaide tracks, still pilot projects, are two of the city’s most visible new routes, though they peter out when they hit the Financial District.
Further west, the Environmental Study Report for the extension of the West Toronto Railpath is expected soon, looking at how the path should be extended beyond its current southern terminus at Dundas West terminus to Queen and King streets. On the waterfront, the Queens Quay reconstruction will connect the Waterfront Trail across Toronto’s central waterfront area between Bathurst and Parliament streets.
Meanwhile, the city has launched a survey to help develop a new 10-year plan for Toronto’s cycling network.
“The survey lets Toronto residents provide input on the objectives and criteria for selecting the routes that will form the cycling network,” stated Councillor Jaye Robinson (Ward 25 Don Valley West), chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, in a news release this week.
The plan aims to connect gaps in the existing cycling network, expand the cycling network into new parts of the city and improve the quality of existing networks. The survey asks residents to rank priorities: create new routes or improve existing routes? Build bikeways that support practical trips like work commutes or build bikeways that support recreational cycling?
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Jaye Robinson

Province surveying land slated for new downtown courthouse

Last month’s Ontario budget contained another promise to build a new downtown courthouse that would consolidate as many as five locations into a single facility.
“The new facility will enable more effective and responsive delivery of justice services and increase access to social justice programs in the city,” states the budget document.
Brendan Crawley with the communications branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General told Yonge Street Media that the ministry and Infrastructure Ontario have “begun working with a consultant to conduct surveys, environmental assessments and soil testing on the site. At this point, decisions about which specific court locations will be included in the courthouse have not been made.”
The province is using Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) for the project which may give the contract to design, build, finance and maintain (DBFM) to a private firm, with the request for qualifications happening in summer 2016, followed by the selection of short-list bidders and a request for proposals. “While it’s too soon to give precise timelines, other similar Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) courthouses have taken five to seven years to build and become fully operational,” says Crawley.
One thing that’s pretty much certain is the location—a government-owned, 1.63-acre site bounded by Chestnut Street, Dundas Street West, Centre Avenue and Armoury Street. Currently a parking lot, it’s directly north of the Superior Court of Justice at 361 University Avenue. The judges, lawyers and other courthouse staff there will hardly have to adjust their commutes.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Brendan Crawley

88 Scott commences parking levels

The new tower at 88 Scott, just off Yonge and Wellington, has reached its construction stage eight weeks ahead of its most recent schedule.

Kitty corner from Berczy Park with a facade on Wellington, the development is significant for its placement among an almost entirely commercial streetscape in one of the oldest parts of the city. Also, according to developer Concert Properties’ senior project manager Joseph Grassia, the building is also “a landmark mixed-use development incorporating residential, commercial and retail uses within an area that's well-established and sought after by future residents and employers.”

With more than 50 people working the site every day, alongside two Luffer cranes, work is getting done fast, mostly concentrating at the moment on concrete forming and waterproofing.

Construction began last March, and the project is expected to reach ground level by this March, with commercial occupancy scheduled to begin in March, 2017, followed by residents moving in between September and November of the same year.

The building is set to stand out, too, with a five-storey limestone and granite character base that will give way to what 88 Scott's developers describe as "a soaring, contemporary condominium tower rising 58 storeys to claim its place in Toronto's magnificent skyline." 

The view won't be too shabby, either. 

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jennifer Glassford, Joseph Grassia

BMO renovations finally ready for their big reveal

Branch No. 1 of the Bank of Montreal, at the bottom of First Canadian Place, is nearing completion of its first renovation since 1979.

“The whole branch was renovated to showcase our new retail design standards and reflect the bank's new branding strategy,” says BMO spokesman Ralph Marranca. 

Designed by Figure 3 and Kearns Mancini Architects, the renovation will set the standard for a roll-out of similar renovations across the country when it’s completed in December.

The re-design follows the years-long re-cladding of the entire tower, Toronto’s tallest commercial building, replacing its eroding (and occasionally falling) exterior marble panels with fritted glass at a cost of $100 million.That project was led by Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects and Bregman and Hamann Architects in 1975, on the site of the Old Toronto Star building and Old Globe and Mail building.

At the time of its construction, the tower was the sixth tallest building in the world. While it's fallen considerably from those ranks (recent estimates put it around 95th place, though that might be generous), this renovation aims to bring the tower up to snuff in terms of modern design. As someone wise probably once said, size isn't everything. 

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Ralph Marranca


Tom Ryaboi's view from on high

This is what Tom Ryaboi thinks: “One area I think all cities can improve on is how they use the tops of their buildings. Toronto has recently implemented a green roof bylaw, I think this is a good start. Most buildings that I have been to still don't do anything productive with their roof.”

He’s not an urban planner, or an eco-activist or architect. But he’s got a perspective few can boast, and one he’s spent his short career trying to share.

He’s a high-rise photographer.

This doesn’t mean he takes pictures of high-rises, though with all the developer bucks being made in this city over the past decade and more, there’s a possibility that might be more profitable. Tom -- who was born in Vaughan, spent his 20s in the Annex and has never lived in a high-rise -- takes pictures from high-rises, looking out, and down.

“While I was filming City Rising,” he says, referring to his four-minute and 14-second 2012 film, “I would often sit on a roof for many hours while the camera was time-lapsing and I would ponder things.”

His point of view is reflected in his photography, which was recently on display as part of a promotion for the Canary District development, and much of which is readiy viewable on his website.

Perspective is often hard to come by in a city changing as profoundly and as rapidly as this one has been recently. It’s often difficult to do it justice in words. But Ryaboi’s images - contemplative, vertiginous, triumphal, beautiful — offer just that: views from a city that didn’t exist a decade ago, and glimpses of the city that will exist a century from now.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Tom Ryaboi

Who's Hiring in Toronto? SickKids Foundation, Canada's National Ballet School and more

Some of the more interesting employment opportunities we've spotted this week include:

Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, a non-profit devoted to preserving Ontario's Greenbelt, an area surrounding the Golden Horseshoe, is hiring a research and policy analyst. As the title suggests, the role involves significant amounts of research, though there's a major outreach component as well. Specific requirements include presenting one's finding to interested parties and engaging with a variety of government and non-government organizations.

The SickKids Foundation has two new openings this week.

First, they're seeking an associate graphic designer. The position requires three to five years of experience in digital marketing or communications, and will see that the person that takes on this position help the non-profit with its fundraising initiatives on behalf of Sick Kids Hospital.

Second, the foundation is seeking to hire an associate events director. The role has a significant emphasis on building and mentoring a team, as well as building new and existing events. This position requires five to seven years in a related leadership role.

On the culture side, Canada's National Ballet School is hiring a digital media co-ordinator. The role involves creating audiovisual material that will help with the school's promotional, marketing and educational needs. Three-plus years of related media experience is a requirement for this position, as well as expertise with programs such as Sony Vegas and DVD Architect.

Finally, the National Reading Campaign is looking for someone to join its board of directors as an executive director. Much of the role involves working with a volunteer board (though this position is paid), and managing the campaign's initiatives. Candidates living in Toronto are preferred, though those living outside of the city with an exceptional skill set will also be considered.

Do you know of a job opportunity with an innovative company or organization? Let us know!  

New venture capital firm launches in Toronto

The city has a new venture capital firm to call its own.

On Monday morning, news came out that Information Venture Partners had been formed in Toronto.

The firm was created in early October when co-founders Robert Antoniades and David Unsworth completed a management buyout of their former firm, RBC Venture Partners.

Several co-investors, both inside and outside of Canada, assisted in the buyout, and those same investors are helping the firm set up a new $100-million fund. Antoniades and Unsworth say they hope to have the fund up and running by mid-2015. Once it is ready, the firm will invest in early stage startups that are seeking funds at the Series A and B levels. That is, they plan to fund startups that at the stage where they've successfully gotten off the ground and have found a potential market fit for their product or idea.

The firm revealed that it will specialize on funding startups that create enterprise software.

In an interview with Reuters, Antoniades told the publication's Kirk Falconer, “Whether it is enterprise software or fintech, we are interested in North American companies that can sell into SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) or large corporate buyers.”

Given that statement, it remains to be seen what kind of effect the firm will have on Toronto ecosystem.

The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. 

Source: Reuters

Fifty-five storeys going up at University and Dundas with indoor connection to subway

The hotel/condo thing did't work for Toronto – see 1 King West – so developer Amexon is trying out a more likely model: a condo that behaves like a hotel.

Construction has begun on 488 University, a 55-storey condo tower being built on the site of the old 480 University at the northwest corner of University and Dundas, and when it opens in November, 2017, it will include something called Sky Club. It's a bit of a shtick, but it may also move the bar on condo amenities in the city. Sky Club includes the regular social space and a fitness centre. They've got a pool too, but it's saltwater, and they throw in a spa, a restaurant, a bar and a concierge, all open to residents and their guests.

It doesn't go as far as it might in staving off the grand privatization of the downtown core – condos with bars and restaurants and rooftops open to the public would be much better – but by explicitly inviting guests to take advantage of what's essentially a gym/spa, it goes a little further than most.

Fifty-five of the 453 units will be three-bedroom – also a step in the right direction – but families looking for space to raise their children in condos will still have to come up with a minimum of $750,000 to do it in this building.

The tower was designed by Deni Poletti of CORE Architects, with interiors by Dan Menchions of II x IV and will be incorporating everything but the façade of the old structure into the new tower. Along with the RCMI down the street at 426 University, 488 could very well liven up University Avenue and encourage more retail along what's now just hospital row. Amexon is planning on signing up a restaurant, a cafe and what spokesman Jason Shiff refers to as a “gourmet food store” to occupy the base of the building.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jason Shiff
57 Financial District Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts