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Entertainment District : Development News

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Greenland Group starts construction on theatre district complex

When Mansoor Kazerouni began working on 355 King Street West, David Mirvish had applied to have the site, currently home to the historic Canadian Westinghouse Building, rezoned for redevelopment. When Mirvish sold the property, the executive vice president at Page + Steele/IBI Group Architects worked with Easton’s Group of Hotels and Remington Group to come up with an elegant design that integrated two towers (one 48 floors, the other 44) into a street-level podium that included the preservation of the six-storey heritage façade.

Then a year ago, the King Blue project was sold to Shanghai-based Greenland Group, the Chinese government company’s first foray into the Toronto market, which added “by Greenland” to the development’s name. The transition did not affect the original concept in any serious way. Theatre Museum Canada, promised by Mirvish back in 2012, is still there, as is the street level retail, shared courtyard, luxury condo (now with 910 units) and mid-sized hotel, though the hotel will now be run not by Easton’s but by Greenland’s hotel offshoot, Primus. With construction starting last week, the complex is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2018.

“If you were to stand back, squint your eyes and look at it, nothing has changed,” says Kazerouni.  

Still, the design has subtly evolved and the floor plans of the condo units in the north power have been redesigned. “The south building was largely sold when Greenland acquired the project. There wasn’t much that could be altered. For the north tower, we redesigned all the unit layouts based on their requirements,” he says. For the hotel, seven storeys with 122 rooms, Greenland brought in B+H Chil Architects, who Page + Steele will be collaborating with.

With about an acre to work with—a lot of which is now parking lot—it’s a tight construction site, especially considering the six-storey Westinghouse façade, particularly tall for a historic building in Toronto, which must be held in place to be maintained.

What’s Kazerouni most proud about with the project? The building’s contribution to the public realm, which includes the publically accessible courtyard which creates a pedestrian passageway between King and Mercer. “It’s about city building more than individual towers. I think this project will enhance the urban experience.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Mansoor Kazerouni

 

John Street gets pedestrian-friendly summer facelift

John Street’s pedestrian zone opened for the summer this week.
 
Planters and seating areas will take up a lane of traffic on the east side of John between Queen and Adelaide streets until October 19, allowing passersby and the neighbourhood resto-bar patrons to hang out more comfortably along the strip. The one big difference from last year’s pilot project is that the zone now stops short of the corners of Richmond and Queen.
 
“One observation we had last year was to make it easier for cars to make the turn,” says Janice Solomon, executive director of the Entertainment District BIA, which is operating the zone at a cost of about $80,000.
 
Two students from OCAD University will work art magic on two Muskoka chairs, which will eventually be available for sitting on, while a third student will make art on the street’s surface. Although the main goal is to make for a pleasant pedestrian passage, the BIA is open to the idea of hosting events in the space. “We’d welcome conversations with cultural organizations that are interested in doing something, but we wouldn’t want people to feel squeezed,” says Solomon.
 
The temporary zone also warms people up for the long-term plan for John Street as a cultural corridor linking institutions like the Art Gallery of Ontario, north of Grange Park, TIFF Bell Lightbox on King and the Rogers Centre south of Wellington. The street would eventually get widened sidewalks and boulevards, a gentler curb from the sidewalk to the street, more greenery and more public art. One of the reasons the summer closure covers the two blocks it does, says Solomon, is that the sidewalk is particularly narrow there.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Janice Solomon

Condos for artists keeping Toronto honest

Among the several serious concerns born of our condo boom, the most vexing is class. Even though most towers offer lower-priced units, they’re usually tiny, unsuitable for anyone but singletons who will eventually buy more expensive digs.

One of Toronto’s strengths has long been its class mixture. The Annex is an excellent example, where $5-million homes but up against houses split into six apartments that go for under $1,000 a month. But even in Forest Hill and Rosedale, there are apartment buildings that ensure people with a wide range of incomes can live there.

Artscape, among others, saw the danger to this equilibrium the explosion of downtown development posed, and has begun doing something about it.

Pace and 210 Simcoe are two below-market condo complexes, subsidized in the form of perpetual second mortgages that give buyers their down payment. Though similar to Options for Homes, about which we’ve written here in the past, the Artscape plan differs in two significant ways. First, the second mortgage plan applies not only to the first buyer, but to all subsequent buyers of the units in question. “We’re interested in permanently retaining affordable space,” says Artscape’s executive vice president Celia Smith.

The other is that these homes are only available to artists, as defined by the Canadian Artist Code.

The reason for this, Smith says, is to transform communities.

“You’re buying into the concept of community. You’re participating in that community, but you’re also contributing to it,” she says.

This isn’t the first time they’ve done it, though the scheme has changed slightly. Five years ago, they sold 48 units in the Triangle Lofts. What these two new projects — which are mostly built — represent is Artscape’s ambition to expand the project city-wide.

“We’d love to do this in every ward in the city,” she says, recognizing that art is not just a downtown phenomenon.

The deadline for applications is January 30 — that’s this week — for occupancy between late summer and the first part of 2016.

You can apply here.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Celia Smith

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!  

Laptoppers slowly realize there's a huge new wifi cafe in town

There's a big, new WiFi-friendly cafe in town.

In a city with a less ambivalent relationship with its cafe patrons this would not be news.

In cafe cities, from Paris to Astana, from Sofia to Calcutta, there is an understanding that a significant part of a cafe's natural clientele are lingerers, people who read, talk, meet people, and even use a laptop in a cafe, outsourcing their own living room to the city at large, choosing to live in public, in the city, rather than holed up in private property.

Toronto didn't have cafes by any regular definition of the term until recently. It had coffee shops and doughnut shops. Perhaps as a result, the notion of lingering in public became associated with indigence, which has given cafe owners the idea that it's OK to hustle people along.

Many cafes have done this in various ways over the years, by posting notices with time limits, but offering free WiFi, but only for 30 minutes and, most recently, by covering over electrical outlets to ward off people with electrical devices, telling them they should be in an office, or at home, or anywhere other than in the cafe.

It's an odd way to treat your natural clientele.

But Stone Yu, son of the family that owns two cafe bakeries in Markham and Richmond Hill, figured it might be a good idea to be inviting, rather than censorious. Hence, the new 6,400 square foot Lucullus on Elm Street.

Downstairs, there are Chinese buns and other baked and prepared foods starting at about $1.60. There are a couple of tables up front, and an outlet or two. But it's upstairs that should gladden the hearts of residents-in-public space city-wide.

"The second floor is designed as a space to relax," Yu says. "We have free WiFi and outlets for laptops."

It sounds simple. But a cafe with ample space that does not consider people who would like to spend time there as table hogs is a rarity, making Lucullus on Elm the sort of place Future Bakery was for the pre-laptop era, before it decided not to extend to its 21st-century customers the same courtesy it once did for its analog chess-playing patrons, blocking off their one electric outlet.

Chinese bakeries have not, traditionally, been trendsetters in Toronto, but with pastry geting ever more artisinal and gluten-free, and electrical outlets being boarded up – or not installed – across the city, perhaps they should be.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Stone Yu

Developer announces new neighbourhood on the site of the old Globe and Mail

If Steve Diamond has his way, the dead zone along Spadina between Wellington and Front will soon be unrecognizable.

The 7.7 acre site, home for years to a car dealership and the Globe and Mail, has the potential to be a neighbourhood unto itself, a mixed-use development like the Shops at Don Mills, but downtown, and therefore part of the urban fabric.

"We're coming forward with a project that’s innovative and unparalleled, not only in terms of product but of the partnership behind it," says Diamond, president and CEO of Diamond Corp.

He’s calling it The Well, a play on Wellington, but also because the well is the traditional communal gathering place. With Riocan REIT handling the retail, Allied REIT the million square feet of office space, and Diamond the million square feet of residential units, both condos and townhouses, Diamond hopes this will be a fully functional urban community.

"People will be able to live, work and play within the same area," Diamond says, "but the retail is not a mall, it’s more of a traditional pedestrian way, open to the sky, neither heated nor enclosed."

When asked if the concept was similar to the Smart Centres that have touted a similar outdoor approach to shopping, Diamond’s answer was unequivocal.

"Oh my god, it’s completely different," he said. "There’s no above-grade parking on the site whatsoever. The majority of the uses are small retail uses We are not interested, for example, in Wal-Mart or Target. Everything is oriented in terms of the street and along pedestrian walkways. We believe there’ll be a population of 60,000 within a five-minute walk of the site, and that the majority of our visitors will be walking to the site."

Diamond went further and distinguished what he hopes to do – the permit applications are going in next month – from what Concord Adex did in the railway lands just to the south pointing out that the lack of retail has hobbled it as a neighbourhood.

Asked for a point of comparison, Diamond points to Butler’s Wharf in London, which he took the entire team to visit during the planning of The Well.

If built as planned, the site will have one 34-storey office building, with several smaller towers stepping down going east to six storeys. The parcel of land incudes a sliver of heritage-protected Draper Street next door, a slice Diamond says they’ll be turning into a "pocket park."

The master architect for the project is Hariri Pontarini, with landscaping by Claude Cormier.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Steve Diamond

Front Street Intercontinental Hotel gets in touch with its feminine side

Next door to the convention centre, the Intercontinental Hotel is likely destined to remain primarily a business hotel, but before they launched their latest renovation, the management noticed something about the business people staying there.

They were increasingly women.

According to Alienor Guilhem and Tatiana Sheveleva of Chapi Chapo Design, this is translating into "a strong residential feel with a welcoming atmosphere" including lavender glass desktops that "allow the light to dance off in warm, dusty tones."

The room renovations, which began a month ago and are slated to be completed in time for the film festival, also include multipurpose, Quebec-designed chaises longues, backed in lavender velour, and seven-foot tall dressing mirrors.

The renovation also includes the Azure restaurant, which involved re-doing the floors, upholstery and some wall coverings in the private dining room, while maintaining the namesake blue accents.

One hundred and sixty rooms are being renovated in the first phase, which will continue over time to include the rest of the nearly 500 rooms.

The Chapi Chapo team, who met while working at Yabu Pushelberg and which includes Boris Mathias, are also currently working on the Park Hyatt’s north tower.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Alienor Guilhem

Heritage house finds a new home in clubland

Nothing can slow down the condos in this town, but sometimes, the occasional house is able to scurry away.

Like 106 John Street, the 142-year-old housetwo houses when the structure was built for its original owners, a piano-maker and a contractorwhich was moved about 200 metres south to make room for a new tower on Adelaide by Pinnacle.

Moving is a several week-long process. Danco, a company from Sutton West, Ontario, specializing in heritage house moves, does this sort of work about eight or 10 times a year.

"This was pretty much the same as every other house we've done," says Danco's Danny Myette. "But it's always a little tougher downtown. You don't have as much room to work, and we had to take two 90-degree turns.... If you're going to have problems, that's where you're going to have them."

The process involved putting 13 steel crossbeams and two main beams under the house and then raising it using 26 hydraulic jacks. The process began in August and was completed two weeks ago.

The house, which Myette estimates weighed 278 tonnes, took a day to move across two parking lots, to be set down next to the Bell Lightbox tower closer to King Street.

It's the second time Danco moved the house to accommodate the needs of the construction site.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Danny Myette

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


David Mirvish proposes 3 new Gehry-designed towers

In the midst of the most crowded condo market in the world, David Mirvish has made a bet that Frank Gehry can make his proposal rise above the rest.

That, and the fact that he is proposing the city's first full-blown condo cultural centre, with a major new art museum and a new campus for the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Early skepticism concentrated on the demolition of the Princess of Wales Theatre, which Mirvish built in 1993 to accommodate a production of Miss Saigon. But at a well-attended press conference at the AGO on October 1, Mirvish did a credible job of laying money-grab fears to rest by reminding the crowd that architecture is also an art.

"I do theatre, I do art, and I'm interested in saying who we are as a people through architecture," he said at a podium set up in front of a wall full of sketches and several early models of the proposed two-podium, three-tower proposal. "Having theatres that are not full all the time is not better than having art galleries." The proposed 60,000-square-foot gallery would house Mirvish's private collection.

In a speech that referred to artists Frank Stella (who was in attendance), Ron Davis and Gaudí, Mirvish told the press that he had spent his life travelling, looking at paintings and architecture, making the proposal sound more like an ambitious art project than a development deal. "I am not building condominiums," he said in what has already become the most quotable quote from the announcement. "I am building three sculptures for people to live in."

Gehry spoke after Mirvish, revealing, among other things, that we might have had several more Gehry buildings in Toronto, the architect's native city, but he had been beat out repeatedly in competitions and calls for proposals by Jack Diamond.

These buildings, he said, would "connect to the John Street cultural corridor, which is a great idea. As a kid, I used to go up and down John Street, and to think of it now as a major cultural corridor is exciting. I hope, I pray, it happens."

The proposal will now begin the approvals process, and if everything goes perfectly smoothly, which it rarely does, the towers, between 80 and 85 storeys each according to the current design, would be ready for residents by 2019.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: David Mirvish & Frank Gehry

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


Yonge Street reduced to 2 lanes for 4-week festival

Starting in August, you’ll be able to drink in the middle of Yonge Street. For a month, at least.

As part of the Yonge Street Planning Framework, a city blueprint on how to make the downtown stretch of Yonge Street a little more vibrant urban strip, Celebrate Yonge has gotten city approval to reduce the car lanes from four to two, and bars on the strip between Queen and Gerrard, will be licensed to serve alcohol on the temporary patio seating on the street.

"That's the first time in Toronto we'll be seeing that done," says councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, in whose ward the month-long festival will be held.

The strip will have 235 planters, donated by the Carpenters Union and designed by Ken Greenberg and Maryanne McKenna of KPMB Architects.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Kristyn Wong-Tam

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


World's Biggest Bookstore goes up for rent

The World’s Biggest Bookstore is, alas, not long for this world.

The current lease on the building, held by Indigo Books and Music, runs out at the end of 2013 and is not being renewed. The owners, the family of the late Jack Cole, co-founder, with his brother, Carl, of Coles Books, still own the 64,000-square-foot building they converted from a bowling alley in 1980.

According to Stuart Smith, a VP at CBRE Commercial Real Estate Services, who is handling the account, the owners would like to rent it to a single tenant. “It’s the rarity of an envelope of this size in an area this far downtown that makes it so unusual,” he says.

According to Smith, the space has been quietly on the market for a year.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Stuart Smith

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.

NOTE: This story has been edited to add the fact that, though it had gone unreported until now, the space at 20 Edward Street has been on the market for about a year.

A part-time reno that took 2 years produces city's newest cocktail bar

Acadia, Cocktail Bar and Barchef got some competition last week when Spirit House opened on Portland after two years of part-time renovation turned the space from a teaching centre into a five-night-a-week bar.

"I've been in the space for 10 years," says owner Len Fragomeni. "I also own and operate the Toronto Institute of Bartending as well as a hospitality company.

"Two years ago, I decided that we needed to evolve the business into a stomping ground for everything that we teach and preach."

The renovation—which was thorough judging from the highly finished look of the place—took place in the evenings, in a rotating series of sectioned-off spaces, while the space was used during the day for classes and tastings. The biggest addition, Fragomeni says, is the Portland Street entrance, which used to be a window for the building, whose main administrative entrance is around the corner on Adelaide.

The part-time reno, which employed mostly workers already working on other projects in the area, kept the renovation costs low. "The budget was $200,000," Fragomeni says, "and we actually came in under budget."

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Len Fragomeni

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


Proposed Globe tower design gets unprecedented accolades at public meeting

Adam Vaughan was surprised by the reaction the public meeting gave the design for the proposed new Globe and Mail tower.

"I haven't had a building this warmly received in six years," the six-year City Hall veteran says.

Vaughan says between 75 and 100 people were in attendance earlier this month when KPMB founding partner Marianne McKenna presented the firm's twisted L-shape design.

"It's a modest building," Vaughan says, referring the variances it will need from the city to get planning approval, "and the design is quite startling, and the animation for that corner above and beyond the current use is quite welcome in the neighbourhood." There will be 200,000 square feet of office space for the Globe and 20,000 square feet above and beyond that for another tenant. "So the live-work thing will get a real shot in the arm."

The audience consisted largely of local residents and members of the Wellington Place Neighbourhood Association.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Adam Vaughan

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


MOD Developments acquires 197-201 Yonge Street

MOD Developments have just closed the deal on their second major downtown property.

They announced this week their acquisition of a 20,000-square-foot site that runs from 197-201 Yonge Street, including the 1905 Darling & Pearson-designed Canadian Bank of Commerce building (the southernmost of the two with the columns—it's been vacant since 1987).

MOD, which is also developing Five St. Joseph, is partnering with several other firms to build what they propose will be a 60-storey condo, including a full renovation of the Darling & Pearson building.

"We're very excited about the restoration of the heritage landmark at 197 Yonge Street by MOD Developments," said the executive director of the Downtown Yonge BIA James Robinson in a statement released by MOD's PR reps. "This section of Yonge Street is such an important destination for theatre, music and retail—to see this historic property revitalized will continue to add to the vibrancy of Yonge Street."

As part of the deal, MOD announced it would be donating part of the land on Victoria Street to Massey Hall to do with as they wish. MOD is also proposing to name their tower after the Massey family.

Architects are Hariri Pontarini, along with ERA Architects, Cecconi Simone for the interiors and Janet Rosenberg and Associates for the landscaping.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: James Robinson

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.

Correction: The original version of this story mentioned Graywood Developments as a partner in the Yonge Street project. It is not.

Adam Vaughan's telephone town hall taps into ward 20's development priorities

Adam Vaughan held what he's calling a "telephone town hall" at the end of last year, with results revealing the development priorities for one of the city's most populous wards.

Questions were framed in terms of the current budget negotiations. Responses indicate that 34 per cent of residents consider public transit to be their top priority, followed by 26 per cent who list "children, libraries, recreation, nutrition and childcare," ahead of the 15 per cent who said affordable housing was the most important thing to maintain and cultivate.

People in this densely populated ward also figured the best way to pay for all of this was by tapping drivers. About 48 per cent of them suggested the city bring back the vehicle registration tax; 32 per cent were in favour of road tolls.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Adam Vaughan

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.
33 Entertainment District Articles | Page: | Show All
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