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The 519 reaches out to community for Moss Park recreational redevelopment

Community consultations will start this month as the city and The 519 community centre move forward on the possible redevelopment of John Innes Community Centre, Moss Park Arena and the surrounding park space.
The idea was first floated a few years ago, in the midst of the excited lead-up to last summer’s Pan Am Games, as an LGBTQ-focused sports facility. But the initiative has been broadened in the feasibility stage, expected itself to cost as much as $1.6 million, to be a more inclusive community-based recreational facility, not focusing exclusively on LGBTQ users, but building on The 519’s success at creating a welcoming atmosphere for diverse communities at its base at Church and Wellesley.
At the very least, the plan would replace the existing recreational infrastructure and redeveloping the entire park space and sports field. But it could be more ambitious than that. “We imagine, given the evolution of the neighbourhood and the population changes projected over the next 20 or 30 years for downtown Toronto, that that will include a substantial increase in the overall envelope of the building, but we’ve also committed to maintaining as much parkland and sports field as possible,” says Maura Lawless, executive director of The 519. There’s been no financial commitment by the city yet and no talk at this point of bringing private developers on board.
Last month, local activists hosted a town hall meeting questioning whether the 519 plans would speed gentrification of Moss Park, driving out lower-income and other marginalized people like sex workers. Lawless says the public consultation process, which will hold its first public meeting on May 31 and a design-oriented public meeting on June 6, have been in the works for a while and is not a response to the criticism. Still, Lawless says there have been some misunderstandings.
“We understand those concerns and that’s why we think it’s incredibly important that the communities who live in those neighbourhoods now shape and inform the site design, the priorities that are relevant to the current community,” she says.
Three community organizers have been hired to reach out to social-service organizations and bring the voices of homeless people, people living Toronto Community Housing and other marginalized community members to the table. “These are folks who may not necessarily come out to the traditional community conversation,” says Lawless. “We as an organization have expertise in terms of the LGBT community, but this facility is intended to be open and accessible to everyone. At some level there’s been some misinformation that’s gotten out in terms of this being a gay gym or only accessible to some people. That’s fundamentally untrue.”
The consultation period will end September 30, with a report expected to go before council by the end of the year.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Maura Lawless

Shuter wing of St. Michaelís hospital to be replaced by modern glass structure

St. Michael’s hospital has filed an application with the city to demolish its five-storey Shuter Street wing, built in 1910 with additions in the 1950s, to be replaced with a modern six-storey building for an expanded emergency department.
The new Shuter building, currently proposed as “a modern glass volume that provides a sleek foil to the heavy masonry buildings of the past,” will be connected to the Bond wing, a 1937 building by a two-storey entrance hall. Though the 1910 building is not protected, City Council has stated its intentions to designate the Bond wing as a heritage building worth of preservation.
“The proposed development has been designed to balance the evolving needs of St Michael’s Hospital while respecting the existing Bond Wing,” states the Heritage Impact Assessment filed in April. “The proposed alterations will improve universal access to the hospital and will allow for a better user experience of the Bond Wing, appropriately conserving the heritage resources…. While the new Shuter Building will require alterations to the Bond Wing, the design respects and maintains the relationship of the lobby entrance and existing courtyard through the use of transparent materials and setback from the existing building. As part of the rehabilitation of the designated Bond Wing building, conservation work including any necessary cleaning, restoration and repair of masonry will be completed as required.”
The proposal includes improvements to the pedestrian realm on Bond and Shuter streets. “Bond Street carries a complete redesign of the sidewalk and streetscape cross-section, including the reintroduction of street trees, curb side planting, lighting and supportive landscape on the parallel private property adjacent to the street,” states a letter to the city from the hospital’s lawyers.
The plan, on the northeast corner of the hospital site, is just part of a much larger scale renewal. The 17-storey Patient Care Tower, on the southwest corner of the property, is currently under construction.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Heritage Impact Assessment: 30 Bond Street, St. Michael’s Hospital

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

29-storey tower initial move to redevelop entire Queen East block

The city block bounded by Mutual, Queen East, Shuter and Dalhousie streets will be completely re-imagined over the next few years, starting with a 29-storey mixed-use building called 88 North, with the project slated to launch this spring.

The development application filed last month by St. Thomas Developments, the company behind One St. Thomas Residences and 7 St. Thomas, will offer 421 residential units and approximately 810 square metres of retail at street level fronting on Shuter Street, all on a 0.29-hectare site that’s now the home of a parking lot. But this project, designed by Page + Steele/IBI Group Architects, is just the first phase in a larger plan for the entire block.

There have been development applications for the block dating back to 1979, and during that there have been many changes to the proposals and the zoning by-laws governing the property. In the early 2000s, three 28-storey towers, at the same 30 Mutual/88 Queen East address as 88 North, were proposed, as well as other mid-rise buildings. At that time, city staff recommended permitting that development, though St. Michael’s Cathedral was concerned about the shadow impacts of the development on the cathedral.

According to a description of current proposal by the developer’s lawyers, “the base of the proposed tower is intended to be dominated by food-related retail uses at the street level, with retractable glazed storefront partitions that will oopen up in good weather to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces with patios animating the street and park, creating a vibrant and active urban environment.... The podium is conceived as a series of stacked glass boxes that enclose two-storey loft units. The glass boxes of the podium are composed as a series of interlocking objects that add architectural interest to the podium.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto, Devine Park LLP

Placemaking plans revealed for cityís Port Lands

The City of Toronto and Waterfront Toronto showed off some of their placemaking strategies for the Port Lands at a public open house last weekend.
The event was part of a round of public meetings this month to look at three studies of the area that are currently underway and how the various initiatives, like the draft Villiers Island Precinct Plan, intersect and interact with each other and with nearby projects like the Don Mouth Naturalization, the Lower Don Lands Masterplan and the plan for the Film Studio District.
Because of the size of the area is so large—350 hectares, much of it owned by the city itself—planners have broken the Port Lands up into a series of smaller places to figure out how the area should grow and evolve. Planning will have to take into account residential, employment, commercial and industrial uses. For example, in what’s called the Unilever precinct, close to the Don River, just north of Lakeshore Boulevard East, the city expects that there will eventually be 23,500 jobs, with another 9,250 jobs south of Eastern Avenue and 25,000 to 30,000 more jobs in the Port Lands proper. The area is not a blank slate and will remain home to the city’s port, which will influence what springs up around it.
“We’re basically creating a small city within a city,” project manager Cassidy Ritz told attendees. “When you add up [those jobs], that’s 50,000 people, which is bigger than the town I grew up in.”
There are currently seven active development applications within the Port Lands and South of Eastern area including three new buildings at 459 Eastern Avenue, a seven-storey building at 462 Eastern Avenue, a hotel, office and retail proposal for the existing film studio at 629 Eastern Avenue, a review of the former Uniliever site and employment lands with an eye to creating an employment precinct, a warehouse and designer’s studio at 300 Commissioners Street, a low-rise building at 475 Commissioners Street and a high-rise mixed-use building at 309 Cherry Street.
The first plan likely to be ready will apply to Villiers Island, establishing the streets and block structure, height and massing standards, parks and community facilities, public art and urban design standards, affordable housing strategy, heritage preservation strategy, parking provisions and strategies to develop a mix of uses.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source, Cassidy Ritz, Port Lands Acceleration Initiative

Seaton House replacement key to George Street revitalization

Mayor John Tory’s executive committee is asking City Council to endorse a revitalization of George Street that would be based around a new, combined community services hub replacing Seaton House, Canada’s largest homeless shelter.

The project would demolish the existing Seaton House to build a 600,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility providing a 100-bed emergency shelter program, a 378-bed long-term care home program, a 130-bed transitional assisted living program, 21 units of supported affordable housing and a community service hub. The existing Seaton House, which has been at its current site since 1959, can accommodate as man as 900 men—more than the proposed facility, which would offer a variety of program streams for people with various levels of need.

“Seaton House, with its aging physical plant and an environment that does not meet the needs of vulnerable men experiencing homelessness, is in critical need of redevelopment,” states the Executive Committee item adopted on October 20. “The combination of abandoned buildings and illicit activities on George Street has resulted in an air of neglect and has raised concerns for community safety.”

The new facility would, it’s hoped, provide “a unique opportunity to transform George Street, while setting a precedent for revitalization in the Garden District that is focused on providing a quality public realm and superior building design,” states the project overview released this month. “The redevelopment of the site will create a safe, inviting and vibrant place that reinstates the scale and rhythm of the greater neighbourhood. This project considers the building, site and streetscape comprehensively. Multiple entrances, new pathways, strong indoor-outdoor connections, dedicated landscaped areas, usable and flexible outdoor spaces all work to de-institutionalize George Street, while the restoration of heritage-designated properties revive the vernacular that defines the community’s
rich urban history.”

If the project moves ahead, City Council is being authorized to spend about $100,000 to conduct an analysis of project procurement and delivery options.

Source: City of Toronto
Writer: Paul Gallant

Residents try to avoid OMB hearing over massive Esplanade development

Both the city and local residents are pressing Sentinel (Sherbourne) Land Corp./Pemberton Group to rethink its development proposals for an entire block of land between Front and The Esplanade, Lower Sherbourne and Princess as they approach an Ontario Municipal Board hearing next year.

A couple of weeks ago, city council voted to oppose the July 2015 zoning amendment application for the lands at 177, 183 and 197 Front Street East, 15-21 Lower Sherbourne Street and 200 The Esplanade, sometimes called the Acura-Sobeys site. That application proposed four towers on 10-storey podiums, ranging from 25 to 33 storeys, creating 1,679 residential units and 1,913 square metres of ground floor retail along Front Street. The city wants the heights reduced to below 30 and 20 storeys, among other changes.

A working group was struck in the spring. Suzanne Kavanagh, president of the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association, says they have been making progress in coming up with a proposal that's more acceptable to the neighbourhood.

“We've been asking them to think of what they'll be most proud of in 20 years,” says Kavanagh. For starters, residents would like the buildings to recognize David Crombie Park with appropriate setbacks and provide an east-west connection through the site. The buildings also have to be appropriate for the area's heritage district status. “We are optimistic that they're listening to us.”

The first proposal was a wall of three 34-storey towers.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Suzanne Kavanagh

Vacant Sherbourne lot gets art, tender loving care in advance of new apartment building

When rental apartment developer Oben Flats filed its application to redevelop the property at 307 Sherbourne, kitty-corner from Allan Gardens, the site had been vacant for more than a decade after its last occupant, a gas station, closed up shop.
So a couple of years for city approval and construction of a 13-storey residential rental apartment building with 94 dwelling units didn’t seem so long to wait. Yet Oben Flats decided it would animate the site in the meantime in order to forge connections with their future neighbours. Last week, working the PATCH public art project, the developer unveiled a mural that signals that the space will soon be put to better use. Danny Brown, an urban planner at Urban Strategies and a local resident, helped spearheaded the initiative after an earlier guerilla beautification of the site.
“We think of ourselves as a different developer. We didn’t want to just leave it empty like that,” says Max Koerner, project coordinator at Oben Flats. Partnering with the David Suzuki Foundation and Sustainable TO, the company is planning to have host facilities and activities as varied as a skating rink, pollinator garden or temporary market. Following feedback from the community, Koerner expects that a Halloween gathering and other small events could take place over the fall and winter before the space is greened up in the spring.
In condo-obsessed Toronto, new downtown rental buildings have been few and far between. Many high-rises apartment buildings built in the 1960s and ’70s are often seen as outdated and rundown. Oben Flats, which originated in Germany in 2007, is launching into the Toronto market with three rental projects, the first of which, in Leslieville, will open in 2016. (The company has already built six for-sale townhouses on Harbord Street.) The company has focused on eye-catching design and the demands of young Torontonians who may not be able to afford to buy, but still want modern digs.
“These so-called Millennials appear to be more interested in design and style,” says Koerner.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Max Koerner

Next step of LGBT sports and recreational facility gets green light from city

City Council has voted to strike a steering committee to look into the feasibility of a new sport and recreation facility with an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender) focus.
The project, which emerged out of The 519 Community Centre’s work on PrideHouse for the Pan Am Games, would redevelop Moss Park, including the John Innes Community Centre, a two-storey structure built in 1951, and Moss Park Arena, a single storey building housing an ice rink.  Current centre amenities include a pool, games room, gym, weight room, craft room, kitchen, dance studio and wood shop, while the park already has a softball diamond, two tennis courts, two basketball courts and community gardens.
The feasibility study and community consultations are expected to cost between $1 million and $1.6 million, with the whole project costing as much as $125 million, though that estimate will likely change as the process unfolds. “The determination of final contribution amounts by partners has yet to be formally negotiated,” states the city backgrounder. “This project will not displace other capital projects currently identified in the City of Toronto 10-year capital plan.” The 519 has secured a private donation expected to cover the costs of the feasibility study and will fundraise to cover capital costs if the project goes ahead.
The Moss Park location has moved forward after the first proposed site, the Wheel and Foundry complex located at Eastern Avenue and St. Lawrence Street, was determined to be unsuitable.
Despite the LGBT focus, the project will also be expected to serve the local community. “The 519 is well positioned to lead the delivery of inclusive sport and league programming, particularly for the communities of common bond and create new employment and economic benefits within the neighbourhood,” states the city backgrounder. “Moss Park is a unique neighbourhood that is home to a diverse range of communities including marginalized and vulnerable people, and agencies that provide services for these communities. Many of the immediate communities are experiencing homelessness, living with substance use and mental health issues, Aboriginal and First Nations peoples, youth from diverse ethno-racial communities, as well as those experiencing poverty.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto

Has the city buried an underground solution for the Gardiner?

This week council considers two possible fates for the Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis: removal at the long-term cost of $461 million or a so-called hybrid rebuild of the elevated roadway at a long-term cost of $919 million.
How did it come down to these two options? Toronto has debated what to do with the Gardiner since before it was built between 1955 and 1964. Back in the 1990s, it was the western section that was under more scrutiny and in 2000, the city seriously considered burying the section of the Gardiner between the Canadian National Exhibition grounds and Yonge Street. In 2006, it was estimated that it would have cost $1.5 billion to bury the whole thing—a bargain compared to the options council is now contemplating.
Michael Meschino, principal of Entuitive engineering firm, holds out hope that the city will eventually come around to the idea that going underground is the best option. In the last few weeks, he’s been trying to drum up support for a concept, a collaboration with Chicago-based architects Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, that came out of a 2010 design competition by Waterfront Toronto.
“We’re talking about what to do with the Gardiner east of Jarvis, but the Gardiner runs across the entire city and everything east of Dufferin Street is elevated, so when you make a decision east of Jarvis, you’re going to affect what you can do west of Jarvis, which runs right through the city core,” says Meschino.
Entuitive’s proposal would put the Gardiner into an underground tunnel east of Jarvis. Traffic would come out of the tunnel east of Cherry Street and onto a bridge across the Don River to connect with the Don Valley Parkway. Lakeshore Boulevard would be moved north, up against the rail lands. The benefits, as Meschino sees it, are clearing a large amount of new space for new waterfront development, as well as maintaining a direct connection between the Gardiner and the DVP.
If you keep an elevated Gardiner, Meschino says, “you’re going to develop parcels of land but you’re not really going to develop a community. What we want to do is push all that northward and push Lakeshore Boulevard northward to make one community.”
The plan works best on the assumption that the downtown section of the Gardiner would eventually be moved underground. Critics don’t like the fact that the Gardiner is elevated downtown, goes into a tunnel for just two kilometres and is then elevated again to cross the Don, which is one of the reasons the idea was rejected. The price tag, estimated in 2010 to be about $1.6 billion, also makes it a harder sell, though Meschino says the freeing up of a large amount of quality development land could be used to offset the cost.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Michael Meschino

Temporary North St. Lawrence Market building nearing completion

The temporary North St. Lawrence Market will be open soon… south of the South St. Lawrence Market.
This month, workers are busy erecting a pre-fabricated steel-and-fabric building in the parking lot at 125 The Esplanade, that will be home to merchants and shoppers while the old market building is demolished and replaced.
Built in 1968 to replace a 1904 building, the existing single-storey building is no great beauty. The new $91-million building, designed by Adamson Associates Architects and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, will be five storeys at 120,000 square feet, and include provincial courts as well as a much fancier incarnation of the existing farmer’s market.
But that building is not expected to be complete until 2016. As well, an archeological dig will take place at the site between demolition and construction and may throw off the timeline.
Meanwhile, the temporary structure will be just 11,700 square feet and will include only the basics: an indoor water supply, washrooms, electricity, heating and air conditioning. Natasha Hinds Fitzsimmins, communications consultant with the City of Toronto says both the farmer’s and antiques market will move into the temporary building. The 40 participants of the market’s cart program, who sold jewelry and crafts, are not so lucky; the program is suspended until the new permanent building open.
The hours of operation will remain the same: Saturdays from 5am to 3pm and Sundays from 5am to 5pm. During the weekdays, the space will be available to rent for other functions.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Natasha Hinds Fitzsimmins

Architects seek feedback on St. Lawrence heritage conservation plan

This week Torontonians got a chance to provide feedback on proposed strategies to protect and nurture the heritage character of the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, an area that includes the first 10 blocks of the city laid out by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1793.
Council identified the district a high priority area for a Heritage Conservation District back in 2012 and commissioned a study that was endorsed in 2014. Now Fournier Gersovitz Moss Drolet et associés architects (FGMDA) have put together draft policies and guidelines to show off to the public.
“It’s been building on material from the study,” says Caitlin Allan, a planner with Bousfields Inc., which has been working with FGMDA and the city on the heritage district process.
Since the study, FGMDA has compiled a detailed list of all the properties in the area and has divided them into two groups: buildings that contribute toward the heritage character of the district and those that don’t. Each group would be subjected to different proposed policies and guidelines that would determine how their buildings should look and how owners can contribute to that character. Torontonians got their first opportunity to look at those proposals Tuesday, and the feedback from that session will be taken into account for another consultation later this spring. A final document could go to City Council for approval some time this year.
Will the designation of Heritage Conservation District have a noticeable visual impact on the area in the next five or 10 years? Maybe not. The policies and guidelines likely won’t force existing property owners to make their properties look more historic.  But they will shape future development—and heritage rules have more force than comparable zoning-based policies and guidelines.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Sarah Corey and Caitlin Allan

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

First step in Massey Tower complete this week

The caisson is in for one of the more remarkable condos going up at the moment.

Massey Tower, the 60-storey Hariri-Pontarini condo being built on top of the old Bank of Commerce building at 197 Yonge, will be a big curvacious white spike built on toughly the same footprint as the tiny old bank.

The one-storey addition on the back of the bank was demolished, and behind the old masonry facades, Tucker Hi-Rise has its construction offices, which this week oversaw the completion of the installation of the waterproof retaining structure known as a caisson, constructed out of piles driven deep into the ground around a concrete base.

According to Gary Switzer, CEO of MOD Developments, “The biggest challenges are the tightness of the site, the limited site access and the care that has to be taken when building next to heritage buildings on all sides.”

MOD is the firm behind the equally noteworthy Five St. Joseph a kilometre or so up Yonge.

If all goes well, Switzer estimates the tower should be ready for occupants in a little over three years.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Gary Switzer

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!  
82 Downtown Eastside - Old Town - Corktown Articles | Page: | Show All
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