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Queen/King West : Development News

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Toronto reached new heights during Yonge Street's lifetime

Founded in 2010, Yonge Street has covered growth and development during a remarkable period of Toronto’s history.
 
While cities south of the border have struggled with how to rise from the ashes after the global financial collapse of 2008, the main challenge I’ve faced as Development Editor (and before that as Managing Editor and Civic Impact Editor) has been choosing which of the myriad of projects unfolding across the GTA to write about. Yonge Street has never had to scramble for story ideas; it’s had to be strategic about sifting through a deluge of them to find projects that are the most innovative, the most engaged in creating a city bursting with public spaces and civic pride. A condo of less than 30 storeys hardly seems worth writing about these days, unless the development meets an incredible LEED standard, creates new parkland or otherwise makes a unique contribution to the community that will host it.
 
Projects like Diamond Corp’s The Well, covering seven and a half acres at Front and Spadina, the redevelopment of Honest Ed’s Mirvish Village, Daniels Waterfront – City of the Arts on the site of the old Guvernment night club and, just last week, Menke Development’s purchase and redevelopment of 11 acres of provincially owned land on the waterfront will be transformative not just in their districts, but for the city as a whole.
 
And that’s just the private sector. Government-backed partnerships to redevelop Regent Park, the central waterfront and the West Don Lands have already rendered those districts unrecognizable to someone who hasn’t visited lately. And by “unrecognizable,” I mean that thoughtfulness and smarts have swept aside decades of neglect.
 
Sometimes the rapidity of the GTA’s growth can be worrying. The towers going up like dandelions along Yonge Street from Dundas to Bloor could turn our adorably ramshackle main street into something like a Bay Street wind tunnel. The towers going up on Church Street could make the Village a much less affordable place for young LGBT people just starting out. Liberty Village and the Queen West Triangle have seen their share of uninspired design.
 
But over the last six and a half years I have seen an increasing conscientiousness among the top developers, and an increasing diligence and vision among city planners (shout out to chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat). To my taste, at least, the projects unveiled in the last three years have been better designed and more thoughtfully integrated into their neighbourhoods than what went up in Yonge Street’s first three years. Given the opportunity, clear expectations and useful community feedback, many developers want to build beautiful buildings and to create resilient, accessible and diverse communities. The latter has become a sales feature.
 
The increasing amount and quality of public interest and public consultation have pushed our leaders to do better. There has been more collaboration between government and the private sector to build small-business incubators, community hubs, affordable housing, recreational facilities, green space and even schools into new projects. These have been years when great ideas can become reality.
 
I can sympathize with those who complain, “Not another freaking condo!” The number of wallet-emptying floor-to-ceiling-window glass boxes in the sky is no measure of a healthy, thriving city. But little by little, the bar has been raised. I’m proud Yonge Street has been part of that conversation.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant

Exhibition focuses on architect behind the Balfour Building and other early 20th century gems

A new exhibition at Urbanspace Gallery will spotlight one of Toronto’s most significant architects of the early 20th century.

Four of the buildings designed by Benjamin Brown—the Balfour and Tower buildings, the Hermant building, the Primrose Club and Beth Jacob Synagogue—have made indelible marks on the city with a a design that’s Art Deco and traditionally functional. The show, Benjamin Brown: Architect, curated by the Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA) and the Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA), features original drawings, blueprints, watercolour presentation boards, historical photographs and maps that will help Torontonians understand Brown’s approaches and his contributions to the urban landscape.

“The OJA is thrilled to showcase the life of this relatively unknown, yet brilliant, architect while providing a lens into the Jewish community during this time,” stated Dara Solomon, director of the OJA, in a news release.

A young immigrant from Eastern Europe, Benjamin Brown studied at the Ontario School of Art and Design and the University of Toronto architectural program to became one of the first practising Jewish architects in Toronto. Perhaps his best known building is the Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue, which was something of the epicentre of the city’s garment district in the 1920s and ’30s. “Many Jewish-owned garment businesses such as furriers, cloak and coat makers, and tailors set up shop here,” states a note about the exhibition. “The floor plans revealed that large open spaces were incorporated into the design for rows of sewing machines and large fabric swaths to be unrolled and cut.”

The exhibition runs until April 23 at Urbanspace Gallery at 401 Richmond Street West.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Urbanspace Gallery

Parts of CAMH’s ‘Lunatic Asylum wall’ to come down

City council has voted to permit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to alter parts of the historic 19th century Provincial Lunatic Asylum wall that once surrounded the property at 1001 Queen Street West so the organization can build two new buildings and create new publicly accessible open spaces and roads.

CAMH is allowed to remove the northernmost bay of the historic east wall along Shaw Street and to make alterations to the south wall, as long as the alterations are in accordance with the conservation plan prepared by ERA Architects.

“The current conservation strategy for the historic wall includes the preservation of the masonry wall [on several segments], including repointing, cleaning, resetting of displaced stones, replacement of damaged/missing bricks, removal of cementitious material and installation of new flashings and stone caps,” states the report. “Two modern additions flanking the east storage building will be removed allowing for the restoration of the portions of the south wall that are currently concealed. Later openings will be bricked in, all masonry, original steel windows and doors will be conserved while the roofing, flashings and downspouts will be replaced.”

City staff acknowledge the removal of the section at Queen and Shaw Streets represents “the loss of a very prominent portion of the historic wall,” but stated that the section is “severely deteriorated due to water saturation, that there is an opportunity to open this corner to the new park and that the much-needed salvaged materials from the dismantling will be reused in the preservation of the wall in other areas.”

“The wall is dated to 1851 with additions through that decade and is strongly associated with the social and architectural history of Toronto,” states the report.

The proposed CAMH redevelopment is part of the 2002 master plan to create a new multi-use neighbourhood on the site.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto

Environmental assessment clears way for phase two of West Toronto Railpath

When the West Toronto Railpath was first talked about back in 2002, it was possible to imagine a multi-use trail system running from the Junction right downtown right along the railway tracks to Union Station.

Though Metrolinx’s transit ambitions and condo development have over time limited the scope of where such a path can go, a long-awaited environmental assessment (EA) now points the way forward on how the path can be extended further toward the city centre. Phase one, which opened in 2009, provided a path from Cariboo Avenue to Dundas Street West. Phase two could extend the path to Abell and Sudbury streets relatively quickly.

“It is very exciting to have the EA closed so that Railpath 2 can finally move into the design stage,” says Scott Dobson, a member of Friends of West Toronto Railpath. “The great thing about the EA process is that frankly everybody loves Railpath. Everybody [who has seen it] gets it and wants to see it expand.”

For all extension possibilities beyond Abell, the EA calls for further study, leaving out Liberty Village. But Dobson says he’s pleased the EA cleared the way to get the path south of Queen, though between Dufferin and Abell the path will have to run adjacent to, not in, the rail corridor.

“There was no point in doing something that made nobody happy and strayed from the spirit of Railpath, but at the same time nobody wanted to stall the rest of the route up to Dundas where Railpath currently ends. So all stakeholders felt that getting it built to Abell, while continuing to explore southerly options, was the best option,” says Dobson. “A few years ago, nobody wanted land near or in the rail corridor but now that land is scarce and valuable. At the end of the day, it is because of increased density and new transit projects, which is a good thing. But figuring out the exact route has been time consuming.”

The next step is for an RFP to be tendered for detailed design of the extention. Beyond expansion south, Dobson says advocates are also in the early stages of looking north to go from the north tip of Railpath at Cariboo up to St. Clair Avenue.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Scott Dobson

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

 

LCBO opening new stores on Queen West and beyond

Tipplers, quaffers and especially Queen West hipsters will have more selection as the LCBO carries out its strategy to open new stores and improve old ones.
 
A new Parkdale LCBO opens on September 24 at 1257 Queen Street West, replacing the rather dumpy and overcrowded—but always entertaining if you’re in the mood for it—store around the corner on Brock Street. The new store, which has barrier-free parking, is much larger and will offer 423 linear feet of cold storage for beer in a cold room, up from 96 linear feet of cold storage in the old place.
 
“The new store will meet the demands of area residents,” says LCBO media relations coordinator Christine Bujold. The old store will likely close a day or so before the new one opens to allow staff to make the move.
 
By the end of the year, the LCBO will open a new store at 619 Queen Street West, near Portland, in a new building owned by Hullmark. The previous building on that site, the former home of Suspect Video, was destroyed in a 2008 fire that took out most of that block’s south side. The new store there will have more than 2,000 square feet of retail space.
 
And last month the LCBO opened at new 10,132 square-foot store at 111 St. Clair Avenue West at Avenue Road. That location has a substantial Vintages section and 136 linear feet of refrigerated beer shelving.
 
In the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the LCBO invested $57 million in its store network for renovations, maintenance and repairs to the existing network, as well as the construction, expansion and relocation of four stores in Toronto. A total of 23 near stores were opened including the GTA communities of Georgetown, Newmarket, Nobleton, Mississauga, Etobicoke, Richmond Hill, Milton, Aurora, Courtice and Lindsay. That follows years where 30, then 25 stores were opened or reinvigorated.
 
“We are strategically adding new stores in densely-populated urban areas, which have experienced a sharp rise in condominium dwellings, as well as other communities that are witnessing significant population growth,” states the LCBO’s annual report. “New, upgraded and relocated stores create customer interest and, by extension, increase sales performance, which adds to the annual dividend the LCBO pays to the government to help fund infrastructure projects related to schools, roads and bridges, hospitals and social services.”
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Christine Bujold

Twin towers for King and Dufferin

A few years ago, Lifetime Development asked Core Architects to do “a little design” for a property it owned at 1221 King Street West, at Dufferin. One of the key intersections in that part of town, the corner is now a mishmash, with fast food outlets in some unremarkable buildings, as well as a bank in a heritage building that Lifetime’s property wraps around.
 
But when Lifetime acquired 1182 King Street West, diagonally across from their first property, Core Architects had a unique opportunity to more dramatically reimagine the corner. The firm came up with a design for twin buildings, one 19 storeys, one 21 storeys, that will provide a unified look at the intersection. Each of the two modern high-rises will have two storeys of retail providing a base for a six-storey podium of classic brick anchoring a mostly glass tower. “There will be a generous retail height that will attract some good tenants, not these little ma and pa shops,” says Charles Gane, Core’s principal in charge of the project.
 
The trick has been avoiding making the two-property project too matchy-matchy.
 
“I still have to solve that,” says Gane. “The two faces will have to speak to each other, one looking on Dufferin, one looking on King, with the long balcony faces. There will be a formal vocabulary so people will know they were built at the same time. Right now I think the northern building is the most evolved building, so there will be an evolutionary change in the design for the southern building.”
 
The project will take advantage of economies of scale, with both buildings going up at roughly the same time. Gane says more detailed designs will be submitted in the next three months. That would mean rezoning and the accompanying community meetings taking place over the next six months to a year.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Charles Gane

Latest Curated Properties venture conjures the north... south of Queen

For its latest project, developer Curated Properties didn’t look to the city for ideas; it looked to the wilderness.

“What inspired me was—right now I’m in Muskoka at my cottage, and I wanted to bring a modern interpretation of Up North Canadiana to the city. Sometimes you see all these projects and they call them The London or the Malibu or The San Francisco. Nobody’s really praising what we have here in Canada, whether it’s wood, stone or metal or the work of Canadian artisans,” says Adam Ochshorn, one of the two principals behind the boutique home builder.

Modern cottage finishes aside, Cabin at 45 Dovercourt, a short hop from the West Queen West entertainment district, fits well into Curated’s portfolio of projects. With 25 two-storey units in a six-storey midrise, the target is home buyers who want a distinctive HQ that has a homier feel than a high rise. The company’s locations, often infill sites, are usually close to, but not on, main streets. “Our buyers don’t want to be right in the party.”

Cabin has what Ochshorn calls an “outdoor connection space” accessible to the home owners on the ground floor, landscaped with tall grasses and ferns, and good-sized decks for the other units. No space for tall pines, unfortunately.

“I think the timing is right. I haven’t seen any other projects in the city like this one,” says Ochshorn.

The project contributes to the densification of south Dovercourt. Right next door is the 13-storey Orenda building on the former site of Dufflet Pastries. The much-debated Queen West Triangle buildings are just up Sudbury.

Curated already has another nearby project, a 12-unit renovation/expansion at 455 Dovercourt. Did Ochshorn take lessons from 455 to 45?

“Yes and no. When you have a project that sells out, you want to take your successes with you, but you don’t want to repeat yourself either,” he says.

The sales centre opens October 15, with construction taking place in 2016.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Adam Ochshorn

City votes on major development of historic King & Portland site

This week, city council considers amending bylaws for a development between King and Adelaide streets on Portland that would demolish and replace rental housing.

Allied REIT and RioCan, which jointly purchased a number of properties on the block for a reported $22 million in 2012 are combining them into a single 61,608-square-foot development that would contain a mixed-use office, retail and residential complex with approximately 400,000 square feet of gross floor space.

Prior to granting the zoning requested by the developers, the city is requiring a conservation plan for 499 and 505 Adelaide Street West, 1 and 11 Adelaide Place and the Parisian Laundry Building at 602-604 King Street West; a heritage easement; and an agreement to improve infrastructure. Benefits under Section 37 would total $350,000 spread among community services and facilities, streetscape improvements along Portland Street, rental housing in the ward and contributions toward the Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) capital fund for repairs.

The developer is also expected to replace existing eight existing rental units in two townhouses, as well as two other rental units that will be lost during construction, providing rental housing for as much as 20 years, 10 years of that affordable for some units. Six other rental units will be retained. Tenants would be entitled to relocation assistance.

“Though the owner has stated an intention to initially provide the residential units in the new apartment building as market rental housing, they also intend to seek condominium registration for that building,” states the staff report on the issue. “As a result, the owner preferred to secure the eight rental units in the four existing house-form buildings being retained, and did not wish to provide for any of them in the new residential building.”

The developers are proposing a 16-storey residential building fronting on Adelaide Street West and a 14-storey office building fronting on King Street West with retail uses at street level. The residential portion would include 116 residential units, while the office office building would have a gross floor area 23,041 square metres.

“The fact that the site extends from Adelaide Street West through to King Street West creates an opportunity to provide mid-block pedestrian connections through the site,” states the community council staff report from May. “The application proposes that these at-grade pedestrian laneway connections might also be used as courtyards to enhance the use of this space by the public.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Toronto City Council; RioCan

New industrial incubator slated for Dufferin development

Toronto City Council has accepted a compromise from Markham-based SiteLine Group that would provide light industrial space in proposed condo development to make up for the demolition of a Dufferin Street building where more than 150 people currently work.
 
As Yonge Street wrote earlier this month, SiteLine plans to erect a large mixed-use complex at 390-444 Dufferin Street, where a low-rise industrial space now provides a home to small enterprises like the Akin Collective, the Brockton Collective, Canadian Salvage Timer and Design Republic. The city had originally rejected the proposal because it turns designated employment lands into mostly residential lands.
 
Facing an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing this week, SiteLine offered a compromise that would dedicate about 18,000 square feet of the development to light industrial uses, with a separate loading dock, elevators and HVAC in the north section of the complex. That’s roughly equivalent to the amount of employment space in the existing building. A portion of that space would be part of a city-run small-business incubator providing below-market rents, a new concept from the city’s Economic Development department. The original incubator offer was for 10 years. The remainder of the proposed two-building, three-tower development would be comprised of 369 residential units.
 
That offer raised the ire of some attendees at a community meeting earlier this month. Residents said they were losing more than they were gaining, and worried that just 10 years of an incubator would not be enough to jumpstart businesses in the area. So the city continued to negotiate with SiteLine. Late last week the two parties struck a deal that would increase the lifespan of the incubator to 25 years.
 
“We’re not happy about how it’s ended, but there is a bit of a consolation prize in this incubator and that the city’s Economic Development department is keen to proceed with that,” says Charles Campbell, a member of the Active 18 Community Association, which was granted party status at the OMB hearings.
 
Active 18 had wanted SiteLine to at least double the amount of space dedicated to industrial employment because it was changing the official designation of the property, and because many of the existing tenants may not survive the transition.
 
“It’s not going to be as affordable as the old warehouse space and it’s going to be of a different sort,” says Campbell. “It’s not going to be dirty, messy, smelly kinds of work. It’ll be for more high-tech kinds of things. We’re losing jobs that we liked, but you have to figure into that that the city has no real ability to stop the developer from tearing down the existing building.”
 
SiteLine Group president Josh Silber said good compromises leave everyone a little unhappy, but is generally pleased with the outcome.

"We're excited to be partnering with the city to pioneer an incubator space that will help startups in Toronto," says Silber.

The company is now looking at options that will help take the project to market. Silber says it's too early to say when demolition and construction will begin. "We've got a lot of work we need to get done."
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Charles Campbell, Josh Silber

Dufferin development challenges city to maintain employment lands

City council must decide this week whether it will demand more of a developer that wants to tear down a light industrial building on Dufferin Street to erect three mostly residential towers.
 
The development application for 430-444 Dufferin Street has been in play since 2011 and would see a high-rise complex built on Dufferin between the railway tracks and Alma Street. The current proposal from Markham’s SiteLine Group, for two eight-storey towers and one 12-storey tower providing a total of 369 residential units, is slated to go to the Ontario Municipal Board on June 15.
 
At issue is whether SiteLine’s promise to include about 60,000 square feet of light industrial space over multiple floors of the north tower adequately makes up for the loss of an equivalent amount of light industrial space in the existing single-storey building. More than 150 people currently work there at enterprises such as the Akin Collective, the Brockton Collective, Canadian Salvage Timer and Design Republic. The property is zoned as employment lands and the city has opposed the application so far because it worries that losing real estate zoned for light industry will hurt the city’s long-term prosperity.
 
As a compromise, SiteLine put forward a proposal this month that would dedicate about half of the north tower to light industrial uses, providing a separate elevator, loading dock and HVAC system to separate the workshop spaces from the residential spaces. But at a community meeting last week, tenants of the existing building expressed concerns that they’d be able to afford the space in the new building and whether they’d be able to wait out the construction period, which could be years.
 
The city has persuaded SiteLine to dedicate a percentage of the industrial space to a business incubator. It’s a new concept for Toronto—and perhaps even for Canada—that would provide below-market space and other supports to nurture small-scale manufacturers, artisans and artists in the building.
 
“We want residents to be able to create in their own neighbourhood,” said Nirvana Champion, economic development officer at the City of Toronto, who presented the incubator concept to the community.
 
But attendees at the meeting were skeptical about the level of commitment—and the length of commitment—the developer was prepared to make to the incubator.
 
“This needs to be in perpetuity or for a long time,” said Ward 18 Councillor Ana Bailão, who called the community meeting. “If we make this building successful, there might be a better chance of another building [in the same employment lands area] doing the same thing.”
 
Council will vote this week on whether to accept SiteLine’s current proposal, which includes the incubator. If it votes yes, the project is expected to move ahead as proposed. If council votes against the proposal that’s on the table, the OMB will grapple with the case. “Honestly, it could go either way,” says Bailão, “but I think the community really needs to benefit from this.”
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Ana Bailão, Nirvana Champion and Sarah Phipps

OMB hears settlement offer between city and Liberty Village developer

This week the Ontario Municipal Board will hear the details of a proposed settlement in a dispute over the development of a Liberty Village property that the city wants to designate as having special heritage value.
 
Kevric Real Estate Corporation wants to build a new eight-storey office building on Atlantic Avenue with retail and service commercial uses at grade. The existing five-storey office building (which spans addresses on Atlantic Avenue, Liberty Avenue, Hanna Avenue and Snooker Street) would be renovated for office uses, with retail and service commercial at the lower levels, while the existing boiler house on Liberty Street would be turned into a restaurant. Kevric originally proposed a new two-storey retail building at the corner of Hanna and Liberty, but has since offered to replace it with a POPS (Privately Owned Publicly-Accessible Spaces) as part of a compromise with the city.
 
The city says the development application includes a significant retail and restaurant component that does not conform to the Official Plan and has put forward an offer of settlement that would give the city a better say in how the property is redeveloped. Last month the city also filed notice to recognize the property at 40 Hanna as historically significant.
 
“The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company Complex (1905, with additions in 1907, 1912 and 1913) is an early 20th century industrial complex comprised of three attached factory buildings and a separate boiler house with a smokestack… valued as an important example of early 20th century industrial architecture in Toronto that is particularly distinguished by its scale, the vintage painted signage, and the landmark brick smokestack on the boiler house,” states the notice. “The associative value of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Factory is linked to its designers, particularly Henry Simpson, the versatile Toronto architect who received the commissions for the original factory (1905), the complementary addition (1907) and the detached boiler house and smokestack (1912) while completing other significant projects in the industrial area adjoining King and Dufferin (now Liberty Village).  The site is also associated with local architect J. L. Havill, who designed the large 1913 addition to the factory prior to his recruitment as the Imperial Oil Company's head designer.”
 
The property is already listed on the City of Toronto's Inventory of Heritage Properties, adopted by City Council on June 16, 2005. Kevric has already agreed to maintain the entire boiler house building with a glazed connection on two sides to the new eight-storey building, allowing for the boiler house to be viewed as a whole building.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City Clerk’s Office

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

Former Global Village Backpackers gets heritage facelift

Over the past few weeks, passersby at King and Spadina have been watching a slow reveal as the ramshackled building at the northwest corner is restored to a version of its former glory.
 
The Global Village Backpackers hostel closed more than a year ago and now the former meeting place of the young and the restless is being turned into something much more professional and stylish. The 20,000-square-foot listed heritage property, acquired last summer by Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust, is being repurposed to host a marketing suite for The Well development, a café, a restaurant and offices for key tenant Konrad Group.
 
“It will be a spectacular space,” says Hugh Clark, vice president of development for Allied Properties.
 
Until now, the property’s been devoted to hospitality. Built as the Richardson House Hotel in 1875, it became the Falconer Hotel in 1906 and the Spadina Hotel in the 1920s, before eventually becoming Global Village Backpackers in 1997. The interior renovations will open up the small hotel rooms to become a grander commercial and office space, while the exterior renovations will restore a heritage look to both the southern and northern wings.
 
“The southern building in particular has many layers that have been added over the years, the most recent being the blue wood siding,” says Clark. “What you’ll see is when we’ve done the full restoration of the façade, the southern building will have more of a Tudor style. On the northern building we’ve already peeled off many layers of paint to expose the red-orange brick.”
 
Jedd Jones Architects did some of the design, while Gensler used historic photos to come up with the restoration plan for the wooden southern building.
 
The Well Joint Venture, a partnership between Allied, Diamond Corp. and RioCan, is expected to move into 3,000 square feet of the southern building in in June. Other tenants are expected to occupy the building this fall. Allied also plans to redevelop the surface parking lot immediately to the north of the building.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Hugh Clark

Landscape architects show off their outdoor ideas inside

Sometimes you have to go indoors to radically reimagine what can be done with the outdoors.
 
The Gladstone Hotel’s Grow Op, which opens Thursday for a four-day run, invites landscapers, gardeners, students, artists and place-makers of all sorts to explore how design can enhance the sustainability and the enjoyability of our outdoor urban spaces.
 
Certainly there’s increasing pressure to push the limits. Yards in newer urban developments are smaller, if they exist at all. Parks and other exterior spaces are getting squeezed amidst more and more intensive downtown development. So using the confines of hotels-sized lobbies and corridors to propose landscaping solutions and experiments is not such a farfetched idea.
 
“It’s an important challenge for designers of outdoor spaces,” says Victoria Taylor, who has curated this year’s exhibitions with Graham Teeple and the help of Britt Welter-Nolan. Principal at VTLA, Taylor one of the event’s cofounders. “Especially in Canada, we think we have so much outdoor space, we don’t do anything with it. But we should still consider the aesthetics, the ecology and even the economy of our outdoor spaces.”
 
Many artists who have shown during Grow Op’s three-year history have spread their wings beyond the confines of the hotel. The group Play the Walk, which advocate for exploring neighbourhoods with childlike delight, has hosted expeditions through different city spaces since Grow Op 2013. “They’re an alternative to Jane’s Walk that’s more ad hoc,” says Taylor.
 
This year, a group of students with the University of Toronto Master’s of Landscape program will exhibit bee-nest boxes they’ve designed for several specific species of bees. After the show, the boxes will go into community gardens across the city. “Then the science will start and the students will see if their designs will attract the bees they’ve designed it for,” says Taylor.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Victoria Taylor
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