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Waterfront now has the city's fastest Internet

The city's Waterfront now officially has the fastest Internet service in the city.

Waterfront Toronto and Beanfield jointly announced that the infrastructure is now in place for buildings both residential and commercial to take advantage of speeds of up to 500 megabits per second, more than 40 per cent faster than the top speeds currently offered by Rogers and Bell.

“It’s partly an economic development tool that we use,” says Andrew Hilton, who heads communications for Waterfront Toronto. “One of the roles that we have at Waterfront Toronto is to help strengthen the economy of the city of Toronto. The communities we’re building and will build will be far more appealing to people, whether it’s for personal use, or people who work from home. And for commercial use, we’re looking at trying to find ways to attract growth-oriented business on the waterfront.”

These speeds will not be automatic, however. Developers and landlords will have to subscribe to the service for it to be offered in buildings. Some businesses — such as cafes — may offer these speeds to the public, others may not.

The price, to be included in condo fees for condo owners, will be $60 a month. For 350 megabits per second, Rogers is currently charging $226 a month; Bell charges $90 for 175 megabits per second.

In practical terms, 500 megabits per second is roughly equivalent to 60 megabytes per second. Beanfield's service is symmetrical, meaning the speed applies to both downloads and uploads.

For some perspective, however, two Internet service providers in Vancouver are offering double that speed, 1 gigabit per second, as is Google in certain parts of the U.S.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Andrew Hilton

Tom Ryaboi's view from on high

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

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

He’s a high-rise photographer.

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

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

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

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

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Tom Ryaboi

Mural unveiled for Scarborough's Cultural Hotspot

The city has three new murals thanks to Mural Routes, a little-known non-profit that uses the creation of outdoor art to mentor and engage communities.

Two of them are the physical manifestations of a new city project, which they’ve called Cultural Hot Spot, according to which they’ll be naming a succession of under-appreciated parts of town as hot spots to draw attention to what’s already happening there, as well as encourage and in some cases under-write new initiatives.

The first was east and south Scarborough, and the murals shepherded by Mural Routes,  are as close to the gateways of this area as they could manage. One is at the junction of Kingston Road and the Danforth, the other on Old Kingston Road facing east, just west of the village strip.

“When the organization started, initially the intention was to take the art our of the galleries and put them onto the street for those people who are not comfortable going into galleries or are not familiar or comfortable with different forms of art,” says Karin Eaton, spokeswoman for Mural Routes. “In the beginning, it was filling the blank walls with art, and it became more of a sharing program so we actually like to share all the information we’ve learned so we’ve become a hub for information and resource gathering about murals.”

The mural at Kingston Road and Danforth, unveiled two weeks ago, is the result of a competition won by established mural artist Bill Wrigley (responsible for well-known murals across the city, including at By the Way Cafe and The Senator). The easternmost one was a more communal effort, created in conjunction with the Morningside Library’s introduction to mural art program.

In addition to these, the most recent one, just unveiled, is by the artist known as Media, at Woodbine and Gerard.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Karin Eaton

Public meeting debates Centennial Park's coming BMX track

There was a priest at my college, Fr. Findlay, who once told me, a wry grin on his face: “All change is from the devil.”

It’s not an unpopular sentiment in Toronto, it seems.

The latest instance of it came at a recent public meeting on the subject of the new BMX tracks already being put up in Etobicoke’s Centennial Park. Part of the PanAm/Parapan Games, the tracks will be available for use by the public once the games are done.

The public meeting was meant to be informational rather than consultational; construction on the project is already under way. But the 15 to 20 people who showed up were still grumpy.

“It was largely attended by those folks who were never so supportive of the project from the outset, including the former councillor Doug Holyday,” says Catherine Meade, director of the PanAm/Parapan Games capital project.

In addition to concerns about the park’s environmental impact (though the project passed the usual environmental assessment process and got approval from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority), and the difference between the initial cost estimates and the final budget (the initial budget was for a temporary track built in a parking lot; the final project is for one that will last for several decades), people at the meeting were also worried about the increase in the use of the park that the tracks might inspire.

Others, perhaps among those who did not attend, may think more people using the city’s parks could be a good thing.

The presentation of the work that’s been done — work started at the end of August — and what’s yet to happen was made by architect Roman Mychajlowycz, principal at KMA Architects. Brendan Arnold, the Ontario Cycling Association’s BMX development coach, spoke about the impact of building tracks like this on the sport in the province, including the OCA’s plans to use it themselves for training.

The facility, which will include two tracks, one with a 5-metre ramp open to the public, and one with an 8-metre ramp meant for training and professional use, will be finished by spring.

The PanAm/ParaPan Games are being held in the GTA July 10-26 and Aug. 7-15, 2015.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Catherine Meade

There's an appetite for urban living in Burlington

There may be something to this urban design and density trend.

As Toronto’s core intensifies by the day and condos, rather than single family dwellings, become the norm, it seems the thinking behind it is leaking outwards.

Like Markham and Vaughan before them, Burlington is now showing signs of urbanization.

Link, a four-building, two-phase development by the young Adi Development Group, has just launched its second two buildings, set for construction next spring on the edge of Bronte Creek on Dundas Street.

“We took that urban movement that was happening in Toronto and plopped it down in Burlington,” says Tariq Adi, who runs Adi Development with his brother, Saud. “It was a huge success," he says, referring to their first such project, Mod'rn. "Link was a little bit more of a departure, we used RAW Design and Roland Rom Colthoff. We instructed him to do something different.”

When completed in early 2017, the four buildings will be linked by lit bridges made of glass and structural steel. The informing metaphor for the project, according to Adi, is connection: buildings to nature, people to their homes, and people to other people.

“There’s a paradigm shift happening in Burlington,” Adi says, referring to things like Money Sense magazine finding Burlington the most livable mid-sized city in the country in 2013, and stats that put Burlington’s per capita income among the highest in Canada. “It’s a very educated, well informed crowd.”

Link 2, as it’s being called, will feature two-storey lofts with 18-foot ceilings, ranging from 852 to 1,650 square feet, with prices starting at $352,000. Smaller, single-storey, one-bedroom units will start at $190,000, with other units featuring family-friendly three and even four bedrooms starting at under half a million.

In addition to its urban-style density and aesthetic, Link will be close to public transportation. There’s a bus stop in front of the site now, with a new Metrolinx Bus Rapid Transit station slated for 20 metres from the site, and a GO station about 10 minutes away. It’s also about 300 metres from highway 407.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Tariq Adi

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

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

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

The SickKids Foundation has two new openings this week.

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

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

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

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

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

New venture capital firm launches in Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. 

Source: Reuters

Moving on up: Community college gets a residence

Ground broke last week on a new residence that will form the gateway to Centennial College's Scarborough campus.

Designed by Donald Schmitt, principal with Diamond Schmitt Architects, the new building will house 740 beds, a rooftop conference centre, and a glass-walled culinary school and restaurant on the ground floor. It will double the height of the current tallest building on campus, a library also designed by Diamond Schmitt.

"It will be the first building you see as you approach the campus," Schmitt says, "and it's designed specifically to be the landmark that defines the entry. It will be eight storeys in height, so it will be seen from the 401, and it will give the college quite a bit of presence."

Though the facade and materials will not match the library, Schmitt says the massing and configuration will complement the earlier building.

"We're trying to articulate each of the parts of the building," he says, "with a high level of transparency in the culinary areas, and on every floor of the residences there are these enormous lounges that are all clad in glass, so there will be huge bay windows that project on every level on all four facades."

One of the more novel aspects of the building has less to do with how it was designed than how came together. It's a partnership between Centennial and Knightstone Capital Management, who are the developers and will be managing the building once it's complete. (As Schmitt points out, though government funding is available for academic buildings, academic institutions have to come up with their own schemes for residences.)

Schmitt estimates the 353,500 square foot building, for which Knightstone will be seeking LEED Silver certification, will be ready for students by September, 2016.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Donald Schmitt

Landscape architects to discuss master plan for Toronto's ravines

Toronto's ravines take up 10 times the amount of acreage of Manhattan's entire park system. And given that Manhattan and Toronto have roughly the same daytime population - about 3 million — we have a lot of grass to frolic in.

But the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority doesn't think we're taking full advantage of this aspect of the urban ecosystem.

"We have all these wonderful ravines running through our city and a lot of people don't know they're there," says Steven Heuchert, the TRCA's senior manager of planning and development.

Though he thinks the city's done "a pretty good job" of keeping the system reasonably natural, Heuchert thinks the next step is incorporation the ravines into the city, and the city into the ravines.

"For example, a lot of entrances to these ravines are nothing more than a little pathway put there to accommodate some sort of infrastructure," he says. "There may be a pipe there and maintenance people need to get in to work on the pipe, but we don't make these things generally accessible to the public."

Heuchert gave a talk on Oct. 9, hosted by the TRCA, on his thoughts about where the ravines have come from, and where they ought to be going to. It was part of a series of talks in the Ravine Portal exhibition that will be continued tomorrow night by the landscape architects of the Lower Don Master Plan, which Heuchert says puts into practice on a relatively small scale the ideas he thinks should be extended to the entire ravine system.

"The Lower Don Master Plan and the work that Evergreen is doing to try to connect their site into the city a little better are good examples of what I was speaking to in my presentation," Heuchert says, "looking at design solutions to make people recognize that the ravines are there, getting them in in a co-ordinated fashion."

Tomorrow's talk, titled "Possible Futures," will include Seana Irvine, Chief Operating Officer of Evergreen, with Bryce Miranda and Brent Raymond, landscape architects and partners at DTAH.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Steven Heuchert

New planned community to take advantage of Kipling station hub

A major new transit-friendly development is almost ready to go ahead near the Kipling subway station and the future Metrolinx Kipling mobility hub.

The Kip District, being developed by Concert Properties, is a re-imaginging of a large site originally owned by Canadian Tire, who got the initial approvals for 1.1 million square feet of density back in 2005, equivalent to a 4.23 density.

And Concert thinks that will still work fine.

"We want to move the density around," says Andrew Gray, vice president of Vancouver-based Concert Properties' eastern region and former vice president of development with Waterfront Toronto, "but we don't want to increase the density."

The original Canadian Tire submission envisioned much of the ground covered in relatively squat buildings. Concert is planning to squeeze them upwards into higher buildings that allow for more green space, including a central square.

They also intend to build a two-level parking garage underneath the entire site, and include retail at the ground level of the buildings to encourage local activity.

"We really wanted to emphasize a quality public realm," Gray says. "You can leave your car, walk around the site at grade, and in the winter walk through the parking garage, because it'll be heated. It's a five-minute walk to Kipling station."

The first phase of what Gray figures will be a 10-year project will be going before the city's Committee of Adjustment on Nov. 13 for approval of, among other things, the initial 90-metre tower designed by IBI Page and Steele.

Given its proximity to the planned mobility hub, which would include a new regional bus terminal, Gray says that, over the decade it will take to build, the development's planned parking facilities may be reduced.

The old Canadian Tire store is being demolished now, in expectation of some form of approval in the offing.

The Kip District, if it goes ahead, will join developments by Tridel and others centred on Kipling station, all looking to take advantage of the area's access to the subway system and western-bound roads, as well as its relative proximity to Pearson airport.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Andrew Gray

First Gulf breaks ground on transit-friendly workplace in Mississauga

Great Gulf is in the middle of two developments of great significance to the GTA, one high profile, one less so.

Great Gulf, who just received five OHBA awards, are the people behind One Bloor East, the curvaceous condo tower going up at the corner of Yonge and Bloor. In addition to its location, One Bloor is the first residential tower to make use of a curtain wall, a non-structural way of building windows that is popular with commercial buildings, allowing a sealed interior environment while letting in a lot of light. It’s due for completion in the summer of 2016.

The other just broke ground on Sept. 24 in Mississauga. It’s a commercial building, constructed to LEED Gold standards, that will bring hundreds of jobs onto the GO Transit line, offering direct access to the Meadowvale station. It’s being developed under the Great Gulf Group’s commercial and retile arm, First Gulf.

This is the third phase of the Meadowvale Centre, which is also a 15-minute drive to Pearson airport. Once completed, phase 3 will be 100,000 square feet, available to tenants at $22.50 per square foot per month.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Madeline Zito

Minto named builder of the year for the second time in three years

The Ontario Home Builders Association has named the Minto Group the builders of the year. It’s the second time they’ve been so honoured in three years.

“Builder of the Year is presented to the company that demonstrates the highest levels of performance, creativity and ingenuity based on judging criteria in the areas of sales and marketing excellence, floor plan design, community service, support of the industry and its ability to adapt to changing needs,” says OHBA president Joe Vaccaro.

Minto, whose current developments include the Westside, Yorkville Park, Minto30Roe and Oakvillage, were recognized for the way they do business rather than the specifics of their work.

“The Home Builder of the Year award is not associated with one particular project,” Vaccaro says, “but rather with their  overall company initiatives within their community and their support of the association (locally, provincially and nationally). One example of of this can be seen through Minto’s environmental initiatives.”

The Ontario Home Builders Association has about 4,000 member companies accounting for about $44 billion worth of Ontario’s economy and employing about 325,000 people.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Joe Vaccaro

Fort York park named for June Callwood

She attended the ground-breaking nine years ago and now there’s officially a park in Fort York to help us remember the remarkable contributions of June Callwood.

Though it’s a regular-sized park in city-wide terms, June Callwood Park, at 0.4 hectares, may seem a little small in an area with such parks as Coronation (12.7 hectares), and Garrison Common (3.32 hectares). But with a reflecting pool, granite and bright pink rubberized benches, a hedge maze, ornamental gardens and soft surfaces for what the city parks department calls “unstructured play,” not to mention 300 trees, it’ll seem much larger than it actually is. A little like Callwood herself.

Callwood herself was hard to categorize. A journalist, she spent a good deal of her life putting more effort than most into issues she believed in. She wrote one of the first books to deal with AIDS on a personal level, in 1988, and helped found a hospice for people with AIDS, a shelter for abused and otherwise endangered women on the city’s east side that’s still running today, having helped hundreds of women out of otherwise impossible circumstances. (She was also one of the motive forces behind the writer's organization PEN Canada.)

Callwood’s work was very much of the moment. She wasn’t a city builder, she didn’t work to build a legacy. She worked to fix what was in front of her. She’s the sort of person, in other words, who has a tendency to fade into history. But a park in her name goes some way to ensuring people will continue to look up her name and see that there are Torontonians whose force of character and sense of purpose make the city, bit by bit, a better place to be.

Jill Frayne, Callwood’s daughter, and her family attended the opening ceremony.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Karen Fulcher

One Bloor East takes shape

The corner of Yonge and Bloor was known for decades as Canada’s main intersection, where two of its biggest streets meet in its biggest city.

But things haven’t been good there for a long time, and even in Toronto, its centrality has been usurped by Yonge and Dundas, Bay and Bloor, and even Queen and Spadina.

But looking at One Bloor East go up, I wonder if things aren’t snapping back to where they should be.

It was meant to be Canada’s tallest condo, but that fell apart. Aura, a little bit south on Yonge, took that honour. But it doesn’t relate to the street well at all. At least not yet. It’s out of scale, its mass overbearing, more appropriate to a much bigger street in a much bigger, and darker, city. Give it 20 years, maybe it’ll fit right in.

But One Bloor, designed by Hariri Pontarini, looks good already, its curves a welcome relief from the rectilinearity that has beset this city’s condo boom.

This week, it reached the 26th floor, and the curtain wall is going up, giving us a better sense of how it’s going to look.

The tower-and-podium show City Hall has imposed on all development has resulted in an almost unbearable degree of homogeneity in our buildings. But Hariri Pontarini show here how it can be done better. Working within restrictions and guidelines has always been a boon to the more talented, engaged artists and designers of every generation, ones who are also not constrained by unreasonable, unworkable budgets. It seems like Great Gulf decided to make a showpiece. I’m glad someone finally did.

We’ll check in with this one a little later. It’s been going up at roughly a storey a week, which would put the topping-off right about this time next year.

Writer: Bert Archer

Retail front of Five St. Joseph begins to emerge

Five St. Joseph is a big project, and an ambitious one.

We’ve written about it several times in this space as an example of the sort of civic responsibility, enthusiasm and creativity a developer can evince.

A big part of that is the Yonge Street frontage and what the developer has chosen to do with it.

If you walk up or down Yonge Street south of Bloor these days, you’ll see a lot of those black and white signs alerting you to development applications. Most of them are for towers, and most of the towers are proposed to be quite big. It’s a safe bet that in a decade or so, Yonge Street will be well on its way to becoming the sort of canyon we tend to associate with cities like New York and Hong Kong. How that canyon is constructed, however, is still up in the air. And we have in front of us two models: Aura on College and Five St. Joseph.

The developers of Aura on College chose to demolish the old two- and three-storey structures that have characterized Yonge Street for the past century and more to up the scale ante, replacing them with a massive podium and a sort of super-awning that, at the moment, looms over the street. That mass, which includes a Bed, Bath & Beyond and one of Madonna’s Hard Candy gyms, could either just be darkening a strip of the street. or pointing to a new model for the Yonge Street of the future.

A kilometre or so north, Gary Switzer of MOD is going another route. He’s not only keeping the facade of the old building at 5 St. Joseph that he’s building a tower on top of — that’s become fairly common in this town — he’s keeping the buildings on Yonge Street, too, both in structure, and purpose. It’s staying small-scale retail.

A sign went up on the Yonge Street hoarding recently indicating that one of the first tenants to sign up is Aroma, the Canadian-owned branch of the Israeli cafe chain that’s been sprouting up all over the city.

Aroma spokesman Daniel Davidzon thinks it’s all “amazing.”

“There is enormous density and significant residential growth in an already bustling neighbourhood,” he says. “The restoration and heritage components are stunning, as is the scope of construction. The engineering needed to bring this project to fruition is especially brilliant.”

Though Aroma has received no word on timing yet, Davidzon figures the cafe, complete with corner patio, will likely open in 2015.

Councillor Wong-Tam, whose ward this sensitive Yonge Street trench is in, is currently shepherding all those development applications through council, making deals with developers to forge the new Yonge Street. If the Aura model wins out, we’ll be in for a massive shift, our kids not quite believing our quaint stories of a small-scale commercial strip. If Switzer’s notions take hold, however, the Yonge Street those kids grow up with will have a comprehensible and visible link to the one we did. It’s revolution versus evolution. Stay tuned.
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