| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Development News

938 Articles | Page: | Show All

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jason Shiff

City's app-assisted bike research nears 3,000 riders, 40,000 rides

Toronto's aptly named Toronto Cycling app is now approaching 40,000 captured trips in its mission to map the city's most popular cycling routes.

The city's current cycling routes total 570 km, and it's looking to expand along what some have called desire lines, routes that get used whether they'e promoted or not.

Created by Waterloo's Brisk Synergies, Toronto Cycling was released in May on Android and IPhone. Since then, about 3,000 people have downloaded the app, which uses GPS to track the routes cyclists use. A visualization the city has produced using the data collected so far, with recorded trips rendered in red as an overlay on a map, reveals veinous and arterial routes breathing two-wheeled life into the city.

The city will continue collecting the data until at least November, when they will compile it into a report to present to council in 2015. 

"At the end of the year we will be evaluating the value of continuing the data collection into 2015 and on," says Sibel Sarper, assistant planner. "The data collected in 2014 may provide a good baseline to monitor the change in cycling route choice after new cycling infrastructure is introduced yearly."

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Sibel Sarper

Roots opens new flagship shop on Bloor

It's summer, but there's a breeze coming in off the water, and in a small Austrian town on Lake Constance, a Chinese tourist walks through the old Corn Market wearing a red Roots sweatshirt.

Roots was never entirely Canadian. Founded in Toronto in 1973 by two Michigan natives, Don Green and Michael Budman, the brand has always been Canada as seen by Americans who like Algonquin Park, a vision of roughing it, Canadian style, through the patina of New England nostalgia.

What started as a binational hybrid has become global. The company announced that 2013, the year of its 40th anniversary, was its best ever due in large part to its success in Asia. 

So it's appropriate that their new flagship store, which opened on Friday, was built by a student of Mies van der Rohe, whose modernist aesthetic was known in its heyday as the International Style.

Eighty Bloor West was designed by Peter Carter, built in 1972, and once was the address for architect Arthur Erickson's Toronto office. The new Roots space is 6,500 square feet on two levels.

That's a little more than a third the size of the Bloor store it's replacing, which was 18,500 square feet. And that's a reflection of the other reality of Roots circa 2014. It may be expanding in Asia, but its physical retail operations are beginning to take a back seat to its online business.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Robert Sarner

New report reveals plans for Lower Yonge Precinct

Yesterday, Waterfront Toronto and the City of Toronto gave the public an update on what's going on with the plans to develop the 12-hectare chunk of the city known as the Lower Yonge Precinct.

The parcel goes from Yonge to Jarvis, the Gardiner to Queens Quay, and includes the Toronto Star tower, the big LCBO, a Loblaws, and a lot of parking.

As the presented report says, “Since this waterfront precinct is so centrally located, its skillful and appropriate revitalization is critical to the waterfront’s success.”

The plan involves extending Harbour Street all the way to Jarvis, building a new street between Cooper and Lower Jarvis, and putting in a park. While “acknowledging its contextual relationship to the downtown core to the west and the St. Lawrence community to the north,” the proposed density doesn't seem to be learning much from St. Lawrence, long acknowledged as one of the city's most successful bits of planning. 

The most important aspect of the development of this precinct, however, is likely to be its role in connecting the centre with the eastern port lands, like the Canary District and the Distillery.

If you would like to offer your own feedback – and a good deal of this planning has been based on previous comments from interested Torontonians – you can do so here.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Samantha Gileno

City unveils new road-closure site

The city has just made it a little less infuriating to drive around.

As of this month, there's a city website listing all the road closures that might hamper you in your commute or daily errand-running.

It's just a list, but a useful one, compiled by city staff from information sent to them by workers in the field. It lists the name of the road, what intersections it's closed from and to, when the closure starts and ends, and what the extent of the closure is (one lane, all lanes, etc.).

As of the July 21 update, there were five closures on the site, which lists only “main roads,” which the city defines as those roads which are not “local roads.”

“Our staff in the field make a determination if construction on the roadway will be particularly impactful to the travelling public,” says Steve Johnston, who works in the city's communications department.

I say “a little less” infuriating because the city at the moment has no plans for an app, which would make it easier to check into such things when one is already on the road.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Steve Johnston

Short film highlights chief planner as a creative mind

Chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat is the star of a new short film by Freeman House Productions, a Toronto firm doing a series about creative people called The Guild. The project does Keesmaat, and the city, a big favour. In the seven-and-a-half-minute black-and-white film, Keesmaat  makes urban planning sound like fun.

“I believe we are inherently creative as a species,” she says at the outset. “I'm a city-builder. I build cities every day. That's my job.

“It's really tricky for me to walk down the street without looking at the shape of a building, the way the entrances are shaped, the width of a sidewalk.”

Though people looking for Toronto specifics will be disappointed – this little film is all blue-sky, big-picture stuff – the way Keesmaat thinks about her profession, as a mix of engineering and art, should make us all sleep a little better at night as our city, as dreamt up by her, coalesces around us.

Writer: Bert Archer

Condo market, especially rentals, continues strong in second quarter

Condo sales were up 10.4 per cent over this time last year, and listings 4.4 per cent, which is great news if you're in the condo business.

But a quick comparison with single-family, semi-detached and townhouses means this could be good news even for those not yet in the market.

According to Jason Mercer, the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) senior market analyst, all this could end up meaning families may finally start moving into condos.

“Currently, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units (including “+ den” variations) are the most popular, “ he says, “both in terms of ownership and rentals. Moving forward, it seems reasonable that an increasing number of families will look to the condominium apartment market to meet their housing needs. Over the past few years, we have seen competition for low-rise homes increase as listings for singles, semis and townhomes have been constrained. This has made it difficult for some households to find a home that meets their needs. Some of these households, who were initially focused on low-rise home types, may expand their search to include condominium apartments.”

At the moment, the fact that 2+-bedroom and 3-bedroom condos are averaging over $400,000 has been an obstacle, but if the single-family dwelling market gets more and more rarefied, the larger condo inits may start to look more attractive, even at those prices.

But there will also be increasing opportunities to get around those prices, as the condo market is also showing signs of robustly stepping in to fill the rental property void.

“Over the past decade, we have not seen a lot of purpose-built rental buildings come on line,” Mercer says. “As a result, the market for higher-end rental units has been served by investors choosing to rent their units. As new condo apartment completions have trended upwards, so too have rental listings and rental transactions.”

According to TREB's report, 27.6 per cent of Toronto's condos are rentals, with a vacancy rate of just 1.7 per cent. It was 1.8 per cent last fall, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), and 1.2 per cent in fall, 2012).

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jason Mercer

Midrise at Queen and Pape may have found its final developer--or not

You'd think a mid-rise condo at the corner of Queen and Pape would be a no-brainer.

You'd be wrong.

In 2012, the half-built structure was bought by the Rose and Thistle Group, a little-known Yorkville developer, after the original developer--whose name is lost in the mists of time but who confidently called the project the Film Studio Lofts--threw in the towel after beginning the project in – get this – 2006. Rose and Thistle then got embroiled in a fracas with diet doctor Stanley Bernstein.

The property, still unfinished, passed quietly into the hands of the similarly quiet, but somewhat more sinister sounding Kartelle Corporation. Work picked up again, and a new rendering was released, which seemed to picture the Queen streetcar driving north up Pape, which didn't bode well for the troubled property.

The 12-unit disaster doesn't look like it'll be going anywhere fast even now, however. After a month of trying to get a response from Kartelle, Yonge Street Media had to throw in the towel itself, unable to get a word out of anyone but the receptionist, who assured me in June that someone would get back to me. Several emails later and: silence.

So, no word on completion date, no word on sales, and no word on whether it wouldn't be a good idea to just blow the thing and start again with another developer. Streetcar, are you listening?

Writer: Bert Archer

Double Dwelling presents new option for multigenerational living

"It's an instrument for living."

That's how architect Donald Chong describes the so-called Double Dwelling at the corner of Huron and Howland in Chinatown, a house that's been raising eyebrows while under construction in the mostly Edwardian and post-war neighbourhood.

It seems like it doesn't belong, but given the living situation of many people in Chinatown, it couldn't be more apposite.

"If there's anything that's particularly Toronto that's apparent here," Chong says, "it's that any sort of social stigma that might have been there since WWII of living with your parents seems to be slowly eroding."

Formerly two houses on two lots, Chong was commissioned to design a house that would accommodate three generations of a single family, allowing them to benefit from living together, without living on top of each other.

"Really good design is an expression of a culture that's ready to change and evolve," Chong says, "and I think this city is ready for it. We're in the post-honeymoon of the Jane Jacobs era; it's starting to taper out as we're maturing and we can now embrace it without apology. It's the foreground now, not the background, with people pretending not to notice it.

"It's not about eyes on the street so much," he continues, referring to a basic Jacobs concept, "as the fact that we can see a city within the house. You could live like a village not just beyond your doors, but within your doors."

Chong, the man behind Blantyre House, Galley House, and the concept that small fridges make good cities, sees the Double Dwelling as a natural extension of Canadian multiculturalism, circa 1968, and a potential prototype for future designs catering to clients who see family differently from the Anglo tradition.

"There were two dilapidated homes that were barely rentable, more squats. The parents didn't know what do with them as they were aging. Their kids came to us and said our parents are part of it. It was a large enough property because it was on a corner, we have two faces to take advantage of for separate entries, which makes it possible to be rentable, should the parents move out or die."

Chong says the main challenge for the house was to "manage the paths of living," allowing the three generations to share what they wanted to share, but also maintain their own space. So the kitchen is shared, but the living quarters are separated by stairwells and sliding doors.

Chong says there's ample opportunity to alter existing Toronto homes along these lines, given how many of them were designed with alley entrances and smaller, separate spaces for servants.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Donald Chong

Planners in Public Spaces returns

The planners are taking to the streets again.

After a successful inaugural event in 2013, which saw city planning staff meet and talk with more than 1,700 Torontonians in 20 locations across the city, Planners in Public Space (PiPS) is returning with it's $5,000 budget to take city planning to the people.

"The information we received was broad and ranged from topics such as the Ontario Municipal Board to City governance [to] what worked (and what didn't) with respect to planning City-wide and in a local context.," says planner Giulio Cescato, who noted this is vital to informing the city's planning options. "As planners, our primary ethical responsibility is to the public interest, and PiPS helps connect us with the public in a way we haven't done before," he continues.

Perhaps PIPS greatest success last year was its ability to get up close with the public and educate them on what planning is, and what planners do. 

"An informed and educated public is key to effective public consultation, and the extent to which we value feedback from the community is based on our efforts to empower them. PiPS is a step to achieving that goal," Cescato says.

The initiative, modelled on something similar in Melbourne, Australia, is focusing this year on three planning programs, which the department's calling ResetTO, Growing Conversations and Feeling Congested.

"ResetTO is about bringing forward a Development Permit System, which is a more streamlined and predictable way of dealing with development applications," Cescato says. "Although its been in the Planning Act for a long time, it hasn't really been implemented before and there's a lot of confusion about what it is."

Growing Conversations on the other hand is City Planning's "new outreach program centred around how we undertake community consultation itself. Growing Conversations will examine how City Planning undertakes public consultation particularly in regards to Planning Applications. The initiative will see City Planning going to the community and stakeholders to ask how we could do it better.

Finally, "Feeling Congested is the ongoing consultation process on reducing congestion and improving public transit both from an infrastructure and planning point of view."

Cescato points out, however, that in addition to the focus areas, people are welcome to talk to planners about any issue that interests or concerns them.

PiPS runs until Aug. 27. Dates, places and times are available here.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Giulio Cescato

Yorkville gets a new gateway

A decade after the idea was first bruited, Yorkville has a gateway.

It's just about finished now, just where Bay runs into Davenport, in a convenient blank space in front of Jesse Ketchum Public School, leftover after the realignment of the intersection.

"The site was chosen in response to the community's request for a gateway into the 'Village of Yorkville'," says Lara Tarlo, the urban designer with the city's planning department responsible for the gateway. The re-alignment of the road at Bay and Davenport created a normalized intersection and "resulted in open space in front of the School and opportunity for a gateway."

Though the gateway is outside the boundaries of the Bloor Yorkville BIA, they were consulted, and are generally in favour of what is now the most prominent identifier for the neighbourhood.

"Generally, it is a gateway to the community, so it is good to have it identified with the signage, which has been installed," says Briar de Lange, the BIA's executive director. "It was [an unattractive] and rather non-descript space prior to the construction, so adding streetscape improvements and greenery to the area is certainly welcome."

According to Tarlo, the project was shelved for lack of funding a decade ago, and was revived when the decision was made to fix the intersection, at which point a working group including the Bloor Yorkville BIA, the local residents' association, Councillor Wong-Tam, city staff, transportation services and a cycling group formed and met over the course of a year to work through the options and details.

The budget was $160,000, and it should be completed by the end of June or beginning of July.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Lara Tarlo, Briar de Lange

Tonight's Pug Awards recognize commercial architecture still better than residential

We don't have to look to experts or polls to know that Toronto's residential architecture over the past decade has been a disappointment. But sometimes it helps.

"The vast majority of residential entries were banal, negative for our urban landscape, not additive."

That was Gary Berman, co-founder of the Pug Awards, whose annual ceremony celebrating the best residential and commercial architecture in the city is tonight.

But the awards started out as a way to call architects and developers out on the ugliest buildings in the city (as in pug-ugly), and Berman retains a good deal of that constructively negative tenor.

"One of my biggest complaints in the city has been buildings with large institutional budgets for which the landscaping is an afterthought," he says. "Take a look at the ROM: There's no landscaping in front of the addition. Even the AGO, there's no landscaping at grade, and I think that makes buildings less approachable."

As president and chief operating officer of Tricon Capital, Berman has been involved in the building of some of the city's most impressive residential projects, including Five St. Joseph. But he says that Toronto is, on the whole, residentially challenged.

"If you look at the building code and what the planning department wants, they want the point towers, they're looking typically for a rectangular massing that has a fairly small point tower, with something like an 8,400 square foot floor plate," Berman says. "All the buildings replicate that form. But I don't think that's an issue. I think the issue in Toronto is with the cladding materials, poor quality window wall systems, and I think that's in many cases unattractive, and creates a sense of monotony. I think the biggest problem, apart from the poor cladding, is that the interaction with the street at grade is not being thought out well enough. It doesn't matter if it's low-rise mid-rise or high-rise, the ones that have rectangular or cubic format, if they do a better job with cladding or at grade, they score well."

As for the Pug Awards, he's seen both the nominees and the results of the 40,000-50,000 votes received this year. His reaction? "The vast majority of residential entries were banal, negative for our urban landscape, not additive."

He says that, once again, the commercial buildings will be doing better at the Pug polls than the sub-par residential stock.

"Nothing on the commercial side is earth shattering," he says, "nothing that people from around the world should come and see; just decent, good buildings, which is a good way to build a city."

After the awards ceremony, which takes place tonight at the AGO starting at 6 p.m., this year's Pug Talk will discuss the architectural relationship between Toronto and Chicago.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Gary Berman
Photo: Courtesy of architect, Moriyama & Teshima.

Leslieville BIA makes the best of a big summer mess

Think of it as an east-ender's take on "Keep calm and carry on."

A few months ago, the Leslieville BIA was confronted with a conundrum that's becoming increasingly familiar around the city.

It's burgeoning strip, just a few years into its own, was going to be more or less shut down as the city and the TTC ripped up its very heart, the intersection of Queen and Leslie, to install new tracks for the new, bigger streetcars that will soon be streaming out of Leslie Barns to the south.

As a result, from May 12 to June 21, Leslieville, like St. Clair and Roncesvalles before them, was going to be in a form of municipally imposed suspended animation.

So they studied what happened on St Clair when the right of way was installed, and Roncesvalles when they got their tracks and much of their under-street infrastructure replaced over a period of months, and even went as far afield as Banff for ideas.

Then they hired a Leslieville designer, Kinnon Elliott, who came up with the poster for the "Take a Leslieville detour" campaign to keep people shopping, eating and strolling down their strip of Queen.

The BIA's co-ordinator, Cathy Quinton, says they used a bus shelter ad space donated by the TTC for one big poster, and the on-site TTC staff offered to put up other versions of Kinnon's work in place of their actual detour signs.

"The TTC themselves have been extraordinary," Quinton says, praising the weekly status update meetings they have together to keep the shopkeepers up to date during what can be very trying and frustrating times.

And to celebrate the end of the disruption, the BIA is organizing a Lemon Fest, following the theme of making lemonade when the city hands you a lemon.

On June 21, there will be neighbourhood lemonade stands between Vancouver and Booth, the boundaries of the BIA, a photo booth for people to give their best puckered faces, local framer Heliographics is offering a first prize of free custom framing for the best lemon-based image submitted by festival goers, and restaurants along the strip will feature a lemon dish of the day.

All proceeds from the day will go to Leslieville's family Red Door Shelter.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Cathy Quinton

Huge Distillery District data centre rises on Parliament

The Distillery district isn't leaving its industrial heritage entirely behind it.

The big building currently going up on Parliament just north of Mill – five storeys, 125,000 square feet, no windows – will be a data centre.

"The building houses mainly computer racks for storing data," says architect Nicola Casciato with WZMH.

In a quickly developing part of town that includes not only the Distillery District, but the new Canary District, Bayside and the rest of the burgeoning East Port Lands, a windowless building filled with machinery could really weigh the place down.

"The architectural challenge was to design a building located within a rich architectural neighbourhood that has no windows," Casciato says. "Architects typically use windows to provide urban animation, in this case, the animation was provided through a richly detailed terra cotta façade system that recalls early computer punch card technology and responds to the local brick environment."

Urbacon, the Toronto- and Montreal-based construction and development company in charge of the project, did not want to discuss the building.

The data centre is being built in two sections, and what's visible now are three of the first five floors of the first section.

Construction began in March, 2013 and is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Nicola Casciato

36 Hazelton getting its skin

It may seem like the old school on Hazelton being turned into a condo has disappeared. But, apparently, it's coming back.

A big selling point of the low-rise building at 36 Hazelton – other than the fact that Mark Wahlberg bought a unit – was the facade of the old St. Basil's Catholic school that stood there. But if you walk by today, you'll just see the skeleton of the new place – it's final form just filled out recently – with no sign of the old brick.

"As with many adaptive reuse projects, the challenges were many," says Les Klein, principal at Quadrangle, the King West firm behind the project. "They included keeping the heritage facade in place while building a new building (above and below grade) behind it; access to the site for construction. This required moving a portion of the heritage facade away for the duration of the construction process to allow access to the rear of the site."

As far as Klein is concerned, the facade, which should be back in place next year, is the key to the building.

"Change in communities should be organic," he says. "While the original use of the school was long out of date, its physical form provides a tie to the community’s historic roots. The new condominium points to the future of the neighbourhood, while being grounded firmly in its rich past."

Given both the scale and the high-end nature of the building, the owners of the unbuilt units demanded quite a bit of say in how their homes were being constructed.

"There were no 'typical' floor plans, and there were no 'typical' units. Each unit was an individually designed luxury home for a very sophisticated clientele," Klein says. "While each unit design has changed under the guidance of its owners, the building has such a strong character that it is able to accommodate the individuality of its owners without losing its identity or coherent design intent."

Klein expects 36 Hazelton, developed by Alterra and built by Zinc construction, to be ready for its new owners by 2015.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Les Klein
938 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts