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Bloor Street Corridor kicks off

As of last week, Toronto’s got a new attraction. The Bloor Street Cultural Corridor calls attention to a strip that before now didn’t have much of an identity.

The corridor runs from Bay to Bathurst, and as corridor director and Royal Conservatory director of marketing Heather Kelly pointed out at L’espresso on Wednesday, it includes a dozen arts and culture spots for Torontonians and tourists to take in.

"This is a new type of collaboration," Councillor Michael Thompson said to the packed house, referring to the collaboration among the dozen to promote the area as a whole.

"I've travelled to 60 cities," said Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, whose ward covers the eastern part of the corridor, "and I know when you visit a city, you don’t go for the skyscrapers, for the condos."

From east to west, the BSCC consists of the Japan Foundation, the Gardiner Museum, the ROM, the Bata Shoe Museum, the Royal Conservatory and Koerner Hall, the Istituto Itlaiano di Cultura, the Alliance Française, the Native Canadian Centre,  the Miles Nadal Jewishj Communtiy Centre, Trinity-St. Paul’s with its Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Toronto Consort, and the Bloor Cinema.

"By working collaboratively and cooperatively," their press release said, "the cultural organizations intend to attract more Torontonians, tourists, and attention to the Bloor Street Culture Corridor. Helping visitors connect the dots, the initiative will increase awareness of how close together and easy to access these arts and entertainment experiences really are. The partnering organizations hope to entice people to stay in the area longer and ultimately include more destinations in their visit."

There are also two hotels in the strip — the Intercontinental and the Holiday Inn — and a couple of dozen restaurants, bars and cafes. It’s not necessarily the best restaurant strip, nor the best part of town for cafes, but there is no other part of town with as much of a mix.

In addition to the brochure, which will be made available to various tourism outfits, they’ve set up a website to bring it all together.

If it achieves nothing else, the initiative reminds us that there’s plenty to do and see around Bloor and Spadina.

Writer: Bert Archer

New condo buys coffee for everyone in a 3-block radius

Developers are an odd breed. In order to succeed, they need to be able to handle the risk and stress that comes with borrowing and investing 8- and 9-figure sums, and conservative enough to ensure that every project caters to the widest possible audience. They have to be able to deal with the artistic sensibilities of architects, and the labour ethic of tradespeople. It’s a rare combination that attracts an odd mix of people, and no two are alike.

Mazyar Mortazavi, however, is less alike than most. TAS, of which he’s president and CEO, is always building on the fringes of the mainstream and finding new ways to increase the city’s density. Last week, we wrote about a new project of his, DUKE, that’s expanding the condo core into the Junction. And now, with his latest development  Kingston and Co., located at 1100 Kingston Rd, he’s buying everyone in the neighbourhood a cup of coffee.

"A key thing for us, going into a new neighbourhood, is that I see it as a guest going to a dinner party," he says. "The people who already live there are the hosts. So we spend a lot of time with our community engagement program. We start talking with the neighbourhood from the beginning of the application process, in addition to the public meetings arranged with the city. Those, to us, are pretty much the end of the process."

Mortazavi says the applications have all been approved, the meetings all conducted, and sales are about to begin, and construction’s set to start, with a view to being ready to move in late 2016 or early 2017.

In other words, there’s nothing left to get out of the residents, and the average developer might be relieved that this particularly arduous segment of the process is over. But Mortazavi seems to like it, so he’s just sent out little thank you cards with coupons for two free cups of coffee at local indie cafes (Madhüs and Savoury Grounds) to everyone who lives within a three-block radius of the future mid-rise.

"Our entire platform is based on engaging in conversation," he says. "We recognize that there's a lot of chatter, and has been for a while, around the market, developers who promise one thing and deliver something else. There are people who are worried there’s a condo bubble, others that this is just going to be a box going up in their neighbourhoods. These are conversations that are happening, and we want to be a part of that, to encourage it, and to inform people."

And also be the ones buying the coffee over which the neighbourhood continues to klatch.

It’s not the first time they’ve done something like this. When DUKE was in the pre-sales stage, TAS helped launch the Junction flea market. They also hired their designer fro the neighbourhood, and bought their furniture of rate condo from local dealers.

"It’s very much looking at the underpinnings of what makes strong communities and seeing who we can work with to strengthen that," he says.

Condominium development is by definition a cut-and-run project. Developers buy land, build buildings, sell them off, and move on. The building stays, but the developer's out of there. Mortazavi, for one, would like the memory of their time together to be a pleasant one.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Mazyar Mortazavi

City offers homeowners low-interest loans for green retrofits

It just got easier being green.
 
As of now, the city is offering $10 million worth of low-interest loans to single-family dwelling owners looking to retrofit their house in certain neighbourhoods around the city, but were previously dissauded by the associated costs of doing so.

"At its meeting of July 2013, Toronto City Council unanimously approved a $20-million pilot energy efficiency pilot program for the residential sector," says Rosalynd Rupert, a communications officer with the city.

"$10 million in funding is to be allocated to the Home Energy Loan Program, geared to single-family houses. HELP is designed to advance funding to consenting property owners interested in undertaking qualifying energy and water improvements with repayment via installments on the property tax bill."
 
It's a pilot project for the moment, available in Black Creek, Toronto Centre/Rosedale, the Junction/High Park, and South Scarborough.
 
"The initial pilot neighbourhoods are the same areas where Enbridge Gas is offering the Community Energy Conservation Program, which offers up to $2,000 in rebates and incentives for energy retrofits," Rupert says. "Also, in the pilot neighbourhoods, the city is collaborating with local groups such as SNAP [Black Creek] and Project Neutral [Riverdale-Junction] to jointly promote HELP to local homeowners."
 
According to Rupert, this is a new approach to funding for Toronto, one the City hopes it will be able to extend across the city and use for other initiatives in the future.
 
"Using local improvement charges for energy retrofits is new to Ontario and Canada. A similar financing program for hot water heaters is being rolled out in Halifax," Rupert says.

"The origin of this type of financing traces to Berkeley, California, in 2008. Various US jurisdictions have launched... programs that function similarly to HELP. How they work is municipalities/regional governments issue special bonds to raise funds for a municipal loan program that could cover renewable energy, water conservation or energy efficiency measures. The loans, including interest, are recovered via the property tax bill."
 
Maybe the best part of the whole deal is that there is no credit check to qualify for the loans. As long as you’re in the right neighbourhood, and your property taxes are up to date (and you get your mortgage-holder’s approval), you’re in. Interest rates are 2.5 per cent for five years, up to 4.25 per cent for 15 year terms.

Application forms are available at the city's website.
 
Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Rosalynd Rupert

DUKE seeks to extend the condo core to the Junction

Housing Alternatives blazed the trail, but with the first market-value condo in the Junction getting all its permits and meeting its sales targets, TAS is extending the condo core to the west end.

“I'm amazed that nothing like this has happened in the area already. The Junction is such an exciting part of the city with a thriving social scene, strong artisanal community with a main street retail selection to match," says the six-storey building’s architect Richard Witt of Quadrangle.

"The reaction to Duke at the public meetings was one of the most receptive I’ve ever participated in – and rightfully so," he continues. "There are a lot of other approaches to development which would not have been as appropriate, but in this case TAS and the project team have really gone out of their way to develop a building which builds on the cultural and social basis of the Junction and adds an additional layer to it – to the benefit of all."

DUKE, a synthetic acronym for its location at Dundas and Keele, will have 96 units ranging from 450 to 1,600 square feet over a floor of ground-level retail.

Witt found TAS’s approach to building a good match for Quadrangle's, making the brief – the mission a client gives the architect – more collaborative than usual.

"The basic brief wasn’t that complicated - a residential building of the scale that Duke has become and one that would be acceptable to the community in terms of scale and articulation. A lot of what might be considered brief wasn’t really discussed but was inherently understood in the philosophy of TAS and their selection of architects: great design, environmental consideration, a level of social engagement. As we were going through the process TAS were reflecting on their own brand and many of the considerations of the project became more tangible.

“Ecological aspirations were by nature of the broader team already being applied in terms of good building envelope, consideration of aspect, conformance with the Tier 1 Toronto Green Standards - but they became more obvious and articulated with elements like the terrace planters which were already there to satisfy urban design objectives but developed to become venues for urban agriculture," Witt continues.

"We were also doing the interior design with Mason Studio, who were the lead on the sales centre, and TAS’s aspirations for neighbourhood engagement and local cultural prosperity became very tangible in that collaboration, building on the enthusiasm TAS had shown to benefit the community already, through things like providing a venue for the flea market on the empty site."

Witt’s design is definitely Toronto Condo 2.0, in line with his work on Abacus farther east along Dundas. And its low-rise profile fits with what one hopes is the city’s future approach to downtown density. It explores the idea of laneway projects, giving Dundas West "an opportunity to continue the art and craft presence of the Junction’s culture while offering a real alternative to internalized units."

Witt thinks developing these semi-commercial spaces featuring laneway living with a vertical separation "should be a mandate of laneway projects moving forward."

He figures DUKE will be ready for occupancy within 18 months.

Writer: Bert Archer]
Source; Richard Witt


John Campbell talks the future of the Waterfront

A lot of people will soon be inhabiting the Waterfront, all ultimately gathered in an area that has, traditionally, been more or less unserved by transit, given its largely industrial heritage, making the roll-out of transit options, from mass transit to bicycle access to roads for cars, of paramount importance in the coming years.

On March 25, Waterfront CEO John Campbell and First Gulf CEO David Gerofsky had a conversation about the Waterfront's future and its present city-building initiatives under the moderation of Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure. The title of the discussion was "Connecting the Dots: Waterfront Roads, Rail and Redevelopment."

Both CEOs have played a role in creating entire neighbourhoods (First Gulf is responsible for redeveloping the former Lever Brothers lands), making them both familiar with the obstacles and opportunities specific to this rarefied form of city-building.

"Developing an entire neighbourhood requires a big vision and a well-thought out fully integrated plan," Campbell told Yonge Street after the event. "In order to create a vital and inclusive neigbourhood you need to ensure that there is a complimentary mix of residences, commercial and retail space, and public spaces. Having a well-thought out plan ensures that you avoid having uses that don’t fit and need to be fixed or adjusted afterwards. You also have to ensure that you have the necessary infrastructure in place to support the needs of the community – now and in the future. 
 
"Waterfront Toronto’s approach has always been strategic revitalization as opposed to simple real estate development. We take an integrated planning and design approach that looks not just at buildings but at all the things that make great cities, such as street networks that link to the rest of the city and scale that fosters a good sense of community, walkability and balancing all modes of transportation. We also emphasize parks and public spaces, and we design in a way that’s environmentally and economically sustainable."

Campbell listed public cynicism, limited resources, global competition and complexity as the main challenges behind creating communities from whoe cloth.

Though the benefits are at least as redoubtable. Campbell said that the $1.26 billion that has been invested in the Waterfront is generating $3.2 billion of economic output, $622 million in government revenues, and 16,200 years worth of full-time employment.

Included in this is $2.6 billion of development, which he helpfully spelled out for the audience. Bayside Development is worth $910 million, the PanAm/ParaPan athletes’ village $814 million, River City $383 million, Monde condos $276 million, Toronto Community Housing $95 million, and George Brown College’s Health Sciences campus $85 million.

In addition to that, Campbell claimed there were 44 recent or planned developments on privately owned land adjacent to Waterfront lands that is capitalizing on Waterfront infrastructure to the tune of $9.6 billion.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: John Campbell

Waterfront holds contest to name main street of new East Bayfront neighbourhood

The new Waterfront neighbourhood of Bayside in the East Bayfront is holding a contest to name its main street.

Until March 27, you can go to Waterfront’s Facebook page or tweet your suggestion with the hashtag #waterfrontstreet and a panel will cull a shortlist from the entries. Then, between April 22 and May 2, you’ll be able to vote on the finalists.

“The revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront isn’t about just one community or one pocket of the city," says Waterfront Toronto spokeswoman Samantha Gileno, "the waterfront really is an asset for everyone. So holding a public street naming contest gives us a chance, in a fun way, to have a conversation about street names and get people involved in this part of city planning.

“It’s fun to hear the kinds of names that appeal to people. Some have been thinking about the rich history of the waterfront others are playing with water themes."

Though it will be the area’s main street, Bayside is going to be a small neighbourhood, so the street in question – more a crescent than a street, really – is only 500 metres long, beginning and ending at Queens Quay East.

According to Gileno, early infrastructure work on the street is now underway, including some excavation of the former industrial site, which housed the Canpar warehouse.

The winning street name will be announced in May.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Samantha Gileno

Ryerson's new architecture gallery seeks to bridge academy and public

Ryerson’s got a new architectural gallery.

Designed by Gow Hastings Architects, the small (3,150 square foot) space occupies an old storage area just off the main entrance of Canadian master architect Ron Thom’s Department of Architectural Science at 325 Church Street.

“The brief was to provide a flexible gallery space to mount a wide range of changing exhibitions," partner Valerie Gow says. "It was to provide a new learning space for the architectural students and simultaneously connect the public and architectural community to the building."

Built for $465,000, work on the Paul H. Cocker Gallery was begun in the summer of 2012. It’s most striking features are its three oversized glass pivot doors, and the thin white floor tile that serves to distinguish the space from the rest of the building’s lobby, and also doubles as a potential display space.

Gow Hastings specializes in educational spaces, and had renovated studios and offices in the Thom building before this latest commission.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Valerie Gow

Client judo, or the art of influencing condo tower design

Do all those condo towers look a little bland to you, or is it just me?

I ask some version of this question every time I meet an architect. I can’t help myself. Our skyline is being comprehensively remodeled and I’m a little worried that were going from Toronto the Good to Toronto the Glass.

After a recent panel discussion at the Design Exchange, sponsored by an accounting firm that specializes in architects, which convened to discuss how design can be disported for social good, I asked panelist Michael McClelland of ERA Architects what he thought, as an architect, about all these ticky-tacky towers as the legacy his generation is leaving the city.

After making it clear that architects play at least as big a role as they ever have in the way a building comes out, he told me they weren’t the only ones responsible and that, as a result, "We may have a lot of ordinary buildings being built."

"In the 19-teens or 20s, think of New York when they were building the Chrysler Building, there were very spirited entrepreneurs [saying] ‘Let’s do the best thing ever.' We now deal with,…" he paused, thinking of how to put it politely. "It’s very rare to find those people. We’re often dealing with pension funds and boards who are looking for the safest expenditure and the biggest return."

But he says it’s the architect’s job to do a little of what he calls "client judo," taking the momentum of a developer’s (or pension fund’s) idea and flipping it into something that might make a good building.

The degree of judo required varies by client. "There are extremely knowledgeable clients out there, and very naïve ones," McClelland says.

The worst of the lot of them, in my very humble opinion, is the wholly inappropriate new Four Seasons, a pile of glass that both lacks distinction and makes a back alleyway out of Bay Street to boot. It was designed by Peter Clewes in a style that seems to be running wild across our cityscape.

But according to McClelland, I shouldn’t be too hard on the dwarf-starchitect. One of the reasons I think it looks so plain, he says, is that Clewes is one of the originators of a style that’s been copied to distraction.

It’s happened before.

Eden Smith, the architect behind Wychwood Park, built a few Arts and Crafts houses on Indian Road for some William Morris-loving clients. They were so successful, that developers started copying them, plopping them down all over High Park.

"Smith and his friends were horrified," says McClelland, one of whose specialties is architectural history. They wanted the houses in pastoral settings redolent of the English countryside, but now they were being wedged in everywhere in distinctly urban style.

"These Arts and Crafts houses, which we now totally love, were taking over and killing their bucolic environments,” McClelland says. “You can look at that in every wave of development of every boom period, where there might be some initially very interesting things and, if it’s successful, there’ll be a whole wash of it. Then critiques of it being ‘inappropriate’ and ‘running wild’."

So, Clewes does something new, other developers and boards like it, and as their architects to do that same. That’s where the judo is meant to come in but, as we are seeing, many of our architects seem to be of the white- and yellow-belt variety.

But the boom ain’t over yet – in fact, McClelland thinks we may now be in the same boom that began in the 80s, and then just experienced a lull before roaring back to life -- and he is quite chuffed about what David Pontarini is doing with more fluid buildings like 1 Bloor East and the Massey Tower.

So, before we get a bunch of mini-Pontarinis, it may be time to break out the black belts.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Michael McClelland

Got a development idea but no money? Hire an architect

Architects can do more than just design your building. If you get them to believe in your project, they can help you raise the money to get it built.

It turns out that those renderings that architects do, sometimes for free, sometimes on spec, can be powerful tools to get developers, backers and government agencies interested in a project. When Tony Azevedo wanted to build a seven-storey condo in his old neighbourhood on Dundas West, for instance, he got Richard Witt, then with RAW, to do up an attractive rendering package, and it was on the strength of that package that Azevedo was able to make enough in pre-sales to actually start digging.

They can be even more powerful when the project is not-for-profit.

"Eva’s Initiatives, which provides housing and training for underhoused and homeless youth, are on Ordinance Street," says Janna Levitt of LGA Architectural Partners, who spoke with Yonge Street after speaking on a recent panel about design and social change. "They’re getting kicked out because of condos. They got a new location [city councillor] Adam Vaughan helped them find, and we’ re working with them to develop packages to go out and get funding."

It’s a skill some firms, such as LGA, have developed over time as they realized the power of the rendering to make a project seem more real to potential clients.

"I would say that at this point we have the expertise," Levitt says. "It became one of the things that we realized we were doing quite often. In our case, it was because the people we were doing it for were really forward-thinking people who had ideas about the way a certain program should run and didn’t understand it would cost additional money to do that, or who were just going out on a limb."

Levitt sees it as a way for architects to be "agents of change."

"You can, through your work, effect change on a whole lot of levels with every building," Levitt says, "and that’s very exciting."

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Janna Levitt

Mizrahi build biggest new synagogue in decades

Construction is underway on the Spadina Road site just north of St Clair that will soon be the biggest newly built synagogue in Toronto for 45 years.

"It’s a very detailed building," says developer Sam Mizrahi. "The architectural style is a replica of the synagogue in Jaslo, Poland that was destroyed in the war by the Nazis."

The Orthodox synagogue and community centre, to be known as the Temmy Letner Forest Hill Jewish Centre, is being built with complex zinc roof structures, designed by architect Wayne Swadron, and will include banquet facilities, a learning centre, a Holocaust library, a shul, and a rooftop sukka.

The funders have been largely Ashkenazi families who were in some way affected by the Holocaust.

"It's actually been quite pleasingly well received," Mizrahi says. "We've done many custom homes in Forest Hill, and this has the same set of values and concerns in terms of neighbours and the community, including keeping the site clean, and building in a very tight space."

Mizrahi, who is also building 181 Davenport, expects the Letner centre to be finished by November.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Sam Mizrahi

Brika pop-up doubles in size at The Bay

Pop-up shops tend to pop-up and pop back down again just as quickly, but Brika popped, stayed, and expanded.

Founded by Jen Lee Koss and Kena Paranjape as an online seller of "craft, elevated" in December, 2012, Brika popped up into the offline world in October in a 300 square foot space the two negotiated in the basement of The Bay on Queen Street in exchange for a cut of the revenues.

Brika is part of a stream of pop-ups popping up around the city, especially around West Queen West and the East Danforth, taking advantage of neighbourhoods intransition, where old shops are closing, but new boutiques haven't yet found the confidence -- or the cash -- to move in permanently.

"We knew we wanted to pop-up somewhere," says Koss, an Oxford-educated former investment manager, "and we had discussions with various retailers." Ultimately, The Bay ended up being the best fit.

Though the online end features objects designed and made all over the world, the shop is all-Canadian, with about 80 per cent being from Ontario, and a good deal from Toronto itself, like a set of wooden cufflinks with stags or anchors burned into them by Vancouver’s Valerie Thai.

After a successful holiday season, they decided to stick around a little longer, and doubled their size.

Koss says it’s not permanent, though, explaining that despite good foot traffic, they don’t plan to stay past Mother’s Day, which can be a sort of second Christmas for the woman-oriented business. Many small, typically online retailers are opting for similar options, choosing pop-ups as an alternative to the conventional brick-and-mortar building. 

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jen Lee Koss

Aroma spreads across the GTA and beyond

It seemed an unlikely addition to the mix at the time, but Aroma is quickly finding its place in Toronto’s evolving coffee ecosystem.

It started out in 2007 with a single shop on the northwest corner of Bloor an Albany, an intersection already populated by both a Second Cup and a Starbucks, with a Tim Hortons a block away and one of the city’s most established independent cafes just two blocks east.

In the early months, you were as likely to hear Hebrew as English at the tables, but soon people started coming who didn’t know it from trips to Israel, where Aroma is the No. 1 chain, with about 150 locations, and the unlikely addition survived.

"When you do have other coffee shops in the area, it does mean the market exist," says operating partner Anat Davidzon, explaining the company’s lion’s-den strategy, "and the question becomes whether or not you can shift people’s purchasing behaviour."

With their breakfast and lunch menu, along with bread baked on site, and confections new to the Toronto scene like the dulce de leche cookies called alfajores, people's behaviour did shift sufficiently to prompt a second opening about two years later. And now, seven years in, a new one is popping up every couple of months, for a current total of 18 Aromas in Toronto, two in Vaughan, and plans for 10 more across the Golden Horseshoe – an area roughly the size of Israel – by the end of 2014. Their first Little Italy location just opened, and the next on in the pipeline is at the MaRS building at College and University.

Though you might have expected the chain to open in an area with strong connections to Israel – some place like Lawrence and Bathurst, for instance – Davidzon says the business plan was ambitious, and with a relatively small Israeli and Jewish population in the city, if the first shop couldn’t survive in a more typical part of town, it wouldn’t survive in the long run at all.

A franchise operation, each of the 20 locations has an owner-operator, working under the master franchiser, which bought the Canadian rights but is otherwise wholly separate from the Israeli company.

Canada has the second highest number of locations after Israel, and ahead of the US. Aroma also operates in Kazakhstan, Romania and Ukraine.

After MaRS, the company – with its head office in Forest Hill – has plans to open four more locations in Toronto this year, and another six across the GTA and as far as Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Daniel Davidzon, Anat Davidzon

Enerquality awards recognize green builders, renovators

It’s easy for city-dwellers to slip into the misconception that green building is an urban issue. But as the 14th annual Enerquality Awards gala in Niagara Falls has just reminded us, suburban doesn’t always mean what we think it means.

Take Sloot Construction, for instance. They’re a homebuilder in and around Guelph, and they built Ontario’s first house under the new Energy Star for New Homes Standard in April for which, among other things, they won the Building Innovation Award for "technical excellence while implementing high-performance building practices."

Or Steve Snider Construction, out of Port Perry, who started building R-2000 homes as early as 1986, and exclusively starting in the 1990s. He got the Green Renovation Project of the Year award.

"Sloot and Sniderman are standouts," says Corey McBurney, Enerquality's president. "They're the thin edge of the wedge." Because they are small operators in what McBurney calls small community housing markets (everything but the GTA), they're able to do things, like build homes to the very high R-2000 standard, that McBurney estimates are almost a decade ahead of what production builders like Mattamy Homes (which McBurney estimates builds 2,400 homes a year) can do in the GTA.

Suburbs and exurbs leading the charge? Who knew?

But Toronto wasn’t entirely left out. Empire Communities took home the big prize, Ontario Green Builder of the Year. Based in Vaughan, Empire is the developer behind Mark, Rain, Beyond the Sea, Modern, Fly, The Hub and Schoolhouse, all in the downtown core, along with projects in Markham, Mississauga, Brampton and beyond.

Enerquality, founded in 1998, is an association that runs programs described as being "designed to encourage and support developers, builders and renovators improve building performance and reduce the environmental impact of housing."

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Sarah Margolius

Row 1 left to right
Doug Tarry, Doug Tarry Homes, Andy Goyda, Owens Corning, John Sloot, Sloot Construction, Jim Dunstan, Union Gas, Larry Brydon, Ozz Electric, Rick Martins, Eastforest Homes
 
Row 2 left to right
Nikki Bettinelli, Empire Communities, Michelle Vestergaard, Enbridge Gas, Paul Golini, Empire Communities, Shannon Bertuzzi, Enbridge Gas, Darlene Fraser, Eastforest Homes, Carrie Alexander, Steven Doty, Empire Communities
 
Row 3 left to right
Corey McBurney, EnerQuality, Margaret Ward, Enbridge Gas, Dorothy Stewart, Enbridge Gas, Stephen Doty, Empire Communities

Architects, social innovators gather to discuss social-interest design

A discussion among three architects and a community organizer managed, if just for a morning, to shift the focus away from condos toward what architecture can do for the city and its people, and how.

Janna Levitt, Marianne McKenna, and Michael McLelland joined Rosalyn Morrison of the Toronto Community Foundation to discuss various ways architecture and architects can contribute to the city’s social health.

"We're a firm about ideas," said Marianne McKenna, the "M" in KPMB. "How do we restore our position in society as advocates?"

"Other people make things," said McLelland of ERA Architects, picking up the theme. "Architects, like artists, are generally about ideas. Part of that means solving complex problems. I don’t love anything better than a fantastic problem."

And though some of those problems are problems of design, many of them aren’t. Levitt, of LGA Architectural Partners, spoke of her firm's work helping non-profit clients raise funds to get their project done. McKenna spoke of working with Manitoba Hydro on their zero-footprint building in Winnipeg to ensure the 3,000 newly consolidated employees would both benefit and integrate into their new neighbourhood by leaving out any cafeteria space, ensuring a large new client base for cafes and restaurants in the area.

The talk was hosted by the Design Exchange and sponsored by Shimmerman Penn accountants.

Writer: Bert Archer

New density a potential boon to Billy Bishop

According to data collected for Yonge Street Media, the new density in the core could radically alter the way an expanded downtown airport could be used.

The numbers, compiled by the policy and analysis section of the city’s planning division, report that about 30,000 people live and work within a 10-minute walk of Billy Bishop airport, and 600,000 within a 10-minute bike ride. Though at the moment one of the chief criticisms of an expanded airport, and even of the airport in its current state, is traffic congestion. But as more people move into the buildings in the vicinity -- including an entirely new neighbourhood planned less than a kilometre away at Front and Bathurst -- the benefits of an airport in the core may become ever more apparent.

According to a November report by BA Group prepared for the city, currently 35 per cent of passengers do not use cars of any sort to get to the airport. The report projects that number increasing to either 45 per cent or 50 per cent if shuttle and/or transit service to the airport is improved.

"The percentage of people who use other means to this airport is much higher than somewhere like Pearson," says Porter spokesman Brad Cicero.

The report did not look into the possible repercussions of the city's active encouragement of walking or cycling.

According to Porter, there are currently 2.3 million passengers using the island airport, of which 17 per cent -- or 390,000 -- are connecting passengers who never leave the terminal. Porter estimates this number would rise to between 25 per cent and 27 per cent should the new routes proposed by the use of jets be added.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: BA Group, Brad Cicero
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