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Laptoppers slowly realize there's a huge new wifi cafe in town

There's a big, new WiFi-friendly cafe in town.

In a city with a less ambivalent relationship with its cafe patrons this would not be news.

In cafe cities, from Paris to Astana, from Sofia to Calcutta, there is an understanding that a significant part of a cafe's natural clientele are lingerers, people who read, talk, meet people, and even use a laptop in a cafe, outsourcing their own living room to the city at large, choosing to live in public, in the city, rather than holed up in private property.

Toronto didn't have cafes by any regular definition of the term until recently. It had coffee shops and doughnut shops. Perhaps as a result, the notion of lingering in public became associated with indigence, which has given cafe owners the idea that it's OK to hustle people along.

Many cafes have done this in various ways over the years, by posting notices with time limits, but offering free WiFi, but only for 30 minutes and, most recently, by covering over electrical outlets to ward off people with electrical devices, telling them they should be in an office, or at home, or anywhere other than in the cafe.

It's an odd way to treat your natural clientele.

But Stone Yu, son of the family that owns two cafe bakeries in Markham and Richmond Hill, figured it might be a good idea to be inviting, rather than censorious. Hence, the new 6,400 square foot Lucullus on Elm Street.

Downstairs, there are Chinese buns and other baked and prepared foods starting at about $1.60. There are a couple of tables up front, and an outlet or two. But it's upstairs that should gladden the hearts of residents-in-public space city-wide.

"The second floor is designed as a space to relax," Yu says. "We have free WiFi and outlets for laptops."

It sounds simple. But a cafe with ample space that does not consider people who would like to spend time there as table hogs is a rarity, making Lucullus on Elm the sort of place Future Bakery was for the pre-laptop era, before it decided not to extend to its 21st-century customers the same courtesy it once did for its analog chess-playing patrons, blocking off their one electric outlet.

Chinese bakeries have not, traditionally, been trendsetters in Toronto, but with pastry geting ever more artisinal and gluten-free, and electrical outlets being boarded up – or not installed – across the city, perhaps they should be.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Stone Yu

Notorious Allan Gardens getting a new playground

The Allan Gardens neighbourhood is known for many things, including drugs and an annual leatherman festival, but three years ago, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam decided to add a little something for another neighbourhood demographic.

"The Allan Gardens playground was not scheduled for capital improvements until 2018, and I believed that was too late," she says.

"Considering the dogs in the park had two elaborate off-leash play areas and children next to nothing, only a meagre swing set and a broken see-saw in a dull sand pit, it didn't seem fair to delay the playground investment any longer. Given the number of children and young families moving into the area, I accelerated the Allan Gardens playground renewal process by seven years. Given what I know now about the technical requirements of space and relocation, if we stayed with the original schedule, I imagine that children in the neighbourhood would not have a new playground until 2021."

The contract went to tender an unusual three times, after the budget for the update was tripled to allow for better fences, among other things. The budget stands at $1,160,400.

Wong-Tam says she has been advocating for family-sized development in the area since taking office, and this is a reaction to and preparation for that.

"This means that any development proposed in Ward 27 will have 10 per cent of their unit mix be family-sized, therefore, either three-bedroom units or two-bedrooms and larger at a minimum of 900 square feet," she says. "Given the proposed unit sizes by developers today, 900 square feet by downtown standards is large."

The playground, which will be about 2.5 times the size of the original, should be completed by September.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Kristyn Wong-Tam

Cookbook Store's gone, so 1 Yorkville better be good

The Cookbook Store is gone. After 30 years, and some last-minute noises about possibly moving, Alison Fryer and Co. closed up shop for good this month. In its place, a proposed 58-storey condo. They've not put much effort into the name – One Yorkville – but one hopes the Bazis tower, designed by Roy Vacarelli, makes good the loss.

On the surface, it appears to fit firmly into the Toronto Condo 2.0 school – still a glass tower, but with decorations, in this case, something a publicist calls "3D wallpaper."

The proposed tower would consist of 622 units in the place of the Victorian/Edwardian row houses currently ranging from 838 to 848 Yonge. Unlike 5 St. Joseph a few blocks south, Bazis is not attempting to work its new tower into the existing fabric, preferring to take an out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new approach that has, over the decades, been a standard Toronto approach.

True, the Vicwardians are in no way remarkable, never mind unique, but as more thoughtful developers have shown, there's a value to maintaining familiar streetscapes, to growing rather than razing.

When asked what it was hoping to do differently in this especially condo-crowded section of town, Bazis replied, through its publicist, that they were, "Catering to anyone in the area from students to empty nesters -- those that appreciate the accessibility of the Yorkville area, transit and downtown living." As mission statements go, this is one of the most discouraging heard in years.

The Cookbook Store was a small but valuable part of the city. This large but generically conceived replacement is going to have to do some work to convince anyone it's worth what it's proposing to wipe away.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Vicki Griffiths

There may finally be a future for that sad little lot on Avenue at Webster

Anyone who's walked up or down Avenue north of Bloor over the last decade or so will have noticed a sad little vacant lot behind frost fencing on the corner of Webster, just north of the Hazelton retirement home.

It looks like it's finally got a future.

Urbancorp has just applied to build a very high-end, 14-storey condo tower there, with just 14, two-bedroom units (meaning everyone gets their own floor).

The design is by TACT, who are reluctant to comment (often not a great sign, to be frank), on what looks from the preliminary sketches like a sort of skeletonized version of the standard glass tower.

According to a report commissioned by the city from Ted Davidson Consultants, the proposal meets all the neighbourhood's development standards meaning that, barring a local uprising at the upcoming public meetings, this one's a go.

It's not the best use of the space, from an urban point of view, adding just 28 or so people to the neighbourhood. But if any part of town is going to support a floor-by-floor owned condo with gallery space for its retail level, it's this spot, just a hundred or so metres up from the Ferrari dealership.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Oren Tamir

Temporary bridges open at Dufferin

Last week, drivers got their Dufferin back.

On April 11, the temporary bridges replacing the old and hastily condemned Dufferin Bridge opened to traffic, allowing vehicles to get to and from Lake Shore Blvd. West and Exhibition Place via Dufferin once again.

These modular bridges, erected at a cost of about $3 million, will stand in for the permanent structures over the GO/Metrolinx tracks and the Gardiner, which are not expected to be completed until 2019.

"The permanent work at this site is a complex project," says Frank Clarizio, director fo capital works delivery for the city. "In addition, the elevation of Dufferin Street will be raised to allow for the extra vertical clearance required for the future electrification of the rail corridor. The schedule for the work will also depend on other major Transportation projects planned for the area."

The design of the new bridge is being worked out now, and its construction schedule set. The cost of the permanent work will be about $20 million.

The old bridge was closed to traffic on June 12, 2013, and to pedestrians on Oct. 9. The 101-year-old structure was demolished on Dec. 2.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Frank Calrizio

New Ryerson building shaping up to be a lively addition to Yonge

Ryerson's oddly named but Snohetta-designed Student Learning Centre is fast taking shape, with work just completed on the seventh of nine floors. Though calling a campus building a student learning centre is like calling a wing of a hospital the patient care centre, the SLC is obviously going to be among Yonge Street's most aesthetically distinctive façades.

Snohetta, the Norwegian firm in charge of re-imagining Times Square and rebuilding the Alexandria Library, has created a building with a sneering, upturned lip for a corner entrance, and a snowy glass skin that sets it apart from its glass-centred condo neighbours.

When finished in January, the building at 341 Yonge – on the site of the old Sam the Record Man -- will be 155,000 square feet.

"Student facing services such as academic supports - access, math, writing, test centres and English Language and Learning Success Services - will be moving into the SLC from their current locations around the university," says Ryerson public affairs rep Michael Forbes. "The DMZ and library administration will also have a presence in the new building."

When asked about the building's generic name, Forbes said, “Currently, Ryerson students do not have a dedicated space on campus. We've designed this building to create a space specifically for students to study, collaborate and create."

Writer: Bert Archer

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
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