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Etobicoke retirement home proposal turns into a condo

A three-storey, low-cost rental building at Bloor and Kingsway that’s been slated to be demolished in favour of a retirement home since 2009 has been sold, and is now going to be a condo.

The site, a prime corner lot at 2800 Bloor Street West, currently houses a 10-unit rental building. The old proposal, approved by council four years ago, was for a seven-storey seniors residence with 86 rooms and three rental apartments.

The new building would take the address 4 The Kingsway.

Without getting any further approvals, the applicant -- North Drive Investments -- can build their own seven-storey condo, but are looking to add two more floors on top to make make 44 condo units, along with five townhouses.

The architect has been announced as Richard Wengle, known for his work on single family dwellings in Forest Hill, cottage country and other monied spots. Interiors will be by Brian Gluckstein, who had a similar clientele, in addition to a line at The Bay.

According to Susan O’Connor, Councillor Peter Milczyn’s executive assistant, Etobicoke Community Council planning staff will likely set a date in October or November to commence public consultations on the proposal.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Susan O’Connor

Billy Bishop public consultation happening on Thursday Sept 19

The public will get a chance to see what all the Billy Bishop airport hubbub is about on Thursday, Sept. 19. That's when a presentation will be given in the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place in salon 105.

Issues discussed will include noise, safety, economic impact, and public health, stemming from Porter Airlines proposal to extend the runways to allow for jets.

Billy Bishop airport currently only allows propeller planes.

There have already been two information workshops, at which technical consultants and city staff discussed concerns with members of the public.

Porter has proposed to extend the runway a total of 168 metres to allow them to use new Bomabardier CS100 jets, touted as the quietest in the world. Porter has also put a secondary proposal on the table to increase that extension request to 200 metres.

Anything to do with the island airport involves a greater than usual degree of complexity, given its governance by the so-called Tripartite Agreement between the city, the Toronto Port Authority, and the federal government, all of whom must agree on whatever changes are to be made.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. If you cannot attend, you can also have your say online.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Deborah Blackstone

Market Street still awaits its sidewalk resuscitation

When developer Paul Oberman died in a plane crash in 2011, Market Street, and the buildings that line its west side across from St. Lawrence Market, was much on his mind.
As early as 2010, Oberman told Yonge Street that restaurants would be going in on street level, and that the work, which was scheduled to begin the month after he died, would be finished by 2012.
The LCBO at Market and Front, which was also part of the project, has finally opened, but the delays have meant that Temperance Street has stolen Market’s thunder, becoming the first of at least three such street restorations that had been planned in the city’s core to be completed.
Oberman’s company, Woodcliffe, was a leader in what's known in the development industry as adaptive re-use, the thorough renovation and reconception of old structures and spaces. Before Market Street, Woodcliffe was responsible for the Toronto North Stations becoming the LCBO’s Summerhill flagship store. Woodcliffe also owned the Flatiron Building, which was sold after his death to Clayton Smith’s similarly focused Commercial Realty Group, which recently completed its work on Temperance Street, anchored by the Dineen Building.
The third such street rehabiulitation in the works is St. Nicholas, an alley parallel to Yonge running south fron St. Joseph that MOD Development’s Gary Switzer has promised to turn into a shop-lined street as part of his Five project.
The restaurants on Market Street – which Woodcliffe tried to get re-named after Oberman – didn’t open in time for the summer. And after three weeks of communications neither Woodcliffe nor their PR agency, Vicbar, was able to tell Yonge Street what the source of the delays – or the unattractive metal corrals that have appeared on the street, presumably to house small sidewalk seating areas – was.
Let’s hope it's nothing serious.
Writer: Bert Archer

Mt Pleasant underpass mural nears completion

If the name hadn’t already been taken, Toronto might have been known as the Grey Lady. Even the recent flourish of condo development has added little to the city's palette.
This is where Street Art comes in.
For the past two years, this tiny sub-section of the city's transportation division has been underwriting murals all around town. Its latest, a two-sided piece by Ian Leventhal in the Mt Pleasant underpass at Bloor, is due to be finished next week. Another of his works is visible to motor commuters just off Bathurst Street at the 401.
"People are finally starting to notice the art around the city," says the program's manager, Lilie Zendel. The 22-storey mural of a Phoenix on 200 Wellesley, the apartment building that suffered the hoarding-related fire last year, is probably helping out on that front. (There’s talk that one may end up being the world’s highest, though it has some competition from the 70m high piece by German artist Hendrik Beikirch in Busan, South Korea.)
"We're trying to encourage walking," Zendel says, "and one of the ways you do that is to improve public space." She says they took some inspiration from Philadelphia’s 30-year-old mural program that started out as a graffiti prevention initiative and grew into itself over the years.
In addition to subsidizing and orchestrating these murals–it pays no more than 70 per cent of the cost--Street Art has put up an artist directory to help business owners commission their own pieces if they like.
The latest program, to be announced shortly, is called Outside the Box, for which they’ve hired two artists to create wraps for traffic light boxes, from which the city spends an inordinate amount of money each year removing tags and other graffiti.
Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Lilie Zendel

Temperance Street gets less temperate, more fun

If  you’ve been to lower Yonge Street at any point this summer, you’ll have noticed that Temperance Street, located just north of Adelaide, has utterly changed.

It used to be a side street. At some point, there was a café there haunted mostly by bike couriers. It was the sort of street that even native downtowners might not be able to place if it came up in conversation (which, naturally, it never would).

But thanks to developer Clayton Smith, it’s now the place to be on lower Yonge.

With Dineen Café right on the corner, backed up by The Chase Fish & Oyster and, upstairs, the higher-end Chase (with its rooftop balcony), all with sidewalk patios, the street is precisely what Woodcliffe wants Market Street to be, and what MOD Developments wants for St. Nicholas Street, part of its Five St. Joseph development, to be: A lively, populated street that serves both the developer’s building and becomes a neighbourhood hub. The fact that Smith has succeeded ought to give hope to those other developers, and also raise the bar for them.

"It's tough to find those unique destinations in the core," Smith says. "King West has that kind of feel, and by the Mirvish buildings, but not in the core really. That was the vision."

One of the reasons it’s so populated is that the renovation, a pristine example of adaptive reuse, was done so thoroughly and so well.

"We had some tremendous trades on the site," Smith says, quick to point out where that particular portion of the credit is due. "The copper work was amazing."

Some of the other credit goes to architect George Robb and Empire Restoration.

But it's Smith's baby, and his wheelhouse. He's also the guy who recently bought the Flatiron Building from the city’s other prominent restorative developer, Woodcliffe.

It's not the most profitable way of going about developing a site. Smith admits it would have been cheaper to tear the 117-year-old building down and put up something more straightforward. He even found a 2009 demolition permit issued to a previous owner. (Phew.)

But he’s not interested in that kind of developing. He even refused Starbucks' enthusiastic offer to take the corner space from him on very favourable terms, and leased it to John Young to make the Dineen Café, named for the building, itself named for its original owner and occupier, W. and D. Dineen Co. hatters and furriers.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Clayton Smith

Food trucks make it into city parks

Hot dogs are great. Sausages and veggie dogs, too. But for a while now, Torontonians have come back from their trips abroad and wondered, more and more loudly, why Toronto’s street food is so limited.

The city finally started listening, and tried out A La Cart. It didn’t work. Now they’re back with a new food truck pilot program.

According to Richard Mucha, acting director of licensing services at the city, and the guy in charge of the folks who tell us what we can and can’t eat on the street, it’s all been in response to a change in provincial regulations two years ago that expanded what was considered safe.

"A report had gone to the city council last year with regards to recommendations and expanding menus," he says. "Safety is always a concern, and we work with our partners in Toronto Public Health, but at this point, what we’re focusing on is running the pilot with food trucks in order to assess the feasibility of expanded street food."

In addition to safety, there are other licensing and practical concerns, like how the food trucks will share space with traffic of various sorts, pedestrian and otherwise.

"To gauge how that is going to play out, we’re running the pilot program in a number of parks around the city," Mucha says, including Allan Gardens, Canoe Landing and Sherbourne Common.

"Based on the information we get, our division, MLS, will be reporting to the Licensing and Standards Committee next spring, or at least in advance of the spring season." 

At which point, we’ll find out if we’ll be able to buy our cupcakes and quinoa salads on the streets in the long term.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Richard Mucha
Photo: Adam Groffman

Weston-Mt Dennis gets a new community hub

Weston-Mt. Dennis has become known as a "priority neighbourhood" since Mayor Miller’s time in office. An industrial part of town that lost its industry, there’s not a lot of money, and according to the Toronto Community Foundation, not a lot of sense of belonging, of connectedness among its residents, and especially its kids.

"The recipe in Rosedale is to send your kids to summer camp," says Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of the TCF. In summer camp, and at the cottage, or even on the street picking up a frozen yogurt and heading over to the Bloor Cinema, for instance: That’s where you get your sense of belonging, your sense of community, in many parts of this mostly quite functional city. "In Mt. Dennis, that’s not an option."

So the TCF, along with helpers like ING, Access Community Capital, Humber College, Urban Arts and the City of Toronto, are putting the finishing touches on the Bartonville Building, a disused city signage storehouse that’s being transformed into a community hub, offering local residents a place to enjoy each others’ company in.

"I wouldn’t say they lack a sense of community," Bhardwaj says, "but they may not have as much a sense of belonging to their community. People here weren’t feeling like they could come out in their community and interact with each other. We think people getting out into their community strengthens their ties with their community."

The building on Bartonville is being outfitted with what Bhardwaj describes as "a really upbeat kitchen," along with a dance studio, a recording studio, and programs to offer courses in food handling certification, bike repair and bike safety and small business development.

The budget for the building project is $350,000 in cash and kind.

Between now and the grand opening in October, the city’s installing planters and other street furniture to connect the two neighbourhoods of Weston and Mt. Dennis, and to lend them a unified sense of place.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Rahul Bhardwaj

Nathan Phillips refurbishment enters the home stretch

On Monday, the final phase of the revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square will begin.

Construction hoarding will go up Monday morning, behind which for the next 18 months, the rest of the planned improvements for the city’s principle square will be completed. This includes finishing off the relocated Peace Garden, moving Sir Winston to the northwest part of the square, refurbishing the underground parking, and landscaping the southwest portion of the space.

According to the city, this final phase of the work is being completed in two stages to minimize its effect on traffic, food trucks, and the various events to be held in the square over the year.

Work started on overhauling the 45-year-old square in April, 2010, when the old skate pavilion was demolished to kick off the new design by Plant Architect and Shore Tilbe Irwin, which won a Canadian Architect magazine award of excellence in 2007, the year it was executed.

The original design of the square, including City Hall, was itself the result of a competition, held in 1957-58, and won by Finnish architect Viljo Revell.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Natasha Hinds Fitzsimmins

Expanded Burlington LCBO re-opens

As of yesterday, Burlington’s got a greatly expanded LCBO to serve its lakefront.

The Maple Mews Plaza location, closed for several months, re-opened yesterday with 30 per cent more space.

According to LCBO spokeswoman Sally Ritchie, the Board’s calculated that the store will serve a population of about 87,000 Burlingtonians, a population that’s expected to increase by about 8 per cent over the next decade.

"In the specific case of the Burlington store in the Maple Mews Plaza," says Ritchie on the subject of the expansion, "our planners were very satisfied with the current location, where the store has been since January 4, 1994. The plaza has other retailers which complement our store, such as Longo’s grocery store."

The store had been closed since Feb. 4.

The re-opened store has 7,400 square feet of selling space, with 1,940 regular varieties of drink, in addition to 215 Vintages and 345 VQA wines. There’s also a refrigerated beer room, an increasingly popular feature of new and renovated LCBO stores.

This being lakeshore Burlington, there will also be two full-time product consultants, who are there to advise customers on things like cellaring and bar-stocking.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Sally Ritchie

Canary District tops off buildings, gets two new streets

The 35 acres on the city’s waterfront is getting ever closer to becoming the Canary District.

Developer Dundee Kilmer just topped off what they’re calling blocks 3 and 15, and what we’ll eventually be calling the Fred Victor and Wigwamen rental housing buildings. The Fred Victor, which like Wigwamen will be aimed at providing housing to those for whom market rates are a stretch, should be finished by 2014, though it will be used for the Pan AM/Parapan Games in 2015 before opening up to tenants.

According to Michelle Cain, a project manager with Dundee Kilmer, the next thing to be completed will be the laying of TTC tracks on Cherry Street between Eastern Avenue and just south of Mill Street, connecting the neighbourhood to the Distillery District, an early step in what one hopes will be the eventual integration of both into the city as a whole.

After that, the reconstruction Cherry and Old Eastern Avenue is scheduled to be the first part of the new district to be entirely completed, sometime later this summer or early fall.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Michelle Cain

Front Street Intercontinental Hotel gets in touch with its feminine side

Next door to the convention centre, the Intercontinental Hotel is likely destined to remain primarily a business hotel, but before they launched their latest renovation, the management noticed something about the business people staying there.

They were increasingly women.

According to Alienor Guilhem and Tatiana Sheveleva of Chapi Chapo Design, this is translating into "a strong residential feel with a welcoming atmosphere" including lavender glass desktops that "allow the light to dance off in warm, dusty tones."

The room renovations, which began a month ago and are slated to be completed in time for the film festival, also include multipurpose, Quebec-designed chaises longues, backed in lavender velour, and seven-foot tall dressing mirrors.

The renovation also includes the Azure restaurant, which involved re-doing the floors, upholstery and some wall coverings in the private dining room, while maintaining the namesake blue accents.

One hundred and sixty rooms are being renovated in the first phase, which will continue over time to include the rest of the nearly 500 rooms.

The Chapi Chapo team, who met while working at Yabu Pushelberg and which includes Boris Mathias, are also currently working on the Park Hyatt’s north tower.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Alienor Guilhem

Yorkville condo reaches third floor

The Yorkville is the latest condo to pop its head above ground in its namesake neighbourhood, reaching its third floor this week.

"It's a 31-storey building so we’re going to continue building through the winter," says Lifetime Developments VP Michael Pearl. "We’ll start closing the building in the next month or so."

Designed by RWA Wallman, the building is distinguished from all the other glass towers on pedestals by a couple of boxy bulges in the building's top third.

Demolition of the old Moriyama Teshima architecture office was completed at the beginning of 2012, and though that small garden enclave is itself a rehabilitated gas station, the digging was deep enough, according to Pearl four or five levels’ worth, that no soil reclamation was needed. "It was like beach sand down at the bottom," he says.

The interiors of the 233-unit building were designed by Tomas Pearce Interior Design.

Pearl figures the first of the sold-out suites will be ready for their owners or tenants by the middle or end of 2015.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source; Michael Pearl

18 months of work begins on the Gardiner

A year and a half of work on the Gardiner Expressway began Monday.

Two eastbound lanes were shut down between Jarvis and the Don Roadway. They’ll remain closed until December.

There will be various road and ramp closures for the duration of the project, which the city expects to have finished by December, 2014.

Work began with the installation of a traffic light, and will continue with the relocation of light poles, and the repair of various aspects of the road, including drainage.

The budget for all the work is $6.99 million.

All this work is being done while the city decides exactly what to do with the road, which many believe is a blight and one of the major factors in hobbling the process of connecting the city to the lake.

But while the lengthy environmental assessment (EA) is done to determine the Gardiner’s fate, the city couldn’t hold off on repairs any longer.

"The repairs of the deck are to keep the Gardiner safe and serviceable until the EA is complete," says Jim Schaffner, the city’s acting manager of structures. "The repairs should cover a seven-year span (2013-2020), during which time the EA should be complete."
Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jim Schaffner

How did Waterfront's new flood protection perform in the storm?

The people at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority were leaving nothing to chance during the recent deluge. On July 9, in addition to everything else, they were paying special attention to a newly built mound that's part of the River City 2 condo development.

"We were monitoring it 24/7," says the TRCA's Sameer Dhalla of what's technically known as a berm, or a flood protection landform, put in place by the TRCA and Urban Capital, the developer behind the River City condo project.

It was built to protect the eastern downtown core, from the Don to Bay Street, from the sort of flooding that's known in meteorological circles as a 100-year storm.

And during the lashing the city got on July 9, the TRCA were at no point certain this wasn't one of them.

There were indications that it might not be. The storm limited itself to the downtown core, for instance, excluding much of the Don River watershed, which extends north to Richmond Hill, meaning there would probably be little of what's known as river flooding--the exult of too much rain dumped into the entirety of a river system--as opposed to urban flooding, which is what happens when a city's sewerage and guttering infrastructure can't handle the amount of rain that's falling, and backs up into the streets.

In the end, this ended up being one of the saving graces of what was otherwise quite a catastrophic storm. The very fact that the city's infrastructure couldn't handle the rain meant that not too much of it made it into the rivers, keeping the truly monumental sort of flooding that happened along the Humber during 1954's Hurricane Hazel at bay.

When the storm was over, the berm was barely touched, with no flooding at all in the flood protection landforms vicinity, south of King Street between River Street and the river.

Which, on one hand, is good news, and on the other, means we ain't seen nothing yet.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Sameer Dhalla

Work begins Monday on new Finch-area multi-use trail

Work on the latest of a planned series of new nature trails in the city is set to begin Monday in the Bayview and Finch area.

Known by the city as the Finch Corridor Trail Project, the multi-use trail, which will be suitable for pedestrians, bicycles, and various mobility devices, is being built on privately owned Ontario Hydro land, part of a Hydro corridor. It will run roughly from Kenneth Avenue in the west to the Don River at Pineway Avenue, just north of and roughly parallel to Finch Avenue. It will be about 3 km long and about 3.5 metres wide.

Construction will run until the end of November this year, and recommence in the spring, with a projected completion date of July 31, 2014. There will be new road crossings constructed at Willowdale Avenue, Maxome Avenue, Ruddington Drive, and Luton Gate.

The city intends to limit construction hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays, as stipulated by city bylaws.

Ultimately, the city hopes to have a network of up to 30 km of such trails in the Finch area.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Richard Chang Kit
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