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Five St Joseph draws nearer to reforming Yonge

The 48-storey tower at the centre of what will be a model development in a city overrun by build-and-bolt condos has reached its halfway point.

"I'm not sure exactly where it is today, but we're in the 20s," says Gary Switzer, founder of MOD Developments. "The steel framing is off the façade of the old warehouse, and as soon as the weather gets better, the front will start getting the brickwork restored and the windows replaced."

Though 40+-storey towers are nothing new in this city, whose skyline has been reshaped over the past decade, Switzer's sense of responsibility to the property around it is.

As we've remarked before in these pages, Switzer isn’t just building a tower, he's reconstructing a neighbourhood, refurbishing five storefronts on Yonge Street, and attempting to re-establish St. Nicolas lane, which runs south of St. Joseph between the tower and Yonge, into a commercially viable and locally attractive strip.

Yonge Street has for decades, possibly forever, been a street of great potential, but has had some trouble realizing it. The city tried to spruce things up a bit of a decde or so ago with its façade improvement funding scheme, but only a couple of businesses took advantage. But now that there’s someone with condo money looking to contribute a bit of spit and elbow grease to the noble but tired and put-upon three- and four-storey early-century buildings that form Yonge’s frontage, there’s a possibility of some positive contagion.

"As soon as that shrouding comes off, we'll be demonstrating how amazing some of those buildings can look with a little TLC," Switzer says, saying the hoarding will probably come down in the next couple of months.

As for the commercial tenants, on Yonge, St Joseph and St Nicholas, though the only tenant announced so far is the Royal Bank, it’s Switzer’s aim, and that of his broker, Jane Baldwin, to stay away from the usual anchors.

"The rents are relatively high on Yonge," Switzer says, "but they’re lower on St. Joseph, and definitely lower on St. Nicholas, so you don’t have to go to somebody like a chain. You can get an entrepreneur when the rents aren’t so high."

Switzer expects the tower and the Yonge Street buildings to be finished sometime in 2015.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Gary Switzer
Photos: Constuction image courtesy of Atlantis at Urban Toronto.

Toronto takes another shot at being an Intelligent Community

Last year did not do much for Toronto’s image as an intelligent city. But Waterfront Toronto is looking to turn that all around in 2014.

For the second time in as many years, Waterfront is spearheading Toronto’s application to the Intelligent Community Foundation in the hopes of being named the world’s most intelligent city. Out of more than 400 applications, we’ve already made it to the top 21, and at the end of this month, we’ll find out if we made the final seven, as we did in 2005 and again last year.

Cities are judged by the foundation on criteria such as digital inclusion strategies and the status of their knowledge-based workforce. The 2011 winner, Eindhoven, Netherlands, is known for its Brainport, a public-private project that’s controibuted 55,000 jobs over the past decade. Last year’s winner, Taichung City, Taiwan, is known for its environmental friendliness.

According to Kristina Verner, Waterfront Toronto’s director of intelligent communities, Toronto is already becoming known in global circles for building the only community in which the principles of intelligent communities are, in the words of people who speak of such things, baked in.

"We're serving as a catalyst for the city of Toronto," Verner says of the work going on at the Waterfront. "We're a living lab, not just for the city, but for other cities in North America."

According to Verner, winning the competition would drastically increase the city's so-called brand recognition in the community of site selectors – corporate types who decide where in the world facilities will be built – as well as governments looking to collaborate on large projects, as Eindhoven did with Waterloo, which won the title in 2007.

If Toronto makes it to the final seven, it moves on to the final phase, the results of which are to be announced in New York in June.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Kristina Verner

Photos courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

Three Toronto proposals make shortlist for Ottawa Holocaust memorial

Three of six finalists in the competition to design Canada's Holocaust monument in Ottawa are from Toronto.
 
The shortlist was announced last week, and among entries from Vancouver, Montreal and Massachusetts are proposals from Quadrangle Architects, as well as teams led by museum planner Gail Lord and art historian and curator Irene Szylinger. There were 74 submissions in total.
 
The monument, in whatever form it takes, will be going up at the corner of Booth and Wellington streets, near the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
 
The Toronto finalists were forbidden from talking to the media about their designs, but the ministries of Canadian Heritage and Foreign Affairs did release the names of all the members of each team. Szylinger’s team includes artists and architect Ron Arad, and Lord’s includes architect Daniel Libeskind and photographer Edward Burtynsky.
 
The shortlist was decided by a jury of art and design professionals, someone from the National Holocaust Monument Development Council, and a Holocaust survivor.

The winning design for the $8-million monument will be announced next winter. Len Westerberg, a spokesman for Canadian Heritage, says there will be a public exhibition of the finalists before the winner is announced.
 
Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Len Westerberg

City launches Heritage Conservation District blog

The city put up a blog last week that will let us keep track of how its so-called Heritage Conservation Districts (HCDs) are coming along.
 
Maintained by the city’s Heritage Preservation Services (HPS), part of the Planning Division, the blog provides background information as well as updates on the five parts of the city currently under consideration for the designation, covering about 2,000 properties.
 
The districts are King and Spadina, “historic” Yonge Street, the Garden District (a fancy, newfangled name for the area between Allen Gardens and Moss Park), St. Lawrence and Queen Street East.
 
"The purpose of the HCD study is to determine if the area warrants designation as a HCD and to develop a full understanding of what makes it significant and a valued part of the city," says Scott Barrett, senior co-ordinator with the HPS, in the blog’s welcome post.

"The plan phase develops and implements policies and guidelines for conserving the valued character and sense of place that exists within the district, and to welcome the type of new development that fits in and benefits a HCD. A plan is adopted by bylaw when a district is designated."
 
The blog will also function as a public feedback tool.
 
Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Scott Barrett

U of T unveils plans for newfangled engineering building

The proposed Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship at U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering was unveiled Oct. 29. According to one of its biggest proponents, it represents a great leap forward in the often retrogressive world of engineering education.

Designed by Montgomery Sisam Architects in Toronto and the UK’s Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, the new building -- estimated to cost considerably more than the $50 million already raised for it – is meant to encourage students to learn from each other as much as from the lecturers.

The 500-student auditorium will be the centrepiece as well as a model of how the school intends to conduct its teaching in this realm. Professor Emeritus Ron Venter, former chair of mechanical engineering and a consultant on the current project, explains.

"Normally the seats are next to each other, and the lecturer stands in front," he says. "We are trying to build the lecture theatre so it will still be tiered, but instead of the seats being one next to another in rows, the rows aren't there. What you've got are tables, a work surface with six students or four students being able to sit around, to discuss things in groups. You can lecture, but the group has a dynamic going on on its own. Then that group can interact with the lecturer. Everything is electronically connected, so if you've got a laptop on your table looking something up and find something that's pretty good that supports what the concept is of the lecture going on, you can, with the lecturer's approval, be beamed onto the Jumbotron at the front."

Another novel concept is the "alumni attractor" rooms, conceived as a place engineering alumni can hang out with current students, do some of their own work, and casually mentor the next generation.

If Venter’s optimistic timetable were followed, ground on the new building, to be put up next to Simcoe Hall on land that's currently a parking lot, would be broken next fall, with completion set for December, 2016.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Ron Venter

Long Branch gets new, low-priced condos

In a further sign that Long Branch may finally be coming into its residential own, Minto has submitted an application to turn a former industrial site into a low-priced condo.

Minto Long Branch is proposed for the 11.81-acre site of the former Wilson Motor Bodies, and which was in industrial use until 2009. The 448-unit project, in one-, two- and three-bedroom townhouses, will start at 515 square feet and sell for about $340 per square foot, putting the low end in the low $200,000s.

The design is by Guthrie Muscovitch Architects.

"The planning report recommending rezoning approval will be heard at the community council in November, 2013 and then recommended for approval at the December city council," says Minto’s development manager Lee Koutsaris. "The site plan application will be submitted to the city before the end of the year."

If all goes well, construction will start next spring, with the first occupancies set for July, 2015.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Lee Koutsaris

Union31 wins three interior design awards

Toronto design firm Union31 was recognized three times at a recent industry gala for its interior designs of a high-end condo and two condo sales centres.

The high-end condo – one of the discreet units at 155 Cumberland – is obvious prize bait, but according to Union31 principal Kelly Cray, sales or presentation centres can be designer catnip.

"There's a certain gratification," he says, speaking about the two award-winning projects he worked on for Tridel towers. "They happen so quickly…. Getting to see something go from start to finish in eight to 10 weeks is pretty gratifying."

Though it's design by committee – the designers have to come up with their approach in consultation with the developer and their marketers – there’s a certain freedom that comes with the tight deadlines, allowing the designer to sometimes overlook minor details in pursuit of the greater aesthetic.

Both presentation centres use materials from the exterior of the buildings in question – 101 Erskine, 300 Front and 10 York – in the design of the interiors, both to give a taste of the as-yet unbuilt buildings to potential buyers, as well as bring together inside and out in the final product, which Union31 will also be designing.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Kelly Cray

2013 design awards prefer context to exuberance

The Toronto Urban Design Awards that were handed out Sept. 11 had, for the most part, one thing in common: You wouldn’t notice a single one of the winners if it were built in Shanghai or Doha.

"The buildings looked like good urban buildings this year that won awards," says James N. Parakh, the city’s acting director of urban design. "They weren’t buildings that won for architectural exuberance."

Parakh, a former architect who did work in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi with WZMH Architects, says Toronto excels where those more glamorous cities fail.

"The mayors of those cities are starting to realize that if you’re talking about the aesthetics of a skyline, one landmark building is great, two, if strategically placed, can also be great. But if every building is a landmark, it just looks unsophisticated, cluttered."

Parakh's personal favourite among this year's winners is the not unexuberant Shangri-La Hotel. He likes it for the way it sits on its site, the way it incorporates its public art, and the way you can experience the city's urbanity from inside. (On the downside, the building was picked out specifically in a 2012 New York Times piece for its role in the city's bird deaths.)

The Brick Works is another winner he points out., "It's very much a people place," he says, "and contributes to its context. It’s more than just a collection of buildings. It's something that works in conjunction with its events program and has created a new focal point for the community."

This year's jury members were KPMB founder Marianne McKenna, Sturgess Architecture principal Jeremy Sturgess, University of Guelph landscape architecture professor Cecelia Paine, Urban Strategies Partner Eric Turcotte, and Spacing publisher and creative director Matthew Blackett.

Other winners include the Mt Dennis Library, the 11 Division police headquarters, Cube condos and, with an award of merit, the Linea Bayview Townhomes by Symmetry Developments.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: James Parakh

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

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

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


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

Tridel announces huge new waterfront development

The Waterfront development continues with another huge undertaking, this time by Hines and Tridel, announced last week.

Bayside will ultimately be a 13-acre, $1.1-billion mixed-use project, including two office buildings and 125,000 square feet of retail.

But first, there's a condo.

Aqualina will be a 363-suite tower, designed by New York’s Arquitectonica, winner of an open architectural competition. "It takes more time and more administration," says Tridel's VP of marketing and sales, Jim Ritchie, of the unusual step of opening up a condo design to competition. "It's obviously quicker to go to the guys you know best, but I think the creative juices are enhanced when you go to a competition."

Tridel is devloping the residential aspects of the project.

Waterfront’s development standard is LEED neighbourhood Gold, which requires earning between 60 and 79 points on the UCGS LEED scale, but Ritchie says they're going for LEED neighbourhood Platinum for Aqualina, which requires a minimum of 80 points.

Sales were announced last week, and Ritchie figures construction will start in 12-15 months if sales go well, with first occupancy available towards the end of 2016.

Bayside is the second very large Waterfront neghburhood developmet, after the Canary District, being developed in the West Don Lands by Dundee Kilmer, which includes the athletes village for the Pan Am/Parapan Games on its 35-acre site.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jim Ritchie
259 design Articles | Page: | Show All
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