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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.
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