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The New York Times on house hunting in Toronto

The New York Times writes on Toronto's "robust" real-estate market. The Toronto housing market--fuelled equally by long-standing Canadians and new immigrants--has, unlike many other major cities, managed to survive and grow despite the global economic downturn.
"Toronto's housing market is robust. 'People are investing here,' says Paul Dineen, a lawyer with the Toronto law firm Chapnick & Assoc. 'They see it's a good parking place.' The population is expected to increase by 1 million over the next 30 years, providing an ever-larger pool of prospective buyers. Mr. Dineen said that because the housing market hadn't been overpriced before the global downturn, Canada weathered the crisis when other countries had more difficulty. 'All it was here was a speed bump,' Mr. Robert said. 'The market took a deep breath for maybe four months, but then recorrected itself. We're just steaming ahead, moving forward.'"
"Buyers here include new immigrants, especially those from China, Hong Kong, India and Iran, as well as Canadians whose lineage goes back many generations. The city is attractive to many foreigners because it is considered safe, family friendly and multicultural."

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original source New York Times

The Huffington Post on TIFF & Toronto

The Huffington Post writes on why TIFF is "the best film festival in the world" and why "lively" Toronto is the perfect host city. Toronto is lauded for, among other things, its cultural diversity, fine dining and exciting tourist attractions.  
"Anyone connected to the film industry will tell you that the Toronto International Film Festival is the best film festival in the world. What they fail to mention is that it's also the perfect attraction for a lively vacation."
"TIFF leads the pack for three key reasons. First, selection: Their programmers present the world's best films. Second, timing: Distribution companies release Oscar-caliber films in the fall for awards consideration. Third, location: The 36-year-old, public-friendly festival infuses the entire multicultural city with verve for 10 exciting days every September. If you love urban meccas, lively tourist sites, fine dining and top-notch movies, too, TIFF gives you a good reason to visit Toronto."
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original source Huffington Post

Evolution of the Entertainment District

The Toronto Star's Christopher Hume writes on the legacy of the Bell Lightbox, the 2-year old TIFF headquarters that's transforming Toronto's downtown.

"There’s no need to shed any tears for Yorkville just yet. Though it lost much of the film festival when TIFF moved downtown last year, it can still count on the enduring power of vanity to keep its wheels turning. And if the ’70s ever become fashionable again, the old Village will be the place to be."

"Meanwhile, down at King and John, the Bell Lightbox, TIFF’s elegant new funhouse, continues to change the face of the downtown neighbourhood. It’s not that Yorkville — or at least, the larger Yorkville area, including the Royal Ontario and Gardiner museums and the Royal Conservatory — is any less a cultural hub, but some of that energy has shifted south."

"The city also provides a study in the domino effect, how one change leads inexorably to another. TIFF is a catalyst as well as a result. And as the area draws ever closer to critical mass, it becomes a self-sustaining mix of culture, entertainment, commercial, corporate and domestic forces."

"That’s why the neighbourhood is no longer simply an Entertainment District, a Financial District or any other such designated enclave. It now incorporates elements of both. In that sense, it belongs to everyone."

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original source Toronto Star

The New York Times reviews the Thompson Toronto

The Thompson Toronto, Toronto's newest luxury hotel, has received a rave review in the New York Times Travel Section. The hotel, described "as sleek [and] modern with a cosmopolitan appeal", is applauded for its "happening" location (on Wellington just south of King), its many amenities (including a spectacular wraparound rooftop patio), and its formal and efficient service.

"The aesthetic at the 102-room Thompson Toronto, opened in June 2010, is retro-modern, and the rooftop pool is a party spot in its own right, complete with bouncers and guest lists. The hotel has a branch of Scarpetta, the New York chef Scott Conant's modern Italian restaurant; a lobby bar that serves cocktails with ingredients like elderflower and Campari; and a 40-seat screening room (sure to get some use during the Toronto International Film Festival). Construction has begun on an adjacent Thompson residence tower. "

"The Thompson is a sleek, modern hotel with a cosmopolitan appeal, particularly for those whose trip includes a bit of see-and-be-seen. With rooms starting at 250 Canadian dollars, about the same in U.S. dollars, it's an easy way to buy into the jet set."

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original source New York Times

Why Toronto has emerged as a global centre of mascot costume-making

Toronto is home to over half-a-dozen successful mascot companies, the largest concentration of mascot companies in the world. A Macleans feature looks at how Toronto became the global leader in this niche, but highly profitable, industry.

"Toronto is the mascot mecca of the world," says Christina Simmons, president of Loonie Times Inc., one of the half-dozen mascot companies in the city."

"Why Toronto? "I think we just put more TLC into them," says Simmons. Unlike mass-produced mascots made overseas, Toronto's mascots are conceived by bona-fide artisans. Take Sugar's Costumes Studio, founded in 1980 by Peter deVinta, an Italian immigrant who comes from a long line of tailors. (His father, Joseph, now 91, was a master tailor in Italy who worked for top military generals.) A medium-sized firm, Sugar's makes upwards of 400 mascots a year. Some are famous, like the Blue Jays' Ace, and others obscure, like the Calvary Chapel's California Nuts for Jesus: PJ, Al, Wally and Hazel. DeVita just shipped Nahkool, a date palm tree and mascot of a town in Bahrain."

"The companies hire from nearby schools, like OCAD University and Seneca College, who pump out sculptors, designers and sewers. "When you're making a custom character like the Honey Nut Bee, you need a fashion design graduate so they can do the pattern drafting and do the math to look like the design," says Mike Chudleigh, president of 1-800-Mascots, another local firm."

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original source Macleans

Toronto -- distilled to its essence

The Miami Herald encourages its readers to visit Toronto's Distillery District. The former industrial site turned car-free arts center is lauded for its historic architecture, appetizing restaurants, and its concentration of stunning galleries and sculptures.

"This is a safe, clean, comfortable city. Its eclectic streets and scenic avenues appeal to your inner walker, and few parts are better to explore on foot than the automobile-free, pedestrian-friendly Distillery District.Just off Lake Ontario, with the CN tower and a collage of skyscrapers hovering above, this former industrial area melds the corporate and cultural in a historic setting. Walking through the Mill Street entrance, you'll immediately get the picture, as did virtually everyone I encountered, by either posing for a camera, or employing one, sensing the significance of it all."

"By 2001, the distillery had become mainly rubble when Matthew Rosenblatt and Cityscape, collaborating with Dundee Real Estate Development, began to re-create the area into something that people, a local or a tourist, would return to, Rosenblatt says."

"Viewing business as art, and intent on establishing a neighborhood where you "get a sense of the city's culture," Rosenblatt and his cohorts have taken 44 buildings, the largest collection of Victorian industrial architecture in North America, and incorporated business, retail and artist spaces into a setting that exudes small-town charm. Walking these streets is akin to visiting an amusement park, and not having to pay for the rides, as the visual feast is entertainment enough."

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original source Miami Herald

TOJam brings out local gaming luminaries

The Grid reports on Toronto's annual ToJam competition, a contest that has participants design videogames from scratch in only one weekend. The game-design marathon, now in its sixth year, attracts over 200 participants and brings together the best of Toronto's burgeoning software design scene.

"The premise of TOJam is that a bunch of people—over 200 this time, but fewer in previous iterations—bring their computers to a George Brown College building near King and Sherbourne on a Friday. The goal, by Sunday night, is for everyone to have created a complete video game from scratch—and that means art, music, code, and all."

"Anyone who's ever taken a course in computer science knows that a single weekend isn't enough time to make something as complex as a game. Even attempting to adhere to that sort of timetable would be a little insane. And yet, TOJam attendees keep finding ways; this was the annual event's sixth year."

"People continue to come out partly because the pressure-cooker environment sometimes yields brilliance, and also because of the networking opportunities. This year's guest list included a Superbrother; other local gaming luminaries have been known to participate.
Keeping things simple makes achieving that ridiculous deadline easier. But Bethke and his five teammates (his Golden Gear Games business partner Andrew Traviss, plus four graphic artists) weren't even doing that. Their game was going to be a feature-rich platformer with an elaborate back-story."

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original source The Grid

New CN Tower attraction offers a walk on the outside

The CN Tower has announced the launch of EdgeWalk, its newest attraction that lets visitors walk hands-free along the outside of the tower's main pod - 116-storeys-up. Opening August 1, EdgeWalk participants will get a magnificent panoramic view of the city while attached to an overhead harness and guided, by trained guides, around the 150 meter platform.

"Trained guides will encourage visitors to push their personal limits, allowing those who dare to lean back over Toronto, with nothing but air beneath them," said a news release."

"During our 35th anniversary year we are excited to introduce visitors to the most exciting attraction in our history," said Jack Robinson, chief operating officer of Canada Lands Company, which owns the tower."

"Still under construction, the steel grated platform will be supported by 36 arms linked to separate rails for the tour guide and group of walkers. The support arms can be seen as a series of rods protruding from the roof of the 360 Restaurant.The walk will cost $175, which includes a video of the experience, taken by the guide. Tickets go on sale June 1. The attraction will be offered until October this year and reopen in May 2012."

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original source Toronto Star

Bike buff testimonials: Why we bought into Bixi

This week Toronto officially launches Bixi, the city-wide bike-sharing program. The Toronto Star profiles four "Bixi believers", the Torontonians  who will be the first to take advantage of the more than 1,000 bikes at 80 locations now available to cyclists across the city.

"They are the believers -- the bicyclists that believe a bike-sharing program will work in Toronto, in spite of the city's lack of physically separated bike lanes and a relatively small launch area. The program has worked in other cities, after all."

"Protti, 29, and Watts, 28, like to keep things portable -- no mortgage, no car, no bikes to squeeze into their rented apartment. She's Italian, he's from Australia. By the time they arrived here two years ago, the couple had already lived in Vancouver and Montreal. They have tried Bixi in Melbourne and Montreal and signed up here as soon as the snow melted.Both expect to use Bixi every day, even though they will have to walk or take transit to the nearest bike station from their home near Bloor and Christie."

"In Montreal, where there is a network of physically separated bike lanes, Bixi works like a dream, said Protti."

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original source Toronto Star

Behind the scenes of Pinewood Toronto Studios

Torontoist goes behind the scenes of Toronto's Pinewood Studios, Commissioners Street's 11-acre film and television production facility. With seven soundstages and a giant warehouse on site, Pinewood provides a combined 250,000 square feet of studio space making it "one of the most comprehensive purpose-built film facilities in the world."

"Getting behind the gates of Pinewood Toronto Studios is kind of exactly like securing a golden admission ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Except instead of chocolate waterfalls, everlasting gobstoppers, and jolly, ginger-skinned Oompa-Loompas, Pinewood has well-maintained offices, an impressive ventilation system, and a muddy old berm out back. And a whole lot of movie studio space. Like, huge expanses of it."

"Granted, Pinewood Toronto's 11-acre facility in the Port Lands (near Commissioners Street and the Don Roadway) may not appear to be suffused with "movie magic"—especially if your only frames of reference for what a movie studio is are the scene in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure when our bike-riding hero giddily baits a low-speed pursuit through the Warner Bros. lot and a bunch of Animaniacs cartoons. But though its facade may be a little plain, evoking little of the Hollywood "Dream Machine" or whatever, in the past three years alone, Pinewood has gained a reputation as a go-to destination for film and television productions in Toronto."

"Since opening in 2008, the studios have provided space for plenty of Canadian film and TV productions (CBC's Battle of the Blades, Atom Egoyan's Chloe). They've also done something even more exceptional: attract big-time Hollywood bucks. Since 2008, larger-budgeted shoots like the forthcoming prequel/remake of John Carpenter's The Thing (also called The Thing) and last summer's hometown would-be blockbuster Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) setting up shop at Pinewood. And with Pinewood currently hosting the most expensive production to ever come to Toronto (we were asked not to name the film, even though it's already been announced elsewhere), we finagled our way behind the scenes of the studio that's reinvigorating Toronto's film industry."

"Toronto has historically been a very successful film and television production centre, but it hasn't had a facility like this," notes Edith Myers, managing director of Pinewood Toronto Studios. "[Toronto] has very good facilities and a lot of people put a lot of money into the industry. But this facility is designed to attract a certain type of film that had come infrequently to Toronto. Our biggest selling tool is to show people what we've got here." And what Pinewood's got is impressive."

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original source Torontoist

A visual feast on Toronto streets

Twin cities newspaper StarTribune writes on Toronto's captivating Distillery District neighbourhood. The restored Gooderham & Worts Distillery is lauded for its unique art galleries, many shopping and dinning destinations, and historic streetscape.

"Toronto is a safe, clean, comfortable city. Its eclectic streets and scenic avenues appeal to your inner walker, and few parts are better to explore on foot than the automobile-free, pedestrian-friendly Distillery District."

"Just off Lake Ontario, with the CN tower and a collage of skyscrapers hovering above, this former industrial area melds the corporate and cultural in a historic setting. Walking through the Mill Street entrance, you'll immediately get the picture, sensing the significance of it all."

"By 2001, the distillery had become mainly rubble when Mathew Rosenblatt and his development partners began to re-create the area into something that people, locals or tourists, would return to, says Rosenblatt."

"Viewing business as art, and intent on establishing a neighborhood where you "get a sense of the city's culture," Rosenblatt and his partners have taken 44 buildings, possibly the largest collection of Victorian industrial architecture in North America, and incorporated business, retail and artist spaces into a setting that exudes small-town charm. Walking these streets is akin to visiting an amusement park, and not having to pay for the rides, as the visual feast is entertainment enough."

"Koilos," a 14-foot tall, crouching sculpture by California artist Michael Christian, lords over Distillery Lane, alerting Parliament Street entrants that this is not going to be your ordinary walkabout.

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original source StarTribune

Tech and the city: Toronto is Canada's high-tech hub

A recent City of Toronto report entitled "Canada's High-Tech Hub: Toronto" looks at the city's growing and internationally recognized high-tech sector. The MaRS blog highlights three areas in particular where Toronto seems deemed to continue to excel - mobile apps, digital media, and social networking.

""Digital media is well positioned for healthy growth in Canada: 42% of Canadians share pictures online, 41% play games, 36% download music and movies and 35% access online newspapers. Businesses are going digital too–think paperless education, reviewing presentations on the fly and sales presentations with clients onsite."

"Social networking is playing an increasingly important role in the ways people connect, from our personal lives to our interactions with organizations. According to a 2009 consumer survey, 74% of respondents participated in or posted to social networking or community sites. 50% of Canadian organizations use social networking for recruiting and 40% use it as an information source when making ICT purchase decisions."

"Toronto is home to Facebook's Canadian office and will soon be home to a LinkedIn outpost. With two of the biggest social networking sites setting up their Canadian offices in Toronto, opportunities for thought leadership, knowledge sharing and partnerships will undoubtedly arise."

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original source MaRS Blog

Ryerson University unveils Ryerson Student Learning Centre design

Ryerson University recently unveiled the design for it's new Ryerson Student Learning Centre. The design, courtesy of Toronto-based architecture firm  Zeidler Partnership Architects, features a glass facade designed to create textured light qualities within the interior space. As reported by WIDN, constuction on the new building, to be located at the corner of Yonge and Gould, will begin sometime late this year.

"The eight-storey Student Learning Centre will be built at the corner of Yonge and Gould Streets. It will feature a glass façade, a welcoming elevated plaza, a bridge to the existing library and a host of academic, study and collaborative spaces for Ryerson's students, faculty and staff. Yonge Street frontage will feature destination retail at and below grade, creating a major commercial facade."

"The 155,463 square-foot Student Learning Centre will feature a host of creative and inspiring learning environments and spaces. Every floor will be designed differently with some spaces to be open and interpretive with flexible furniture and terraces while others to be densely filled with enclosed study rooms for groups of four to eight people. Special spaces for independent, quiet study will also be featured."

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original source WIDN (World Interior Design Network)

Their gamble grew into an empire

The Toronto Star features Toronto culinary scene heavyweights, Michael Bonacini and Peter Oliver, co-founders and owners of Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants. O&B currently boasts more than a dozen event spaces and restaurants in Ontario, including Canoe, the acclaimed fine dining restaurant on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower and the O&B Canteen, the popular King Street spot housed inside the TIFF Bell Lightbox complex.

"O&B will focus its efforts on the Bay's flagship store on Queen St. W. at Yonge St., where it plans to launch Bannock by fall 2011. The concept is similar to Canteen, with all-day, sit-down service that's quick and inexpensive."

"We are going to be the best corporately run food service business in Toronto, in Southern Ontario, in Canada," declares Bonacini. "That's part of our goal."

"Bonnie Brooks, president and CEO of the Bay, wouldn't bet against them. "Oliver & Bonacini is such a successful, respected and creative food company in Toronto that they were a logical partner in our minds."

"The O&B story starts in 1993 with a restaurant called Jump."

"Stockbroker-turned-restaurateur Oliver owned a bakery across the street from Centro, the fine-dining restaurant on Yonge St. north of Eglinton where Bonacini was executive chef."

"Oliver had spent years setting up the deal to open Jump on Wellington St. W. near Yonge St. When his chef-to-be fell through, he proposed a partnership with Bonacini. "When Peter and I opened Jump 17 years ago, we were one of very few places to dine downtown," says Bonacini."

"He describes his partner as a visionary who lives for putting deals together. Oliver describes their skills as complementary, saying Bonacini "knows all the things that I don't know that much about."

"The men gambled that they could survive on business-district lunch alone. Within a few years of opening , a landlord at the nearby TD Bank Tower begged O&B to take over the restaurant on the building's 54th floor."

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original source Toronto Star

Coach helps couple build reno business

The Toronto Star features Godel Construction, a successful Toronto-based contracting company that specializes in renovating old homes. The husband and wife team behind Glodel construction, Lisa Godel and her husband Alan, have seen their business double in the past two years after employing the help of a professional business coach.

"For years, the Godels bought original homes from the early 1900s in old Toronto neighbourhoods and embarked on major renovations, building two-storey additions on the back, adding family rooms and master-bedroom suites. The couple renovated five homes of their own that way — buy, do major renovations, move in, finish the details, sell it and move on to the next one."

"About two years, ago, the Godels signed up for sessions with business coach Greg Peterson of Oakville-based Growth Advisors."

"They did beautiful work and they had tremendously satisfied clients," Peterson explains. "What they needed to improve was marketing and systemizing their operations, so their actions are repeatable and they can train other people to do it."

"It's a common trait among small businesses, Peterson says. The entrepreneur keeps everything to do with the day-to-day operations in his or her head."

"That's often a key to early success, but it becomes a stumbling block to growth when the founder is unable to delegate work or responsibility to others."

"Peterson says he has seen tremendous change in the Godels and their business."

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original source Toronto Star
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