Tag Archives: Kristyn Wong-Tam

42-storey condo tower proposed for site of 8-floor office building at Yonge & St Mary Streets

10 St Mary Street condo tower rendering

This artistic illustration shows the 42-storey condo tower being proposed for the northwest corner of Yonge and St Mary Streets. The drawing appears on development proposal signs posted on the property (see below).

 

 

10 St Mary Street development proposal sign

One of three development proposal signs posted at 10 St Mary Street

 

 

10 St Mary Street Toronto

Yonge Street view of 10 St Mary Street, an 8-storey office building constructed in 1957 in the International Style of architecture.

 

 

Development proposal signs have finally been posted on a 57-year-old office building at the northwest corner of Yonge and St Mary Streets — the site of a planned 42-storey condo tower.

The signs, which were affixed to the building sometime within the past week, provide a brief description of a rezoning application that was filed with the City on August 19.

The new tower would rise 140.5 meters and would include a 10-storey podium. The building would contain 255 condo units, retail space on the first floor, and four levels of underground parking for 49 vehicles. Parking spots for 316 bicycles also would be provided.

The condo would replace an 8-storey office building that has occupied the site since 1957. Designed in the International Style by Mathers and Haldenby to house its own architectural offices, 10 St Mary Street’s tenants in recent years have included University of Toronto Press and the Ontario branch office of the Liberal Party of Canada. A Country Style Donuts outlet and a Mr Sub sandwich shop occupy street-level premises in the building.

Redevelopment of the narrow property, which extends the full length of the short St Mary Street block between Yonge Street and St Nicholas Street, has been expected for some time.

 

Demolition permit issued in 2013

In the fall of 2013 the property owner, Lifetime St Mary Street Inc., applied to the City for a building demolition permit. Lifetime already had met with city planning staff several times in the preceding months to discuss plans to redevelop the site with a highrise condo, but had not yet filed a rezoning application with the City.

However, 10 St Mary is located on a stretch of Yonge Street for which the City has been conducting a Heritage Conservation District study, a process which typically takes several years to complete (click here to see the City webpage outlining the Historic Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District Study). 

On November 19 2013, in a bid to forestall the demolition, Toronto and East York Community Council (TEYCC) asked the City’s planning department to determine if City Council could designate 10 St Mary as a heritage building under Ontario law.  (Designation confers a measure of legal protection, since demolition or material changes to the heritage attributes of a designated building require the prior approval of City Council.)

In a letter filed in support of the TEYCC request, Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam noted that 10 St Mary “was identified in the North Yonge Planning framework as a building of potential heritage interest. It would be premature to permit demolition of this building prior to the completion of this study and before the City has had the opportunity to evaluate the heritage value of the building. The current Ontario Building Code does not have any means to prevent the issuance of a demolition permit for buildings that are not yet designated, but are being considered for heritage designation.”

Meanwhile, the city issued a demolition permit as a matter of course on December 2 2013 while city staff researched the building’s history and assessed its heritage significance. The property owner did not take any steps to commence demolition while that process was underway.

 

Building met criteria for cultural heritage value

In a February 28 2014 report, the City’s planning department recommended that City Council state its intention to designate 10 St Mary.

“Regarded as an important example of International Style architecture that was built in 1957, the site is associated with one of Toronto’s most important firm of architects and is contextually significant on this portion of Yonge Street,” the planning report states in summarizing its recommendation.

More specifically, the report explains that 10 St Mary meets three key criteria for cultural heritage value:

♦ Design value

“In the expression of the structural concrete frame in its facades, the infill panels of glass and brick and in the exploitation of the structural possibilities which permit an open area at grade level, this building is an excellent example of a mid-century, International Style commercial structure integrating offices, retail and parking.”

♦ Associative value

“The building is historically associated with the architectural partnership of Mathers and Haldenby whose span of work from 1921-1991 contributed significantly to educational, government and commercial institutions and residential enclaves in the City of Toronto, across Canada and as far away as the Caribbean and Australia.  This office project is particularly important because of its expressive use of modernist International Style principles which contrasts with the majority of their work which was more traditionally based through to this period of the mid-1950s.”

♦ Contextual value

“An eight-story International Style building with an open volume at its base facing Yonge and St. Mary Streets it is situated in a predominantly late 19th and early 20th century streetscape.  Paired with 696 Yonge Street, another International Style mid-century, eight-storey office building on the south side of St. Mary Street, it makes an important contribution to the character of the area.  10 St. Mary is historically linked to its surroundings as a representative of mid-twentieth century Yonge Street responding to the changing lifestyle and business needs as well as the burgeoning post-war economic expansion, the increased use of automobiles and the separation of work and home” the report stated.

The Toronto Preservation Board adopted the planning report on March 26, as did TEYCC on April 8. Toronto City Council in turn adopted the recommendation on May 6, and on June 2 the City Clerk posted an official public notice of Council’s intention to designate the property.

 

Property owner objects to heritage designation

Those decisions were made notwithstanding complaints by lawyers for Lifetime, who wrote to the City objecting to the intention to designate the property.

Indeed, in an April 7 letter to the City, law firm Sherman Brown Dryer Karol pointed out that Lifetime had purchased 10 St Mary after its thorough due diligence confirmed the building was not listed or designated as a heritage property. Moreover, Lifetime had met with City planning, urban design and heritage staff to discuss its plans to built a condo tower on the site, but had not been warned that 10 St Mary might be considered to have heritage value.

“The original design included a podium that replaced the original building with a new podium of a height that replicated the built form envelope of the existing building on site,” the lawyers wrote.

However, city planning staff told Lifetime that the podium height would have to be reduced “to comply with the City’s ‘new vision’ for the area, as established in their recent report on the North Downtown Yonge Urban Design Guidelines.  The recommendation to reduce the height of the podium to comply with the new 18 m [meter] requirement, by definition, requires the demolition of the existing building.  When the recommendation was made at our client’s pre-consultation meeting, not once did Heritage Staff raise a concern and/or suggest that the building had any heritage significance whatsoever,” the lawyers’ letter states.

 

Review board pre-hearing set for December

Under Ontario law, anyone objecting to the proposed heritage designation had until July 2 to file a formal objection with the City (30 days after the City published its notice of intent to designate). If objections are submitted, provincial law requires the City to refer the matter to a hearing before the Conservation Review Board, a provincial adjudicative tribunal.  According to a listing of active cases on the Conservation Review Board website, a pre-hearing conference on the 10 St Mary Street dispute will be held on December 18 of this year.

In the meantime, city planners will continue reviewing the condo tower development application, and TEYCC will likely ask them later this fall to schedule a community consultation meeting to obtain public input into the proposal.

Below are several more photos of 10 St Mary Street, all from October 19.

 

10 St Mary Street Toronto

10 St Mary viewed from the east side of Yonge Street. The building’s “open volume at ground level” — used as a patio for customers of the street-level fast food shops — is considered a heritage attribute.

 

 

10 St Mary Street Toronto

10 St Mary is situated just two blocks southeast of the Manulife Centre (top right), a 163-metere, 51-storey-tall apartment and commercial tower built in 1972. If approved, the condo proposed for 10 St Mary will rise nearly 141 meters.

 

 

10 St Mary Street Toronto

10 St Mary is just three short blocks south of the key Yonge & Bloor intersection in the tony Yorkville neighbourhood. Its proximity to Yorkville and the Yonge & Bloor subway lines will be one of the top selling features for the proposed condominium.

 

 

710 to 718 Yonge Street Toronto

Immediately to the north of 10 St Mary is this row of two-storey retail and commercial buildings at 710 to 718 Yonge Street. They are not part of the redevelopment proposal.

 

 

10 St Mary Street Toronto

Side view of 10 St Mary Street. A City planning report says that heritage attributes of the 57-year-old building include the “façade with its expressed concrete frame, infill panels with two-part glazed panels and 9″ Flemish bond buff-brick”

 

 

10 St Mary Street Toronto

10 St Mary viewed from the southwest corner of St Mary and St Nicholas Streets.  A City report says another heritage attribute of the building is “the reinforced concrete structural frame, the external wall columns, and external spandrel beams exposed on external wall faces.”

 

 

10 St Mary Street Toronto

 “The 8-storey scale, form and massing of the building” are other features that give the building heritage value, according to a City planning report.

 

 

10 St Mary Street Toronto

St Nicholas Street view of a loading dock and garage entrance on the west side of 10 St Mary.  This is where a service entrance and access to a parking garage elevator would be located in the 42-storey condo tower proposed for this site.

 

 

10 St Mary Street Toronto

Another view of the west side of 10 St Mary, along St Nicholas Street

 

 

New development application proposes 28-storey tower for controversial site at 81 Wellesley East

81 Wellesley Street East Toronto

November 22 2013: A rainy morning view of the vacant property at 81 Wellesley Street East in the Church-Wellesley Village …

 

 

81 Wellesley East Toronto

… where the City has posted this sign advising the public that a developer has applied to build a 28-storey residential tower on the site

 

New plan for Village site: A 28-storey residential tower with street-level retail space has been proposed for the Church-Wellesley Village site where a developer last year proposed building a 29-storey condo highrise in place of a Victorian-era mansion and coach house it had hastily demolished — much to the dismay and ire of neighbourhood residents.

The 182-suite, 95.7-meter-tall tower is proposed for 81 Wellesley Street East, former location of the Odette House mansion and coach house that for years had been occupied by Wellspring, a cancer support organization. Wellspring listed the property for sale when it decided to relocate to larger premises, and a small company called Icarus Developments acquired the site.

 

Odette House 81 Wellesley Street East

I shot this photo of the Odette House mansion at 81 Wellesley Street East on September 27 2011. The building, and a coach house behind it, were destroyed by the property’s new owner a little more than three months later.

 

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Plans for 29-storey condo tower founder as Odette mansion site at 81 Wellesley East is listed for sale

81 Wellesley Street East

April 29 2013: A “for sale” sign has been posted in front of the vacant property at 81 Wellesley Street East …

 

 

Odette House 81 Wellesley Street East

… where a century-old mansion and coach house stood until January 2012 when the buildings were hastily demolished after new owners took possession …

 

 

81 Wellesley Street East proposed condo

… with plans to construct a 29-storey condo tower in their place. The proposed highrise is depicted in this artistic illustration by Toronto’s Core Architects

 

 

Back on the market: A controversial condo tower development planned for the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village appears to be dead now that the property has been listed for sale.

As I reported in an October 17 2012 post, a small Toronto firm called Icarus Developments held an informational meeting last fall to publicly reveal its plans to build a 29-storey, 200-unit condo tower at 81 Wellesley Street East. Designed by Toronto’s Core Architects, the highrise would occupy a vacant piece of land that had been occupied for many decades by two by heritage-character buildings — the Odette House mansion and a coach house behind it — that were hurriedly demolished in January 2012.

The surprise demolition — and the brazen manner in which the buildings were razed — outraged local residents as well as Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who only a few weeks earlier had initiated procedures under which city staff would consider whether Odette House could be designated as a heritage property (see my January 19 2012 post for photos and a report about the demolition incident).

 

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Hope for new public park dims as Ontario Gov’t sells 11 Wellesley West lands for redevelopment

11 Wellesley West

Up to three office towers or highrise residential buildings could be in store for lands behind this wooden hoarding at 11 Wellesley Street West, seen here from the northeast at the corner of Wellesley and St Nicholas Streets. Last week, a deal was supposed to close under which the Ontario Government would sell the property and pass ownership to a so-far undisclosed buyer, at a so-far unknown price, for redevelopment purposes. The closing apparently has been delayed until February. See report below for further details.

 

11 Wellesley West

Hoarding along Breadalbane Street at the southwest corner of the 11 Wellesley West site. Since at least early 2011, downtown residents and neighbourhood associations have been pressing the City and provincial governments to create a new park or public greenspace on the vacant 2-acre property between Bay and Yonge Streets.

 

Hopes fading: A real estate transaction that was scheduled to close yesterday may dash many downtown residents’ dreams for the creation of a new public park on a vacant Wellesley Street West site surrounded by thousands of existing condo and apartment units, with thousands more on the way. But the local City Councillor has pledged to continue fighting for green space on the location.

Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam told Tuesday night’s annual general meeting of the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association (CWNA) that Wednesday January 23 was the scheduled closing date for the sale of empty provincially-owned land at 11 Wellesley Street West. Barring an unforeseen event, she said, title for the land would rest in the hands of its new owner by 4.30 p.m. Wednesday.  [Editor’s Note: CWNA board of directors member Paul Farrelly posted this update on the CWNA’s Facebook page January 26: “Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has been recently advised by the developer that the transaction will not close until the end of February. A visit on Thursday to Land Registry revealed a new construction lien for $650,000 was put on the property by a construction company on Jan 13,2013, but its not clear whether that has anything to do with the delayed closing.”]

Many in the CWNA audience had been hoping Councillor Wong-Tam would announce significant positive developments in her work to obtain at least some of the land for City park space, but she had no such good news to report in her brief update on the subject.  She could say only that the City will continue its efforts to secure part of the property from its new owner. The buyer has not yet been publicly identified.

 

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

40-storey condo proposed for Yonge & Isabella

625 Yonge Street

A development application has been filed with the City for this 625 Yonge Street property at the southeast corner of Yonge & Isabella Streets. The proposal calls for a 40-storey residential tower with retail shops and offices to take its place.

 

625 Yonge Street

October 10 2012: The 625 Yonge building, viewed from the southwest

 

looking north on Yonge Street from Irwin Street

October 10 2012: Looking north on Yonge from Irwin Street. The 625 Yonge development site (white building with the yellow and black YSFC banners) has the cachet of being situated only three blocks south of the prime Yonge & Bloor intersection.

 

Condos on the corner: News that a rezoning application had been filed with the city for a commercial property on the corner of Yonge and Isabella Streets left the nearby neighbourhood rife with rumours and speculation yesterday about what is in store for the site. Not surprisingly, most people expected an announcement would be forthcoming that a condo  tower project is being proposed.

Word spread quickly that an entry for 625 Yonge Street had been added to the development projects page in the planning department section of the City of Toronto website. For most of the day, the website entry listed only the municipal address for the development application, its file number, and contact details for the city planner responsible for the file. It did not provide any specifics about how big or how tall the development would be, or whether it would be condos, offices, retail or a mix of all three. The absence of further information led to considerable conjecture about the owner’s plans for the property. (When I checked the entry late yesterday afternoon, it still lacked details; this morning, someone called my attention to additional information that finally had been added sometime during the evening.)

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Rally will urge Premier to create public park with vacant provincial land on Wellesley St W

wellesley green protest poster

This poster appears on the Save Wellesley Green Public Park Facebook page, and is being circulated by email by local neighbourhood associations and downtown residents

 

11 Wellesley Street West Toronto

Neighbourhood associations and city residents want the Ontario government to make government-owned surplus property behind the blue hoarding at 11 Wellesley St. W. available to the City for creation of a new public park

 

New park, please: Community groups and city residents concerned about the severe deficiency of downtown parkland have planned a rally for this afternoon to urge Ontario’s premier to make surplus government property on Wellesley Street West available for public green space.

At numerous public meetings I have attended during the past year, city planners, Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray all have acknowledged that downtown Toronto is “parkland deficient” with insufficient green space available for a population that is growing considerably faster than expected, thanks to the city’s ongoing condo building boom.

An opportunity to establish a new park or green space of some kind on Wellesley Street West lies within the provincial government’s grasp — after years of litigation, the Ontario government is finally able to do whatever it wants with a large piece of land at 11 Wellesley West, between Yonge and Bay Streets, that has sat vacant behind hoarding for most of the past decade. However, with eyes at Queen’s Park focussed on reducing Ontario’s enormous budget deficit, politicians seem more prepared to cash in on the condo craze by selling 11 Wellesley West and other surplus government land for redevelopment, rather than keeping it to create new parks for present and future generations of Torontonians to enjoy.

 

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Demolition of rear half of 1873-era heritage house heralds construction start for Karma condo tower

Karma condo site

August 27 2012: Formerly a surface parking lot, the 9-21 Grenville Street site for the Karma condo tower has been fenced off for the past several weeks …

 

Karma condo site

… and work to prepare the site for construction of the 50-storey tower has finally started with the demolition of the rear half of the heritage house at 21 Grenville …

 

21 Grenville Street Toronto

… seen here on March 12 2011. The front half of the 139-year-old building will be relocated to the northeast corner of the property and incorporated into the condo development.

 

Karma condos

This artistic rendering, from the Karma condos website, shows how the heritage house will be positioned beside the northeast corner of the sleek glass tower …

 

Karma condos

… which will contain 495 units and  soar 50 storeys near the northwest corner of Yonge and College Streets. Karma was designed by architectsAlliance.

 

Construction karma: Demolition work on a brick house dating back to the early 1870s has signalled the long-awaited start of construction on the Karma condo tower near the northwest corner of Yonge and College Streets.

When I passed the Karma site this afternoon, I saw that the rear half of the John Irwin House, a city-designated heritage building, has been demolished. The 2 1/2-storey house was built around 1873 as a residence for John Irwin, a local contractor and municipal politician who developed a series of properties along Grenville Street. The house was added to the city’s list of heritage properties in 2007. A city background file, prepared as part of the listing process, explained that the property has cultural heritage value “as one of the last surviving examples of a house form building in this area, and for its Second Empire stylistic features.”

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Highrise condo cluster could threaten character of leafy low-rise street near Yonge & Wellesley

Dundonald Street Toronto

The lush trees and gardens adorning the front yards of these brick homes on the north side of Dundonald Street could be imperiled by construction of up to four condo highrises …

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

… including an 18-storey tower that would incorporate parts of the brick, travertine and glass facade of this Modern-style office building constructed in 1956 at 17 Dundonald …

 

31-37 Dundonald Street Toronto

… a potential 18-storey condo on the site of these three-storey houses at 31-37 Dundonald, currently being offered for sale as a block for redevelopment …

 

22, 40 and 50 Wellesley Street East Toronto

… and two more condo towers, each at least 28 storeys tall, that would loom above Dundonald Street from this location on Wellesley Street East to the immediate south ….

 

40 Wellesley Street East Toronto

… including a 118-meter-tall (32 storeys) condo tower that a developer wishes to build on the site of this 5-storey office building at 40 Wellesley Street East …

 

50 Wellesley Street East condo site

… and a 28-storey condo, now being marketed to prospective purchasers, on the site of what is currently an empty lot at 46-50 Wellesley Street East

 

Dundonald doomed?: A quiet, tree-lined residential street in north downtown’s Church-Wellesley neighbourhood could lose much of its appeal, charm and character — and possibly even much of its lush greenery — if proposals for four condo towers in the area come to fruition.

Only one block long, Dundonald Street runs east-west between Yonge and Church Streets, just one block north of Wellesley Street. It’s among my favourite downtown streets, one I walk several times each week to avoid the noise, steady vehicular traffic and busy sidewalks of Wellesley Street. But my alternative walking route might lose its quiet, pleasant appeal in several years’ time if two highrise condo buildings get built on the south side of Dundonald, along with two more right behind them on the north side of Wellesley Street.

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Wellesley Street site touted as potential new park now listed for sale for highrise redevelopment

11 Wellesley Street potential city park site

The 11 Wellesley Street West site, viewed from the northeast last year …

 

11 Wellesley Street West Toronto

… and viewed today from the northwest on Wellesley Street near Bay Street

 

CBRE Limited website illustration of the Bay & Wellesley lands

This image, from a flyer on the CBRE Limited website,  shows an aerial view of the property now listed for sale for redevelopment

 

CBRE Limited website illustration of the Bay & Wellesley lands

This illustration, also from the CBRE Limited online flyer, suggests the highrise development potential for the 2-acre Ontario Government property

 

Park plans deep-sixed?: Downtown residents who were hoping a new public park would be created on provincial government property that has sat vacant near Yonge & Wellesley for years will be dismayed to learn that the land has instead been listed for sale for potential highrise redevelopment. Nevertheless, a city councillor plans to seek City Council approval to direct municipal real estate officials to negotiate acquisition of the property “for parkland purposes.”

A commercial real estate advertisement in today’s Globe and Mail newspaper touts the 2-acre “East of Bay” lands at 11 Wellesley Street West as a “downtown Toronto development opportunity.” The ad, published by real estate brokerage CBRE Limited, says the land “is located in a prime downtown residential development corridor,” and is “centrally positioned” between the city’s financial core and its tony Bloor-Yorkville district.

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Development plan in works for 81 Wellesley East?

81 Wellesley Street East Toronto

June 14 2012: A drilling machine sits in the vacant lot at 81 Wellesley Street East …

 

Odette House at 81 Wellesley Street East Toronto

… site of the former Odette House mansion, seen here on September 27 2011. Residents in the Church-Wellesley Village neighbourhood were outraged when the building and its charming coach house were demolished without warning in January of this year.

 

Condo proposal coming? Almost six months after the contemptible demolition of an historic mansion on Wellesley Street East infuriated a city councillor and residents in the downtown Church & Wellesley neighbourhood, activity on the site suggests a development proposal for the property may finally be in the works.

For at least three days this past week, a crew and drilling machine could be seen working on different parts of the now-vacant lot at 81 Wellesley Street East. An area resident said he was told that the crew was taking soil core samples — a procedure which is often a precursor to property redevelopment.

Neighbourhood residents suspect that a developer will soon file an application with the city to erect either a condo or apartment building on the site — an application they have been expecting ever since the two buildings that once occupied the property were suddenly destroyed during the winter. Now, they’re nervously awaiting word about just how big and tall any proposed new building might be. (A city planner told me last winter that the site is suitable only for a low-rise or mid-rise building, and is not large enough to support a highrise condo tower. However, many area residents fear that a tower is exactly what’s in the pipeline.)

 

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Developer gets city’s approval to raise One Bloor condo tower height from 70 to 75 storeys

One Bloor condo tower construction

June 13 2012: Excavation work continues at the southeast corner of Yonge & Bloor Streets where Great Gulf Homes is building its One Bloor condo tower

 

Five more floors: One Bloor, the landmark condo tower under construction at the southeast corner of Yonge & Bloor Streets, will be climbing five floors higher as a result of a Committee of Adjustment hearing at City Hall this week.

In an application to the committee, the project developer had requested a zoning bylaw variance that would allow it to raise the tower’s height from 70 to 75 storeys, as well as increase the building’s gross floor area from 55,910 square meters to 68,634 square meters.  The application was item number 26 on the Committee of Adjustment’s June 13 meeting agenda.

 

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Dream still alive for green space or new park on boarded-up block of Wellesley Street West

11 Wellesley Street West Toronto

January 25 2012: The Ontario Government is examining its options to make a prime piece of real estate on Wellesley Street West available for new city green space. The vacant property has been surrounded by navy blue hoarding for years.

 

More parks for downtown?: City planners and politicians alike have admitted that the central downtown area, and particularly the district between College and Bloor Streets, is woefully deficient in public parks and green space. But at least one new park — and possibly several more — could be in the cards for the city core, according to an Ontario Cabinet minister.

Glen Murray, the MPP for Toronto Centre and Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, says the province is examining its options for making a vacant parcel of property on Wellesley Street West available to the city for redevelopment into green space or a park of some kind. Other provincially-owned lands in the downtown core also might become available for additional parkland, Mr. Murray told the first annual general meeting of the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association (CWNA) last night.

 

 

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Hollywood film director slams ‘bizarre’ condo tower proposal for Yonge & Gloucester

Norman Jewison Park Toronto

A 29-storey condo tower proposed for Gloucester Street would cast shadows on Norman Jewison Park as early as 3 pm each afternoon, and would block sunlight from Mr. Jewison’s offices in the 5-storey light-brown brick building at right …

xx

18 Gloucester Lane Toronto

 … the former Rawlinson Furniture warehouse, constructed in 1878 at 18 Gloucester Lane just east of Yonge Street between Gloucester & Isabella Streets

 

No celebrity endorsement: I have attended a number of community consultation meetings the City has held in the last year to get feedback on proposed condo developments, but this past Tuesday night was the first at which one of Canada’s leading cultural icons stood up to express an opinion. And what world-renowned movie producer/director Norman Jewison had to say was anything but a celebrity endorsement for the condo tower project proposed for 2-8 Gloucester Street.

Mr. Jewison, 85, has offices in a 133-year-old building he owns immediately to the north of the potential condo development site. He told the meeting he was “amazed” that the condo proposal “has gotten so far,” because he had not even been advised that a tower might rise next door, just 3 meters from his windows.

Calling the condo plan “a bizarre idea,” Mr. Jewison expressed dismay that his building “will be completely in shade. Every single window in our building will now be looking into somebody’s bedroom. We’ll have no light. No sun. No view,” he said. “Everything is just squeezed in,” he added, referring to the compact site for the proposed L-shaped, 200,000-square-foot tower which, he said, would bring “a tremendous influx of people into this neighbourhood.”

The acclaimed director and producer of more than two dozen major Hollywood movies which have collectively received 46 Oscar nominations and won 12 Academy Awards, Mr. Jewison was among 25 people who commented on the condo proposal during the two-hour meeting.

As I have previously reported in posts on October 11 2011 and June 22 2011, a developer has applied to the City for zoning changes to permit construction of a 29-storey tower with 211 condominium units next to two heritage buildings at the corner of Yonge and Gloucester Streets. In an August 15 2011 background report, city planners identified 12 main issues with the development plan, and recommended that a community consultation meeting be held to obtain public feedback on the proposal. On September 12 2011, Toronto and East York Community Council directed staff to arrange the consultation session, and the meeting took place this past Tuesday evening at the 519 Church Street Community Centre.

Although many downtown residents and people involved in the condo development industry believe that the ultimate fate of the 2-8 Gloucester project could set the tone for further highrise projects along Yonge Street, turnout was lower than expected. I counted just over 50 people in the room midway through the meeting, but at least 15 of those were city officials, including Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, and the developer’s team of professional consultants and advisors.

Chaired by city planner Diane Silver, the meeting featured presentations by the developer’s planning consultant, Craig Hunter, and its architect, David Pontarini of Toronto’s Hariri Pontarini Architects. They led the audience through a slideshow of illustrations, renderings and photos that suggested how the proposed condo tower might look, and how it would visually and physically impact the surrounding neighbourhood.

Mr. Hunter said the developer has been working with its architects and other consultants for more than a year and half to develop its condo proposal. He said the parties realized the project had to be “sensitive” to the linear park and low-rise neighbourhood to its east, and also had to address transportation, heritage and density concerns. He called the proposal filed with the city “a very compatible fit with the existing mix of buildings in the area.”

Mr. Pontarini noted that his firm has “extensive involvement on North Yonge,” having designed the 45-storey FIVE Condos project currently under construction one block southwest of 2-8 Gloucester, as well as the 70-storey One Bloor condo tower presently being built three blocks north. Hariri Pontarini also was one of the consultants involved in the City of Toronto’s Tall Buildings Downtown Project. “We’re very interested in what’s happening along Yonge Street” and in Yonge Street historical preservation, Mr. Pontarini said, adding that the 2-8 Gloucester project “shows how development could occur along Yonge Street.”

His slide illustrations showed that the project calls for the 1878 Masonic Hall building at 2 Gloucester (a City-designated heritage building that now contains street-level retail, along with upper-level offices and condo units) to be preserved and restored, while the building at 8 Gloucester Street (listed, but not yet designated by the City as a heritage building) probably would be pushed forward closer to Gloucester at the southeast corner of the site. No decision has yet been made as to whether that building will be moved in its entirety, or dismantled and reassembled in the new location. Currently occupied by a restaurant and a nightclub, 8 Gloucester would become a “retail component” of the condo development, Mr. Pontarini said.

The condo entrance, forecourt and lobby would be situated off Gloucester Street, but the developer and architects are still considering “how to position the entrance,” Mr. Pontarini said. All service access to the condo would be from Gloucester Lane, including access to an elevator that would move cars into and out of the two-level, 34-space underground parking garage. Mr. Pontarini did acknowledge that city planners are “not happy with the transitions” that have been proposed between the tower and the two heritage buildings, and said the developer’s team will have to take another look at their design plans. “We want to do something remarkable because it [2 Gloucester] is a remarkable building,” he said.

Audience reaction to the proposal was mixed. I found it curious that several people who spoke in favour of the development used the exact same words, all saying they wanted to  “commend” the developer, and all saying they found the glass tower design “intriguing” and “interesting.” One supporter said he thought the development would be “a plus for the neighbourhood,” while another said she thinks it “will upgrade the neighbourhood and make it more beautiful,” since the project will “improve amenities” in the area. But people who voiced criticism of the development, including several Gloucester Street residents, complained that they haven’t seen any amenity improvements in the area since three major condo towers were built close by on Charles Street.

At least six people objected to the tower’s height, including several who identified themselves as members of the recently-established Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association (CWNA). One man complained that a 29-storey tower will be “a looming force over the Yonge Street heritage strip,” while another agreed that the tower “doesn’t work with existing buildings” nearby, and “overwhelms” the two heritage buildings incorporated into the development. A third concurred that the project “breaks the context of the low-rise neighbourhood.” 2 Gloucester is “the Crown jewel of Yonge Street between Bloor and College,” he said, but the condo tower would completely “wreck” that context. And a woman who identified herself as a member of the Bay Cloverhill Community Association (BCCA) argued that the condo would be nearly three times too tall as it should be for an area characterized by so many heritage buildings. “The last best piece of heritage left on Yonge Street” is along the strip from Grenville Street to Charles Street, she said, offering the view that “Yonge Street should become a heritage street from top to bottom.” When she asked: “What could you do with a 10-storey building on the lot instead?”, Mr. Hunter replied that it was “not likely” that the developer would work toward building a shorter condo.

Pointing out that most units in the condo tower will be studios or 1-bedrooms, one Gloucester Street resident said she wanted to know “Where do families fit in?” Although the development was being “sensitive to Yonge, what about the side streets?” she asked. “What are you bringing to our neighbourhood?” She noted that, not only would the tower block Mr. Jewison’s office building views and sunlight, but studies showed it would cast shadows on the adjacent Norman Jewison Park — one of the few public green spaces in the area — as early as 3 p.m. each day. Mr. Hunter responded that it was possible some of the condo units could be redesigned in a “convertible” configuration of 2-bedroom plus den or 3-bedroom styles that would be suitable to families. As for what the developer would be doing for the neighbourhood, he said it was proposing “custom crafted” amenities. It had plans to “transform” Gloucester Lane into “a more pedestrian feel,” he said. And while he admitted that the tower would cast afternoon shadows on Norman Jewison Park he said that, with any development, “there are gives and takes.” And, he pointed out, the City’s own mixed-use designation for the site “is meant to accommodate growth.”

Several speakers weren’t critical of the condo plan per se, but of the problems that would be posed by a new building that would bring several hundred more residents into the neighbourhood without a corresponding expansion of city services and resources, especially for transportation. Even though the tower would rise along a subway line, two speakers pointed out that the Yonge subway is already stressed and overcrowded, so adding more residents to the Yonge Street strip will only make a bad problem worse. “That has to be addressed,” said one area resident who complained about subway congestion. Another said it was “incongruous” that the city would consider further intensification in the neighbourhood without balancing that off with improvements to public transit.

And in what I thought was a novel argument, one man said he thought the city must allow the tower to be built because people who will move to downtown Toronto in future years have a “right” to live in buildings such as the one proposed for Gloucester Street.

Getting back to Mr. Jewison, who was upset to learn about what he repeatedly called a “bizarre project” only after the public consultation meeting was scheduled. Mr. Hunter said he had believed someone had contacted Mr. Jewison’s family to discuss the condo development proposal, and had not received any objection to the plan. Nevertheless, he apologized to Mr. Jewison for the oversight in not contacting him directly.

Below are several photos I shot today, showing Mr. Jewison’s building and the proposed condo tower site.

 

Rendering of condo tower proposed for 2 Gloucester Street

This rendering of the 29-storey condo tower proposed for 2-8 Gloucester Street appears on a zoning application sign posted outside the building site

 

Masonic Hall heritage building at 2-8 Gloucester Street Toronto

October 14 2011:  The 1878 Masonic Hall heritage building at the northeast corner of Yonge and Gloucester Streets, viewed from the southwest. The proposed condo tower would rise to the right of the five-storey brown brick building.

 

2-8 Gloucester Street Toronto viewed from the east

 October 14 2011: Looking northwest from Norman Jewison Park toward the proposed condo tower location at 2-8 Gloucester Street

 

2-8 Gloucester Street Toronto tower location

October 14 2011:  The proposed 29-storey condo tower would be built where the two-storey building is situated. Canadian movie producer/director Norman Jewison owns the five-story building on the right, at 18 Gloucester Lane

 

18 Gloucester Lane Toronto

October 14 2011: Mr. Jewison’s building at 18 Gloucester Lane, viewed from the linear park that the City of Toronto named in the film director’s honour

 

18 Gloucester Lane Toronto

October 14 2011: Looking up the east side of 18 Gloucester Lane. The 5-storey brick building was constructed in 1878.

 

18 Gloucester Lane Toronto

October 14 2011: A street-level view of 18 Gloucester Lane, location of the offices for Mr. Jewison’s Yorktown Productions Ltd.

 

18 Gloucester Lane Toronto

October 14 2011: Looking up at the south side of 18 Gloucester Lane. The proposed condo tower would rise only 3 meters away from Mr. Jewison’s building.

 

 

Condo tower in the works for site of heritage office building on Dundonald St. near Yonge & Wellesley

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

August 19 2011: This office building at 17 Dundonald Street was built in 1956. Included on the City’s inventory of heritage properties, it is considered culturally significant as an early example of the Modern style of architecture.

 

Tall “cube” coming? A developer is planning a condo highrise for 17 Dundonald Street in the Yonge & Wellesley area — but the tower’s projected floor count apparently is up in the air.

People living on and near Dundonald Street say various sources — including their city councillor — have told them a new development is in the works for the property, currently the site of a 2.5-storey office building situated just a stone’s throw from the Wellesley subway station. Constructed in 1956 as the Commercial Travellers’ Association of Canada Building, the low-rise office structure was designed by the Toronto architecture firm Weir Cripps and Associates.

The building is included on the city’s inventory of heritage properties; in fact, on June 8 2010, Toronto City Council adopted an “Intention to Designate” for the property. In an April 21 2010 background report presented to city councillors and the Toronto Preservation Board, city planners stated that 17 Dundonald had “cultural heritage value” worthy of designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.  “As a small-scaled office building, the Commercial Travellers’ Association of Canada Building (1956) is an early and representative example of the Modern style with design merit that through its scale supports and maintains the prevailing character of Dundonald Street as the location of low-rise buildings,” the report explained.

The report, along with a notice of intention to designate published on the City’s website, said some of 17 Dundonald’s heritage attributes include: its “scale, form and massing”; “the near-square plan under a flat roof”; “the cladding, employing concrete, turquoise-hued glazed brick, travertine, aluminium and glass”; the organization of the building’s north facade into four bays; and the placement of the building itself, with a “small landscaped forecourt” separating it from the street. (The report provides extensive interesting information about the history and design of the building; it’s well worth a read.)

At present, 17 Dundonald is surrounded by residential properties, including the Terrace Court townhouses and low-rise condominium complex on its east side, the 24-storey Continental Tower apartment building on its west flank, and 22 Condominiums, a tower rising 23-storeys to its immediate south at 22 Wellesley Street East.

Area residents say Ward 27 City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has told meetings of neighbourhood condo owners that a developer has been discussing redevelopment proposals for 17 Dundonald with city planners. Their intention, apparently, is to construct a highrise condo building in a Cubist style intended to emulate the Modernist architecture of the office building it will replace. But I’ve heard conflicting information about just how tall the building might be: 18, 19, 25 and 30 storeys are the floor counts people have mentioned. Word on the street is that a tower taller than the nearby 22 Condominiums and Continental Tower (23 and 24 storeys, respectively) doesn’t sit well with city planners, who feel too much height would be out of character for Dundonald Street. So far there has been no word on the identity of either the proposed building’s developer or the architectural firm designing it.

Below are some recent photos of 17 Dundonald and its neighbours.

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

 July 8 2011: Looking west along Dundonald Street toward the office building at # 17. The Terrace Court condo townhomes (left) sit to the east, while the 24-storey Continental Tower, built in 1971, rises to the west.

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

July 8 2011: The north and east sides of the building

«»

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

July 8 2011: The building’s cladding includes concrete, glass, travertine, aluminium and glazed brick with a distinctive turquoise hue

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

 July 8 2011: Two of 17 Dundonald’s neighbours include Terrace Court, an 8-storey condo and townhouse complex at 19-29 Dundonald Street (left), and the 22 Condominiums tower behind it on Wellesley Street


17 Dundonald Street Toronto

July 8 2011: The building was designed by Weir Cripps & Associates Architects


17 Dundonald Street  Toronto

July 8 2011: Looking towards 17 Dundonald from the northwest, outside the Continental Tower apartment building at 15 Dundonald Street. 

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

July 13 2011: A walkway between the two fences at the west side of the building links Dundonald Street to Wellesley Street and the Wellesley subway station

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

July 13 2011: The north facade and recessed front entrance to 17 Dundonald

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

July 13 2011: A city planning report says the placement of the main entrance in a recessed and glazed bay, with a protective angled canopy, is one of the building’s important heritage attributes

«»

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

July 13 2011: The driveway separates the office building from its Terrace Court condo and townhouse neighbours at 19 – 29 Dundonald Street

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

August 19 2011: The main entrance is set in one of four bays on the north facade

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

August 19 2011: The angled canopy above the double aluminum front doors

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

August 19 2011: The west wall of 17 Dundonald and the north side of 22  Condominiums, viewed from the pedestrian walkway linking Dundonald and Wellesley Streets alongside the Wellesley subway station

«»

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

August 19 2011: The west wall of 17 Dundonald Street catches some evening sun and reflects the Continental Tower apartment building next door

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

August 19 2011: There are five bays along the building’s west elevation

 

17 Dundonald Street Toronto

August 19 2011: The south wall has turquoise-hued brick at its southwest corner. Next door is the brown brick wall of the 8-storey Terrace Court condo.

 

22 Wellesley Street East Toronto

August 19 2011: 22 Condominiums rises to the south at 22 Wellesley Street East

 

22 Wellesley Street East condo tower Toronto

August 19 2011: 22 Condominiums was built by Lanterra Developments in 2007

 

22 Wellesley Street East Toronto

August 19 2011: Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance designed 22 Condominiums

 

22 Wellesley Street East Toronto

August 19 2011: Balconies at the northwest corner of 22 Condominiums

 

 

Public urged to pressure politicians to create park on Wellesley St. site of stalled apartment project

11 Wellesley Street potential city park site

April 19 2011: A southwest view of hoarding around 11 Wellesley St. W., between Yonge & Bay Streets. Behind are the Murano condo towers (left), the Opera Place condos (center) and The Bay Club apartments (right), all on Bay St.

 

11 Wellesley Street West

April 9 2011: A northwest view of 11 Wellesley Street West from the corner of Breadalbane St and St Luke Lane. A half-dozen highrise apartment and condo towers, and the Sutton Place Hotel (center), overlook the site.

 

Potential parkland: Could a big piece of prime downtown real estate become a public park instead of the apartment complex that a developer had planned to build on the site? Apparently so — if enough people can convince city and provincial politicians to make it happen.

The land in question has a municipal address of 11 Wellesley Street West, and occupies the eastern half of the city block bounded by Wellesley to the north, St. Luke Lane to the east, Breadalbane Street to the south, and Bay street to the west. Over the past two decades, it has earned notoriety as a site where ambitious development plans fail to materialize.

Back in the late 1980s, the provincial government donated the entire block of land for construction of a new ballet/opera house. Various levels of government pledged tens of millions of dollars toward the project, and construction of a spectacular building designed by architect Moshe Safdie was supposed to start early in 1991. However, with Ontario in the throes of a recession and facing a $2.5 billion budget deficit, the province’s newly-elected NDP government withdrew its $65 million cash pledge. In turn, the federal government and Metro Toronto cancelled their pledges for $88 million and $20 million, respectively, and the project was cancelled.

A skateboard park occupied the site for a few years until  a developer acquired the western half of the property and built the Allegro at Opera Place condo tower and The Bay Club rental apartment building along Bay Street. The developer, Morguard, planned to build two more apartment buildings, 9 and 10 storeys tall, on the 11 Wellesley West site, along with a recreational amenities facility for the use of residents in all of the buildings (including two more Opera Place condo towers previously constructed one block south on Bay Street, between Breadalbane and Grosvenor Streets). However, shovels never got in the ground for the final phase of construction, and the property has sat vacant behind hoarding ever since — an eyesore that annoys hundreds of residents in the condos and apartments overlooking the site, not to mention passersby on Wellesley and Breadalbane.

I have long wondered why Morguard wanted to build only low-rise apartments on a location ideal for highrise development — to me, tall condo towers would suit the space better, and might even be substantially more profitable. I have also wondered why it has been taking so long for the final phase of Opera Place construction to commence. Last month, a city planning department official told a community meeting I attended that the site has sat empty for years because the developer and the Ontario Government have been embroiled in litigation over the property. No further details were provided about the nature of the dispute, but the planner said the parties are close to signing a settlement under which the province could re-acquire the land. If that does happen, the province apparently has indicated that it would be willing to give the property to the city for use as a community park — if that’s what people want.

Now, at least one neighbourhood group is encouraging residents to write to their city councillor and their MPP to say they want 11 Wellesley West turned into parkland. A page on the Bay Cloverhill Community Association website urges residents to contact City Councillor Kristyn Wong-tam and MPP Glen Murray to show their support for the creation of a new park. Will it happen? Perhaps, if enough Toronto residents put pressure on the local politicians.Personally, I favour turning the site into public green space; even though I didn’t skateboard, I still remember enjoying the wide open space along Wellesley before the skateboard park was closed off. The empty land and the unsightly hoarding have been a blight on the neighbourhood ever since, and it’s high time something creative is done to enhance the property and surrounding streetscapes. At the same time, I’m skeptical that we’ll see a new park on Wellesley anytime soon. Empty land in downtown Toronto rarely gets repurposed as parkland; inevitably, it attracts the attention of developers, and winds up sprouting condo towers instead of trees. Moreover, this particular piece of land seems to have been jinxed since the opera house plan fell apart. I hope I’m wrong. I’d really love to see trees along Wellesley.

 

11 Wellesley Street West

The 11 Wellesley Street West site appears as an empty white space in the center of this aerial image from Google Maps. The Sutton Place hotel is at top left, while the downtown YMCA is near the bottom right.

 

11 Wellesley Street West

September 28 2008: Breadalbane Street view of weeds and rubble on the 11 Wellesley Street West site

 

11 Wellesley Street West

September 28 2008: Northeast view from Breadalbane Street

 

11 Wellesley Street West

December 5 2008: East view from outside the Sutton Place Hotel

 

11 Wellesley Street West

December 5 2008: East view from Breadalbane Street

 

11 Wellesley Street West

April 17 2009: Northeast view from Breadalbane Street. The Casa condo tower is seen under construction on Charles Street to the north.

 

11 Wellesley Street West

March 11 2010: North view from Breadalbane Street

 

11 Wellesley Street West

March 11 2010: Breadalbane Street view of 11 Wellesley Street West. From time to time, someone rips out weeds and clears rubbish from the site.

 

11 Wellesley Street West

March 11 2010: Although there are dumpsters and construction trailers on the property, I’ve never seen anyone on it.

11 Wellesley Street West

March 16 2011:  Southwest view of 11 Wellesley Street West from the corner of Wellesley and St Nicholas Streets. The property is virtually surrounded by highrise condo and apartment buildings.

11 Wellesley Street West

March 27 2011: Looking north at the big empty lot. At left is the Sutton Place Hotel; at center is the Century Plaza condo tower at 24 Wellesley St. W.

 

11 Wellesley Street West

March 27 2011: A view toward the northeast corner of the lot

 

11 Wellesley Street West

March 27 2011: The property is less than half a block from Yonge Street and just a short walk from the Wellesley subway station.

11 Wellesley Street West

April 1 2011: South view of 11 Wellesley Street West from St Nicholas Street

 

11 Wellesley Street West

April 9 2011:  Now that it’s spring, weeds will once again flourish on the lot

 

11 Wellesley Street West

April 9 2011: This north view will change in a few years during construction of the 45-storey Five Condos, which will rise behind the brown building at upper left.

 

11 Wellesley Street West

April 9 2011: Residents of the condo and apartment towers have looked down on this eyesore for more than a decade

Hoarding along Breadalbane Street

April 9 2011: West view of hoarding along Breadalbane Street

11 Wellesley Street West

April 9 2011: North view of the hoarding along St Luke Lane

11 Wellesley Street West

April 9 2011: Breadalbane Street view of the towers to the north and west

Hoarding along the west side of St Luke Lane

April 9 2011: South view of the hoarding along St Luke Lane

hoarding on the north side of 11 Wellesley Street West

April 9 2011: Looking west along Wellesley from the corner of St Luke Lane

11 Wellesley Street West

April 17 2011: More rubbish, rubble and weeds await a spring cleanup