One of the three cranes atop the MaRS Centre Phase 2 construction site casts multiple reflections in the curved glass facade of the Ontario Power Generation building at the southwest corner of University Avenue and College Street
Southbound motorists and pedestrians approaching University Avenue from Queen’s Park Crescent can see intriguing reflections of the MaRS Centre construction on the OPG headquarters to their right …
… and get a great view of the actual construction site to their left, as seen here last month in a photo shot from the median at the foot of Queen’s Park Crescent
Mirror images: Three construction cranes are helping to build the MaRS Centre Phase 2 tower at the southeast corner of University Avenue and College Street. But from certain perspectives at street level, fascinating reflections on the glass facade of the Ontario Power Generation building across the street suggest there are dozens more cranes working the project.
February 6 2012: The Aura condo tower has so far climbed six floors above its mammoth podium, seen here from the northwest corner of the 3-acre park sheltered by the office & residential towers at the College Park complex
February 9 2012: The Aura podium on the southeast corner of Yonge & Gerrard Streets will contain 190,000 square feet of retail shops, restaurants and services
February 6 2012: Construction of the MaRS Centre Phase 2 building at College Street and University Avenue reached the sixth floor this month
Aura ascends, MaRS rises: Construction has climbed past the sixth-floor point at two different projects that will establish landmark new buildings and radically change the appearance of two busy intersections in the downtown core.
Aura condos at College Park
The 3-level podium for the Aura condo tower has been turning heads at the intersection of Yonge & Gerrard Streets since construction of the mammoth structure reached street level nearly a year ago. With 6 of Aura’s 75 condo floors now constructed, the building has begun to prominently assert its presence for several blocks in each direction, giving city residents and visitors an early hint of the dramatic impact the country’s tallest residential tower will have on the Toronto skyline.
November 30 2011: Overlooking the MaRS Centre Phase 2 construction site at the corner of University & College on a rainy Wednesday morning
November 30 2011: Workers walk on rebar two levels above University Avenue
November 30 2011: Workers assemble a form to prepare for a concrete pour
MaRS rising: People passing through the intersection of University Avenue and College Street have been able to get glimpses of life on MaRS, now that construction of the MaRS Centre Phase 2 building has risen above hoarding around the southeast corner site.
Since PCL resumed construction on the project in August after a nearly 3-year-long hiatus, workers have poured concrete for most of the second level, and have been making fast progress as they prepare to add the third floor of what will ultimately be a 20-storey tower.
Below are two building renderings by B + H Architects, followed by a photo comparing the mothballed construction site — as it appeared after a snowstorm in January — to the progress that had been reached as of this morning. Those pics are followed by a series of photos tracking construction progress since early September.
November 30 2011: The property sat vacant for nearly three years before building resumed this past summer. Three cranes and dozens of construction workers are now active on the site.
November 30 2011: Support columns for the 3rd level soar above University Ave.
November 30 2011: Workers assemble steel bars as another floor takes shape
November 25 2011: Phase 2 construction viewed from the southwest, from the University Avenue median
November 25 2011: A view of two of the three cranes operating on the site
November 25 2011: The south side of the building, next to Toronto General Hospital. Construction in the southeast corner has reached the third floor.
November 25 2011: The second level and support columns for the third floor seen looking northeast from the University Avenue median
November 25 2011: The view through the construction entrance at the site’s southwest corner off University Avenue
November 25 2011: The second level takes shape above hoarding along the University Avenue sidewalk
November 25 2011: Another construction entrance off University Avenue
November 25 2011: Construction progress near the northwest corner of the site
November 25 2011: Looking southeast from the University Avenue median toward the Toronto General Hospital building next to Phase 2
November 25 2011: Progress at the northwest corner of the building
November 25 2011: Phase 2 construction progress viewed the University Avenue median on the north side of College Street
October 29 2011: Phase 2 construction is more visible to passersby as the building begins to rise above the hoarding
October 29 2011: Building activity above a University Avenue entrance
October 29 2011: The main floor takes shape near the southwest corner of the site, along University Avenue
October 29 2011: Phase 2 viewed from the University Avenue median, looking northeast. The Burano condo, under construction three blocks away on Bay Street, is visible behind the crane.
October 29 2011: Construction progress at the northeast corner, viewed from the north side of College Street
September 3 2011: Looking northeast from the intersection of Gerrard Street & University Avenue, soon after work resumed and cranes were re-installed
September 3 2011: Construction resumed in August, and is expected to finish sometime in 2013. The building will have direct links to the subway, Toronto General Hospital and the rest of the MaRS Centre
From the MaRS Discovery District website, this rendering by B + H Architects suggests how the 20-storey Phase 2 building will appear to pedestrians at the southeast corner of College Street and University Avenue …
… while this photo from July 27 2011 shows how the building location currently looks when viewed from the northwest corner of the intersection
MaRS relaunch coming: In a sure sign that Toronto is putting the global economic meltdown firmly in the past, construction work will resume next month on the MaRS Discovery District‘s long-awaited Phase 2 building at the southeast corner of College Street and University Avenue. With 770,000 square feet of rentable building space, the tower will more than double the size of the downtown innovation facility to 1.5 million square feet, “creating Canada’s largest science, technology and research centre,” the MaRS Centre Phase 2 webpage states.
The 20-storey tower designed by B + H Architects “will be a visual and architectural marvel,” the webpage adds, noting that the building will feature “avant-garde glass design” with “thermally broken high-performance unitized aluminum and double-glazed curtain wall with laminated glass accent fins.” Inside those glass walls will be “state-of-the-art laboratory and office space” boasting “advanced communications and information technology capabilities.” About 60% of the space will be laboratories, with offices occupying the rest.
The Centre will offer a direct connection to Toronto General Hospital next door, as well as to the TTC’s Queen’s Park subway station. An atrium with a 62-foot-high glazed skylight, stone flooring, and metal mesh and terracotta walls will link it to the adjacent MaRS heritage building and towers while, below ground, the Centre will have a two-level parking garage with dedicated parking spots and showers for cyclists.
The project will cost approximately $344.5 million, create 4,000 construction jobs, and more than double the number of people working at the MaRS Centre — from 2,300 now to 5,000. Construction is expected to commence in mid-August, with completion anticipated for September 2013. The provincial Crown corporation Infrastructure Ontario is giving MaRS a $230 million fully repayable loan to build its new facility, while the balance of the project cost is being borne by MaRS and its strategic partner Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., “the world’s leading life science developer and owner.” Leases have been signed with two key tenants: the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, which already has space in the South MaRS tower, and Public Health Ontario, which will move its central lab into the premises.
The return of construction cranes and workers to the site next month will cheer architecture and building buffs who’ve been anxious to see work resume on the Phase 2 tower. Construction had reached ground level when the global economic crisis struck in 2008, bringing work on the tower to a complete halt by November of that year. Many building enthusiasts were worried that completion of the partly-built structure could be delayed indefinitely, like the former Bay Adelaide Centre “stump” that sat as an eyesore in Toronto’s Financial District for 15 years. Things appeared hopeful in January when an online news story suggested that an announcement about a construction restart might be made sometime during the winter (for more details about that revelation, see my February 17 2011 post). Although the announcement took several months longer than expected, architecture afficionados will be thrilled to watch once again when work continues on a new landmark building at the College & University corner.
This rendering by B + H Architects appears on the MaRS Discovery District website. It suggests how the Phase 2 building could look at night when viewed from the University of Toronto campus to the northwest …
… while this photo shows how the Phase 2 building location looked yesterday when viewed from the U of T campus
July 27 2011: A view of the building site, looking southeast from U of T
The mothballed MaRS Phase II building site, seen on Jan. 18 2011
Will construction resume?: Downtown’s MaRS Discovery District — the bustling charitable research and innovation centre on College Street, next to the Toronto General Hospital campus — gets mentioned in the news quite regularly. It got some media attention slightly more than a week ago, when the provincial government announced Feb. 9 that MaRS “is now part of the Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE), a network of 14 regional innovation centres across the province that help local entrepreneurs bring innovative ideas to market.” And almost every week or two, MaRS makes the news with proud announcements that clients have secured financing for new ventures, launched new technology products, or won major awards.
But the really big news I’m anxiously awaiting is word that MaRS is finally going to resume construction of its Phase II development at the corner of College and University Avenue — the building site that has been mothballed since November 2008.
That news could be coming soon, according to a recent story on OpenFile, the collaborative online news site. The January 24 OpenFile Toronto story by Tim Alamenciak says MaRS and its real estate partner have been discussing terms for resuming construction, with a formal announcement expected shortly — possibly within just a few weeks. No details were available, but Alamenciak said a MaRS rep “confirmed that there have been no changes to the original building plan, which called for a twenty-storey tower that would add 750,000 square feet of space to MaRS.” The official also confirmed that “the existing foundation will still be used,” Alamenciak reported.
MaRS Phase II was the city’s first high-profile construction project to fall victim to the global economic crisis. When the plug was pulled and construction crawled to a halt, the building foundation — with a two-level underground parking garage and a direct connection to the College station on the University subway line — had already reached ground level. A National Post story from November 2008 described why building activity was stopped. I’ll be thrilled if the Post (or any other local paper) soon publishes a story reporting that construction activity has resumed on the dormant property, but I’m not holding my breath. Word on the street early last fall was that construction would restart by the end of October, but of course nothing happened.
The site has been sitting eerily empty and silent, reminiscent of the infamous Stump that sat next to Adelaide Street in the heart of the city’s Financial District for nearly 15 years after an office building project fell victim to the economic recession of the early 1990s (the Stump ultimately got demolished when the Bay Adelaide Centre office tower was constructed several years ago). I’d hate to see the MaRS stump languish for that long, but suspect we will see workers back on the site in the near future.
The OpenFile story suggests that MaRS will continue with the Bregman + Hamann Architects building designs originally revealed for the project. Below are some artistic renderings of the MaRS building design that appear on the website of curtain wall engineering company Sota Glazing.
I’ve also posted some pics I took at the building site in 2008 while construction of the foundation was underway, along with a couple of pics of the site taken earlier this week.
Artistic rendering of the MaRS Phase II tower design
Artistic rendering of a street-level view of the Phase II building
Illustration suggesting how the MaRS building will appear on University Avenue
MaRS Phase II building construction site seen on Sept 3 2008
Site viewed from a construction gate on University Avenue on September 3 2008
Queen’s Park Crescent view of two cranes on the MaRS site on November 7 2008
MaRS site construction gate on College Street viewed November 7 2008
Another November 2008 view of the site from College Street
Ground level floor ready for concrete pour on November 7 2008
One of the cranes on the MaRS site November 7 2008
Elevator core taking shape on November 7 2008
MaRS Phase II building construction progress viewed on November 7 2008
Another November 7 2008 view of construction progress
MaRS Phase II building site viewed from College Street on February 15 2011
The elevator core “stump” is the most visible sign of construction progress at the site before building activity was stopped in mid-November 2008