Music stars recorded in a studio formerly on the site
Most of the site proposed for redevelopment is vacant land, presently being operated as a pay parking lot (apparently without a licence or any kind of legal authorization from the city). Two buildings that once occupied parts of the property — a 2-storey office structure at 308 Jarvis Street, and a 1-storey commercial facility at 225 Mutual Street — were demolished during July and August 2010. From 1979 to 2005, the Mutual Street building was home to McClear Place, a digital recording and post-production studio. According to a brief historical outline on the McClear Place website, some of the famous acts who made recordings in the studio “included Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, B.T.O., The Who, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Ringo Starr, George Carlin, Steve Winwood, Chubby Checker, Rush, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket, and Mark Knopfler.”
1865 mansion is a designated heritage building
Only one building remains on the site — the 4-floor Sheard mansion at 314 Jarvis Street. Constructed in 1865, and altered in 1901 by Mathew Sheard for Dr. Charles Sheard (Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health from 1893 – 1910), the mansion was added to the City’s list of heritage buildings in 1988, and received formal heritage designation in 1990. The building has been used as offices for decades; it was a former location for the Rhythm Division sound, audio and recording facility (since relocated to Carlaw Avenue), and currently includes Pasan, the Prisoners’ HIV/AIDS Support Action Network, among its tenants. Only the “front portion” of the mansion would be saved as part of the new condo development.
While heritage advocates are dismayed about the potential fate of the Sheard mansion, staff in the city’s parks and planning departments are equally concerned about the impact that shadows cast by the condo tower could have on trees across the street in Allan Gardens, not to mention the hundreds of species of tropical plants and flowers — some of which are rare — growing in the Palm House conservatory and the four attached greenhouses.
No tall buildings on streets around the park?
City planners don’t think the west side of Jarvis Street across from Allan Gardens is an appropriate location for a highrise in any event. Last year, a consultant’s report prepared for the City’s Downtown Tall Buildings Project listed Allan Gardens as one of eight significant “First Tier” downtown parks that deserved special protection from shadowing by tall buildings. The report recommended keeping the streets on the west, south and east sides of the park free from tall building development (it did say that Carlton Street on the north side of the park, where there is already one midrise condo plus one highrise apartment building, would be suitable for tall buildings).
City planners have analyzed the consultants’ study and prepared a report urging City Council to adopt their own recommendations for a new downtown tall buildings vision and guidelines. That report goes to Toronto and East York Community Council (TEYCC) for consideration in just over a week, and could go to City Council for approval on March 5. Maps in the city planners’ January 27 2012 report to TEYCC show that tall buildings are considered appropriate only on Carlton Street to the north of Allan Gardens, and only to a maximum height of 62 to 107 meters (20 to 35 storeys). The map shows tall buildings are not desirable on Jarvis Street to the west, Gerrard to the south, and Sherbourne to the east.
Park beautification & improvement projects planned
So far there has been no word on whether Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam will side with city planners and take a strong stand against a condo tower at 308 Jarvis. The councillor has stated publicly that she plans to make significant investments in Allan Gardens to improve and beautify the park space. She has budgeted funds to create a children’s playground in the park, and has said she hopes that a visitation centre and perhaps even a café might materialize in the near future. There has been no indication when work on any of those projects will begin. However, a large chunk of the park’s south side along Gerrard Street will be cordoned off with hoarding for the next three and a half years to permit work on the City’s Gerrard-Elm-D’Arcy-River Street Watermain Replacement Project.
City planners are expected to hold a community consultation meeting, possibly at the end of this month, to gather neighbourhood feedback about the 308 Jarvis condo proposal.
Below are several images from Google Street View and one from a gallery on the McClear Place website, showing the buildings that occupied the development site until they were demolished during the summer of 2010. Those images are followed by a series of photos I have taken of the potential development site, as well as nearby buildings and parts of Allan Gardens.
This image from Google Street View shows the Ramada Plaza Hotel at 300 Jarvis, left, the 2-storey brown brick office building that once occupied 308 Jarvis, and the Charles Sheard designated heritage mansion at 314 Jarvis, right.
Also from Google Street View, this image shows the long-since-razed office building at 308 Jarvis, private parking areas at 310 and 312 Jarvis, and the Charles Sheard heritage building which still stands at 314 Jarvis
This Google Street View image shows the former 1-storey building at 225 Mutual Street, looking north along Mutual toward Carlton Street
Another Google Street View image of 225 Mutual Street, this time looking southeast along Mutual Street. At left is a lane that leads to Jarvis Street.
From a photo gallery on the former McClear Place website, another Mutual Street view of the former recording studio building
August 30 2012: Looking west from Allan Gardens shortly after the two low-rise buildings at 308 Jarvis Street and 225 Mutual Street were demolished
August 30 2010: Another view from Allan Gardens of the razed 308 Jarvis Street site, and the 1865-era Sheard Mansion to its north at 314 Jarvis
October 20 2012: Looking to the northwest across the vacant, muddy lot where buildings used to stand at 308 Jarvis Street and 225 Mutual Street. The property owner subsequently spread gravel on the ground and opened a parking lot.
February 5 2012: Looking east from Mutual Street across the site for the proposed 50-storey condo tower. 5 townhouses are proposed for this side of the project.
February 5 2012: Buildings along Carlton Street, immediately to the north of the proposed condo site, include the Oasis Aqua Lounge women’s and couples’ sex club, left, and the 25-storey Best Western Primrose Hotel, rear right
February 5 2012: Looking west down Granby Street from the pay parking lot at 308 Jarvis Street. Two condo towers at College Park are visible in the distance; they will eventually be overtaken by the 78-storey Aura at College Park condo tower
February 5 2012: The five townhomes proposed for the Mutual Street side of the condo complex would face these townhouses on Granby Street
February 5 2012: Homes along the west side of Mutual Street near the proposed 50-storey condo tower and townhouse complex
February 5 2012: The proposed condo tower would rise behind this row of townhouses on the east side of Mutual Street
February 5 2012: A view of the rear of the Mutual Street townhouses from the parking lot site where the condo tower would be built
February 5 2012: The beige building to the northwest of the development site is the 16-storey 77 Carlton Street condominium, built in 1983
February 5 2012: West view from the middle of the 308 Jarvis parking lot
February 5 2012: The north side of the Ramada Plaza Hotel next to the parking lot
February 5 2012: Parking lot view of the south sides of the 314 Jarvis mansion and the Best Western Primrose Hotel tower at 111 Carlton Street
February 5 2012: There’s no word yet on whether the developer plans to retain these trees along Jarvis Street, but as is usually the case with most downtown developments, they’ll probably be destroyed
February 5 2012: The Vinci Park lot was created after two buildings that formerly stood on the site were demolished in the summer of 2010. The Vinci company calls itself “the world leader in parking facilities,” and operates in 13 countries.
February 5 2012: The Ramada Plaza Hotel, right next door to the development site, overlooks Allan Gardens
February 5 2012: A pedestrian bridge connects the hotel to the Metropolitan Essex condominium building at 296-298 Jarvis Street, left
February 5 2012: The Metropolitan Essex condo building is 18 storeys tall
February 5 2012: The condo podium includes street-level commercial space plus second-floor ballroom and recreational facilities that are available for use by Ramada Plaza Hotel guests
February 5 2012: A view from Allan Gardens of the 314 Jarvis Mansion that would be incorporated into the condo development. Behind it are the 77 Carlton condos, left, and the Best Western Primrose Hotel
February 5 2012: A view toward the development site, left, from the northeast corner of Jarvis and Carlton Streets
February 5 2012: Jarvis Street view of Carlton Street, looking west past The Best Western Primrose Hotel
February 5 2012: The Best Western Primrose Hotel entrance at 111 Carlton Street. A number of floors in the hotel are operated as residences for students attending downtown colleges and universities. I’ve heard that the building could be targeted for conversion into a condominium, or be torn down and replaced with a completely new condo highrise, if Toronto’s real estate boom continues.
February 5 2012: Looking east along the block of Carlton Street immediately to the north of the proposed condo site. If built, the tower would soar behind the Oasis Aqua Lounge sex club, the brown brick building at right
February 5 2012: The Latvian St Andrews Evangelical Lutheran Church at the southeast corner of Jarvis & Carlton Streets, next to Allan Gardens, stands across Jarvis Street from the proposed condo tower
February 5 2012: St Andrews Evangelical Lutheran Church
February 5 2012: If built, the 50-storey condo tower would dwarf and shadow the church steeples
February 5 2012: A view of Allan Gardens from Jarvis Street, just to the south of St Andrews Evangelical Lutheran Church
February 5 2012: One of the Allan Gardens greenhouses, left, and the Palm House
February 5 2012: This greenhouse, situated to the west of the Palm House, was relocated to Allan Gardens in the early 2000s. It formerly stood at the northwest corner of College Street and Queen’s Park Crescent, but was dismantled and reconstructed in Allan Gardens when the University of Toronto built its new Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy building at 144 College Street. The greenhouse is now used as an educational facility for city schoolchildren.
February 5 2012: Overlooking the greenhouses are the 15-storey Carlton on the Parkcondominium at 130 Carlton Street, and the 23-storey Carlton Plaza rental apartment building at 140 Carlton
October 29 2010: An autumn view of the west greenhouse. City parks and planning staff are concerned that a 50-storey tower next to the park could have a detrimental impact on the trees and botanical gardens
February 5 2012: The Palm House conservatory, left, and one of the four greenhouses connected to it. The Metropolitan Essex condo building on Jarvis is visible at center rear
February 5 2012: West view from Allan Gardens toward the spot on Jarvis Street where the proposed tower would rise between the two hotels
February 5 2012: The Palm House opened in 1910, replacing a pavilion that had burned down in 1902. The park itself dates back to 1858. Much of the parkland was donated to the city by a former Toronto mayor, George William Allan.
December 17 2008: The Palm House after a light snowfall. The Palm House draws crowds each Christmas for its festive holiday displays featuring dozens of different varieties of poinsettias and seasonal flowers.
February 5 2012: The west side of the Palm House, facing Jarvis Street
February 5 2012: Looking toward the proposed condo tower site on Jarvis Street, from the west section of Allan Gardens
February 5 2012: Another view toward the proposed condo tower site, this time from the south-central section of park along Gerrard Street
February 5 2012: A section of Allan Gardens along Gerrard Street, near Sherbourne Street, will remain closed to the public for more than 3 years while major watermain construction work takes place
February 5 2012: Construction notice posted at the work site
February 5 2012: Part of the construction zone inside the hoarding
February 5 2012: Another work area inside the construction zone
February 5 2012: A view of the construction area from Gerrard Street
February 5 2012: The Gerrard Street entrance to the construction zone
February 6 2012: If the 50-storey condo gets approved and built, my view of the Financial District skyline will include a new tower soaring skyward behind the Best Western Primrose Hotel, left, seen here at sunrise today