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Falling glass balcony panels a “pane” in the neck for Murano condo owners, Bay Street pedestrians

Murano condo towers under construction September 20 2008

Heads up! You don’t usually see scaffolding erected around a brand-new condominium tower to protect passing pedestrians after construction has finished and the building is fully occupied. But then, you don’t usually expect glass panels to shatter and fall off the balconies of new buildings, either. Yet that’s what seems to have happened four separate times in the past year at the Murano condos on Bay Street.

Designed by architectsAlliance of Toronto, Murano is a complex of two glass highrise buildings that opened in 2009: a 35-floor North Tower on Grosvenor Street and a 45-storey South Tower on Grenville Street, both linked by a two-storey podium extending along Bay Street.

According to posts in an online Toronto architecture and building forum, a glass panel broke loose from a balcony in early April of last year. It plunged to the ground, in the process shattering several other glass panels that create a canopy above Bay Street to protect pedestrians from rain and the elements. The sidewalk around the damaged panels was cordoned off with yellow safety warning tape while repairs were performed.

A similar incident occurred in September, when a tempered glass panel shattered and fell from an upper-level balcony on the Grenville Street side of the North Tower. Several days later, glass from another panel shattered and showered to the ground from a different North Tower balcony, also on the Grenville Street side. That incident made headlines in local papers; for example, the Toronto Star reported on glass falling from the Murano tower in a story on September 18.  

The broken panels were replaced with sheets of wood while new panels were ordered; meanwhile, condo management called engineers in to try to determine what had caused the panels to break.

In early December, I noticed that the wood sheets were gone and the missing glass panels had finally been replaced; however, around December 21, another balcony panel shattered. Again, it was on a North Tower balcony, but this time on the south side. Scaffolding has protected sidewalks around the condo complex ever since, and up until the end of last week a piece of wood was still visible on the balcony in question. When I passed by this morning, however, the wood was gone and a new glass panel was in place; in fact, I could see a contractor working on the balcony, so he may have just finished the installation. On the other hand, the glass overhang above street level was still missing three panels. 

The problem must be a source of embarrassment and frustration for the building’s developer, Lanterra Developments, which operates a customer service centre for its various condominium projects in a street-level office in the Murano podium along Bay Street (now partially obscured by the scaffolding).

But shattered glass hasn’t been the only thing dropping from the Murano towers. In a gruesome accident in May 2008, falling metal debris killed a 55-year-old construction worker while the complex was being built; details are provided in this Toronto Star story. And on March 15 last year, a man jumped to his death from a unit on the east side of the building. Could ghosts of the two deceased be responsible for the falling glass? Or is it merely a case of balcony panel defects or improper installation techniques?

It will be interesting to see how long the scaffolding remains in place; it really detracts from the streetscape and spoils views of the podium. Fortunately, it doesn’t block the colourful decorated glass windows (created by Toronto photographer Barbara Astman) on the podium’s second floor.


Missing glass panel on south side of North Tower December 21 2010

Closer view of the replacement wood panel on North Tower balcony

January 18 2011: New glass panel freshly installed

January 18 2011: Overhang above the sidewalk is still missing panels

Scaffolding on Bay Street sidewalk below Murano condo towers December 21 2010

Wood panel on a Murano North Tower balcony September 19 2010

Wood panel on another Murano North Tower balcony September 19 2010

Scaffolding on sidewalks around the Murano towers January 5 2011

Scaffolding on sidewalks around the Murano towers January 5 2011

Scaffolding on sidewalks around the Murano towers January 5 2011

Ritz-Carlton Toronto set to rock city’s 5-star hotel scene when guests begin arriving in February

CN Tower reflects on Ritz-Carlton Toronto tower on November 29 2010

Lifestyles of the Ritz and famous: The soaring glass and limestone skyscraper with its distinctively sloped upper floors has already taken its elegant place on the city skyline. Now, with guests scheduled to begin arriving within just a few weeks, the Ritz-Carlton Toronto is set to make a spectacular splash on the city’s five-star hotel scene, too. Standing 53 storeys, the Ritz-Carlton is the first of four new high-end hotel/condo towers that should finally put Toronto on the radar of affluent travellers around the globe during the next two years.  (The others, currently under construction, include the Trump International Toronto, the Four Seasons Toronto Hotel + Residences, and Living Shangri-La Toronto.)

Seems it wasn’t so long ago that members of the International Olympic Committee, when considering Toronto’s ultimately unsuccessful bids to host the 1996 and 2008 Summer Olympics, complained that the city was sorely lacking in upscale accommodations. Moreover, Toronto hotels have rarely appeared on any of the annual lists that top international travel publications compile of the world’s best hotels. In November, for instance, Toronto failed to get a single hotel on the Conde Nast Traveler “Best in the World 2010” list, and didn’t even make it onto the magazine’s “Top 20 Resorts in Canada” ranking. Toronto hotels similarly didn’t make the upper cut for Conde Nast’s “Gold List” of the world’s best hotels and resorts, released in January. And just this week, Toronto Star Travel Editor Jim Byers blogged that only one hotel in all of Canada made it onto the American Automobile Association’s list of five-diamond hotels in North America for 2011 — and it wasn’t in Toronto, of course (it was the Four Seasons at Whistler, B.C.).

But if the attentive staff at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto make an impression, the constant snubbing of Toronto’s hotels should come to an end. The hotel website says the Ritz-Carlton Toronto will open in February, offering “a world-class spa, exceptional dining, impeccable service and 267 luxurious guest rooms and suites.” I couldn’t find room availability for any February dates when I used the hotel website’s online booking form, but I did manage to find rooms starting as low as $455 per night in early March. (I didn’t book, so I’ll just have to settle for viewing the building from the outside.)

Some construction work is still in progress, as crews rush to complete the hotel entrance, lobby and lobby bar. Work continues on many of the ultra-expensive condo suites in the tower’s upper levels while, on the exterior, the hotel’s signage has still not been installed, and work is finishing up on a wide walkway between the Ritz-Carlton and the CBC headquarters to its west.

Two architectural firms collaborated on the project: Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) Associates Architects and Planners of New York and Page + Steeles Architects of Toronto.

Further details about the Ritz-Carlton Toronto building are provided in this fact sheet from the hotel. Below is an artistic rendering of the tower (from the Ritz-Carlton website), along with a series of photos I’ve snapped on recent walks past the building.


Hotel website rendering of the Ritz-Carlton Toronto tower

Ritz-Carlton Toronto tower viewed from Wellington Street on November 29 2010

Ritz-Carlton Toronto viewed from Roy Thomson Hall on January 14 2011

Ritz-Carlton Toronto tower southwest view on November 29 2010

Ritz-Carlton Toronto viewed from Wellington Street December 16 2010

Ritz-Carlton Toronto Wellington Street entrance driveway

Ritz-Carlton Toronto front entrance viewed December 16 2010

Ritz-Carlton lobby awaits furniture installation on December 16 2010

Ritz-Carlton lobby bar under construction December 16 2010

Ritz-Carlton lobby bar under construction December 16 2010

Ritz-Carlton Toronto hotel (lower windows with drapes) and condo residences

Ritz-Carlton Toronto neighbours RBC Centre (middle) and Simcoe Place (right)

Ritz-Carlton Toronto tower west side view on January 14 2011

Ritz-Carlton Toronto tower northwest view on November 29 2010


Going up: Burano makes a statement on Bay Street

Burano Condos viewed from corner of Grenville and Bay on Jan. 5 2011



Bold new building for Bay: It’s only approaching one-third of its ultimate height, but the Burano Condos tower already makes a strong visual statement on Bay Street.  With its sharply-angled northeast and southeast corners, and freshly-installed reflective windows putting a shiny face on its six lower floors, Burano is attracting plenty of attention these days. Artistic renderings (below) show what the 50-floor tower is expected to look like when completed; the photos that follow show how far Burano’s construction was coming along this week.



Burano Condos construction entrance on Grosvenor Street


Concrete pumper and construction crane atop Burano Condos tower


Windows recently installed on southeast side of Burano Condos tower


Southeast corner of the Burano Condos tower


North side of Burano Condos tower viewed from Grosvenor Street


Northwest side of Burano Condos tower viewed from Grosvenor Street


A nearby building reflects in windows on the north side of Burano Condos


Looking up at Burano Condos tower from Grosvenor Street


Northeast corner of Burano Condos tower


Burano construction crane reflects in the Murano tower across Bay Street


Was heritage building deliberately torched?


335 Yonge Street ruins viewed from Gould Street (top) and Yonge Street (below) today after investigators knocked down the top floor and began searching the rubble for evidence of arson. Bottom pic shows 335 Yonge after its top floor was removed.


Police seeking “person of interest”: The search for the cause of Monday’s fire at 335 Yonge Street turned into a criminal arson investigation after Toronto police found evidence suggesting that someone had entered the property and left mere minutes before the blaze broke out. Nearby surveillance cameras captured pictures and video of a “person of interest” who spent nearly two and a half hours in the building in the middle of the night, leaving the scene shortly before someone saw flames and called the fire department.

Meanwhile, work crews used heavy machinery to tear down the top floor of the fire-charred structure today so pieces of rubble could be extricated and examined for evidence of arson (the ruins remain far too unsafe for investigators to enter). Still no word from the building’s owners or city officials as to what will happen with the site once the fire marshall’s office has concluded its investigation.

While speculation about arson and “demolition by neglect” continues to swirl in the local media, noted journalist Christie Blatchford examines the serious fire hazards posed by vacant and abandoned buildings in an insightful column in today’s Globe and Mail. Below: photos showing some of the demolition equipment in use at 335 Yonge today.




Work crews laying a solid foundation for Aura

January 7 2011 webcam view of construction progress at Aura

Growing closer to ground level: The huge hole in the ground at the northwest corner of Yonge and Gerrard Streets is filling in nicely. The foundation for Aura at College Park is rapidly taking shape as work crews continuing pouring concrete for the 75-storey condo tower’s extensive underground levels.

Work crews were easy to observe from the sidewalk on Yonge Street when I walked past the site’s entrance for concrete mixing trucks earlier this week. Last time I passed by, I couldn’t see any of the construction workers from the Yonge Street sidewalk because they were still too far down in the deep excavation.

Won’t be long before passersby get a clear view of the construction activity from the street. For now, they have to be content peering through the small observation windows in the hoarding along the north side of the site.

Below are several of my recent photos of the site, including a shot from the CN Tower which shows the top of one of the three construction cranes at Aura poking above the nearby Delta Chelsea hotel. That same view will look markedly different a year from now, at which point the tower’s frame will have an impressive presence on the city skyline.

Groundbreaking Women’s College Hospital busy breaking ground for new “Hospital of the Future”


Innovative redevelopment:This is a big year for Women’s College Hospital (WCH), which is celebrating its 100th anniversary throughout 2011. But the hospital isn’t just looking back and proudly resting on its laurels — a full century of  medical milestones and important achievements in all facets of women’s health care. It’s also looking forward, and kicking off construction of a new building that it proudly proclaims will be  “The Hospital of the Future — a hospital designed to keep people out of hospital.”

The new facility, expected to launch in 2015, will give WCH a huge boost in capacity for its leading-edge urgent care services and ambulatory surgery. As the hospital explains on its website, “We’re providing the most advanced care for women living with the diseases and conditions that affect them throughout their lives — diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, mental illness, migraine and cancers. And we’re doing it all without overnight hospitalization.” That’s great news not only for women’s medical care, but also for neighbourhood rejuvenation, since the two-phase redevelopment project will drastically improve the appearance of an entire rather dreary-looking block in downtown Toronto.

WCH sits just east of the Ontario Legislature, bounded by Surrey Place and Grosvenor, Bay and Grenville Streets. (The Bay Street end of the block — once the Addison Cadillac dealership — is the site of the new Burano Condo tower currently under construction.) I’ve never liked the existing WCH complex which, in my view, has a hulking, bunker-like presence that isn’t the least bit friendly to the surrounding streets. In fact, WCB and its neighbours on the south side of Grenville Street — the Ontario Nurses’ Association headquarters and the former Archives of Ontario building — actually make Grenville a rather unpleasant street to walk along. The urgent care department entrance on Surrey Place is an ugly eyesore, and the hospital side of Grosvenor Street isn’t much better — its only saving grace was a tree-lined stretch alongside the low-rise Kenson apartment building that the hospital owned and has since demolished. But if artistic renderings are any indication, the new WCH building will vastly improve the neighbourhood and streetscape, especially since a landscaped, tree-filled park area is planned for the western end of the hospital property.

The five-year redevelopment project got underway last August when the hospital closed and then razed its multi-level parking garage next to Burano, along with the three-storey Kenson. Drilling and excavation work are presently underway. Below are several artistic renderings of what the new building will look like; they’re from a “building the hospital of the future” section of the WCH website that provided information about the redevelopment project. Also below are some photos I shot this week of the building site.






Excavation viewed from Grenville Street on January 5 2011

Excavation viewed from Grenville Street on January 5 2011

Excavation viewed from Grenville Street on January 5 2011

Excavation viewed from Grenville Street on January 5 2011

Excavation viewed from Grosvenor  Street on January 5 2011



President envisions burned heritage building as Yonge Street gateway to Ryerson U campus

The remains of 335 Yonge Street two days after the big blaze



Ryerson to the rescue? While firefighters and investigators today kept busy probing the cause of Monday’s destructive fire at 335 Yonge Street, the president of Ryerson University reiterated his keen interest in acquiring the historic property.

As I mentioned in a blog post the other day, I’ve been wondering if the university still wants the site — the William Reynolds Block — for its campus expansion plans. Turns out, it definitely does.

University president Sheldon Levy told The Globe and Mail that he’d still like to obtain the property for a possible Yonge Street “gateway” to the RU campus. According to the Globe & Mail story, “Ryerson has eyed the property as a potential venue for an additional entrance to the Dundas subway station for years, but failed to persuade the owners, the Lalani Group, to sell the land.” Ryerson is just about to start construction of a new student services building just a stone’s throw away — directly across Gould Street, on the site of the former Sam the Record Man store. Obtaining the 335 Yonge building would give the university the opportunity to create an impressive, stand-out entrance that its compact downtown campus has been sorely lacking.

But the big question, now, is whether City Hall and the provincial government have the wherewithal to finally get any kind of redevelopment of the site going — especially since they have allowed the property to sit neglected since part of its brick facade fell down last April.

“You don’t sit back and watch a building fall down and burn and then say, ‘Let’s think about this for another six months or a year,” Levy told the Globe. Sadly, that’s the way all levels of government typically act in Canada. They love to spend years talking about things they’d like to do before actually getting around to  it — if they ever in fact do it at all.

Frankly, I’ll be amazed if any kind of redevelopment activity gets underway at 335 Yonge in the next year — whether it’s by Ryerson, the City, or by someone else. But I’ll be thrilled if the university does acquire the site and is able to restore the burned building as part of a new main entrance to its campus. Below are some pics I shot of 335 Yonge this afternoon.


Traffic was still restricted on two blocks of Yonge Street today

What’s left of the building’s Yonge Street facade

Firefighters surveying the ruins from an aerial platform

Firefighters hosing down the remains of the collapsed building

Site of Ryerson’s new student services centre, to start construction soon

Eaton Centre’s interior renovations make a splash


The big squirt is back! The Eaton Centre’s famous “shooting fountain” is once again entertaining children and adult shoppers alike now that most of the flooring and handrail renovations in the mall’s Centre Court have been completed and scaffolding cleared away.

The interior of the 33-year-old Eaton Centre, one of Toronto’s top tourist attractions, has been getting spruced up and modernized in a two-year, $120 million revitalization project. So far, new flooring plus glass and stainless steel railings have been installed from Centre Court all the way south to the Queen Street end of the complex, while the Eaton Centre’s dingy public washrooms also have been overhauled and upgraded. During much of the past six months, tall scaffolding has limited traffic flow and sightlines in the shopping concourses as well as access to the fountain, which was turned off so it could get spiffed up, too. But when I walked through the south half of Eaton Centre this afternoon, there wasn’t any scaffolding in sight, and water was flowing in the fountain once more.

Meanwhile, renovators are gradually working their way toward the north end of the mall, where they are taking up the old floor and installing new railings between Centre Court and the galleria outside Sears. Construction of a new entrance from the mall to the adjoining 250 Yonge Street office tower also is underway. Below are some photos I took of Centre Court today as well as a pic from last August of the court and fountain; today’s pics show how markedly the floor and railing changes have improved the Eaton Centre interior. Still to come are redevelopment of the mall’s food court areas plus lighting enhancements and the installation of what promises to be a spectacular galleria ceiling light sculpture created by the U.K.’s United Visual Artists. You can read more about the Eaton Centre revitalization project here.





Big digs: A look at how the earth’s been moving for five condos and a new waterfront college campus

Hole-y moley! That’s my reaction to several mighty big excavations currently underway for a half dozen major construction projects in the southern half of downtown.

One of the biggest (above) is for the new waterfront campus of George Brown College, situated between Sherbourne Common and the Corus Entertainment head office, both of which opened in 2010.

Just down the road, an even bigger dig is in progress for the Waterlink at Pier 27 condo complex.

Meanwhile, York Centre is the site of an enormous L-shaped excavation where the two ICE condo towers (65 and 55 storeys tall, respectively) and their office highrise sister (31 floors) ultimately will rise alongside the new Infinity3 three condo building (35 storeys).

Finally, on nearby Front Street West, holes are gradually getting deeper for Fly Condos (24 floors) and the 300 Front Street West condo tower (49 storeys).

Here’s a set of photos I’ve taken of these project sites recently, including some aerial shots from the CN Tower.


New George Brown College waterfront campus site August 29 2010

George Brown College waterfront campus excavation August 29 2010

George Brown College waterfront campus excavation August 29 2010

Waterlink at Pier 27 excavation November 2 2010

Waterlink at Pier 27 excavation November 2 2010

Waterlink at Pier 27 excavation November 9 2010

ICE + Infinity3 condos excavation November 2 2010

ICE + Infinity3 condos excavation November 2 2010

ICE + Infinity3 condos excavation November 2 2010

ICE + Infinity3 condos excavation November 2 2010

ICE + Infinity3 condos excavation November 2 2010

Fly Condos excavation January 3 2011

Fly Condos excavation January 3 2011

Fly Condos excavation January 3 2011

Fly Condos excavation November 2 2010

Fly Condos excavation November 2 2010

300 Front Street West excavation January 3 2011

300 Front Street West excavation January 3 2011

300 Front Street West excavation January 3 2011

300 Front Street West excavation January 3 2011

300 Front Street West excavation November 2 2010

300 Front Street West excavation November 2 2010

Urban planning experts foresee Toronto growing up, rather than out, during the next 50 years

Tall buildings. Lots and lots of tall, new buildings. That’s what experts foresee for Toronto in the year 2061 — and not just downtown. Four specific neighbourhoods — Bloor Street/Kipling Avenue in Etobicoke, Yonge Street/Highway 401 in North York, Yonge Street/Eglinton Avenue, and McCowan Rd./Highway 401 in Scarborough — will experience massive highrise building booms to accommodate hundreds of thousands of immigrants and new residents expected to move here, they say.

As part of a special project celebrating its 50th anniversary, CTV Toronto asked some leading Toronto urban planners, architects and designers to gaze into their crystal balls and predict how the city will look 50 years from now. The consensus: with as many as one million more residents, Toronto will have “only one way to grow — up.”

The skyline rendering at the top of this post, plus artistic conceptions of the future Toronto waterfront and the Yonge/Bloor neighbourhood (below), are from CTV’s website feature, “Toronto 2061: Toronto’s Evolving Skyline.”

Their full story, plus a videoclip with some intriguing skyline and building animations, can be viewed on the CTV Toronto website.


Overnight blaze destroys 123-year-old downtown heritage building … what will take its place?

What caused the fire? That’s the question investigators with the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office will try to answer following a massive six-alarm blaze that destroyed a stately heritage building at 335 Yonge Street early this morning.

Built around 1888, and originally home to the Empress Hotel, the three-storey brown brick William Reynolds Block at the corner of Yonge and Gould Streets recently housed several retail stores and eateries. Its busiest and best-known tenant was Salad King, a Thai restaurant that was enormously popular with students from the Ryerson University campus right next door.

All of the businesses were forced to close last April after a section of the building’s façade collapsed without warning onto Gould Street (there’s more information about that incident in a Toronto Star article here). Since then, the two eastern lanes of Yonge Street and the stretch of Gould adjacent to the building have been fenced off as a safety precaution while the City and the property’s owners discussed whether the structure could be restored.  That now appears highly unlikely, since fire investigators say they must demolish what remains of the structure so they can safely inspect the rubble to determine the cause of the blaze.

While they’re busy grappling with that mystery, I’ll be keen to hear answers to some “burning” questions that have been on my mind since April: What’s going to happen with this piece of prime downtown real estate? Will the old Empress Hotel building be reconstructed in some shape or form? Will a new retail or office building or a condo tower take its place? Or will Ryerson University acquire the property to expand its downtown campus?

Just before Christmas, I snapped some photos of the cordoned-off building; they appear below, along with pics I took this afternoon. For more news, and to view additional photos of the fire and its aftermath, see this Toronto Star article and this follow-up story in The Globe and Mail.


Toronto’s Trump Tower quickly catching up to its Bay Adelaide Centre, Scotia Plaza neighbours




Trump Toronto starts to make its mark on the skyline

For years, my balcony view of the Financial District skyline never changed. I had a terrific view of the CN Tower, First Canadian Place and Scotia Plaza, and could even see the TD Bank Tower at the Toronto-Dominion Centre. Things changed considerably in mid 2009. That summer, the Bay Adelaide Centre (BAC) topped off at 50 floors and obscured nearly all of my view of the TD Bank building, while the 43-storey RBC Centre blocked a bit of the CN Tower (only the lower third, thankfully). In 2010, part of the RBC Centre’s next-door neighbour, the new Ritz-Carlton Hotel, came into view (appearing behind other towers this time, not blocking sight of them). Within just a couple more months, I’ll get to see another new skyscraper when the Trump International Hotel and Tower overtakes the Bay Adelaide Centre in height.

I’ve been wondering when the Trump would finally make a noteworthy impression on the city skyline. For the past two years, its construction has been obvious from parts of Adelaide Street and Bay Street, but taller neighbours have obscured most views from the north and south. That started to change in late fall 2010; from the CN Tower observation decks in early November, I could see part of the Trump climbing behind the east side of First Canadian Place. Now the Trump can be seen from other areas of downtown, too, as these photos — snapped through a window at the Art Gallery of Ontario on December 26 — show. With its spire, the Trump will become the second-tallest tower in Toronto. Measured to its roof, however, the Trump will take only third place.


New year, new construction milestones

2011 is getting off to a foggy, soggy start in Toronto (it’s 10 degrees Celsius and pouring rain as I write), but the wet weather won’t put a damper on the frenetic pace of building activity across the downtown area. When construction gets back to full speed next week once the holiday season has wound down, numerous projects will start, approach or reach significant stages of construction. At least five towers will make a major mark on the city skyline soon. In Yorkville, The Four Seasons Private Residences and Museum House on Bloor, both of which already have a substantial streetscape presence, will be pouring their top floors during the winter. Several blocks south, on Bay Street, the Burano condo tower is quickly climbing high, while the Living Shangri-La Torontoand Trump International Toronto hotel/condo skyscrapers are adding excitement to the Financial District skyline. Market Wharf is doing the same for the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood. In the next few weeks, streetscapes in several different areas will transform as construction climbs above ground level at 77 Charles Westin Yorkville, The L Tower on Yonge Street, Charlie Condos in the Entertainment District, The Modern at Sherbourne and Richmond, and the Clear Spirit tower in the Distillery District. Not too far behind are Aura at College Park on Yonge Street, Cinema Tower on Adelaide Street West, Three Hundred Front Street West, The Residences of Pier 27 on the waterfront, ICE Condos and Infinity3 Condos in the South Financial District, and Couture Condos on Jarvis Street; foundation work and underground levels are progressing fast at all seven sites. In the area bounded by Bloor, Bay, Wellesley and Jarvis Streets, demolition and excavation work should soon get in full swing for five key developments: U Condos, Five Condos, Nicholas Residences, X2 Condos, and the long-awaited One Bloor tower. Digging will get underway in earnest for the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre at Yonge and Gould Streets, and for the Delta Toronto hotel and Bremner Tower office complex in the South Financial District. Meanwhile, construction should soon conclude at the Sherbourne Common park at the waterfront, as well as for the 18 York office tower and seven major residential structures: the Ritz-Carlton Toronto, Crystal Blu Condos, Uptown Residences, James Cooper Mansion, Lumiere Condos, M5V Condos, and the YWCA Elm Centre. I’ll be taking a closer look at each of the above-mentioned projects — and many more hot construction spots — in the weeks ahead.

77 Charles Street

18 York

Watching T.O. grow

A construction crane at sunset April 8 2010

Construction season: We Canadians have long joked that our country sees only two seasons: winter and construction. Lately, however, Toronto has been under the influence of a microclimate that produces just one season lasting all year long: construction.

Toronto has been experiencing a building boom of unparalleled proportions since the early 2000s. There have been major construction projects in nearly every downtown neighbourhood, with more on the way. It’s almost impossible to walk more than a few blocks without passing a building site, a sandwich board sidewalk sign advertising a new condo development, or a zoning notice advising the public that a proposal has been submitted to City Hall to develop a specific property. On downtown streets, cement mixers and dusty dump trucks are as common a sight as buses and streetcars. So are scaffolding, sidewalk detours and traffic lane closures. And if you look up, you’re bound to see a nearby construction crane reaching skyward.

Just from my apartment balcony, I can see two office towers, one five-star hotel and seven condo highrises — each more than 30 storeys tall — that have been built in the past two years alone. I can see the tallest skyscraper in Canada, First Canadian Place, getting a $100 million facelift as new cladding is installed on its 72-storey façade.  I can see the historic Maple Leaf Gardens hockey arena being converted into a mixed-use facility featuring a Loblaws grocery store and a student athletic centre for Ryerson University. In just a few weeks I’ll be able to see a new condo tower going up on Bay Street, and by spring I should be able to see as many as five cranes — three for condo projects, one for the Hospital for Sick Children’s new Research and Learning Tower,  and one for a new Women’s College Hospital building.

I think it’s cool to see so much construction activity on the skyline – my balcony view is constantly changing, and there’s always something different to see. But when I walk around downtown and discover how much development is already underway or proposed for the near future, I’m almost blown away. Toronto is growing by great leaps and bounds. I have stumbled across fully-finished new buildings where I saw only a zoning sign or an excavation the last time I passed through the neighbourhood. Or I’ll notice that I can no longer see the CN Tower from a certain area because a tower under construction has completely blocked the view. Entire streetscapes and neighbourhoods change so rapidly, I can barely remember what they looked like before new highrises started going up. I daydream about construction frequently, imagining how the city streets and skyline will  look with dozens of additional skyscrapers.

A few years ago, I began carrying my camera during walks downtown, so I could snap photos of construction projects and sites for proposed developments – just to keep track of what’s going on, and to show friends who used to live here just how much the city has changed since they left. Thanks to my little hobby, I’ve now got thousands of photos of dozens of different building projects. Organizing some of those pics into a blog seemed like a logical next step, so here you have it: The Toronto Blog. If you’re a resident or fan of Toronto, or just an architecture or construction aficionado, I hope you’ll come along as I track the building boom and watch T.O. grow!