Category Archives: In the news

Glass balcony panel shatters on Shangri-La tower

Shangrila Toronto shattered balcony panel

A shattered glass panel is visible on a balcony at the Shangri-La Toronto hotel and condo tower on the northwest corner of Adelaide Street and University Avenue. This image is a screen capture from a video report on



More breakage: It has happened yet again — another balcony panel on the 66-storey Shangri-La Toronto hotel and condo tower has shattered, raining pieces of glass onto a major downtown street.

According to local news reports, no-one was injured when pieces of glass fell onto Adelaide Street when the balcony panel broke around 1.30 a.m. today. Police immediately closed the street to traffic so they could investigate the mishap. Adelaide Street was reopened to traffic around 10:30 a.m., the Toronto Star reported in its Sunday online edition.

Local news station CP24 posted a video of the scene on its website. The tape showed a shattered balcony panel on the Shangri-La tower’s southwest corner, about 20 storeys above Adelaide Street. The CP24 reporter noted that this marked the third time this year alone that a glass panel had shattered and fallen from the tower, which officially opened in October 2012.

The first instance occurred on a very cold day last January, at which time glass from a shattered panel fell onto Adelaide Street. The second event occurred last September. In that case, the CP24 reporter said, the falling glass injured a man on University Avenue. A Toronto Star report on the September incident said that a 53-year-old man was treated at hospital for the minor injuries he suffered when some of the glass struck his head.

Last night’s incident comes in the wake of the broadcast premier this past Thursday night of a documentary film entitled The Condo Game, which I previewed in a November 18 2013 post. That film, which examines the pitfalls and potential future problems posed by Toronto’s continuing condominium building boom, had been inspired by a series of balcony glass breakages at three downtown condo towers in the summer of 2011.

So far, there has been no word from Toronto police or City building inspectors as to what may have caused the balcony panel to break today.


Living Shangri-La Toronto hotel and condo tower

A CN Tower view of the Shangri-La Toronto hotel and condo tower on June 3 2013


‘Condo Game’ documentary aims to shine light on the dark side of Toronto’s condo building boom

 A promotional clip for the documentary film The Condo Game, which will air on CBC-TV’s Doc Zone Thursday evening at 9 p.m. Update: You can now view the documentary at this link on the CBC website.


‘Sea of troubles’: If you have attended any of the community consultation meetings that Toronto city planners have held to gather public feedback on new condo development proposals, you’ve probably heard someone in the audience wonder why the city needs yet another residential highrise building, especially in the downtown core where scores of towers are currently under construction already.

The typical response, usually offered by someone representing a project developer, explains that more than 100,000 people a year move to the Greater Toronto Area, and points out that “those people have to live somewhere.” Consequently, more and more condos are being proposed — and built — simply to meet the burgeoning demand. Often, a city planner will chime in to clarify that only 20,000 of those people actually move into the City of Toronto itself — a significantly smaller number, but a sizeable population increase nonetheless. I’ve heard these statistics and explanations cited at more than a dozen public meetings I’ve attended during the past year alone.

But Toronto’s condominium building boom, which has been going strong for more than a decade, isn’t about finding homes for those newcomers and other people who want to live in the city because it’s such a desirable place to live, work and play. According to a documentary film that will be broadcast on CBC Television Thursday night,the condo boom actually is a game that’s being played, on a global scale, for people to make money. And as this “commodities” game continues to play on, there are growing indications that it’s “rigged” against the city and its citizens, and could pose serious and costly consequences for them in the years ahead, The Condo Game documentary suggests.

The Condo Game examines the forces at play behind the fastest moving condo market in North America – Toronto – and discovers that the glittering glass hides a sea of troubles,” says a film description on the CBC’s Doc Zone webpage.

As the film reveals a tide of construction deficiencies and maintenance problems that are sweeping Toronto toward a “tipping point,” “warning bells will be ringing loud and clear for cities and condo-owners across Canada,” the Doc Zone program description says.




First Gulf breaks ground for Globe & Mail Centre; 17-storey tower will bring jobs to SE downtown

Phillip Crawley, Bill Hatanaka, Brad Duguid, David Gerofsky, Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Pam McConnell

Globe and Mail Publisher Phillip Crawley, left, OpTrust President & CEO Bill Hatanaka, Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges & Universities Brad Duguid, First Gulf Corporation CEO David Gerofsky, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Toronto City Councillor Pam McConnell wield shiny silver shovels at the recent groundbreaking ceremony for the new Globe and Mail Centre at King & Berkeley Streets.



Construction kick-off: For the past half-dozen years, Toronto’s southeast downtown has been teeming with a variety of low-, mid- and high-rise residential construction projects that have been steadily transforming the city’s Old Town, Corktown, Distillery District and West Don Lands areas. A new 500,000 square foot office tower that First Gulf Corporation has started building at King, Berkeley and Front Streets will boost the region’s revitalization even more, bringing up to 5,000 jobs to the bustling area.

First Gulf Corporation recently broke ground on its 17-storey Globe and Mail Centre, named after the building’s anchor tenant, The Globe and Mail newspaper, which will relocate from its current premises near Front Street and Spadina Avenue on the west side of downtown. Local politicians joined executives from The Globe and Mail, plus First Gulf and its development partner OPTrust, in an October 30 ground-breaking ceremony that officially kicked off construction of the Centre. Completion of the tower is anticipated for 2016.

Designed by Toronto’s Diamond Schmitt Architects, The Globe and Mail Centre will cut  a unique profile on the southeast downtown skyline thanks to the building’s distinctive design of stacked, alternate-sized floor plates and large outdoor terrace spaces. Ten-foot-tall windows will let natural light penetrate deep into the building interior, while presenting occupants with expansive views of Toronto’s waterfront, Financial District, and adjacent residential neighbourhoods.


Gobe and Mail Centre building rendering

This artistic illustration, by Diamond Schmitt Architects, shows how the Globe & Mail Centre will look when viewed from the southeast along Berkeley Street




Phoenix mural brightens St James Town skyline

Phoenix mural on 200 Wellesley East

August 24 2013: It’s only partly complete, but the phoenix mural being painted on the south wall of 200 Wellesley Street East has already brightened the building — and the St James Town skyline. I shot this photo from three blocks to the southwest at the corner of Homewood Avenue and Maitland Place.


 Phoenix mural on 200 Wellesley Street East

August 24 2013: A view of the phoenix mural from one block east of the building at the intersection of Wellesley and Ontario Streets



Neighbourhood youth initiative: On September 24 2010, thousands of people in the northeast downtown area watched and worried as flames and smoke billowed from windows and a balcony at 200 Wellesley Street East, a Toronto Community Housing rental apartment highrise in St James Town. The intense six-alarm fire destroyed a 24th-floor apartment on the tower’s west side, and displaced more than a thousand building residents from their homes — some for many months.

The damage was repaired and residents returned to their apartments ages ago, but 200 Wellesley is once again attracting attention from people across northeast downtown. This time it’s a colourful giant mural, rather than smoke and flames, that has been turning heads and making people take a close look at the 43-year-old building.

Rising the entire 250-foot length of 200 Wellesley’s 29-storey south wall, the multicoloured painting of a bird soaring skyward will be the tallest public art installation in Toronto, and might even be the tallest in the world.


phoenix mural on 200 Wellesley Street East

This rendering provided by The STEPS Initiative shows how the phoenix mural will look once painting is complete.  A July 31 2013 report on the Torontoist website features another rendering that includes details from the base of the mural.




Construction worker dies in fall from 70th floor of Aura condo tower; body found on nearby rooftop

Aura condo tower Toronto

August 16 2013: Construction progress on the Aura condo tower, viewed from the northwest corner of College Park


[Editor’s note: This post was updated on August 25. See below.]


55-floor plunge: Tragedy struck the Aura condo building site at lunchtime this afternoon when a 29-year-old male construction worker plunged to his death from the 70th floor of the tower.

Local media reports say that the man fell around noon, tumbling about 181 meters (55 floors) onto the roof of a 15-storey building nearby. News reports quote a Toronto Fire Department official as saying that the worker’s body was found about 24 meters away from the Aura tower.

A report by CTV News Toronto said the firm that is building Aura, Reliance Construction Group, had no comment on the incident. But in a report posted later on the Toronto news page of the CBC website said Reliance had issued a statement in which it noted that the worker had been an employee of an on-site contractor.

“This is a very sad and difficult time for all involved,” Reliance said in its statement. “Our thoughts today are with the people involved in this incident as well as their families, friends and colleagues. Health and safety is an utmost priority for our company. Our team is cooperating fully with local police and authorities to investigate this matter.”

The accident is under investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour.


Worker’s safety harness broke, news report says

A Global News Toronto report on August 24 identified the construction worker as Hamilton, Ontario resident Kevin Raposo, and said he was an employee of Verdi Alliance. The report says the tragic accident occurred when the metal clasp that secured Mr. Raposo’s safety harness broke. He fell onto the roof of the College Park Suites apartment building at 424 Yonge Street immediately to the north of Aura.

“The force of the impact caused structural damage to the gravel rooftop. Raposo’s body remained at the scene, covered by an orange blanket, for more than seven hours before crews laid down support beams and pieces of plywood so investigators could examine it. His body was removed after dark,” the Global News report states.

Aura will be the tallest residential building in Canada once construction is complete. The tower will be 78 storeys high.

Below are screen captures from local television news reports about the horrific accident, followed by a photo of Aura that I shot last week from the northwest corner of College Park.


Aura condo tower construction worker fatality

This image from a Global Toronto television news video show the roof of the College Park Suites building at 424 Yonge Street (center), onto which a young construction worker fell after his safety harness broke while he was working on the Aura condominium tower (upper right) on Friday.



Aura condo tower construction worker fatality

This image from the Global Toronto news video report shows emergency personnel standing on the roof of the College Park Suites apartment building, several meters from the tarp-covered body of the construction worker who fell from the adjacent Aura condominium tower construction site.



Aura condo tower construction worker fatality

This image, from a CTV Toronto News video report, shows the roof of the College Park Suites, as viewed from a nearby building on the east side of Yonge Street



Aura condo tower Toronto


Bridgepoint hospital construction & old Don Jail renovation on track for April 2013 completion

Bridgepoint Health

 October 16 2012: A southwest view of Bridgepoint Health‘s new hospital, seen here from the Gerrard Street bridge above the Don Valley Parkway. As construction nears completion, Bridgepoint expects to begin moving patients into the new building next April …


Don Jail

… while the historic Don Jail, which has been undergoing an extensive cleaning and restoration, inside and out, is expected to open at the same time. The fully renovated building will house administrative offices for around 100 Bridgepoint executives.


Completion in sight: With construction of the new Bridgepoint hospital continuing on schedule, patients and staff of Bridgepoint Health should begin moving into the state-of-the-art and environmentally-conscious new facility in only a few months’ time — April of next year, to be exact. Hospital administrators and executives are expected to start moving into their own new digs around the same time — office space in the fully restored and repurposed historic Don Jail building right next door. And by the end of next year, once the old hospital building and Toronto Jail addition beside it have been demolished, and new public park spaces, landscaping and streets have been put in place, the 10-acre Bridgepoint campus will have completely revitalized the northwest corner of Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street.

The $1.27 billion project was in the news today, with an insightful Globe & Mail report by Angela Kryhul — “Historic Don Jail buffed up, refitted for a new purpose” describing the transformation of the 148-year-old Don Jail building into the administrative headquarters for the adjacent 10-storey, 472-bed hospital. I highly recommend giving Angela’s interesting article a read; she spoke to two architects involved in the Bridgepoint project, Paul Sapounzi of the Ontario firm +VG Architects and Gregory Colucci of Toronto’s Diamond Schmitt Architects. The online Globe & Mail article is accompanied by a slideshow of 11 photographs of the Don Jail’s interior and exterior.



Living Shangri-la to unveil Zhang Huan sculpture

Living Shangrila hotel condo tower Toronto

May 4 2012: Rising, a dramatic sculpture by contemporary artist Zhang Huan, will be unveiled Saturday at this location outside the Living Shangri-la Toronto tower on University Avenue, between Richmond and Adelaide Streets


Living Shangrila hotel condo tower Toronto

May 4 2012: Workers prepare the giant sculpture for its official unveiling ceremony, scheduled for 1-2 pm tomorrow afternoon


Living Shangrila condo hotel tower Toronto

May 4 2012: The large-scale sculpture occupies a space at street level …


Living Shangrila condo hotel Toronto

… and soars above the glass ‘Ice Cube’ at the building’s NE corner …


Living Shangrila condo hotel Toronto

… seen here, from the University Avenue median to the east. This section of the building encloses a pool on the upper level, with a Momofuku restaurant on the floor below. The Momofuku Toronto is scheduled to open in August.


Taking flight: As construction of the 66-storey Living Shangri-la Toronto draws closer to completion, the building’s developer is set to unveil the dramatic sculpture it commissioned for the public art component of its project.

Full-page advertisements published in local newspapers this week announced that the art installation — Rising, by Shanghai and New York-based contemporary artist Zhang Huan — will be unveiled at a public ceremony Saturday afternoon from 1 – 2 p.m.



Bistro favoured by film stars serves last meal, Cresford cooks up condo tower to take its place

Bistro 990 restaurant at 990 Bay Street Toronto

March 2 2012: Once a popular hangout for Hollywood celebrities attending the Toronto International Film Festival, Bistro 990 has closed after 23 years in business


984 Bay Street and 1000 Bay Street Toronto

The restaurant and its next-door neighbour at 794 Bay Street, a 7-storey building that formerly housed doctors’ offices and medical lab facilities …


1000 Bay Street Toronto

… along with the adjacent surface parking lot at 1000 Bay Street, on the northwest corner of Bay and St. Joseph Streets, will be razed and replaced  …


1Thousand Bay condos Toronto

… by a 32-storey, 478-unit glass condominium highrise depicted in this artistic illustration that appears on the website for Cresford Developments


984 Bay Street 1Thousand Bay sales centre

… which has opened its presentation centre for 1Thousand Bay in a street-level space once occupied by a retail drug store


Last supper: A Bay Street bistro long famous for its celebrity clientele served its last customers and closed its doors on Saturday night, clearing the way for a glass condominium tower designed by Toronto’s architectsAlliance to take its place.

Bistro 990 had operated at 990 Bay Street for 23 years. In its heyday, it was a a popular restaurant hangout for Hollywood stars visiting the city for the Toronto International Film Festival. The restaurant lost some of its appeal in recent years as local foodies grew less fond of classic French cuisine, and then lost some of its celebrity lustre when the film festival relocated from Yorkville to the TIFF Bell Lightbox two years ago.




Builder donates $40 million to SickKids Tower

SickKids Research & Learning Tower

Construction on the SickKids Centre for Research & Learning tower dominates the view north from the intersection of Bay and Queen Streets


Record gift: The head of the biggest home building company in Canada has donated a whopping $40 million to what will become the country’s biggest highrise research facility.

The gift from Peter Gilgan, the founder, president and CEO of Mattamy Homes, was announced publicly on Wednesday. The donation will support construction and operating costs for the 21-storey, $400 million Centre currently under construction at the northwest corner of Bay and Elm Streets.



Subway service disrupted after crews break water main while building new platform at Union station

Front Street construction

January 31 2012:  Subway platform construction activity on Front Street between the Royal York Hotel and Union Station. Weekend service on part of the Yonge-University-Spadina line was disrupted after tracks at the Union subway station got flooded when construction crews accidentally ruptured a water main.


Soggy station: For the past year, construction of a new platform and concourse at the Union subway station — along with major revitalization work at Toronto’s historic Union Station building — has inconvenienced mainly motorists and pedestrians, thanks to minor detours around various different building zones on sections of Front and Bay Streets. This weekend, however, thousands of subway users had their travel plans disrupted when the Union subway stop was flooded after construction crews accidentally severed a water main.



Ceiling section collapses from hydro headquarters

700 University Avenue

February 29 2012: A large section of ceiling collapsed this morning from the overhang above the first floor of the Ontario Power Generation building


700 University Avenue

The ceiling segment caved in near the building’s southeast corner


Drywall drops: No-one was hurt this morning when a large section of ceiling material buckled and collapsed from the ceiling of the first-floor building overhang at the Ontario Power Generation 700 University Avenue corporate headquarters.



Ryerson University unveils plans to build 500-bed student highrise residence near Jarvis & Dundas

new Ryerson student residence

An artistic illustration by IBI Group Architects of the student residence  Ryerson University plans to build in the Jarvis-Dundas area


186-188 Jarvis Street Toronto

February 28 2012: Looking west at the 186-188 Jarvis Street site on which Ryerson University will build its new student accommodations


New student digs: A new 500-bed residence planned for the Jarvis & Dundas area will help Ryerson University meet burgeoning demand for student accommodation while bringing more liveliness and energy to a downtown streetscape that could clearly use some enhancement.

The residence — to be built on what is currently a pay parking lot at 186-188 Jarvis Street — is expected to feature a 2-storey podium containing cafés and retail outlets topped by “a 20+ storey building offering a mix of 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom units,” the university announced in a media release.




Ontario Place: Tarnished waterfront jewel needs ‘wow-factor’ attractions to restore its lost lustre

Ontario Place

Looking toward two of the suspended pavilions at Ontario Place  on September 4 2010, the last time I paid a visit to the aging waterfront theme park


Park over troubled waters: It struck me as a curious coincidence that stormclouds figure prominently in many of the photos I have taken of Ontario Place. After all, these are very dark and stormy times for the summertime waterfront theme park, most of which will be closed for the next five years while the Ontario government considers options for revitalizing the tired and tacky 41-year-old facility.

At the beginning of this month, the province announced that it has shuttered Ontario Place’s money-losing Cinesphere, water park and amusement rides while former politician/current  radio personality John Tory leads a team charged with investigating options for restoring the lustre to a waterfront jewel that initially drew more than 2.5 million visitors each season, but has since struggled to attract even just one-fifth that many funseekers in recent summers. In fact, the province has been losing more than $20 million annually on subsidies it provides to keep the tired and dowdy-looking park operating. Just the privately-operated Molson Amphitheatre, the Atlantis restaurant, bar and ballroom pavilions, the marina and the parking lots, the only facilities that apparently were profitable, will remain open. More than 48 full-time jobs and 600 summer positions will be lost as a result of the closure.




Pop-up store hits its Target in King West condo zone

Target popup store on King Street West

February 20 2012: The east facade, along Blue Jays Way, for a Target Canada pop-up store open only 6 hours today for a special promotion


Here today, gone tomorrow: Condo towers aren’t the only buildings popping up all over the Entertainment District — so are stores. But while the highrises will be standing around for decades to come, one of the new stores definitely won’t; it will be open for less than one day.

For just six hours this afternoon, a former condo presentation centre at 363 King Street West (on the southwest corner of King and Blue Jays Way) was open for business as a “pop-up” store to promote a collection of Jason Wu women’s fashions for Target Canada.  The Canadian division of the American retail chain won’t be opening stores until 2013, but today’s special sales event was intended to give Toronto shoppers an early peek at their products and competitive prices.



CBC News series will investigate looming threat of ‘slow-motion failure’ for ‘throw-away’ glass condos

Toronto CityPlace condo construction

Construction of the Parade condo complex at Concord CityPlace in mid-September. Rising on the railway lands west of the Financial District, the Parade project is just one of approximately 130 condo highrises currently being built in Toronto.


‘Failure’ in 5 to 15 years?: How long will Toronto’s glass-walled condo towers last? That’s one of the intriguing questions being examined in a special three-part investigative series airing this week on CBC News.

The reports, being broadcast on morning radio and early evening news programs, will examine what some experts believe will be the “short-term durability” and potentially staggering long-term maintenance costs for the scores of glass-walled condo towers rising on the Toronto skyline.

In a story posted today on, “Toronto’s glass condos face short lifespan, experts say,” the network quotes a developer who describes glass-walled condos as “‘throw-away buildings’ because of their short lifespan relative to buildings with walls made of concrete or brick.”


Enormous potential repair expenses

“We believe that somewhere between, say, year five and year 15, many, many, many of those units will fail,” David House of Earth Development told CBC. Major problems expected to arise include insulation failures, water leaks and “skyrocketing energy and maintenance costs,” for which condo unit owners would be on the hook. Fixing those problems will entail enormous expense — experts say the glass “skin” of condo towers could have to be completely replaced at a cost of millions of dollars per building. Meanwhile, unit resale values could plunge, further exacerbating condo owners’ financial woes.

The story is one of several articles on the CBC website that examine issues and concerns raised by the city’s continuing condominium building boom. Another, “Throw-away buildings: The slow-motion failure of Toronto’s glass condos,” includes links to a report explaining how thermal windows fail, as well as “The Glass Condo Conundrum,” a paper in which University of Toronto Professor of Building Science Ted Kesik examines the potential liabilities of glass towers.

The series began on CBC News Toronto at 6 p.m. today with an introduction by reporter John Lancaster. On tomorrow’s TV report, the CBC will visit a Toronto condo highrise with an infrared camera to show how much energy is lost through the floor-to-ceiling glass walls.  A similar investigative series by Mary Wiens is being featured this week on the CBC Radio show, Metro Morning.


Toronto’s next ghetto?

The CBC report follows on the heels of a provocative November 10 2011 feature story in The Grid TO in which writer Edward Keenan examined concerns that CityPlace could become “Toronto’s next ghetto.”

“This is the nightmare many foresee for CityPlace: Once the blue-green tinted glass buildings begin to age and no longer feel like the cutting edge in urban design, the development will no longer seem attractive to the young, mostly single and childless professionals who are currently moving in. Whoever replaces them will find a densely populated neighbourhood with little to recommend it. Cut off from the city by highways and rail lands, without much in the way of street life, the fear is the buildings will fall into disrepair and the only people who will live in the tiny apartments are families who can’t afford housing anywhere else,” Keenan writes.


Optima condo at 81 Navy Wharf Court Toronto

According to the CBC, owners in the CityPlace Optima condo highrise at 81 Navy Wharf Court (seen here in November 2010) are suing the building developer, Concord, for alleged defects in the 9-year-old tower’s glass window wall system