Cranes rise above the MaRS Centre Phase 2 tower construction site (left) in this sunset photo I shot from my balcony yesterday. Click on the photo to view a larger image.
MaRS aglow: At sunset, it’s easy to spot the MaRS Centre Phase 2 tower from my west-facing balcony — its three construction cranes stand in stark silhouette above the exposed concrete skeleton of the building’s upper floors. The building frame won’t be visible much longer, though, since installation of windows and glass cladding is proceeding quickly on the 21-storey tower, which topped off in August. Once the highrise is fully glassed in, it will be interesting to watch the various ways in which the tower reflects the sunset at different times of year.
Of course, the building looks completely different from a ground-level perspective near the College Street/University Avenue intersection — but the way the sun strikes the tower is equally dramatic. On a clear day, the glint of sunshine off the tower’s west facade is almost blinding to passersby glancing up at the building from University Avenue.
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
… while this photo from August 17 2011 shows hoarding around the aquarium site below the CN Tower, where construction has commenced
New tourist attraction: Construction of the new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada officially kicked off yesterday when government and corporate officials gathered at the Bremner Boulevard building site beneath the CN Tower to announce details of the $130 million project.
Scheduled to open in 2013 with 135,000 square feet of space, a capacity of 1.5 million gallons, and 13,500 sea creatures, the facility — Toronto’s newest tourist attraction in years — will be one of the largest aquariums in North America.
Designed by Toronto’s B+ H Architects, the 3-storey facility will feature a 750,000-gallon shark lagoon which visitors will be able to observe through an acrylic tunnel with a 315-foot moving walkway. The aquarium will also have a tropical reef, exhibits for Great Lakes, Atlantic and Pacific habitats, a Marine and Freshwater Education Centre with classroom space, a restaurant and a gift shop.
Construction actually commenced several weeks ago when crews began clearing the site, a large grass- and tree-covered knoll situated between the CN Tower to the west and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre‘s south building to the east.
The aquarium has been in planning and discussion stages for quite some time, but a summer construction start appeared imminent when city news media reported last winter that various levels of government were negotiating financial incentives in a bid to land the Ripley’s project for certain. The City of Toronto is providing 12 years’ worth of property tax incentives (an estimated $8- to $12 million) under its Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology (IMIT) program, while the Ontario government is kicking in more than $11 million towards the construction costs. Canada Lands Company, the federal Crown corporation that owns the land on which the aquarium is being built, is also a partner in the project. According to its president & CEO Mark Laroche, Canada Lands will spend “more than $10 million to redevelop the John Street corridor with new signage and other improvements that will increase and improve the flow of pedestrian traffic from Front Street to the site,” improving the entryway to the aquarium, CN Tower and Rogers Centre.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is a division of Ripley Entertainment Inc., which already operates two other aquariums — one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the other in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Ripley Entertainment is owned by the Jim Pattison Group, Canada’s third-largest privately-held company. Extensive information about the Toronto project is available on the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada website.
Below are several artistic renderings and illustrations that the aquarium released to the media in connection with the official building launch ceremony, along with several photos I shot yesterday of construction activity at the site. Additional photos of the project site can be viewed in my February 23 2011 post, my first report on the Ripley’s Aquarium.
An artistic illustration of the 315-foot observation tunnel in the aquarium’s 750,000 gallon shark lagoon
Artistic rendering of the Toronto aquarium’s main lobby
Artistic illustration of the aquarium’s tropical reef. In total, the facility will feature more than 13,500 marine creatures from 450 species
Artistic rendering of how the Ripley’s Aquarium will appear when viewed from the entrance plaza off Bremner Boulevard near the CN Tower …
… and a view from yesterday of construction trailers and hoarding on the site of what will become the entrance plaza depicted above
Promotional posters adorn the security fence around the construction site
Aquarium construction site viewed from the entrance plaza to the CN Tower
Excavation machines and foundation building equipment in action on the site
Two red and black machines drilling near the Convention Centre south building
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