June 13 2012: The Burano condo tower, viewed from the north on Bay Street, has long been in public view as the construction climbed 50 floors above the ground …
… and the 3-storey glass atrium at the north side of the Burano condo site is finally in full view, too, now that hoarding has been removed from Grosvenor Street
June 13 2012: Landscaping and construction of an Italian-style piazza is underway next to the atrium on the Grosvenor Street flank of the condo complex
June 13 201: Most of the rebuilt Bay Street facade of the historic Addison automotive building is now visible as construction hoarding is gradually removed from the sidewalk
June 13 2012: The new Women’s College Hospital building (left) rises behind the Burano condo complex, viewed here from the southeast corner of Bay and Grenville Streets
Better views: Construction progress on the Burano Condominium on Bay Street has been clearly visible for many months as the tower climbed 50 storeys into the sky, but now passersby are getting to see how downtown’s newest skyscraper looks at street level.
With exterior work on the Burano tower nearly complete, crews have been able to begin removing the wooden hoarding and the chainlink security fences that have obscured street-level views of the building, including its signature glass atrium on Grosvenor Street and the rebuilt brick facade of the historic Addison on Bay automotive showroom and garage along Bay Street and Grenville Street.
Changing views: Although construction of two neighbouring condo projects near the CN Tower still has a long ways to go before completion, it’s fast becoming apparent just how significantly the new towers will change the look of the city skyline.
The side-by-side ÏCE Condos and Infinity3 Condominiums rising on the north side of the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard, between York and Lower Simcoe Streets, are already having a huge impact on sightlines and views in the South Financial District and Harbourfront areas. And that’s even though construction of the east ÏCE condo tower has so far climbed less than one-tenth of its ultimate 67-storey height, while the west ÏCE tower is just slightly more than one-third of its way to 57 floors. The main Infinity3 tower, meanwhile, is more than 20 floors high on its way to 34.
March 7 2012: A construction worker gazes at downtown Toronto from the curved west building of the 2-tower ÏCE Condos complex currently under construction at the southwest corner of York Street and Bremner Boulevard. Construction of the oval-shaped tower has reached more than 11 levels so far, on its way to 57 storeys. A project of Lanterra Developments, ÏCE Condos was designed by Peter Clewes of Toronto’s architectsAlliance.
March 7 2012: Looking south from Bremner Boulevard towards the ÏCE Condos construction site. At left, construction of the 67-storey east tower has reached 3 levels while its sibling, center, has already climbed 11 levels on its way to 57. A 31-storey office building will eventually be constructed on the parking lots site in the foreground. The building under construction to the right is the Infinity3 condo tower, which has risen 9 floors on its way to 34. Infinity3 is a project of The Conservatory Group, and was designed by E.I. Richmond Architects Ltd.
February 9 2012: The south side of Burano Condos, viewed from Grenville Street
Progress updates: I had the opportunity to pass through the Bay & College area on my way to some recent appointments, so I brought along my camera to catch up on construction progress in the neighbourhood. My “winter photo walk” series will show you what I’ve been seeing:
One of the development proposal signs that has been posted on each side of the 501 block of Yonge Street since last spring
November 6 2011: The 501 Yonge Street block seen from the southwest
November 6 2011: The 501 Yonge Street block viewed from the northwest
Glass wall: Toronto residents get their chance tonight to tell city planners what they think of a controversial proposal to build two 58-storey condo point towers atop a 7-storey rectangular glass podium on the east side of Yonge Street, between Alexander and Maitland Streets.
The community consultation is the second meeting city officials scheduled for this week to get public input on a major condo tower development plan by Lanterra Developments, a 10-year-old Canadian company that boasts sales of more than 6,000 condo units in downtown Toronto.
At the first, held two nights ago, Lanterra and architect Peter Clewes of Toronto’s architectsAlliance were on the hot seat during a community consultation over Lanterra’s ambitious plans for a massive 4-tower condo complex that would revitalize three blocks of long-neglected property along Bloor and Howard Streets in North St James Town. During that meeting (which I’m planning to report soon in TheTorontoBlog), at least 30 people stood up to speak their mind with overwhelmingly negative comments and observations. Tonight, city planners and Lanterra’s team face Toronto residents again at a session that many people expect will be equally raucous and critical.
Tonight’s community consultation was requested by Toronto and East York Community Council, one of four groups of city councillors that make recommendations and decisions about local planning and development, as well as neighbourhood-specific issues within their jurisdiction. The session will give city residents an opportunity to review, ask questions about and express their opinions on Lanterra’s application to redevelop the low-rise 501 block of Yonge Street with a condo project that is vastly taller and denser than present zoning bylaws permit.
As noted in a May 30 2011 background report by city planners, Lanterra wants to build two 58-storey residential towers that would rise from one 7-storey podium. The podium would include two levels of retail space with five floors of parking above them (parking must be built above grade because the Yonge subway line runs diagonally beneath the entire 501 Yonge site). Each tower would contain 480 condo units and have its own lobby entrance; the north tower’s would be off Maitland Street, while the south tower lobby would be accessed from Alexander Street. The towers would soar 192 meters (including mechanical penthouse) and would be constructed in two phases, with the podium and south tower being built first.
Under current zoning regulations for the 501 Yonge site, the maximum permitted density is 3 times the lot area, with 2 times the lot area for commercial uses and 3 times the lot area for residential uses,” the city planners’ report notes. “The maximum height permitted is 18 metres.” However, Lanterra’s proposed condo complex would be 20 times the permitted density, with the height “significantly” exceeding what is presently allowed.
The size and height of the project horrifies many area residents, who fear that the podium’s enormous glass wall and the soaring towers above it will ruin the historic low-rise character of north Yonge Street (the section between College and Bloor Streets), destroy the pedestrian ambience on the street, and wreck what they consider to be “gateways” to the nearby Church-Wellesley Village neighbourhood — the tree-shaded outdoor dining and bar patios on the Alexander and Maitland ends of the block.
The consultation starts at 6.30 pm in the 2nd-floor auditorium at the Grosvenor Street YMCA.
Below are drawings, from the city planners’ report, that show the proposed elevations for the 501 Yonge complex, along with some photos and a video I have taken of the project site.
This illustration, from city planning documents, depicts a west elevation for the proposed two-tower complex
From the city planners’ report, this drawing depicts a south elevation for the rectangular 7-storey podium and 58-storey point towers
A view of Yonge Street looking north from Alexander Street on June 30 2011. Many neighbourhood residents fear the Lanterra project would overwhelm and destroy the historic low-rise character of Yonge Street.
From a City of Toronto planning department background report, this illustration outlines the various parcels of land that Lanterra Developments is proposing to redevelop into a condo complex featuring four tall towers
Feedback forum: A daring proposal to dramatically redevelop the scruffy North St James Town neighbourhood with four new condo skyscrapers, several low-rise buildings and seven restored heritage houses is headed for a showdown with the public tonight at a community consultation meeting being held by Toronto’s City Planning Division.
The meeting, the second to be held this year, will give the public an opportunity to hear revised plans for the massive condo project that Lanterra Developments has proposed for three blocks of a long wedge-shaped area bounded by Bloor, Parliament, Howard and Sherbourne Streets. In a rezoning application filed with the City on August 25 2010, Lanterra outlined bold development plans that would revitalize three separate blocks of land at the northern perimeter of the St James Town district with four towers designed by Peter Clewes of Toronto’s architectsAlliance.
Block 1: Northeast corner of Sherbourne and Howard Streets
For this area, the developer proposed a 390-unit condo complex featuring a 50-storey tower, 7-storey podium and 5 levels of underground parking with 288 spaces. The tower would rise next to the Anson Jones House, a Queen Anne-style heritage building designed by Edmund Burke that sits on the corner of Sherbourne and Howard at 603 Sherbourne. The podium would include retail space along Sherbourne Street, while a 3-story mixed use building located along Howard Street would be linked to the complex. The plan would require the demolition of three heritage properties: two semidetached houses at 605 and 607 Sherbourne, next to the Anson House, along with a standalone house at 4 Howard Street. Vehicular access to the complex would be off Red Rocket Lane, which runs north-south between Howard and Bloor Streets one block east of Sherbourne.
Block 2: Glen Road between Howard and Bloor Streets
The west side of this leafy one-block-long section of Glen Road is noteworthy for six semidetached brick houses which have been boarded and bricked up for decades. Under Lanterra’s proposal, these homes would be restored for residential use, though rear portions of the buildings would be demolished to allow for construction of a 5-storey apartment building with 41 units along with 15 above-ground parking spots and 17 below-ground spaces.
Block 3: From Edgedale Road to Parliament Street
This long stretch of land between Howard and Bloor Streets would feature three condo towers on the eastern end of the property along with a 2-storey amenity and service building at the site’s southwest corner at Edgedale and Howard. The west tower would be 56 storeys tall with 630 units; the middle tower would be 46 floors with 425 units, and the east tower would rise 53 stories and contain 348 units. The complex would have 5 levels of underground parking with 869 spaces. A heritage building at 76 Howard Street would have to be demolished to make way for the three skyscrapers.
Public consultation and working group meetings
In a December 8 2010 background report, city planners said they could not support Lanterra’s proposal “in its current form.” They wrote: “Of considerable concern to staff is the appropriateness of the proposed land use redesignation, along with the proposal’s significant scale, density, massing and transition towards the existing adjacent Neighbourhoods in the centre of the North St. James Town neighbourhood and Apartment Neighbourhoods to the south, as well as the provision of open space.” They also identified 26 specific planning issues that would have to be considered and addressed before they could give their blessing to the condo plan.
As mentioned previously, city planners then held a public community consultation session to gather feedback about Lanterra’s proposal. The first meeting, attended by more than 150 people on April 5, drew sharp and overwhelmingly negative criticism from the audience, which objected to the proposed project’s height and density in particular, as well as to the impact that 1,840 new condo units could have on the heavily-populated low-income St James Town neighbourhood to the south.
The proposal was subsequently considered during an April 19 meeting of the city’s Design Review Panel, and during a series of working group meetings that city planners organized between neighbourhood representatives, professional advisors for the developer, and staff from the city’s planning and transportation departments. (Draft minutes from the meetings held on May 24, May 31, June 7 and October 5 can be viewed online at the links provided from the community group-run Smart Development in North St James Town website.)
Tonight’s meeting, from 7 to 9 pm at St Simon-the-Apostle Anglican Church on Bloor Street, is being held to update the public on the status of the rezoning application, and give the community a change to review and ask questions about revised project plans.
Below are some of my photos showing how the three development sites currently look, along with three videoclips showing each of the three blocks proposed for development and revitalization. (Note: The photo captions describe the original development proposal, not the revised plans which will be unveiled at tonight’s meeting.)
The 50-storey tower proposed for Block 1 would rise to the right of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on Sherbourne Street
From left: 607, 605 and 603 Sherbourne Street. The two buildings on the left would be demolished and only the corner building, the Anson Jones House, would be kept and incorporated into the new tower project.
607 and 605 Sherbourne Street, which would be destroyed to make room for the proposed 50-storey condo tower
The Anson Jones House at 603 Sherbourne Street, which would be restored and incorporated into the condo development
The Anson Jones House at 603 Sherbourne viewed from Howard Street
This heritage building at 4 Howard Street would be demolished and replaced with a 3-storey mixed-use building
The east side of 4 Howard Street, viewed from Red Rocket Lane
Looking northwest from Bleecker Street to the site for which a 50-storey condo tower had been proposed. The Filipono food store building visible at right is not part of the redevelopment plan.
The proposed tower site is less than a minute’s walking distance from Bloor Street and the Sherbourne subway station
Another view of the site, off Red Rocket Lane, where the developer has proposed building a 50-storey tower
Southeasterly view down Red Rocket Lane of the site for the proposed tower
This architectsAlliance illustration of the proposed 50-storey tower for Sherbourne & Howard appears in documents filed with the city planning department
Looking north along Glen Road. The six semidetached houses that would be restored sit on the left side of the street.
The houses that would be restored at 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 Glen Road
A view of the rear of the houses at 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 Glen Road
The proposal called for part of the back of these buildings to be demolished. A 5-storey apartment building would be constructed in the area behind the houses, along with above- and below-ground parking.
Bloor Street view of Glen Road, looking south toward Howard Street
This architectsAlliance illustration of the Block 3 tower elevations appears in application documents filed with city planners. These towers would stand between Edgedale Road at the west and Parliament Street to the east.
Edgedale Road, looking north from Howard Street toward Bloor Street
Looking west along Howard Street toward Edgedale Road. The amenities and service building for the towers would be situated near this spot.
This illustration, from a planning rationale report filed with the city planning department by Bousfields Inc., shows how the view west along Howard Street could appear once the towers are constructed
This house at 76 Howard Street was built in 1887. It sits near the middle of the proposed site for the three towers, and would have to be demolished to permit construction.
Bloor Street view of the heritage house at 76 Howard Street
A view of the 3-tower site, looking east along Bloor Street toward Parliament Street from behind the house at 76 Howard.
Looking east toward the Bloor-Parliament intersection, from the field next to 76 Howard Street.Two of the towers would be built here.
View toward Bloor Street and the Rosedale ravine from the field next to 76 Howard Street
West view from Parliament Street of the development site along Howard Street
The property between Parliament Street and 76 Howard Street currently is home to trees, a grassy lawn, billboards and dozens of squirrels
Looking west toward the development site from the Bloor-Parliament intersection
Looking west along Bloor Street from the sidewalk opposite the Castle Frank subway station. If built, the four condo towers would dominate this view.
August 15 2011: A wood panel indicates where glass broke and fell onto Bay Street from a balcony on the south Murano condo tower this morning
August 15 2011: Police closed the east traffic lane and sidewalk on Bay Street, as well as the intersection of Bay and Grenville Streets, after broken glass from a Murano condo balcony panel plunged to the ground and hit a passerby
August 15 2011: The driving restrictions cause traffic chaos on Bay Street below the Murano towers at 3 p.m. as police wait for crews to install scaffolding on the sidewalks. A pedestrian was injured by falling glass three hours earlier.
South tower’s turn: Local news media are reporting that a pedestrian suffered minor injuries this morning after she was struck by pieces of broken glass that fell from a balcony panel on the south Murano condo tower at the corner of Bay and Grenville Streets.
The woman was hurt shortly before noon when a glass panel shattered on an upper-floor balcony on the tower’s northwest corner, showering pieces of glass onto Bay Street. Although reports provide conflicting information about the nature of the woman’s injuries — with some stories saying she sustained injuries to her arm, and others describing a hand injury — all media accounts say the injury was minor and not life-threatening. Although it’s fortunate the woman wasn’t seriously hurt, the incident is bound to raise serious concerns about the safety of glass balcony panels not only because it marks the second time in three days that glass has shattered on a downtown condo tower, but because it’s at least the fourth tower to experience problems with panel breakage so far this summer.
On Saturday afternoon, a panel plunged off a 32nd-floor balcony at the recently-opened One Bedford condo tower in the Annex. According to an online Toronto Star report, police said “no-one was injured when the single, large pane of glass fell, bounced off the front-door overhang and smashed onto the ground” around 2.25 p.m. Police closed Bedford Road from Bloor Street to Prince Arthur Avenue for several hours while the incident was investigated. The broken panel was replaced with a temporary wood replacement (see photos below).
On August 2, a balcony panel on the Festival Tower condo highrise shattered and fell onto John Street. Nobody was hurt in that incident, but police closed John Street between King and Adelaide Streets as a precaution until Festival Tower’s developer, The Daniels Corporation, could get safety scaffolding installed on the sidewalk. Another panel had broken on Festival Tower only three weeks before that.
On August 1, two panels shattered and fell from the north Murano condo tower at the corner of Bay and Grosvenor Streets. Those incidents occurred mere days after City of Toronto building inspectors ordered Murano’s developer, Lanterra Developments, to remove and replace all of the balcony panels and railings from the north tower. That tower has been plagued with balcony breakage; in fact, the city ordered Lanterra to undertake the balcony remediation program after two panels broke and fell from the north tower on July 21. Panels had previously fallen from that tower on several separate occasions during the past year. Lanterra, incidentally, was One Bedford’s developer.
I have published extensive information and photos from previous balcony glass breakage incidents in earlier blog reports, including posts on August 4 2011, July 28 2011, July 21 2011, June 21 2011, February 2 2011, and January 18 2011. Below are photos I have taken in the past several days at Festival Tower and One Bedford, along with more pics I took this afternoon following the latest Murano panel break.
August 12 2011: Looking up the east side of Festival Tower, from which a balcony panel fell to the ground on John Street on August 2
August 12 2011: The circle indicates the Festival Tower balcony from which a glass panel plunged and smashed into pieces on John Street on August 2
August 12 2011: The broken panel has been replaced with a new one which appears to be a slightly different shade than the originals on the tower
July 13 2011: Looking up the west side of the One Bedford condo tower. On Saturday, a glass panel fell from a 32nd floor balcony on this side of the building.
August 14 2011: A piece of wood is temporarily replacing the glass panel that broke and fell from this One Bedford balcony on Saturday
August 14 2011: A closer view of the One Bedford condo balcony from which a glass panel fell on the weekend. Fortunately, no-one was hurt.
August 12 2011: The north side of the north Murano condo tower, from which all balcony glass panels, dividers and railings have been removed on order by the City of Toronto. The removal and replacement project will cost the condo building’s developer, Lanterra Developments, millions of dollars.
August 12 2011: The north Murano tower, sans balcony panels and railings, and the south tower rising behind it on Grenville Street
August 12 2011: Scaffolding protects the sidewalk outside the north Murano condo tower. For more than a week after the late July incidents, north tower residents had to enter their building through the south tower.
August 12 2011: Panels have been removed from about two thirds of the balconies on the south side of the Murano north tower
August 12 2011: Another view of the south side of the Murano north tower
August 12 2011: A closer look at the balconies from which glass has been removed on the north tower’s south face
August 15 2011: The two Murano condo towers, viewed this afternoon from the the SW corner of Bay and Grenville Streets. For the past two weeks, crews have been removing glass panels and railings from balconies on the north tower (left). Today, a panel fell off the south tower (right) for the first time.
August 15 2011: Glass shattered and fell this morning from a balcony (circled) on the upper northwest corner of the Murano south condo tower
August 15 2011: A replacement wooden panel has temporarily been installed on the balcony from which the glass fell this morning
August 15 2011: Another view of the replacement wooden panel
August 15 2011: A closer look at the balcony panel from which the broken glass fell
August 15 2011: Police enforce sidewalk and street lane closures on Bay Street below the north Murano condo tower.
August 15 2011: A Toronto police cruiser blocks vehicles from turning off Bay Street onto Grenville Street
August 15 2011: Police enforce traffic restrictions at the intersection of Bay & Grenville Streets below the Murano south condo tower
August 15 2011: The Bay and Grenville Street sidewalks below the Murano condo towers have been closed to pedestrians
August 15 2011: The sidewalk closure sign at the corner of Bay & Grenville Streets
August 15 2011: A Toronto police officer enforces the sidewalk closure at the southeast corner of Bay and Grenville Streets
August 15 2011: The east lane of Bay Street was closed to vehicles, as was the section of Grenville Street below the Murano south condo tower
August 15 2011: Police said the road and sidewalk closures could continue until scaffolding is installed below the Murano south tower
August 15 2011: Grenville Street is closed to vehicular traffic between St Vincent Lane and Bay Street, but the south sidewalk is open to pedestrians
August 15 2011: A crew continues to remove glass panels and railings from the south side of the north Murano tower
August 12 2011: Burano Condos, seen from the SE corner of Bay and College. The tower has climbed to 40 floors atop its 2-storey heritage building base.
Bay Street beauty: The Burano condo tower has become the newest member of Toronto’s steadily growing club of buildings taller than 40 storeys. On Friday, I counted 40 full floors of concrete, glass and steel rising from Burano’s two-storey base, a reconstructed heritage building that once was home to the Addison on Bay auto dealership. That means construction crews have only 10 more floors to build before Burano tops off: eight additional condominium levels, plus a two-storey mechanical penthouse.
Burano has looked impressive for months as the trapezoid-shaped tower has gradually climbed higher on the downtown skyline. With its angled south wall accenting Bay Street’s bend to the west at Grenville Street, and the striking, sharp points at its northeast and southwest corners, the Burano tower attracts attention from all directions. Its base will make an equally dramatic architectural statement once its three-storey glass lobby is installed on Grosvenor Street.
November 29 2010: Glass balcony panels on the Festival Tower condo highrise in the Entertainment District. Two panels on the tower have broken this summer.
Danger zones: In the wake of media reports that more glass balcony panels have fallen from two different downtown condo towers this week, I’m beginning to wonder if I should start wearing a hard hat whenever I leave my building. Seriously. I’m not worried about walking below my own condo building — all of the balconies on our 30-year-old highrise have metal railings. But almost every day I do walk below new condo towers that have glass balconies, and I recently walked below two of the condo towers that made headlines with balcony glass breakage this week.
On July 19, I crossed a section of Grosvenor Street that, just two days later, was showered with pieces of glass that broke on two separate balconies at the Murano condo tower at 37 Grosvenor Street. This past Monday afternoon I nearly walked up Bay Street past the Murano, but changed my mind two blocks away and took a different route. It wasn’t until an hour or so later that I learned another Murano balcony panel had shattered that very afternoon, spilling glass onto Bay Street — and that yet another panel had broken on the building’s east side just 12 hours earlier. Police cordoned off one northbound lane of Bay Street as a precaution; they already had closed part of Grosvenor Street and nearby St Vincent Lane because of the July 21 incidents. Coincidentally, I had just been walking around the Entertainment District, where I stood below the Festival Tower condo building on John Street to take photos of daredevils doing the CN Tower’s EdgeWalk. Around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, a panel on one of Festival Tower’s 27th floor balconies shattered, raining broken glass onto John Street. I had not been aware that another balcony panel on the same tower had broken just three weeks before.
Monday’s double-break at Murano occurred mere days after contractors had started removing panels from the tower after City of Toronto building inspectors ordered Murano’s developer, Lanterra Developments, to replace the balcony glass — a multimillion-dollar remediation project that could take several months to complete.
Why has the balcony glass been breaking? Speculation is running rampant in public online discussion forums, with commentators blaming faulty manufacturing, installation, or balcony design, and some others conjecturing that developers or builders may have been “cheaping out” on materials to cut construction costs. Some blame the recent extreme heat, some say it’s caused by wind, but at this point experts can’t yet pinpoint the precise cause of the breakage at Murano and Festival Tower.
A story posted on the Toronto Star website Tuesday quotes Jim Laughlin, a senior City of Toronto building official, as saying the City ordered Lanterra to replace the Murano balcony glass following the building’s fifth consecutive breakage incident “because we don’t know why this is happening.” The story also quotes Lanterra president Barry Fenton as saying the company has engineers “performing an autopsy of the glass to figure out what happened.” According to Fenton, the glass and railings on the Grosvenor Street Murano condo tower were installed two years ago by a company that is no longer in business. A different company installed the balconies on the adjacent Murano south condo tower at 38 Grenville Street, where no panels have broken.
Meanwhile, the CBC reports that Festival Tower’s developer, The Daniels Corporation, will temporarily install scaffolding below the building as a precautionary measure to protect pedestrians in case any more glass breaks and falls. In the meantime, police have closed John Street to traffic between King and Adelaide Streets. The CBC quotes a Daniels executive as saying the company knows why a panel shattered three weeks ago — apparently a metal railing expanded during the hot temperatures, putting too much pressure on the glass — but doesn’t know what caused Tuesday’s incident. It’s suspected that something may have struck the glass, the executive said. “The way the balcony has been designed, it’s in accordance with all the codes and practice with construction technique but for some reason we seem to have this problem with the tempered glass is letting go,” Daniels senior vice president Tom Dutton told the CBC.
It now appears that at least one more panel has broken on Festival Tower so far this year. A story in today’s Star quotes a Festival Tower resident, Omar Jabri, describing how a pane fell off his 16th floor balcony back in May. Jabri actually happened to be standing at the corner of King & John Streets on Tuesday evening when the panel on the 27th floor shattered; he told the Star he saw the glass fall onto John Street. I haven’t been able to get down to the area to take photos, but was surprised when I saw pictures in the Star and other media showing a Festival Tower balcony with a missing panel. In February, I snapped a photo of a Festival Tower balcony missing a panel, also on the east (John Street) side of the building. The pane was missing from the exact same part of the balcony railing as the pane that fell from the tower this week (see photo, below). Could that be just a curious coincidence?
Today I walked past the Murano condos to see how the glass removal project is progressing. Most of the balcony panels on the north side of the Grosvenor Street building have been removed, with four and a half floors still to go as well as several vertical rows of panes, rising about two-thirds of the way up the tower, for balconies near the northeast corner. No glass has been removed from the south side of the tower yet. Part of Grosvenor Street and St Vincent Lane are still closed to traffic, as is the right-hand northbound lane of Bay Street between Grenville Street and Grosvenor. The Bay Street sidewalk alongside the Murano complex is completely closed to pedestrians, and police officers are stationed at both ends of the sidewalk to ensure people detour around the site.
Here’s hoping that Lanterra’s glass “autopsy” and the Daniels investigations are able to quickly pinpoint the cause of the breakage — and determine an effective solution. I’d like to be able to walk our downtown streets without having to wear protective headgear, and I’m sure most Torontonians feel the same way.
Below are recent photos of the balcony removal work at the Murano condo on Grosvenor Street, along with some photos I’ve shot in the past showing the glass balcony panes on Festival Tower.
July 21 2011: The Murano north tower on Grosvenor Street, left, has suffered about eight incidents of balcony glass breakage this year.
July 24 2011: A crew on a swing stage inspects the Murano north condo tower as work begins to remove all balcony glass and railings from the building.
July 24 2011: Workers remove a glass partition from between two balconies on the north side of the Grosvenor Street Murano tower
July 27 2011: Crews remove balcony glass from the Murano north condo tower. The dismantling of all of the building’s balconies is expected to finish next week.
August 4 2011: Balcony glass removal progress on the tower’s north side
August 4 2011: Panels still must be removed from four and a half full floors, along with a vertical row of balconies near the northeast corner of the building
August 4 2011: A work crew removes balcony panels and railings on the north tower. The yellow signs posted on the balcony doors advise residents that they cannot use their balconies during the city-ordered remediation project.
August 4 2011: A contractor removes a balcony support pillar
August 4 2011: The right-hand northbound lane of Bay Street is closed between Grenville and Grosvenor Streets, as is the sidewalk. I counted seven Toronto police officers enforcing the street and sidewalk closures at lunch time today.
July 21 2011: The Murano south condo tower at 38 Grenville Street has not experienced any balcony panel breakage
March 8 2010: Balcony panel installation underway during construction of the Festival Tower condo highrise on John Street
February 3 2011: A Festival Tower balcony was missing one of its glass panels last winter. There had been no reports of glass breakage at the time.
November 2 2010: CN Tower observation deck view of the 42-storey Festival Tower that opened at King & John Streets last year. The podium is the TIFF Bell Lightbox, home to the Toronto International Film Festival
July 27 2011: Sections of Grosvenor Street and St Vincent Lane below the Murano north condo tower remain closed to vehicles and pedestrians …
… as crews remove hundreds of glass panels from the building’s balconies. On orders from City inspectors, the developer is replacing all of the panels.
Balcony blues: Residents of the Murano north condo tower at 37 Grosvenor Street won’t be able to watch summer sunsets from the comfort of their balconies for the rest of the summer … and might not even be able to walk out onto them until sometime this fall. After two glass panels fell off balconies and smashed onto Grosvenor Street last Thursday, city building inspectors ordered Murano management to keep residents off their balconies until all glass panels have been removed and replaced, the Toronto Star reported. Murano’s builder, Lanterra Developments, began the remediation work immediately, and will foot what is bound to be a substantial bill for the project.
Last week’s incident marked the third time this year that glass panels have fallen from the highrise onto the street. In the latest mishap, panels plunged from north-facing balconies on the 18th and 35th floors. The panels fell around 2 p.m. on one of the hottest and most humid afternoons of the summer. Environment Canada data show that the temperature at Pearson International Airport at the time was 37.1 Celsius, while the Humidex reading was 48. Winds were around 35 km/h.
Fortunately, no-one was injured. Nevertheless, as I reported in my July 21 2011 post about the incident, Toronto police closed part of the street and lane below the Murano tower to all pedestrian and vehicle traffic as a safety precaution. They also required north tower residents and visitors to access and exit the building through the south condo tower at 38 Grenville Street, even though scaffolding had already been installed over the Bay and Grosvenor Street sidewalks adjacent to the north tower after a balcony panel fell from the tower’s upper south side in late June.
After inspecting the north tower, staff from the City’s building division issued an order requiring that all glass balcony panels in that particular building be replaced. According to the Star, the order demanded that building management “remove the glass balcony panels from the building, remove all contents from all balconies and secure all points of access to all balconies until the remediation is complete.”
As of yesterday afternoon, work crews had removed most of the glass panels on the lower seven rows of balconies, and the sections of Grosvenor Street and St Vincent Lane alongside the building still remained off-limits to pedestrians and vehicles.
Below are photos showing balcony panel replacement activity yesterday and on Sunday.
July 24 2011: Plywood panels are visible on two of the upper floor balconies of the north Murano condo tower in this view from Wellesley Street West. A swing stage carrying a work crew also can be seen on the lower left side of the building.
July 24 2011: A work crew inspects balcony panels from a swing stage near the northeast corner of the 37-storey tower
July 24 2011: Two contractors look down from one balcony while another crew works on the balcony below them
July 24 2011: The workers appear to be checking a glass balcony divider
July 27 2011: A crew ascends the building exterior where dozens of glass panels have already been removed from the balcony railings
July 1 2011: Looking down on the ÏCE Condos building site from the east side of Grand Trunk Crescent. I counted five below-ground floors under construction in the southwest corner (right) where a 57-storey tower is going up. Underground parking floors for its 67-storey sibling are taking shape in the foreground.
July 1 2011: Right next door to the ÏCE Condos site, the underground levels for the Infinity3 condo complex are gradually filling in. This is a view of the southwest corner of the property next to Lower Simcoe Street.
Big basements: The giant L-shaped excavation south of the railway tracks, between York and Lower Simcoe Streets, keeps filling in as construction proceeds on underground levels for the two condominium complexes that will tower above the Gardiner Expressway. The greatest progress appears to have been made in the middle of the site along the property line between the ÏCE Condos development to the east and the Infinity3 Condominium project to the west. There, construction work is visible for five underground levels for Phase I of the ICE Condos complex, a 55-storey cylindrical tower. Right next door, on the west side of the wall, at least three underground levels are in varied stages of construction for Infinity3, which is a project of Conservatory Group.
Meanwhile, since units in Phase I and the 65-storey Phase II tower have completely sold out, builder Lanterra Developments has demolished the ÏCE Condos sales centre that used to sit near the corner of York Street and Bremner Boulevard. A 31-storey office building is planned for the site, but a construction start date for that phase of the project has not been announced. Part of the property is now being used as a pay-and-display parking lot that’s proving to be popular with people driving to the area to attend concert and sports events at the nearby Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre.
June 20 2011: A red excavating machine (rear middle of photo) completes demolition work on the former ÏCE Condos sales centre. Units in the two-tower condo complex are completely sold out …
… so the site is now being used as a pay-and-display public parking area
June 20 2011: From Lower Simcoe Street, an eastward-looking view of the Infinity3 project (foreground) and the ICE Condos development (in the back below the blue, yellow and white construction trailers on York Street)
June 20 2011: The Infinity3 complex is going up directly across the street from Infinity1, a 35-storey condo at 30 Grand Trunk Crescent, and Infinity2, a 16-storey condo at 51 Lower Simcoe Street.
June 20 2011: Construction of Infinity3’s underground levels is more advanced on the east side of the property; the west half still has a long way to go to catch up.
June 20 2011: A view of work on two of Infinity3’s underground parking floors
June 20 2011: Progress on three levels is visible at the southwest corner
June 20 2011: A closer view of work on two of Infinity3’s underground floors
June 20 2011: Construction crews working on the ÏCE Condos project
June 20 2011: A worker stands in rebar rods set in place for a concrete pour
June 20 2011: Two Infinity3 construction workers stand on wall construction forms
June 20 2011: Two Infinity3 construction workers guide a bucket of concrete being lowered by one of the two construction cranes operating on the project
July 1 2011: A view of underground level construction toward the north end of the ÏCE Condos building site
July 1 2011: A southeasterly view across the ÏCE Condos site from the sidewalk along Grand Trunk Crescent
July 21 2011: A view of four floors at different stages of construction progress
June 20 2011: Rebar, wall forms and portable toilets on the ÏCE Condos site
June 20 2011: The southwest corner of the ÏCE Condos site is advancing at a significantly faster pace than elsewhere
July 1 2011: A view of the ÏCE Condos site, left, and the Infinity3 property, right
July 1 2011: A view of the western half of the Infinity3 construction site
July 1 2011: Overlooking the middle section of the Infinity3 construction site
July 1 2011: Infinity3 construction approaches street grade near the crane situated next to Grand Trunk Crescent
July 1 2011: Looking to the southeast across the Infinity3 construction zone
July 1 2011: Forms in place to build supporting walls for Infinity3
July 1 2011: Overlooking the eastern half of the Infinity3 construction zone
July 1 2011: Looking to the southeast behind one of the Infinity3 cranes
July 2 2011: Another view of Infinity3 from Grand Trunk Crescent
July 2 2011: There are several spots along Grand Trunk Crescent from which Infinity3 can be viewed through security fencing next to the public sidewalk
July 1 2011: The eastern section of Infinity3 next to the ÏCE Condos property
3:15 p.m.: “Caution” tape blocks the east sidewalk on Bay Street, seen here looking south from Grosvenor toward Grenville Street. A security guard told me the sidewalk was closed as a safety precaution after glass fell from one of the Murano condo towers sometime today.
Overhead dangers: The sky isn’t falling this week, but you can forgive many Toronto motorists and pedestrians for thinking that it is. Yesterday, a 10-pound chunk of concrete fell from the Gardiner Expressway onto Lake Shore Boulevard near Bathurst Street, forcing the temporary closure of two lanes of traffic while crews cleaned the road and inspected the elevated expressway for additional loose pieces. (Further information about that is available in a Toronto Star article published today as well as a story that appeared in yesterday’s Globe and Mail.) Then, sometime today, glass apparently fell from one of the Murano condo towers on Bay Street, forcing building management to tape off pedestrian access to most of the sidewalk on the east side of Bay between Grosvenor and Grenville Streets as a safety measure.
Today’s broken glass/sidewalk closure incident is the latest in a series that have occurred at the popular downtown condominium complex for more than a year. A project of Lanterra Developments, Murano is a pair of attractive glass and steel condo towers that soar 45 and 37 storeys above the east side of Bay Street, between Grosvenor to the north and Grenville to the south. As I reported in a January 18 2011 post, there were three occasions last year on which glass balcony panels either shattered or loosened and fell from the towers. In April 2010, a balcony panel apparently plunged from one of the towers, smashing and cracking several panes of a glass canopy that extends along the condo building exterior above the Bay Street sidewalk. When two more balcony panels broke last September the local media took note, with the Toronto Star publishing a September 18 2010 report headlined “Shattered glass rains down from condo tower.” Just before Christmas, I noticed that a balcony panel on the south side of the North Tower had been replaced with a piece of wood, while in late January I saw a board on yet another balcony on the other side of the same tower (see my February 2 2011 post for photos of that, as well as pics of a temporary wood panel on a balcony at the 46-storey Casa Condominium on Charles Street East). There were no reports of injuries in any of the incidents. For most of 2010 and much of this past winter, however, scaffolding was kept in place to protect pedestrians using the sidewalks outside the Murano towers. Meanwhile, replacements for the broken and cracked panels on the canopy above the sidewalk were not installed until sometime in April of this year.
Early in May, I noticed that most of the scaffolding had been removed from the sidewalks, while just a week or two back I saw that the sidewalks were completely clear for the first time in many months. When I was heading north on Bay Street in midafternoon today, however, I encountered yellow and red “caution” tape that had been strung across the trees in front of the Murano complex, blocking most of the sidewalk from pedestrian use. Only a narrow section, with barely enough room for two pedestrians to pass each other, remained open alongside the curb. A disabled man in a motorized wheelchair came along and noticed, to his chagrin, that the section of sidewalk still open for passage was not wide enough for his chair. He proceeded to drive under the “caution” tape, which snagged on his headrest and ripped away from the trees as he rode up the middle of the sidewalk. A security guard wearing a white hardhat came racing toward him, gesturing for the man to drive his wheelchair along the edge of the sidewalk next to the road. “You can’t go up here! It’s dangerous!” he warned.
When I asked why the sidewalk was taped off, the security guard said it was because “glass fell from the tower.” He did not know whether the glass had fallen from a broken window or a balcony panel. All he could tell me was that glass had fallen to the street and the sidewalk had been cordoned off as a safety precaution. “It’s very dangerous for you here,” he told me, before scurrying down the street to replace the tape that had been torn loose by the wheelchair (several pedestrians had started walking up the middle of the sidewalk since the tape was no longer in place to indicate it was off-limits.) I didn’t see broken glass anywhere on the sidewalks; if there had been any, it had already been swept up. A police car was parked on Grosvenor outside the entrance to the Murano North Tower but, apart from the “caution” tape, there was nothing to suggest anything “dangerous” had happened. Nevertheless, I wonder if I’ll once again see scaffolding above the sidewalk next time I walk past the Muranos?
Below are two more pics showing the taped-off sidewalk today, along with photos I took during the winter of the missing and cracked canopy panels and their replacements.
June 21 2011: Red caution tape blocks the Bay Street sidewalk beside the Murano Condo towers, seen here looking north from Grenville Street.
June 21 2011: Red and yellow tape tied to trees blocks the Bay Street sidewalk next to the Murano condos, seen here looking south from Grosvenor Street.
March 29 2011: One glass panel is cracked and others are missing from the canopy that extends above the sidewalk from the west side of the Murano towers
March 29 2011: Looking up at the 45-storey Murano Condos South Tower through the space where a panel is missing from the canopy above the Bay Street sidewalk
March 29 2011: Looking up at the Murano’s North Tower, left, and South Tower
April 30 2011: New panels have recently been installed in the canopy
April 30 2011: The glass podium of the Murano towers reflects the Burano condo tower — another Lanterra Developments project — currently under construction on the west side of Bay Street
May 13 2011: The 501 Yonge Street strip of retail shops and restaurants, viewed from the southwest corner of Yonge & Grosvenor Streets
Going big & tall on Yonge: In my Ripe for Redevelopment post on April 14 2011, I wondered what Lanterra Developments was planning to do with the 501 Yonge Street strip of restaurants and retail shops it had recently purchased — as well as when it was going to announce its plans. When I walked past 501 Yonge last week, I knew something was imminent because three of the former retail tenants have moved out, leaving suspiciously empty storefronts. Now I know what’s happening with the property — or should I say, what the developer hopes will happen.
The company has filed a development application with the city to build a mixed-use complex that would include two 58-storey condo towers and an entirely new retail strip along Yonge. The towers would soar 190 meters from a 7-storey podium featuring retail space at street level plus five levels of parking above that. The complex would contain 960 condo units, 302 residential parking spaces and 58 parking spots for visitors. Lobbies for the condo towers would sit at opposite ends of the block: the north tower lobby would be on Maitland Street, while the south tower lobby would be on Alexander Street. The city’s development application notice says that driveway and service access to the complex would be from Maitland Place; however, that’s clearly a mistake because Maitland Place is a one-block street two blocks east, between Homewood Avenue and Jarvis Street. They must have meant Maitland Street.
The city received the application only on May 5, so no community consultation meeting has been scheduled yet, nor has the developer publicly released renderings of its proposed towers. But I’m sure there will be strong opposition to the towers’ sheer height from some area residents, particularly those in the 18-storey Cosmopolitan condo building at 25 Maitland Street, which would be absolutely dwarfed by the 501 project. Will keep you posted on further news about this project. Below are two more pics from this afternoon, showing the vacant storefronts.
May 13 2011: Looking northeast toward the vacant retail outlets at 501 Yonge
May 13 2011: A body piercing shop is bookended by empty retail space; the 18-storey Cosmopolitan condo building on Maitland Street is visible at left rear
February 20 2011: Restaurants and shops along the 501 block of Yonge Street, viewed from the southwest corner of Yonge and Breadalbane
February 20 2011: Looking north toward the 501 block of Yonge Street from the southeast corner of Yonge & Grosvenor Streets
Lanterra land: I wasn’t surprised when a city planner told a neighbourhood association meeting I attended nearly a month ago that Lanterra Developments had purchased the entire 501 block of Yonge Street, from Alexander Street at the south to Maitland Street at the north. I live only a few blocks away and for years have been wondering, each time I have walked past, why someone hasn’t redeveloped the long two-level building with either a bigger retail complex or a condo or office tower. Parts of the block have had a rather shabby and almost run-down appearance for years and, since it’s only two storeys tall on a prime section of the city’s main strip, it looks like it’s practically begging for someone to replace it with something bigger and better.
I always thought it might be impossible to build a larger, taller structure on the site because the Yonge subway line passes beneath part of the property between the Wellesley and College stations. However, the city planner said that while the subway tunnel presents a challenge for redevelopment, it’s not insurmountable. It likely means there would be a very limited amount of space available for underground floors and parking, he said, but above-grade parking levels would solve that problem nicely.
Lanterra hasn’t yet filed a development application with the city, nor has it publicly announced any plans for the site. But I’m keen to see what changes it envisions for 501 Yonge. The upside to redevelopment here is that a Lanterra building would greatly enhance Yonge Street by classing up what is basically a tacky, cheap-looking retail strip. Any civic and private effort to revitalize Yonge between College and Bloor Streets certainly would get a huge boost if Lanterra improved this particular block. The downside is that small independent businesses, like many of the shops and restaurants currently operating here, probably couldn’t afford the significantly higher rents that would be charged for commercial streetfront space in a new development. As much as I’d like to see this section of Yonge Street spruced up, and even though I don’t care for most of the businesses along this block, I would probably regret seeing them replaced with outlets for ubiquitous international retail chain stores, fast food franchises and coffee shops. There’s already enough of those establishments elsewhere on Yonge and throughout the downtown core. More of them here would detract from Yonge Street’s quirky character and the strip’s unique look and feel.
Below is a link to an online album with a few dozen photos showing all four sides of the 501 Yonge block, the block on the opposite side of Yonge Street, and other nearby buildings.
Editor’s Note: I regret that access to the online album is no longer available. The album had been available on Webshots.com; however, on December 1 2012 the Webshots site was shut down by the company that owns it.