A proposal from First Capital Realty to build a 65,000-square-foot mixed-used development on the site of the Humbertown strip mall in Etobicoke has local residents, including mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug, concerned for the neighbourhood’s suburban character. The proposal comprises five buildings containing 576 apartment units, 28 townhouses, 21,000 square metres of commercial space and underground parking. Councillor Gloria Lindsay-Luby and neighbours say it will bring traffic congestion and an unwelcome spike in population density, and the mayor himself showed up at a Etobicoke Community Council meeting last night to
put magnets on the cars in the parking lot slam the scheme and remind developers that “this isn’t downtown, this Etobicoke.” Meanwhile, the residents’ association has hired an architect to draw up a proposal for the kind of development they might support, which has 202 residential units, a town square and a maximum building height of six stories rather than 12. First Capital, however, says it’s not planning to adjust its plans before city council considers them at a June 11 meeting. [Globe and Mail]
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The developer hoping to build a big-box development on the western edge of Kensington Market isn’t giving up. After both the city’s committee of adjustment and the Ontario Municipal Board rejected its application for a 12,000-square-metre shopping centre on Bathurst just south of College, the RioCan-backed company has now applied for a zoning amendment, which must go through city council. That process also gives residents a chance to weigh in, which many will undoubtedly take given the community’s history of fighting against anything that could imperit the market’s character. To wit: recent rent hikes that threatened to displace longstanding café and food shop Casa Acoreana caused enough of a stir that the landlord reconsidered. [Urban Toronto]
Real estate commentators usually reach for sales figures and average prices to explain what’s happening in the market, but there are a ton of other figures that are equally illuminating. This week, we’ve seen stories about the number of new condo projects in Toronto, the amount a typical first-time buyer is planning to pay and more. We round up the notable numbers below.
This morning, Research in Motion held simultaneous splashy events in New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Johannesburg and Dubai to launch the BlackBerry 10 operating system and associated phones—the ones analysts (and the dwindling ranks of BlackBerry fans) have spent most of the last year waiting to see. Below, we round up the best, worst and strangest parts of the day’s BlackBerry hoopla, including a surprise celebrity hire.
The plans for a large-scale development at 1 Yonge Street, currently home to a set of low-rise buildings and the Toronto Star’s old parking lot, are even more ambitious than last summer’s rumours suggested. Late last week, Urban Toronto published a pair of architectural sketches showing Pinnacle International’s plans for a skyline-defining, five-tower development that would include Canada’s two tallest skyscrapers. Alongside the 92-storey and 98-storey buildings, the cluster would also contain an office tower of some 30 storeys, two 70-storey towers and street-level retail space (the Toronto Star office at the corner of Yonge and Queens Quay would remain untouched). The proposal is still in its infancy as the city has requested Pinnacle wait to formally submit it until after Waterfront Toronto has finished a study on future development in the area, which may not be until late summer. Moreover, as with Oxford Properties’ Convention Centre plans and David Mirvish and Frank Gehry’s theatre district proposal, questions remain over the area’s ability to sustain a set of monolithic residential towers. Although, at least Pinnacle would only be razing a parking lot, and not a beloved theatre. [Urban Toronto]
A high-stakes turf war is heating up between Rogers and Bell over the chance to provide television to Toronto’s ever-growing ranks of downtown condo-dwellers. For decades, bylaws prohibiting satellite dishes on condo balconies prevented Bell from selling its satellite TV in high-rises, leaving Rogers to sign exclusive deals with developers. But the landscape has changed: Rogers’ deals are now expiring and, with Fibe TV, Bell has traded in ugly satellites for discreet fiber optics cable. The company recently made its first major play, offering steep discounts on TV and PVR rentals (but buyer beware: the ultra-low rates expire after a year, and customers must also sign up for home phone and internet). Bell has even taken the unprecedented step of running fiber into single suites—some private residences at the Four Seasons are on Fibe—setting the precedent for a gritty customer-by-customer battle between it and Rogers. And here we thought the competitors were learning to play nice. [Globe and Mail]
The clashing factions in Toronto’s condo fights used to be easy to identify: angry residents and ambitious developers. Now, the debate includes factory owners and workers as well. The city is currently undergoing a five-year-plan review, which allows landowners a rare chance to request a change to their property’s zoning designation, and with the supply of residential land dwindling, developers are hungrily eyeing parcels currently set aside for industry and offices. Here are five places where the battle is playing out.
The Celtic Invasion: why the arrival of hundreds of Irish construction workers benefits Toronto’s building boom
In the mid-1990s, companies such as Microsoft, Intel and Apple, attracted by Ireland’s well-educated workforce, tax incentives, minimal regulations and low wages, opened offices in Dublin with a speed that surprised even the gravest doubter. By the time the Celtic Tiger, as the exploding Irish economy was dubbed, had fully deployed its claws, the unemployment rate had dropped to just under five per cent, one of the lowest in the developed world. Ireland’s GDP grew to one of the highest in Europe, exports doubled in just five years, and the average income was climbing seven per cent a year, almost triple the Read the rest of this entry »
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Reaction Roundup: Oxford’s $3-billion development proposal for Front Street (which includes a casino)
The city’s councillors and columnists are now debating the benefits and drawbacks of the second downtown mega-plan to be unveiled in as many weeks. On Friday, Oxford Properties unveiled a (previously leaked) proposal for a $3-billion revamp of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre that would add two office/residential towers, a hotel, a new Eaton Centre–esque retail space and a strip of parkland. Of course, the entire plan is contingent on Oxford getting the go-ahead to build an on-site casino—a crucial detail we imagine is meant to put pressure on casino opponents (and to position Oxford as the logical choice to build it). Unsurprisingly, politicians and pundits jumped at the fresh opportunity to weigh in on the casino debate.
When David Mirvish and Frank Gehry announced their major King West redevelopment plans earlier this month, Mirvish said the pair weren’t building three condo towers—they were creating “sculptures for people to live in.” However, the poetics didn’t quash concerns about whether the Theatre District’s infrastructure can sustain the 2,600 new condo units or whether anyone will buy the apartments in an already saturated market. For Gehry, though, those issues aren’t new. Over the past decade, the Harvard-educated architect has proposed similarly grand designs in New York, his hometown of L.A., and overseas—all of which have been met with a certain degree of trepidation. Some ultimately lived up to their promise, becoming iconic, landmark buildings, while a tough economy and high costs have delayed others (a track record that has raised questions about whether his Toronto project will ever even happen). Here, we examine five of the starchitect’s past residential projects, and see how his Mirvish plans compare. Read the rest of this entry »
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Over the weekend, theatre tycoon David Mirvish unveiled a grand plan to knock down a section of the entertainment district that includes the Princess of Wales Theatre, and replace it with three 80-storey condo towers designed by Frank Gehry. (At the moment, the renowned Toronto-born architect’s redesign of the AGO remains his only major contribution to the local cityscape.) The project, which would nestle along King Street between the Royal Alexandra and the TIFF Bell Lightbox, would contain all manner of development goodies, according to Mirvish:
Read the rest of this entry »
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The battle over a stretch of industrial decay sitting next to the Nestlé chocolate factory in the South Junction Triangle is intensifying. To recap, Castlepoint Realty bought the land off Alcan in 2007, started the process of environmental remediation and proposed a mixed-use residential development that would include 45 townhomes, a few office towers and a public square. Residents are generally enthusiastic about the project, but Nestlé has been trying to block it because they fear the noise, trucks and smells from the 24/7 operation will make would-be residents unhappy, which could, in turn, force the factory to make changes. (We guess chocolate making isn’t all Oompa Loompa songs and edible gardens.) This week, the chocolate maker ramped up its efforts to thwart the development, dropping flyers at every house in Ward 18, sending people door to door and even using everyone’s favourite mode of harassment, robo-calls. Residents are already angry about the aggressive approach, which won’t help Nestlé’s case when the city’s planning and growth committee discusses the issue on November 8. [Toronto Star]
Some newly released census data should provide ammunition for those who claim the “Manhattanization” of Toronto could see a majority of the city’s residents living in condo towers. According to Statistics Canada, 27.4 per cent of Toronto households now live in high-rises, a rise of nearly a percentage point since 2006; meanwhile, the average size of a condo unit is shrinking. There are a couple of explanations for why people are making do with less living space: the average number of members in a family is falling; more people are living alone; and high property prices mean more and more people are limited to small units. But, the Globe and Mail points out, there is also perhaps a gap between the demand for larger units and developers’ willingness to build them. From a builder’s perspective, there’s a larger pool of potential buyers for small units (plus investors looking to rent out their places also prefer smaller units), which means that buildings full of shoeboxes are easiest to finance. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »