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Editor’s Letter (January 2014): Porter’s expansion is an enthusiastic embrace of urban life

Editor's Letter: Sarah FulfordMy new favourite spot in the city is the rooftop patio of the Corus Quay building, the headquarters for Corus Entertainment, at the foot of Jarvis Street. The building, which opened in 2010, was designed by Jack Diamond and bears his firm’s signature understated elegance. Back in the fall, on a gloriously mild October night, I stood on that deck, and the view was spectacular: dozens of pleasure boats to the south, a vast collection of glistening urban towers, many of them new, to the northwest.

A container ship was unloading ­barrels of raw sugar at the Redpath refinery—a last gasp of industry in the downtown. The overall impression was of a ­bustling, densely urban, multi-purpose waterfront.

I was there for a lecture by Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings Institute, who was in town to promote her book The Metropolitan Revolution, in which she explains how cities can save themselves from urban collapse. She is a compelling speaker, but her message didn’t seem relevant to Toronto. Our big urban problem is the opposite of collapse; it’s rapid growth. We are building at a ferocious rate, attracting 100,000 new residents a year, erecting new buildings on any scrap of land we can find. Our aging infrastructure can’t cope with the robust development.

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Real Estate

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Condo Showdown: five waterfront condos for under $500,000

Condo Showdown: five condos on the water for under $500,000

No wonder Toronto’s feverish condo construction is at its most intense on the borders of Lake Ontario: the waterfront boasts calming lake views, proximity to the downtown core and the Island airport, and the promise of several government-initiated beautification projects. However, a brand new tower with flashy finishes isn’t the sole option for the would-be waterfront dweller. Older buildings along the stretch may need overhauling, but they tend to offer more square footage for your money. Here, five properties currently on the market, from a loft in the Tip Top building to an Oakville suite with a slew of amenities.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Condo of the Week: $1.4 million for a waterfront unit with a killer view of the Island

Condo of the Week: 77 Harbour Square, Unit 3508 Address: 77 Harbour Square, Unit 3508
Neighbourhood: Waterfront Communities-The Island
Agents: Jason Lau, Century 21 Leading Edge Realty Inc., Brokerage

Price: $1,400,000

The Place: A two-bedroom unit overlooking Lake Ontario from the 35th floor of a waterfront tower.

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Events

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The top 10 buildings to visit at Doors Open Toronto 2013

The Dineen Building on Yonge Street is one of the new participants in Doors Open this year (Image: iQ Office Suites)

Doors Open Toronto—a.k.a Christmas for architectural voyeurs—takes place this Saturday and Sunday, giving a behind-the-scenes look at more than 150 of the city’s most storied, striking and sacred buildings. This year’s lineup includes perennial favorites like Commerce Court North and the Redpath Sugar Museum, but also has a special focus on renos, revivals and retrofits like the conversion of Maple Leaf Gardens and the Don Jail-Bridgepoint Health mash-up. Trying to take in all the sites would, obviously, be insane. Below, we zero in on 10 of the most intriguing (click here for a map of all our picks).

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Politics

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Dumb and Dumber: the most idiotic things Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford did during the budget debates

City council approved the 2013 operating budget just after noon today, and, despite $12-million in last-minute spending additions, this year’s debates weren’t nearly as dramatic as last year’s coup by centrist and left-wing forces. That’s not to say there weren’t shenanigans, the best of which starred habitual headline-grabbers Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford.

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The Dish

Deathwatch

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Captain John asks his fans to help bail him out

(Image: shanelkalicharan)

In the latest episode of the ongoing saga of Captain John’s Seafood Restaurant, owner John Letnik has made the increasingly popular move of soliciting donations to save his iconic 42-year-old floating harbourfront restaurant. Letnik got into a dispute over taxes four years ago, and now owes more than $500,000 in back taxes and rent, a sum that led the city to cut off the water to his restaurant this summer, closing it down and effectively shutting off Letnik’s cash flow. In addition to donating, visitors to the Save Captain John! site are asked to sign a petition calling for the city, Waterfront Toronto and the Toronto Port Authority to “Stop the unfair treatment of John Letnik.” Though he’s been trying to sell the business since 2009, as Torontoist reports, buyers for an aging restaurant boat on a month-to-month lease with the city are in short supply. [Torontoist]

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Real Estate

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Condomonium: $1.3 million for a three-bedroom suite in Chris Bosh’s old building

ADDRESS: 2045 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Unit 3804

NEIGHBOURHOOD: Mimico

AGENT: Irene Goodman, Regency Park Realty

PRICE: $1,299,000

THE PLACE: A 3-bedroom suite in the Palace Pier condos. This tower was built in the 1970s on nine acres of private parkland by the lake. The address has attracted a number of luxury-lovers, including Chris Bosh during his stint with the Toronto Raptors.

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Real Estate

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Cottage of the Week: $2.2 million for a vacation property with two libraries

ADDRESS: 245 North Shore Road

NEIGHBOURHOOD: Port Severn, Georgian Bay

AGENT: Armin and AnneMarie Grigaitis, ReMax Baywatch Ltd., Brokerage

PRICE: $2,199,000

THE PLACE: A cottage with a palatial air (for instance, it has a circular staircase and a turreted tower), tucked in its own little cove on Georgian Bay.

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The Dish

Drinks

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Amsterdam Brewery announces relocation—and a massive new waterfront brewpub

Renderings of the huge new space (Image: Amsterdam)

Following months of rumours in Toronto’s craft beer scene, Amsterdam Brewery finally announced that it’s leaving its Bathurst Street location to set up a new, larger (and retail-friendly) brewery in Leaside. The brewing area at the new space will be featured behind a massive 40-foot-by-10-foot glass wall, and there’ll be a 2,000-square-foot room for casking events, corporate gigs and seminars. The big surprise, however, was Amsterdam’s announcement that it will return to its brewpub roots in grand and ambitious fashion, with a 900-seat hangar-sized restaurant (300 of the seats will be on a waterside patio) at 245 Queens Quay West, near Harbourfront Centre, the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Steam Whistle Brewery.

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The Informer

Events

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The Long Weekender: Public Enemy, Brazilian Day and six other events on our to-do list

The Lemon Bucket Orkestra performs at the Ashkenaz Festival on Sunday (Image: Ashkenaz Festival)

1. ASHKENAZ FESTIVAL
The Ashkenaz Festival is the largest international festival of Jewish music and culture in North America—so it sort of makes sense that it takes place only every other year. The festivities kicked off earlier this week, but there’s still plenty in store for the weekend: expect performances from the likes of The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Toronto Jewish Folk Choir, Socalled and Shye Ben Tzur. On Sunday, Toronto’s Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison (two-thirds of Sharon, Lois and Bram) will be on hand to perform their classic earwormSkinnamarink” as well as Oy Vey, Oy Veyand “I’m a Little Latke” (sadly, no word yet on whether Toronto’s other great Jewish sensation will be in attendance). The festival culminates in a massive parade Monday afternoon (those gifted with musical ability can head to the pre-parade lesson to learn the tunes and take part in the festivities). To September 3. Various prices (some events free). Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4000, ashkenazfestival.com

2. CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL AIR SHOW
You can probably catch a glimpse of this admittedly noisy but incredibly impressive display of aircraft prowess from afar, but the best views are from the CNE grounds or the VIP ticketed guest enclosures. The show will go on, rain or shine. September 1-September 3. Various prices (free with admission to The Ex).  At the waterfront, south of Bandshell Park. cias.org

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Real Estate

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Cottage of the Week: $6.5 million for an eco-friendly estate on the shore of Georgian Bay

ADDRESS: 201 Little Cove Road, Tobermory

NEIGHBOURHOOD: Georgian Bay

AGENT: Darlene James, RE/MAX Grey Bruce Realty

PRICE: $6,500,000

THE PLACE: This eight-bedroom estate sits on over 98 acres of land on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. It was originally built as an eco-lodge (which means there are plenty of guest rooms for friends and family).

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The Informer

Politics

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Toronto is the “biggest opportunity in the world right now” for casino companies

(Image: Ian McKellar)

The Toronto Star recently took a close look at the competition for the GTA casino, squeezing details out of insiders at MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and some of the other mega-companies hoping to secure the contract. And the competition is fierce—one source called a development gambling’s “biggest opportunity in the world right now,” while another, working for one of the big players, estimates his client will have shelled out $2 million by the end of the bidding process (apparently, lobbyists, polls and focus groups are expensive). Interestingly, MGM has reportedly suggested it would help pay for a long-overdue rebuild of Ontario Place if given the go-ahead to build a casino across the bridge at Exhibition Place, and Caesars has expressed interest in a similar plan. Still, before the cash-strapped province can avail itself of that cash, it has to convince Toronto city council of a couple of things:  a) that a casino in the city is a good idea; and b) that it should go on the waterfront. And lately, the province has seemed less willing to insist upon either of those points. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

The Informer

Politics

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Toronto now has a park in an underpass (and Rob Ford hopped on a jungle gym to celebrate)


Rob Ford usually makes news for acting belligerent or defensive, so it was nice to see news agencies covering his enthusiastic endorsement of the newly opened Underpass Park. (The mayor even scaled a jungle gym while a group of children chanted, “Go mayor! Go mayor!”) The park is under the Eastern Avenue, Richmond Street and Adelaide Street overpasses between Cherry Street and Bayview Avenue, and the mayor lauded the innovative project for turning that “neglected space into a community hub.”  Though Ford didn’t explicitly congratulate Waterfront Toronto, the government agency behind the project, his praise—and his very presence at the opening—seems like a conciliatory gesture. There’s a long history of bad blood between the mayor’s camp and Waterfront Toronto; Doug Ford has called it a “boondoggle” and Ford’s administration battled with the agency over control of the Port Lands revitalization. So, oddly, Ford’s kid-friendly behaviour at the park was somewhat mature. [Toronto Star]

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Real Estate

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Condo gossip: three towers could be coming to the Toronto Star’s parking lot 

Up to three condo towers could soon sprout from the parking lot of the Toronto Star building at Yonge and Queens Quay, according to a number of unnamed sources quoted in the Financial Post. Rumour has it that the Vancouver-based Pinnacle International Realty Group will soon close a deal to build a major project next to the office tower (the paper has a long-term lease for its space so it won’t be turfed out for at least 20 years). Back in 2000, Torstar Corporation sold the building to a holding company controlled by the Thomson family for $40 million, saying it was an opportune time because the real estate market was strong. The market is quite a bit stronger now (though talk of cooling has begun), and the price will be “far north” of $40 million this time, according to a source close to the deal. [Financial Post]

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Real Estate

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Toronto’s new chief planner thinks Rob Ford is “interesting”

(Image: Twitter)

Jennifer Keesmaat, a principal at Toronto design firm Dialog, is the city’s new chief planner—and she says she wants to focus on the contentious transit issue (along with the waterfront and priority neighbourhoods). There’s already been plenty of speculation on potential friction between Keesmaat, who strongly champions walkable ’hoods, and Rob Ford, who really, really likes cars. However, we wouldn’t count on any big planning showdowns with the mayor’s office in the near future. The new planning chief seems very diplomatic—when asked about Ford, she said he was “interesting” and was glad to hear he always has his door open. [Globe and Mail]

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