Distinct Modern Buildings Put Toronto on the Map
By Zoe AckahSpecial Features Editor On October 22, 2012 @ 6:55 pm In Real Estate | No Comments
With hundreds of projects either recently finished, under construction, or up for sale, we are finally seeing the predicted slowdown in the GTA condo market.
But not all projects are having difficulty selling.
The sort of development we want to see in Toronto—density where it is needed, great architecture that fits the location, larger units that can accommodate a variety of inhabitants, and homes on the waterfront—that stuff is still selling, because Toronto still needs it.
As an international destination, Toronto is gaining increasing respect for the planning and management of its downtown core, and sometimes for its architecture.
Mississauga’s Absolute Towers (aka the Marilyn Monroe buildings), built by Cityzen Development Group and Fernbrook Homes and completed in 2011, have become synonymous with modern architecture in Toronto.
I’m still a firm believer that great design sells, and not only does it sell but it sells at a premium.
This summer, Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat named Absolute the Best Tall Building in the Americas for 2012.
A closer look reveals that all Cityzen’s projects stand out architecturally; it is at the core of their strategy.
“I’m still a firm believer that great design sells, and not only does it sell but it sells at a premium,” says Cityzen president Sam Crignano.
Sitting right along the Oakville waterfront, architect Sol Wassermuhl designed The Shores, a 10-storey glass community linked to waterfront paths and including retail.
The Shores resembles a huge, sparkling cruise ship in keeping with its proximity to a marina, yacht club and wharf.
The idea was vacation-style living with interiors and suites by Brian Gluckstein no less.
Seventy-five percent of the units had unobstructed views of the water. They sold like hotcakes.
“I can’t believe how much that building has appreciated in value,” says Crignano. “I think we underestimated its value.”
Also located right on the water, this time in Toronto at Queens Quay East, Pier 27 was designed by Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance, designers of the revitalized waterfront at Harbourfront Centre.
Clewes, a former member of the Waterfront Design Review Panel, certainly knows what the city wants near the water.
Pier 27 will eventually have four, fourteen-storey towers connected in pairs by skybridges, and another larger building of undisclosed size. Lovely, fresh, and modern, they will be surrounded by public space, with some retail and parking, keeping the waterfront accessible to all Torontonians.
The next three phases may be announced as early as spring 2013.
If you look east out your window from Pier 27, you can see the Portlands. Cityzen owns 13 acres of the Portlands along Cherry St. and has engaged an all-star team to develop the site in the next decade.
In keeping with its devotion to world-class architecture, Cityzen has engaged English architect Norman Foster. The commercial spaces will be designed by fellow Londoner Eric Kuhne from CivicArts. ArchitectsAlliance and KPMB, local favourites, round out the team.
The project is waiting on the City of Toronto, but not just for approvals. The city needs to decide how transit will connect to the Portlands.
There are no renderings of any buildings yet. We have years of planning, approvals and eventually construction to look forward to before we can move in.
Cityzen seems to have taken over the intersection Esplanade and Scott Street just south of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
After its previous success with London on the Esplanade, Cityzen brought in star architect Daniel Libeskind for the L Tower residences connected to the Sony Centre. Though Libeskind’s work is all over the world, we know him locally for the new ROM, love it or hate it.
L Tower’s 58 floors and 600 units will be complete in 2013. The topping off ceremony was held earlier this month.
Connected by a tunnel to L Tower, Cityzen’s third building on the block is called Backstage on the Esplanade. Designed by Page+Steele, and looking rather sleek with a fishtail on the north side, it is already 90 percent sold and construction is currently underway.
Crignano says St. Lawrence is where he and his family “live-work-learn-play.”
“I moved down here a few years ago; sold the house in Richmond Hill.” He and his adult children live in the same building. Cityzen’s office has been there since 2001.
“We love the neighbourhood and I’m practicing what I preach—I’m living in one of my buildings,” he says.
The Esplanade has a fine school, good proximity to transit, and Toronto’s premier market for food lovers. For other communities, schools and parks need to come to accommodate residents, especially as they mature and have children.
Crignano believes Liberty Village is just such a community.
Cityzen recently announced plans to develop a mixed-use community at 30 Ordnance Street just east of Liberty Village proper. The two proposed towers could grow to five buildings in total, he says.
Because Crignano sees the Liberty Village community “maturing,” Cityzen is making the necessary accommodation in its plans to include amenities that appeal to families with children.
Crignano made mention of a private school expressing interest in the location.
Cityzen recently announced the purchase of the old Gooderham Mansion just south of Bloor on Sherbourne. It is currently a Clarion Hotel.
Thomas Kerwin from Chicago-based bKL Architecture designed a tall, slim tower with a few ultra-modern townhouses as part of the podium. The mansion will stay intact but will be lifted and moved to the front of the site, housing some retail and building amenities.
It will be brought forward to Sherborne Street to match the placement of the James Cooper Mansion next door, which Tridel purchased for a similar project completed in 2011.
Kerwin has identified use of colour as key to the Selby’s identity. The first set of renderings present a bright orange building, which works well somehow, maybe because it matches the Gooderham’s orange Victorian-era brick, but mostly because it’s not grey or blue glass.
Last month, Cityzen launched the first phase of a townhouse community at Widdicombe & Eglinton called W&E, pronounced “we.” Five hundred people lined up outside for the launch and 3,000 registered online.
Single family homes in Toronto are selling like hotcakes—it’s hardly news. But W&E looks nothing like the uniform, bland rowhouses currently on the market (with line-ups of buyers anyway).
W&E’s architectural style is reminiscent of the 2012 BILD Low-rise Project of the Year called Block, which was also a huge hit. Sleek, with clever use of roof space and floor to ceiling windows where possible, W&E is a breath of fresh air for homebuyers.
“For $300,000 you’re able to buy a unit in this development,” says Crignano. Not a bad price-point either.
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