High Park Lofts — A Project of Epic Scale
Anyone who has started out to do a little renovating will understand that such things tend to take on a life of their own. The High Park Lofts project takes this familiar tale to an ‘epic’ scale.
Part of the site was occupied by the former St. Jude’s church. Since being deconsecrated many years ago, the buildings experienced an unblessed career of transient tenants who gradually stripped the property of interesting features and materials.
Because the enlarged site occupies a significant and unusually shaped lot overlooking the intersection of Howard Park Avenue and Roncesvalles Ave., there was an opportunity to do something architecturally interesting. After nearly a year of redesign and local consultation, an extraordinary building concept was created.
The developer’s three main guiding principles were:
1) take advantage architecturally of an interesting ‘flatiron-shaped’ site at an intersection that could become the focus of the Roncesvalles Village neighbourhood
2) tastefully blend into an obviously modern building the traditional and warmer elements of the neighbourhood as well as the reflecting the spirit of the original churches on the site
3) create a building that people will talk about and indeed come specifically to admire (an unusual twist in Toronto, alas)
Thus, the new High Park Lofts design is based on ‘cathedral’ building form, with a soaring tower and a breathtaking central ‘nave’. The tower, which anchors the south ‘point’ of the structure, is a timelessly Mondrian landmark, capped with 3 ‘classic town hall’ clocks framed in stained glass.
Along Roncesvalles Village, rather than the usual ‘condo wall’ of concrete, High Park Lofts terraces upward with balconies, inset terraces, and beveled glass solariums. The stonework of the base, the cornices and arches will be a rich brown sandstone, while the upper faÃ§ade are to be constructed of buff/cream limestone panels. The inspiration for the materials was found in the historic La Presse building in Old Montreal.
To further “open” the building to the neighbourhood, the entrance to the building will be through a very grand, two storey glass-walled arch, which provides a unique “Alice in Wonderland” view of the most dramatic feature of High Park Lofts… the atrium garden.”
In this case, the word ‘dramatic’ is well-deserved. Soaring over 80 feet high, with a 120 foot long glass roof, the ‘nave’ of High Park Lofts further maintains the cathedral spirit by incorporating the gothic stained glass window of the original St. Jude’s Parish Hall. After being greeted at the grand arch entry by the concierge, residents and visitors will enter a lushly landscaped garden on the way to the glass-walled elevators.
The atrium is fully climate controlled and will be a permanently warm and cheerful oasis no matter what the exterior Canadian weather. In fact, many suites will enjoy both an exterior and an interior patio, allowing residents to relax in a garden environment year-round.
To do this, the building structure is an unusual skip-floor, split-level design. This also allows the suites to have windows – thus light – on both sides of the apartment. Resultantly the ambiance is more reminiscent of a townhouse than a conventional ‘tunnel-style’ condo apartment with the windows at one end only. Visitors to the model suite consistently comment that the innovative designs will make the suites feel far larger than the nominal footage.
As an example, in a typical one bedroom and den suite, one will enter from the glass-walled corridor (overlooking the atrium) into a den/office. Those who work from home can thus meet clients, while still maintaining the privacy (and perhaps different housekeeping standards) of their personal space.
The den is also equipped with a built-in “Murphy Bed” to accommodate guests (without having to invest in an extra bedroom). Up a few steps is the spacious living room, with 12 foot high ceilings and a 15 foot wide picture window, with sliding glass doors to the terrace.
The open concept kitchen is ideal for entertaining, with its large granite-topped island counter, stainless steel appliances, generous cupboards, and gas fireplace (all of which are standard, not extra). The bedrooms are not only well-separated from the living area, but usually overlooking the – very peaceful – atrium garden.
Residents will no doubt enjoy many relaxing moments on their interior patio, especially during Canadian winters. Washrooms are finished in limestone or granite.
Many people would appreciate the maintenance-free benefits of condo-living but feel less inspired by the concept of waiting for an elevator (even the glass elevators at High Park Lofts). Perhaps they work from home and are concerned that a ‘normal’ high-rise apartment could seem unprofessional to clients and awkward for couriers.
High Park Lofts offers a limited number of suites that offer both ‘townhouse‘ format and condo convenience. Each of the main floor suites has its own distinct street entrance and address, as well as a private interior connection to the atrium, parking garage and delivery dock.
In order to ensure visual privacy from the street, the front of the suite features a large planter and raised porch (the entry door itself is at grade). From the porch – on which a resident may watch the world pass by – doors open into the kitchen, which is also raised and overlooks the interior living room.
Although passers-by cannot thus easily see inside, main floor suites enjoy easy street access and generous sunlight without having to keep the drapes closed. Main level suites may also install a standardized porcelain or brass sign.
A unique feature of High Park Lofts is that any resident can have a private roof garden, no matter what floor their suite is on, or what size. The roof of the building has been subdivided into individual lots, similar to parking spaces, and up to 25 feet deep. Each roof garden is equipped with a large planter box and a patio deck, as well as an insulated water connection, protected power outlet.
Low fences provide wind shelter while preserving views. A boardwalk ‘street’ encircles the roof, illuminated in evenings. Because the elevators rise all the way from the parking garage to the roof garden level (with door direct to the loading dock) gardening supplies, patio furniture – and refreshments – are easily transported.
The roof garden level also features spacious outdoor barbecue facilities, from which one can enjoy a panoramic view of the downtown skyline and lake. Although in most condo buildings, the common area can be a rarely-visited and windswept desert of concrete pavers, the rooftop at High Park Lofts will no doubt be a popular and colourful destination.
As well, from an environmental perspective, such ‘green roofs’ contribute significantly to the quality of the atmosphere as well as modifying urban heat waves.
(b) a “more interesting” loft-style or low rise structure, which is unfortunately often located in a less well-serviced, if not somewhat isolated, location.
Rarely is a desirable and affordable condo located in a neighbourhood that offers real character, convenience, safety. Roncesvalles Village, however, is a long-established residential neighbourhood that offers corner grocery stores, fruit markets, delis and bakeries, excellent restaurants, lively clubs and pubs, local banks with real live tellers, a hardware store with staff who know where to find things, name brand coffee shops… even a repertory cinema.
Jog or walk your dog in High Park. The Dundas West subway station is just up the street, as is a large Loblaws store. A streetcar passes right by the front door and goes directly to King and Bay. By car, Parkside Drive provides fast access to Lakeshore Blvd. and the Gardiner Expressway. Significantly, recent media coverage has referred to Roncesvalles Village as “the next hot neighbourhood”. All in all, a pretty good lifestyle and financial investment.
Developer Harry Stinson has long been one of the most dynamic personalities on the Toronto real estate scene. As one of the first to convert office buildings and old warehouses residential condos, Stinson has been involved in such landmark and innovative projects as the Candy Factory Lofts, Knitting Mill Lofts, Grangetown Lofts, The Graphic Arts Building and the Victorian.
Stinson recentley opened Canada’s tallest residential building, a 51-storey condo hotel at One King West, which includes the restoration of the century-old original head office of the Toronto Dominion Bank.
Stinson is notoriously passionate about his buildings, and very hands-on in the design and construction process. He is usually onsite at One King West daily to discuss design issues with purchasers.
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