Industrial Carlaw evolving into residential neighbourhood
Carlaw Ave. is the new Spadina Ave. This old industrial street is fast becoming a mixed-use residential neighbourhood. The transformation, which would have been unthinkable even a decade ago, still isn’t complete but is well underway. So far, the change from warehouse to condo, industrial to residential, has been achieved without gentrification. Not that it would be easy to prettify this part of town. Ironically, it’s not the early 20th-century factories that keep things gritty, it’s the housing stock, which tends to be small and very modest.
But on an early weekday morning, Carlaw is busy and every bit a part of the city. Much of the retail and commercial activity now happens on the west side of the street north of Queen in cavernous structures that seem to occupy acres. The east side of Carlaw has become residential, with marvellous former industrial heaps, such as the Wrigley Building, now fully redone as condos.
Queen St. E., of course, is the new Queen West, teeming with life and vitality. The rough patches haven’t disappeared, but now they’re the exception rather than the rule.
Condo Critic – The Garment Factory Lofts, 233 Carlaw Avenue
This remake of an old sweatshop sets a standard for adaptive re-use projects. Starting with a mid-20th-century brown brick slab, this loft conversion development manages to integrate new and old seamlessly.
Best of all is the treatment of the original Garment Factory Carlaw facade: the windows on the upper three storeys have been turned into openings that look onto several rows of recessed balconies. In this way, the alterations highlight and play to the architectural strengths of the factory. It’s also a clever and effective way to transform an industrial structure into something more domestic.
Most such adaptations merely incorporate existing facades and leave things pretty much as they were. There’s nothing wrong with that, but The Garment Factory Lofts make it clear that more intervention doesn’t necessarily mean less heritage.
Indeed, in its new incarnation, this building offers a unique glimpse into the industrial aesthetic of a different time.
It reveals an unexpected beauty derived from simplicity and restraint. The ground-floor podium, clad in stone, presents a dignified face to the world but without overdoing things.
A glass ramp has been added to the front, which doesn’t overpower the building. The big changes are on top where several storeys have been piled on. Set back from the edge of the existing structure, this extra bulk looks natural and feels comfortable.
Standing eight storeys, the Garment Factory Lofts fit well on a street that remains surprisingly lowrise. The building directly south, for example, stands only two floors tall.
The metamorphosis of Carlaw remains a work in progress, but already enough has happened to know that this part of east Toronto has an interesting second life ahead.
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