Stewart Street is what Toronto is all about
Christopher Hume – Yourhome.ca
Stewart St., south of King St. W. and east of Bathurst St., is one of those secondary thoroughfares that until recently fell well below the threshold of public consciousness. It was a nondescript kind of street, lined with old industrial architecture as well as plenty of 19th-century housing, pretty, a bit rundown, and all but invisible.
Not now. Today, Stewart is what Toronto’s all about. Close to everything but hidden away, it is the downtown version of the quiet tree-lined street. In recent years, however, it has been transformed by the forces of condoization; the south side has been remade by mid- to lowrise residential slabs. The north side remains much as it was in the late 1800s. Interestingly, the two building types go together well; with the latter acting as a foil to the decorative facades of the old houses.
Of course, the move from bricks and mortar to glass and steel has not pleased everyone, but if Stewart is any indication, the two can fit together well. And let’s be honest, real state has grown too valuable to leave undeveloped, or even underdeveloped. The trick is always to find the balance between old and new. So far, it seems to be working here. The secret, perhaps, is to have kept the heights of the new structures down to something that doesn’t overpower the existing buildings, but which instead shows them to good advantage.
Condo Critic – Thompson Building, 550 Wellington Street West & 55 Stewart Street
This new condo/hotel project reaches no more than nine to 11 storeys high, which given its length, is just as well. Filling about half a city block, it’s a large building whose bulk has been cut down by clever massing. As a result, it feels more like a series of structures than just one.
The Thomspon Hotel, at the west end of the site, faces onto Bathurst St. Here the complex joins an old Art Moderne garage-turned-restaurant that manages to retain its 1930s character despite its truncated condition.
On Stewart, individual units look directly onto the street. There’s also an opening through to Wellington that eliminates what would otherwise be a massive obstacle. What a shame the service entrances are all consolidated on Stewart; that detracts from what could otherwise be an impressive exterior. The Wellington facade, by contrast, with its trestle feature and greenery is the urban oasis brought to life.
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