Context King West will be transformative
Ryan Starr – Toronto Star
Context King West represents an innovative approach to urban development that could set a standard for building condos in Toronto’s built-up areas.
The 450-suite condo building — with four fronts and no back — will run 400 feet down the middle of a block bound by Adelaide, King, Portland and Bathurst Sts.
The site was created through the parceling together of two separate properties within a block that’s occupied by old warehouses, offices and a handful of vintage homes.
Context King West rises from 10 storeys along King and Adelaide to nearly double that height in the middle of the site, where the highest portion of the building will be 18 storeys.
“Normally you get a building that has a lot of frontage along the street, but this doesn’t,” notes Context Development president Howard Cohen. “It has about 100 feet on King and 120 feet on Adelaide.”
The project illustrates an important urban design principle, he says. “You put your highest component mid block. That’s the best way to intensify but not detract from the streetscapes. Then you don’t see (the taller portions of the building) from the street.”
The first phase of Context King West, dubbed The Lanes, goes on sale this month. It includes suites on the building’s first 13 floors, which range from 375-square-foot studios to 785-square-foot two-bedroom units. Prices start in the mid-$200,000s.
The condos, designed by Burdifilek, will have nine-foot ceilings and engineered hardwood flooring.
Kitchens come with stone countertops, back-painted glass backsplashes and undermount stainless steel sinks. Bathrooms will have a tiled floor-to-ceiling feature wall.
Context King West’s second phase, The Arches, will include larger upper level suites, many of which will have private terraces and green roofs. There will also be live-work townhouses at the ground-floor level.
The unique design of the building — with varying heights and a facade that moves in and out — means ultimately there will be 87 different varieties of suite types available. “The building changes, therefore the suites have to change,” says Craig Taylor, Context’s director of marketing and design.
Context King West will have 10,000 square feet of amenity space, including a two-storey gym, lounge, multi-purpose room, media room, party room and bar, and a second-floor terrace with barbecues. There will also be a rooftop terrace.
The project will generate considerable interest from local, end-user buyers, Cohen says. “In this location we think there’ll be a strong demand from people who bought a condo in King West a few years ago and want a bigger one, or they own a house in the west end and want to get into a condo.”
“A significant portion of the market that doesn’t want to live or buy in towers,” adds Taylor. “They want to live and buy in more of a midrise project in an established neighbourhood.”
Comprehensive block plan
Context’s team went to considerable lengths to work with the local neighbourhood association and the city on a master plan for the development of the entire block that surrounds Context King West, a strategy that focuses on enhancing the public realm.
To that end, a pair of brick laneways will traverse the Context King West site, leading pedestrians through a courtyard lined with shops, cafés and galleries. The developer is going for a Distillery District vibe.
Red brick arches will frame the storefronts and the two passageways that run through the base of the condo building. The red brick continues up the lower portions of the building, tying it in with the 19th century warehouses that characterize King West.
“We designed the ground floor before we designed anything above that, which was interesting for us,” says David Pontarini of Hariri Pontarini Architects. “We didn’t really start from the top down, or start from an idea of massing. It was about how this thing is going to fit into the neighbourhood.”
The upper parts of Context King West are clad in white precast concrete, with balconies and full-height windows that punch in and out of the exterior, giving the building a dynamic and distinct character.
With the moving facade and a variety of elevations throughout the structure, Context King West appears at first to be a series of five or six different buildings, Pontarini notes. “It’s not a contiguous facade. It’s broken into a series of vertical building forms joined by glass corridors.”
Cohen thinks Context King West will set a precedent for the development of tricky urban sites such as these, areas where more density is called for but highrise condo towers are almost impossible to build.
“There are lots of old industrial blocks in Toronto that lend themselves to this urban design principle,” Cohen says. “Everybody recognizes that we need more people living in this neighbourhood, but people want to maintain the streetscape. So this is the way to do it.”
Urban planner Ken Greenberg, a long-time King West resident who is serving as a consultant on the project, has called Context King West “transformational.”
“This could really be a model for how development can occur that is more than just a piling up of condos.”
That being said, developing a complex building like this on such an awkward, mid-block site has created a bit of a headache for Cohen and his team. “It’s much easier to do a 40-storey tower, where every floor is the same, a simple straightforward building,” he says.
In the end, though, Context King West will be as large a development as many of those highrise condos and it will deliver just as much density, he points out.
“I realized the other day, looking at the model, that this is actually a tower on its side.”
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.