Tag Archives: architectural heritage
by Laryssa Stolarskyj
Are you caught in a quandary choosing the ideal condo because you’re enthralled by historic buildings but aspire to owning new? Two Toronto-based developments – The Benvenuto and Madison Avenue Lofts - combine the finest in historic and modern.
Mitchell Abrahams, president of Malen Capital, said the renovation of The Benvenuto at St. Clair and Avenue Road made for an ideal conversion project. The heritage-protected building was originally constructed in the 1950s as luxury apartments. The generous suite sizes, convenient location, views, and amenities made it “the perfect candidate to be renovated; it has the cachet of being the best luxury address in town,” says Abrahams.
The Benvenuto is an important site historically. The original Benvenuto mansion dates back over 150 years, when the builder of the Annex, Simeon James, constructed it to overlook his sprawling new neighbourhood. Its ravine marked the shore of Lake Iroquois (now Lake Ontario), and William Lyon Mackenzie lived in it before it was demolished in the 1950s. Peter Dickinson, architect of the current building, brought an innovative clean-line approach to the city and “left a mark on Toronto in terms of modernist architecture,” says Abrahams, with features such as balconies and banded windows that let in more light than standard windows.
The Benvenuto was built with no structural walls, only columns, so Malen was free to move walls around to create seamless suites. The ability to add big, modern bathrooms and closets gives residents “the best of heritage architecture and space planning to make sure that each suite in the building is redesigned with the best layout,” explains Abrahams.
Tony Barry, vice-president of development, explains that Burnac wasn’t looking to renovate an existing structure. But when the building – which also had the advantage of a superb location – came on the market, Barry was convinced that the company had to acquire it. He says when he first walked into it, he felt its atmosphere was akin to that of an ancient European cathedral. “It was a magnificent structure and we were able to retain that structure.”
Barry explains that although it would have likely cost less to demolish the building and start anew, there were particular features, for instance the high ceilings (which are 12 to 14 feet), that warranted modernizing it into livable, useable space. He notes, “the building is solid, lending itself to a loft product. It was crying out to be renovated; it’s unique.” Barry additionally cites the columns as another feature that adds substance, allowing Burnac to offer a one-of-a-kind condominium.
The process of conversion, however, is significantly more difficult than building new. Malen redeveloped throughout existing occupancy, so details were planned with tremendous coordination to ensure that residents were impacted as little as possible. Abrahams says this meticulousness is worthwhile “only in a building that merits the effort.”
Barry explains that there are more unknowns with a 50-year-old building than with a brand new one, including the major obstacle of not being able to get to know it until actually being in it. Adding parking is another hurdle for Burnac. The original building had no underground parking and adding a new garage beneath the existing structure would be too expensive, if not impossible. Fortunately, the area adjacent to the building can accommodate underground parking, and the top of the garage will host a landscaped courtyard and new wing. Other obstacles that will increase time and cost factors include removing the cladding to add soaring windows that will let in lots of light, creating a new art deco-inspired exterior, and working slowly to preserve the mature trees that border the site.
But the advantages are numerous. Conversions protect buildings with architectural heritage, of which there are few in Toronto. And residents can live in a place with history and enjoy top-quality location and views that simply wouldn’t exist in a new construction in a midtown neighbourhood.
Although conversions offer distinctive features and advantages that new buildings lack, they’re not likely to become the norm. Legislation makes conversions difficult, so only top buildings and locations even make the short list. But Abrahams says it provides an opportunity to reposition luxury buildings and give them “new life in a loft with fantastic locations that are irreplaceable.” Barry concurs, noting “there are fewer and fewer buildings that lend themselves to it in the right locations, but where opportunities present themselves, we’ll carry on taking them.”
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Peter Kuitenbrouwer, National Post
Bremner Boulevard begins at Spadina Avenue and winds its way eastward, linking Toronto’s most famous landmarks: the Rogers Centre, the CN Tower and the Convention Centre, on its way to its terminus at the Air Canada Centre.
The most popular lunch on the boulevard right now is a slice of pizza on a paper plate and a coffee in a Styrofoam cup from a canteen truck alongside one of the many holes in the ground, where future dreams are preparing to reach skyward.
The most popular attire is a hard hat and steel-toe boots.
It is rare that city planners have the opportunity to fashion a key urban thoroughfare from scratch, and yet Bremner is such a project: our boulevard of world-class dreams, where the average building is more than 30 storeys high and where, apart from the scrupulously preserved locomotive roundhouse (home to Steam Whistle Brewery and Leon’s Furniture), the best example of architectural heritage is the CN Tower.
I spent the day on Bremner Friday, and it occurred to me that, quite by stealth, Bremner is becoming one of the most vital streets in town, especially now that workers have completed a new piece of lower Simcoe, linking Bremner to Front Street under the rail corridor.
On Bremner Boulevard, Toronto’s hubris is infectious. Someday all this construction will end, but right now, Bremner is the eye of a hurricane of investment, where every pit in the shale is fertile ground for a new castle of glass.
“Luke Schenn, Tyler Bozak, Luca Caputi and Keith Aulie,” rattled off one security guard I met on the strip, listing Toronto Maple Leafs players (Luca Caputi plays for the Marlies, the Leafs’ feeder team) who, rumour has it, have bought condominiums on Bremner, a short walk to work.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the flashiest occupants of the strip: They recently hung Toronto’s biggest flat-screen TV on the west face of the newly enlarged Air Canada Centre, so that you can now watch Leafs or Raptors games from anywhere on Bremner.
Extending the brand is Maple Leaf Square, which opened at the end of last year. The building, just across from the hockey rink, feels nouveau riche, boasting a Le Germain hotel, offices for CI Investments and two 50-storey condo towers.
On Friday I rode the elevator up to the 35th floor of the south tower, 55 Bremner, for an open house of a 600square-foot condo. This, incidentally, is not enough room to swing a cat, and was listed at a cool $409,000, plus taxes and $375 a month in maintenence fees.
On the plus side, you can shop in the vast Longo’s that has opened in the building’s basement, a cheery place boasting stone oven pizza and prepared meals. On the minus side, after buying the condo, it is unlikely you will be able to afford a Leafs ticket.
Should you need to drown your sorrows, in one corner of the Maple Leaf Square lobby, a giant red hoop of light beckons: this is the orifice through which you enter Real Sports Bar & Grill.
Above the entrance, on vertical LCD screens, a constant stream of sports updates trickles by: “Carolina at Chicago,” I made out, and “Rams close to deal with free agent” -information as decoration.
On the southwest corner of York and Bremner, excavators worked Friday loading a steady stream of trucks with earth for the hole that will become Ïce Condos, two towers’ worth. Just west of there the first Infiniti is up (housing, in its base, some more affordable snacking options, such as Subway and a falafel joint), and a sign advertises Infiniti 3 rising to its south.
Across Bremer, PriceWaterhouseCoopers is erecting a new tower at 25 York Street; next to it will rise another office tower, and then, on the corner of Bremner and Simcoe, Delta plans to erect a new hotel, a city planner confirmed Friday.
“It shows balls,” Jim, a security guard at the construction site of the Ïce Condos, said of the Bremner building boom.
“It says, ‘This is us and we’re not going anywhere and it can only get better from here.’ ”
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.
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