Tag Archives: landscape architects
Tracy Hanes – Toronto Star
In fact, many of the finishes found in Dunvegan House at St. Clair Ave. W. and Avenue Rd. are the same ones found in Shram’s own luxurious home on Hillhurst Ave.
Shram Homes was established in 1989 by Shram’s parents. It specializes in building large custom homes in upscale Toronto neighbourhoods, including Forest Hill, Yorkville, Lawrence Park, Moore Park, the Annex and Lytton Park. The company has distinguished itself by establishing relationships with the city’s top architects and interior designers.
“We like to build high-end homes,” explains company president Shram, who joined the family business in 1998 after graduating with a business degree from York University and working in the advertising business.
“Our expertise can’t be expressed in $200-a-square-foot homes. This is our niche. We do a lot of planning and we bring the architects, interior designers and landscape architects together. It’s definitely teamwork. We use great trades and don’t compromise on that.”
Shram is a hands-on president, involved in every aspect of the process, from finding land to designing the homes to visiting the site on a daily basis.
Though Shram Homes has almost exclusively built single family homes (with a few upscale semis), it has recently branched into townhouses with Dunvegan House. It also partnered with Urban Capital on the sold-out 45-unit Trinity-Bellwoods Townhomes, a contemporary upscale project, where the first buyers are due to move in early in 2013.
Dunvegan House will raise the bar even higher, priced from $1.7 million to $2 million for homes ranging from 2,204 to 2,739 square feet. The exteriors feature natural Indiana stone, custom wrought-iron railings, cedar shake roofs and professional landscaping. Parking is underground.
The townhouses provide an alternative to condos in the neighbourhood. They will have low maintenance fees and are within walking distance of transit, parks and shopping, explains Shram.
Standard interior finishes include 10-foot ceilings on the main floor, hardwood floors, designer kitchens with premium stainless steel appliances and bathrooms with imported tiles.
The master bedroom encompasses the entire second level with dual walk-in closets and a lavish master ensuite. The third floor has two more bedrooms, each with private ensuite.
Richard Wengle, who designed the modern-looking townhouses at Trinity-Bellwoods, opted for traditional facades for Dunvegan House, to blend with the stately architecture of the surrounding homes.
“All the architects I use are capable of doing any style of project,” says Shram. Inside, the layouts are modern, with open-concept layouts and contemporary finishes.
Interior designer Robin Nadel launched her business in Forest Hill in 2008. Nadel trained as an architect and worked with some of the top architectural and interior design firms in the city. Her style is elegant and understated and she has been able to deftly combine traditional and contemporary elements. She designed some of the finishes, including the wood fireplace mantel with stone slab surround and much of the custom millwork. She also created three custom palettes from which buyers can choose.
“There’s a shift toward modern even with the older demographic,” notes Shram. “Condominiums have influenced modern design.”
Those who buy early will be able to customize their units to some extent.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
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Ryan Starr – Yourhome.ca
David Leinster has a clear sense of what ails this fair city.
“Toronto has a really mean public realm,” says the landscape architect, one of six principals in The Planning Partnership (TPP), an urban planning and design firm.
“Planning in the city has been dominated by the car and accommodating it in every respect. There needs to be a shift in how we think about our streets and public spaces.”
For Leinster and his TPP colleagues, that’s the mission: Make the public realm — the environment around buildings that includes streets, sidewalks, alleys, parks, plazas and other open spaces — a primary focus of Toronto’s ongoing development planning.
As the city looks to add density in existing residential areas, TPP hopes to reverse years of automobile-centric urban design and help transform Toronto into a more pedestrian-friendly town.
TPP is currently working on projects such as the John St. cultural promenade, Union Station, the Front St. civic plaza, the West Don Lands and the Sheppard East LRT — initiatives that highlight public space and street life, which The Planning Partnership co-founder Dan Leeming says must be top priorities.
“Toronto is a world class city, but we don’t have a world class public realm,” he says in an interview with his partners at the firm’s Bay Street office.
“We’ve got amazing cultural diversity and good government, but we’ve got a built-form (the relationship buildings have with their surroundings) that’s not meeting that standard.”
TPP hopes to change that.
On John St., the firm has designed plans for a streetscape that will tie together landmarks along that north-south corridor, including the Art Gallery of Ontario and the CN Tower.
“It’s an important route that links a number of attractions,” says TPP partner Harold Madi. “But the public realm, the adhesive between those destinations, is currently an unremarkable street.”
To make the main drag more remarkable, TPP wants to add trees, widen sidewalks, include more squares and plazas, and enhance existing parks and open spaces.
With the influx of people moving into condos in the Entertainment District, Madi says it makes sense to improve public spaces.
“You’re doubling the population there, and the majority of them are walking to work, not using cars.
“They’re the ones who are going to experience this environment, but at the moment there are no trees, not enough greenery, and the sidewalks are too narrow.”
Andrew De Gasperis, a principal with Aspen Ridge Homes — currently developing a two-tower, 750-unit condo project at Richmond and Duncan Sts. — sees the value in offering homebuyers the promise of inviting public spaces.
“The city is transforming quickly, so when we sell to a potential buyer they want to know what an area’s going to look like when they move in,” he says. “If there are improvements being done to an area like John St., that’s what you want to see; you want it close to your development so there’s a benefit for purchasers.”
The Planning Partnership has also been working on a public realm plan for the West Don Lands, the first residential neighbourhood in Waterfront Toronto’s redevelopment of the industrial area.
The neighbourhood ultimately will include 6,000 homes, one million square feet of working space, an elementary school and two childcare centres.
To create a more engaging community vibe, TPP plan calls for plenty of public art and loads of landscaping and parkland.
Construction recently began on Underpass Park, a derelict area under the Richmond/Adelaide Sts. overpasses that’s being transformed into a new 2.5-acre park with recreational space, children’s play areas and community gardens.
The West Don Lands will also showcase a type of street never before seen in Toronto: the woonerf.
“It’s a model imported from the Netherlands,” Leinster says. “It’s a space where pedestrians, cars and bikes all share the same areas. It’s probably more similar to a lane than to any other street we know, except buildings front onto it.”
A woonerf is also curbless and has different surfacing materials than regular streets. “This signals to drivers that you’re entering a different zone, so hopefully you act differently,” TPP partner Rick Merrill says.
Achieving greater motorist-pedestrian harmony is the focus of another project in TPP’s pipeline: a Union Station/Front St. public mall.
The firm’s vision is for a “grand civic plaza from the Royal York to Union Station, building face to building face,” Madi says. “This is the front door to the city and it’s a very important civic building.”
TPP hopes to make the area less treacherous to pedestrians, but Leinster acknowledges it will be impossible to eliminate all vehicle traffic along bustling Front St.
“At Union the cars are moving in one direction and the pedestrians are moving in another, so there’s this inherent conflict,” he says, adding that a woonerf-style approach might work well in this environment.
If calming Union Station traffic sounds like a tall order, TPP should be up to the task; this is the firm that gave car-loving Houston a reason to embrace public transit.
Last year TPP won an award from the American Society of Landscape Architects for its work on plans that are helping transform Houston’s gridlocked urban core into a place that now accommodates a light rail transit system —and pedestrians.
It wasn’t easy.
“We spent a lot of time on cross sections and how to make pedestrian zones work,” Merrill says. “Sometimes we had very narrow right of ways, and when you have a limited right of way, the pedestrian always suffers.
“But that’s actually the most important part of the corridor,” he adds, “because you’re trying to get people to the corridor to use transit.”
Back in Toronto, TPP is incorporating lessons learned from Houston into its plans for revamping the streetscape along the route of the new Sheppard East LRT, a 14-kilometre line that’s part of the Transit City megaproject.
“We’re looking at how people are going to get to the trains — is it accessible and how do we shape the pedestrian environment so that people are comfortable walking there,” Leinster says. “Because God knows you would not want to walk on Sheppard today, it’s miserable.”
In the end, Leeming says, effective public-realm planning — whether in the suburbs or downtown Toronto — comes down to challenging the “dominance of car culture.”
“Car drivers have had the right of the road for 60 years,” he says. “And they have this idea that the car has a God-given right to move at a certain speed, and a certain level of service is expected.
“Well, those rules went out the window 20 years ago. It’s shared space, but we haven’t learned how to share it yet.”
Resignations could come as early as this week
Christopher Hume – Toronto Star
Plans to build a sports complex on the Lower Don Lands have the Waterfront Design Review Panel so upset that all 12 members are preparing to resign if it goes ahead.
Those resignations could come as early as this week.
The blue-ribbon volunteer panel was created amidst much fanfare in 2005. Its members include some of the most respected architects, landscape architects and engineers in Canada.
Sources tell the Star that a letter of resignation has already been drawn up. It makes clear that if the city proceeds with the $32-million facility, which includes four ice pads and surface parking for 440 cars, it will have no choice but to sever ties with Waterfront Toronto.
Just weeks ago, respected planner, Ken Greenberg, resigned over the same athletic complex.
The major issue is location: the city wants to build the facility on land that has been set aside for a sustainable, transit-oriented, mixed-use neighbourhood. Details of that plan are now being refined by a team selected through an international design competition held in 2007. Though the scheme will not be realized for years, perhaps decades, the sports proposal would essentially render the plan useless.
According to a member of the design review panel, there are other waterfront sites where such a facility could be accommodated, but not on the Lower Don Lands.
Waterfront Toronto, the agency created in 2001 by the three levels of government to oversee waterfront revitalization, has said that the facility is not its “preferred option.”
The main champions of the athletic centre are Toronto Mayor David Miller and a deputy city manager named Richard Butts. They have clearly opted for expediency over excellence.
Butts, a career bureaucrat whose background is in garbage collection, has consistently rejected advice from Waterfront Toronto as well as independent planners.
The mayor, on the other hand, fought hard to be appointed to the board of Waterfront Toronto. But as one panel member put it, “Miller just doesn’t get it. He has become an obstacle.”
Three years ago, the city embarrassed the panel by overriding its objections to the Corus office building now nearing completion at the foot of Jarvis St. Despite the panel’s criticism that the building lacked the architectural quality appropriate for the first new construction on the waterfront, the project went ahead.
It was designed by Toronto architect Jack Diamond, who served as a campaign manager on Miller’s first mayoral run in 2003.
From the start, however, many observers argued that Waterfront Toronto doesn’t have the powers needed to fulfill its mandate. Without the ability to borrow money against the future value of its lands, it must forever wait for government funding. Given current economic conditions, that won’t be forthcoming anytime soon. The $1.5 billion promised a decade ago has now been largely committed and the agency is all but broke.
As a result, plans that would have transformed the bottom end of the city are now quietly being cut back or dropped altogether.
The design review panel will meet on Wednesday to discuss the athletic complex and other issues. By then, sources say, the letter of mass resignation will have been signed by all members.
For Miller, these developments will call into question his self-styled role as one of the greenest mayors in North America. It was he who lobbied to get the waterfront named one of 17 “large-scale urban projects” designated by the Clinton Foundation as “climate positive communities.”
But in a few short years we’ve gone from that to planning parking lots on waterfront land the city once touted as potentially the most desirable real estate in Toronto.