Tag Archives: new residential construction
The 20th century was not kind to this historic street, but projects such as Chocolate Co. Lofts show what can happen when it’s given some respect
By John Bentley Mays – The Globe and Mail
The recent mending of Queen Street West between Spadina Avenue and the Parkdale neighbourhood is something Torontonians can be proud of. Parking lots are disappearing, and galleries of intelligent contemporary art, furniture stores, chic restaurants and hotels, and smart boutiques have appeared and, apparently, are prospering.
Though their clientele is up market, the new local business folk have not demanded that citizens who need the services of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, at 999 Queen West, be banished from the sidewalks. The various consumers of urban life are getting along. After decades of dilapidation, the avenue is alive and livable again in a civilized, thoroughly big-city way.
But even if we let her get a bit tattered and snaggle-toothed in the 20th century, Queen always did have good bones. She was among the earliest streets laid out on the muddy shoreline of Lake Ontario after 1793, and a key geographical baseline for the city’s future development of streets and building lots.
In the middle of the next century, architect John Howard’s muscular neo-classical Provincial Asylum (now vanished) went up at 999 Queen – at that time, an address still in the countryside – and Bishop Strachan’s imposing Trinity College was built at Queen and Bellwoods Avenue, a few blocks closer to town.
In late Victorian times, with waves of British immigrants pushing the city westward, this once-rural corridor was populated by many small shops, factories and houses, and assumed an air of main-street, working class respectability.
In some spots along the Queen streetscape, there were splashes of architectural high style and attitude – and there was, until the 1970s, the mighty edifice of the asylum – but the general sense of the street was (and is) down to earth, mostly nuts and bolts and brick and Scottish porridge.
Plazacorp’s Chocolate Company Lofts, a mix of conversion and new residential construction at 955 Queen Street West, is a good example of what happens when urban bones get some respect.
The raw material for this project consisted of a couple of two-toned brick industrial buildings once owned by the Patterson Chocolate Company. Though obsolete for commercial use, these mid-rise structures made a good visual fit with the three-storey Victorian storefronts across the street, the big Candy Factory Lofts next door, and other elements of the old streetscape.
Instead of ripping them down and starting from scratch, the developer decided to salvage the two structures, then directed the designers (Gabriel Bodor and Quadrangle Architects) to knit them together with new brick fabric designed to match the old.
The result is a single, large six storey condominium loft building – the few remaining suites are for sale at between $169,900 and $401,900 – that sits quietly on its site, doesn’t quarrel with the neighbours, and looks, more or less, as though it has always been there.
Which raises interesting questions. When does it make sense for a building to slip discreetly into the streetscape (as the Chocolate Company Lofts does), and when is it appropriate for a new structure to break with local tradition and go big and noisy?
Community groups, historical preservationists, developers and architects will be arguing over such matters until doomsday. That’s understandable, because there is no final, absolute right and wrong in the field of urban aesthetics. What should be done, insofar as architectural style is concerned, is very much a matter of context – a given circumstance or opportunity, the cultural mood of the present moment, the historical importance or unimportance of a specific site.
In the case of the Chocolate Company Lofts, I believe the developer and architects made a good decision. Unlike districts closer to the downtown towers, this western stretch of Queen was neither intensively torn apart nor simply allowed to go to the dogs since its creation in the 19th century. It was never just so many unloved, unimportant warehouses and workplaces, or so much weedy, derelict industrial land.
People lived vividly along Queen, and many traces and echoes of that vivid life remain in the buildings themselves – in elaborate, multicolored brickwork, for example, and in the extravagant story-book carvings that decorate the Gladstone Hotel, and in the short sweeps of glassy storefronts under tall, dignified brick facades. Queen Street West has surely been damaged and neglected, but much of its stolid Victorian character remains intact.
What it needs is not heroic architectural therapy, but more time to heal, and more of the old-fashioned medicine used successfully to revive the Patterson Chocolate Company buildings.
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Dana Flavelle – Toronto Star
Housing starts in the Toronto area bounced back in August, suggesting the market has bottomed out, according to a report by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
Combined with rising national data, the numbers confirm expectations that new residential construction will increase in the second half of the year, Bob Dugan, the national housing agency’s chief economist, said yesterday.
Toronto starts came in at a seasonally adjusted and annualized 23,700 units last month, up 19.7% compared with July.
“After regaining some lost ground last month, it appears that a bottom has formed for housing starts in Toronto,” said Shaun Hildebrand, CMHC’s senior market analyst for the Greater Toronto Area.
Multiple-family dwellings accounted for most of the gains, up 35.1% to 17,700 units.
Comment: Which means new Toronto condos are being built, more and more!
Single detached units fell 10.4% to 6,000.
Seasonally adjusted annual rates reflect the rate at which units would be built if the number of starts in August were multiplied by 12 months.
It’s considered an indicator of future growth rates.
The actual number of starts remains below year-ago levels, at 15,403 units for the 12 months to the end of August, down 44.5% from the year-earlier period.
A start is registered when a concrete foundation is poured.
Ontario was in the middle of the pack, with starts at 42,000 units in August, up 13.8% from July. Again, multiple family units outperformed, rising 28.4% to 24,900 units, while single detached homes declined 2.3% to 17,100.
“It looks like the numbers are bottoming out here and we do expect to see housing starts strengthen in the months ahead,” regional economist Ted Tsiakopoulos said.
He cited a variety of factors.
“Buoyant resale markets in recent months, improving credit and labour market conditions and steadily declining new home inventories were all factors that will boost new home construction activity closer to trend levels in the next few quarters,” Tsiakopoulos said in an interview.
Nationally, housing starts rose 12.4% to 150,400 units.
Urban starts rose by 14% to 131,800 units in August, with multiple starts up 23.8% to 77,600 units and single starts up 2.5% to 54,200 units.
Starts rose the most in British Columbia, up 56%, followed by the Prairies at 16.1%, Ontario at 13.8%, Atlantic Canada at 9.6% and Quebec at 2.5%.
Housing starts across the country jump more than 12% in August, driven by condominium construction
Canada’s housing and construction industry continues to bounce back sharply.
Housing starts across the country rose more than 12% in August, hitting a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 150,400, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Wednesday. That level was up from the annual rate of 134,200 in July, the agency said.
“Housing starts are trending higher, reflecting improvements in both the single and multiple segments,” Bob Dugan, chief economist of the agency’s Market Analysis Centre, said in a statement. “The improvement in housing starts is consistent with our expectation of a stronger second half for 2009.”
Construction of urban singles rose 2.5% from July, CMHC said, while starts on multiple units, largely condominiums, surged 23.8%.
“The rebound in residential construction activity in August is further evidence that the Canadian housing sector is in recovery mode,” said BMO Nesbitt Burns economist Robert Kavcic. “While starts could follow sales even higher in the months ahead, a rebalancing of boom-time overbuilding will likely keep them below the equilibrium rate of around 180,000 through 2010.”
Construction in the western provinces was particularly strong, soaring 56% in British Columbia and 16.1% on the Prairies. Ontario recorded gains of 13.8%, Atlantic Canada 9.6% and Quebec 2.5%.
Housing starts can be volatile as indicators go, at times skewed by large projects.
August’s showing went well beyond what economists had projected.
Home construction is now at its highest level since last December, although, Toronto-Dominion Bank noted, it remains almost 31% below where it was a year ago.
“This was undoubtedly a strong report, and it indicates that some momentum is perhaps beginning to build in the new homes market, thereby complementing the dramatic turnaround seen in the existing homes market recently,” said TD economics strategist Millan Mulraine.
“However, while we believe that the recent gains in new residential construction may be sustainable, we are unlikely to see further sharp advances in the pace of construction, particularly given the weak economic backdrop and soft labour market conditions.”