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Suzanne Wintrob, National Post
Looking to own a piece of waterfront? By the looks of it, developers think everyone does and are eagerly pumping their high-rise and low-rise waterfront properties to anyone who will listen.
From Cobourg to downtown Toronto and all the way to Oakville and Burlington, the waterfront is abuzz with activity. Projects already on the market are pushing their last remaining units, while new developments are either awaiting final approval or are under construction and set to launch.
“People everywhere view waterfront ownership as a sound investment, especially in high demand areas,” says Marc Hewitt, president of Niche Development Ltd. building Oakville’s Edgemere Private Residences. “Waterfront land is a commodity, and in urban areas such as the GTA, it’s a scarce commodity. That makes it a sound investment and something people take great pride in owning.”
While Muskoka chairs and pesky black flies may be missing from this urban waterfront equation, it’s the idea of waking up and gazing out at the lake — or walking the dog a block or two to it — that has purchasers hooked. Even the well-chosen names — among them Bluwater, River City, South Beach and Westlake — conjure up thoughts of sand castles and seagulls in a bid to heighten sales.
The lifestyle is so desirable that a decade ago the governments of Toronto, Ontario and Canada joined forces to create Waterfront Toronto, charged with overseeing the renewal of Toronto’s waterfront. Derek Goring, director of development at Waterfront Toronto, says the corporation is taking a “holistic” approach to waterfront development by creating people-focused neighbourhoods with a mix of residences, commercial and retail space, public spaces, plus community necessities such as childcare, schools, community centres, libraries and access to transit.
Initially, 13,000 residential units are planned for Toronto’s East Bayfront and West Don Lands areas — 7,000 and 6,000 respectively — with another 27,000 units expected over the next decade in those ‘hoods plus North Keating by the Don River. At least 20% will be affordable housing, says Mr. Goring, and 20% will be rental. All will be LEED Gold-certified. One-quarter of residential design will be devoted to public green space, he adds. In fact, this summer, Canada’s Sugar Beach at the foot of Jarvis Street and Sherbourne Park at the foot of Sherbourne Street will open in the East Bayfront area, with construction starting later this fall on Underpass Park and Don River Park in the West Don Lands.
“What makes Toronto’s new waterfront communities so appealing is that, not only are they at the water’s edge, but they are also in the heart of the city,” says Mr. Goring. “This waterfront gives people the best of both worlds — the beauty and tranquility of life at the lake and the culture and vitality of the urban experience.”
The first two developers to sign up are Great Gulf Group developing East Bayfront’s Parkside, a 540,000-square-foot project including a residential tower (launch date expected in 2011); and, Urban Capital building the West Don Lands’ River City, comprising 900 loft–style condos, penthouses and townhomes over the next five to seven years. Phase 1 — two high-rises totalling 348 units — is now selling at $239,900 to $750,000 with occupancy in late 2012.
Although River City is a Waterfront Toronto initiative, it is not technically “waterfront” because it is not on Lake Ontario. But it will have beautiful views of the revitalized Don River and will sit on the new 18-acre Don River Park. Ben Rusonik, River City’s sales manager, says Phase 3 will be situated closer the lake, so it will have actual lake views. But at this point, he says, River City’s slogan is “This is Where it Starts,” a reference to it being the first private development on the Waterfront Toronto property.
Down the road in Etobicoke, sales at South Beach Condos + Lofts are brisk. When complete, the four-acre project will comprise two 27-storey, 313-unit Art Deco-styled glass-and-steel towers, 30,000 sq. ft. of amenities including pool, squash courts hotel guest suites and a pet daycare, 16,000 sq. ft. of retail space, and reflective rooftop solar panels to generate energy. Tower 1 is sold out and Tower 2, with summer 2012 occupancy, is more than 80% sold.
After years of building up Montreal, Amexon Development Corp. decided to bring its expertise to Toronto’s waterfront with this four-acre site conjuring up thoughts of Miami’s funky Ocean Drive. Jason Shiff, Amexon’s executive sales manager, says the company had owned the land for a while but was waiting for the right moment to bring it to market.
“We wanted something that would enhance waterfront living,” he says. “It’s really vacation-type living to the tee. It emulates South Beach and Ocean Drive. It gives you the exact same Art Deco features.”
Nearby, Vancouver-based Onni Group of Companies is finalizing plans for its second Toronto project after The Garrison, this one at Lake Shore Boulevard and Park Lawn Road. Westlake — described by executive vice-president Chris Evans as “an urban village” with internal roads and storefronts — will comprise 1,300 units in three towers, the tallest with 48 floors, plus 85,000 sq. ft. of retail including national grocery and drug stores, and 25,000 sq. ft. of amenities. Units will range from 500 to 1,500 sq. ft., though pricing has not been announced.
Oakville’s coveted waterfront is also seeing some action. Daniels Corp.’s executive vice-president, Niall Haggart, describes the 12-storey, 68-unit One Eleven Forsythe as “a quintessential boutique condominium nestled on the shores of 16 Mile Creek in downtown Oakville.” Only a handful of suites remain, priced from $1.2-million to more than $2.5-million, with all suites on the east side of the building overlooking the water.
In Oakville’s Bronte Village, The Pemberton Group has taken over an old piece of land that once housed a grand heritage home. In its place will sprout Bluwater Condominium, with three eight-floor buildings and 10,000 sq. ft. of amenities infused with a wellness theme. The 220 units will range from the low $400,000s for a 600-sq.-ft one bedroom to more than $1-million for a 3,200-sq.-ft. combined suite with wraparound balcony. All purchasers will receive a one-year membership to the Oakville Club. The project will launch this fall, construction will start next year, and occupancy is expected in 2013.
“[This is one of] the most sought-after locations in real estate,” says Christopher Invidiata, team leader at Re/Max Aboutowne Realty in Oakville who has worked the area’s real estate market for 25 years. “[Bluwater] is also set in a resort-type setting, which elevates the living experience. The combination of those two facts will drive a lot of buyers to our doorstep.”
In Burlington, Molinaro Group is working on a 21-storey, 186-unit tower called Strata Condos. It is 75% sold, with remaining units selling for $265,000 to $900,000. Billed as “luxury condo living for the hip, fit and green,” company president Vince Molinaro says he expects Strata to receive at least LEED Silver certification. Besides the obligatory fitness centre, Strata will include a 5,600-sq.-ft. meditation garden, a 3,000-sq.ft, ground-level bicycle storage room to encourage cycling, and a car share program.
But the real draw will be the waterfront, says Mr. Molinaro, even though the project is not right on the water’s edge.
“With Burlington being close to downtown, the waterfront is the focus,” he says. We have probably one of the biggest parks that will not be developed. … The downtown is all focused along the waterfront — all the shops, all the restaurants are [there]. That’s the big draw for most people.”
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Technology and a new ecological consciousness are transforming the innards of some new houses
John Bentley Mays – Globe and Mail
Driving or walking along the leafy streets in the Governor’s Bridge district of Rosedale, you might never notice the house I’m writing about this week. It’s new, but it fits without a glitch into the quiet urban streetscape of similarly new, stylistically old-fashioned homes.
What counts about this 3,400-square-foot dwelling is not its architecture, which is hardly daring or inventive, but its exceptional efficiency. Using some of the most advanced energy systems now available in the marketplace, Toronto designer Richard C. Brightling has created a house that looks forward into the future of construction, when all new residences will be required to perform much better than they do now. With clients demanding greener solutions to their need for housing, and architects increasingly adept at coming up with such solutions, that future is not far off.
Energy-saving features of the Governor’s Bridge house include a high-performance building envelope that is insulated to a standard considerably beyond what is now required by city construction codes. The atmosphere inside this tight skin is kept fresh and clean by an exchanger that replaces and filters the air every four hours.
Heating and cooling is accomplished with a $70,000 geothermal system. Six fluid-carrying tubes have been sunk 200 feet into the ground, where the temperature is a steady 14.4 C. Pumped up to the surface and into a control room in the basement – this tightly packed, high-tech facility resembles what I imagine a submarine interior to look like – the fluid is then used to modify the temperature of fan-forced air. Geo-thermal energy is not free; electricity is needed to run the pumps and raise the temperature from its base level of 14.4C to something more comfortable. Nevertheless, Mr. Brightling told me, his clients’ annual savings on air conditioning come in at 30 to 40%.
Hot water for showers, dishwashing and so forth is generated by solar thermal panels installed on the roof. Glycol (which does not freeze in winter) circulates through the panels, gathering heat from the sun that, in turn, heats water in the tank. I was surprised to find that the tap water was very hot indeed – on a cool spring day, with little or no help from hydro. This $8,000 system works efficiently in our northern climate for most of the year, Mr. Brightling said, taking notable strain off the electricity grid (and hence lightening the electric bill).
Being a confirmed apartment-dweller, I don’t have a lawn, nor do I understand the North American obsession with having lawns. But if one must keep a green patch out front and back of the house, it should pull its weight, environmentally speaking. It does so here. Mr. Brightling has installed a 4,500-litre tank under the back yard of this project that effectively catches rain water running off the roofs of the main house and the garden shed and makes this water available for irrigating the lawns. This uncomplicated plumbing arrangement is an example of good ecological stewardship, especially in a city that wastes far too much water.
Back inside the house, Mr. Brightling has introduced a few other smaller features that also enhance the pleasure and sense of security in living there. There are the ceiling sprinklers, for instance – nearly invisible fixtures intended to deploy individually when the air around them reaches 100 C. And there is the lighting, equipped with low-wattage LED and halogen bulbs to further enhance the energy efficiency of the house.
These, then, are the major and minor systems at work in Mr. Brightling’s technical outfitting – some complex, others simple, all suitable for comfortable living in a sustainable, environmentally responsible manner. Nor is the cost of these green measures, as a percentage of total expenditure, really prohibitive. Of the $1.8-million it took to build the Governor’s Bridge house, only $150,000 was invested in green technologies – all of which will bring cost savings down the line.
Now, to marry such advanced thinking about the environment to contemporary good design! Like the passion for lawns, the desire for a 2010 house that looks like it was done in the 1920s escapes me. Windows were small back in those days, interiors were chopped up into small rooms, the middle of the building was always dark. To be fair, Mr. Brightling has opened up the rear of the Governor’s Bridge house to the light, but the front façade is as fusty and serious as anything in Rosedale from 80 years ago. The architectural taste of Rosedale residents, it appears, has some catching up to do, if it’s to stay abreast of the technological advances taking root in their dignified old neighbourhood.
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Investing in insulation, solar panels will pay off in long run
Toronto Star – My City Blog
A lifelong environmentalist, Julia Langer is executive director of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, an arm’s-length city agency focused on addressing climate change from a municipal angle. Previously, at World Wildlife Fund, she led various campaigns, from protecting marine turtles to banning toxic pesticides. Langer bikes all winter long (except when it’s icy), grows more tomatoes, basil and beans than her husband and daughter can keep up with, and loves paddling in Ontario’s boreal wilderness.
“Should the condo or house you buy today be a prime candidate for an energy retrofit tomorrow? The reality is that much of what we build today could be much, much more energy-efficient with only a modest increase in construction costs (offset, of course, by lower lifetime operating costs).
That’s why I tend to cringe whenever I see one of those giant construction cranes swinging another bucket of concrete skywards. What we all too rarely see is those cranes lifting state-of-the-art windows, high-performance cladding or solar panels.
Let’s give Toronto some credit. The city has used its new powers under the City of Toronto Act to pass green building standards that will require new construction to be more energy-efficient than it would be if we just stuck to the provincial building code. But let’s also raise our view a bit higher and look at what some other cities are doing. In Germany, all new homes must now be “net zero” energy users. In other words, they have to produce as much energy as they consume. The United Kingdom is on the same track, with a net zero carbon requirement coming into play by 2016.
Net zero may sound futuristic, but behind the catchy name is a lot of mundane, completely doable stuff like tight building envelopes, lots of insulation, ultra-efficient appliances and lighting.
Most Toronto highrises — even new ones — are ripe for energy efficiency upgrades, which are especially cost-effective now that the HST is going to add 8% to gas and electricity bills. Retrofits can’t achieve net zero, but can help you save some serious cash, and the planet — see www.TowerWise.ca for some great advice and tools.
There’s no reason not to build state-of-the-art buildings in our world-class city. And there are very good reasons to build high-quality, super-efficient, environmentally responsible, net zero buildings which won’t spew climate-changing pollution for the next 50-plus years.