Tag Archives: Twenty Niagara Lofts
Cramped Toronto laneway or Dubai mega-site, Core Architects puts its distinctive design stamp on projects big and small
By Albert Warson – The Globe and Mail
Some architects specializing in designing condos in the Greater Toronto Area prefer smaller projects with fewer than 100 suites, often on infill sites in urban nooks and crannies. For other architects, only developers of towering condo, multibuilding megaprojects need apply.
Core Architects Inc. straddles the condo development spectrum. It has the critical professional mass of a 40-person office to handle the largest condo projects, but hasn’t forsaken the small condos that started the three partners off in 1996.
They recently designed, for example, a 46-suite new loft building that Toronto real estate marketer Brad Lamb and developer/contractor Walter Harhay plan to shoe-horn into an impossibly tight 25-by-110-foot site in a lane off John Street near Queen Street West.
In stark contrast, Core has been feverishly busy over the past 18 months designing high-rise, mid-rise and villa-style condos encompassing 36,000 units in Dubai Marina — the world’s largest real estate development, on the Persian Gulf in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
When asked if a Toronto firm could have the design intuitiveness that would appeal to Middle Eastern buyers, Deni Poletti, a Core partner, replied: “We developed a modern language that is subtly Arabic in flavour but balanced with a modernist sensibility, and from there our workload on the project took off.”
While Core’s projects can leap from the modest to the monumental, there are several categories in between, such as the 45-storey Pantages Tower in downtown Toronto and the 37-storey Garden Residences of Avondale on Yonge Street near Highway 401.
A glance at Core’s portfolio reveals that it hasn’t strayed too far from its first love of turning worn-out warehouses and factories in industrial neighbourhoods into sophisticated condo lofts — The Camden Lofts, The Chelsea Lofts, Queen West Vintage Lofts and Liberty Lofts, for example.
Or designing new condos like Stewart Street; the Skyline Cosmopolitan condo/hotel (under construction behind the King Edward Hotel on a squeakily tight site); the 10-tower Emery Village, to be built around a 300-foot-high flagpole; and The Players Club, jammed in among a row of condos on the Etobicoke lakefront.
Babak Eslahjou, a Core partner, explains: “Scale is not an issue. Young developer entrepreneurs are asking us to think of interesting ways of building condos on small lots for young urban dwellers who want to live downtown.”
They also look to Core to be able squeeze as much profit out of those downtown infill sites. Older, perhaps less entrepreneurial developers are also beating a path to Core’s office door, in a renovated garment factory downtown.
Nor was scale an issue when the three partners worked at Zeidler Roberts Partnership Architects (since reorganized as Zeidler Grinnell Partnership Architects) before the threesome set up Core. Their departure was a classic case of ambitious young professional colleagues daring to start their own enterprise.
Their first design commission was the conversion of a warehouse at 29 Camden St. — part of a downtown Toronto industrial neighborhood — into a 48-unit condominium. One of their latest projects, directed by Core partner Charles Gane, is the John Street condo on Queen Street across from CITY-TV. Two others are the 114-suite “Zed Lofts” at Bathurst and Niagara Streets near the SkyDome, and The Argyle conversion on Dovercourt Road in the west end, both directed by Mr. Eslahjou.
Mr. Gane likens the challenge to build 169 John St. on a typically narrow downtown lane to the 25-storey Skyline Cosmopolitan hotel/condo on Colborne Street, both of which will present some tricky jockeying of machinery, material and workers during about 20 months of construction.
What’s new about the John Street loft? “There are a lot of different transparencies of glass and cogeneration [the building's mechanical system will generate enough electricity from surplus heat to satisfy the needs of the owners],” he says, and triple-parking stackers will hydraulically lower three cars at a time into the underground parking garage. No sweeping driveways, ample visitor surface parking or vast underground garages here. It will be the first system of its kind to be used in the GTA (Core’s design of the Skyline Cosmpolitan incorporates a single-car parking elevator).
The site is zoned for one-time coverage, which Core is applying to have rezoned to seven times coverage (a volume of built space seven times the size of the site). “The planning department seems to be satisfied with our intention to respond to the city’s intensification strategy,” he says.
Mr. Lamb describes Core’s design of the John Street condo as “cool, stylish and interesting architecturally, and which will also make money.”
He is also the real estate broker for the 12-storey condo the developer, TASdesignbuild, calls Zed Lofts, at Bathurst and Niagara Streets. Mr. Eslahjou says Core’s design of Zed Lofts incorporates several live/work townhouses on Niagara Street and condo retail space on Bathurst Street. “This is the first downtown condo TAS has built and they wanted it to be dramatic,” he says. Core, which also designed Zed Lofts‘s lobby and other common spaces, as well as the marketing centre, has obliged. Construction is expected to begin this summer.
Zed Lofts‘s street address is 38 Niagara, a close neighbour to the 22-suite, award-winning Twenty Niagara Lofts, built in 1998 on a compact site in that industrial neighbourhood. Ken Greenberg, who along with his wife was among the original owners of Twenty Niagara Lofts, is an urban planner with an illustrious background in the public and private sectors in Toronto. And for the past few years, he has had an even more illustrious career as a consultant on massive redevelopment projects in at least five U.S. cities.
Apart from his professional interest, Mr. Greenberg is a member of the Wellington Place Neighborhood Association, which keeps an eye on proposed new developments in the area.
“We had fruitful discussions with the developer about such issues as height, the treatment of street-level retail and the way garbage is handled,” he says. On the latter point, the amalgamation of the city brought suburban standards for garbage collection to downtown Toronto, he explains. These standards called for large garbage-collection areas, which he describes as “gaping spaces in tall buildings that become filled with litter, and which are unnecessary.” He says the association supports the developer’s intention of seeking a less obtrusive means of garbage collection at Zed Lofts, and is generally favourably disposed to the design and quality.
While much of Core’s work involves new buildings, the firm also is actively renovating older downtown buildings. The 86-unit Argyle Authenic Lofts on Dovercourt Road between Queen and Dundas Streets, for example, was built nearly a century ago. Core is converting the nicely detailed, five-storey building into a loft with two new glass penthouse levels, and adding a few windows matching the original style.
“It’s a condo loft in a warehouse building that’s already in a residential neighbourhood,” Mr. Eslahjou says. “We don’t have to wait for the neighbourhood to gradually change from a factory district into residential.” He hopes to get construction under way this summer.
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