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Queen survives attack of the Condo Monster

Christopher Hume –

Go West Queen West, Young Professional, and you, too, can stake a claim you can call your own. The forces of gentrification, ever at the ready, have paved the way. The condos are going up and the future awaits.

It’s hardly a surprise an area once scorned and abandoned to the down and out should have become so desirable. That shift has been the story of Toronto in recent decades and shows no sign of slowing down. Why should it? Who wouldn’t want to live in a part of downtown that pretty well sums up what the city, urbanity itself, is all about?

No transit debate dragging on here. The Queen streetcar, the 501, has been plying this route since the 19th century, moving people and bringing life to the shops and neighbourhoods along its length.

Narrow and rhythmic, storefronts line a street that has an uncanny ability to reinvent itself according to the needs of every new generation. The wave of creative energy unleashed in the late ’70s further east on Queen has long since swept west to Dufferin and beyond.

The tricky part, of course, is to add to the city without destroying it. We have learned much since the brutal days of earlier decades when “urban renewal” meant urban destruction. On the other hand, the relentless surge of condos has fundamentally rearranged Toronto. The City of Churches has become the City of Towers.

Bohemian Embassy - 1169 and 1171 Queen Street West

Condo Critic – Bohemian Embassy, 1169 and 1171 Queen Street West

This is the complex that provoked a firestorm of protest when first announced back in the days of David Miller’s mayoralty. This was the project that was going to push out the creative types who had colonized the neighbourhood around Queen Street West and Abell Street and opened it up for the very developers that would steal it from them. Nothing new about that, of course, though what made it maddening was that local residents wanted development to happen — but in their way.

It’s too early to say whether the new mixed-use complex will be a success. The architecture is less than exciting, but the scale is midrise and appropriate for the context. These building, with their four- and five-storey podiums, pick up on the historic configuration of Queen, but do little to update it or bring it into the 21st century.

The designers here have opted to keep it low-key, generic, and even anonymous. They clearly didn’t want to attract attention. That’s usually an excellent strategy, though there was an opportunity here to do something that complemented the architectural exuberance of earlier buildings, but in a contemporary vocabulary. After all, the Gladstone and Drake hotels, with their artist-designed rooms, are across the road, as are any number of wonderful street buildings from the 1800s. Still, it’s neither an eyesore, nor a dead zone. Compared to, say, the south end of the Eaton Centre on Queen, it is a marvel of urbanity. That’s something to cheer about.

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto Realtor with Century 21 Regal Realty. He did not
write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who are
interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.


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