i-Zone Lofts – 326 Carlaw Avenue & 1159/1173 Dundas Street East
Located in the heart of Leslieville, the i-Zone Lofts are the original hard conversion lofts that played an important role in the renaissance of this community. Each building has been conscientiously refurbished and repurposed, given new mechanical systems, and new life. i-Zone has become a cultural hub to artists, tech professionals, and entrepreneurs seeking the urban loft experience for their home and work.
i-Zone has 3 addresses – 326 Carlaw Avenue and 1159 & 1173 Dundas Street East. It was a 160,000-square-foot industrial manufacturing facility that originally converted to multi-tenant commercial rental. It was then converted into 104 awesome hardcore lofts.
The i-Zone Lofts is a hard loft building of between two and four stories housing 101 of the city’s most industrial loft spaces. In true New York Warehouse loft style, a number of the spaces are occupied by businesses that close up shop and go home at the end of the day, leaving room for the neighbours to make noise at will after the work day.
The spaces at i-Zone are truly some of the most varied in any loft development in the city. Ranging in space from around 500 square feet up to 4,000 square feet, many of the originally space open spaces have been renovated by previous owners. Additionally, most of the upper suites come with the option to build outdoor space on the rooftop above their unit if it hasn’t been done already. And the flexibility of the space in this evolving neighbourhood draws undoubtedly some of the coolest, creative neighbours you’re likely to find.
The ceilings are incredible and range up to 30 feet high. The lofts are mostly large. Some are smaller, under 800sf, but most are 1,200-4,000 square feet. Yes, you can get a 4,000-square-foot loft with 30-foot ceilings. And yes, you can play basketball in it. Flooring includes poured concrete, laminate and hardwood. Most units have air conditioning and many have skylights. There are tons of multi-level lofts with all sorts of different custom stairs. Lofts under the roof either have amazing private rooftop decks, or permission to build one. Plus there is a common rooftop area for those without their own space.
The maintenance fees are reasonable. Hydro is metered separately, but radiant heat and water is included. There is no concierge, but there are security systems at the suite and building levels. Amenities are limited to a party room and rooftop area. Storage lockers are available, though the larger lofts really don’t need the extra space! Original freight elevators make moving a breeze – and are fun to use otherwise. i-Zone has only 70 parking spaces – including 46 spaces in two separate sections of a one-level underground garage and 24 surface spaces – so not every unit has a spot. But there is TTC right at the doorstep… and plans for all new bus stops. If you do drive, you are only five minutes from the Lake Shore, Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway.
As you may be able to tell, I love this building. It has that amazing prison / cold war bunker feel that you just cannot get anywhere else. Some people don’t like it, they find walking down the corridors to be too eerily reminiscent of a trip to jail. I love the preserved industrial feel given off by the steel doors, overhead hanging lights and concrete flooring. I always think I am about to come around a corner and bump into Captain Mandrake and General Turgidson trying to stop some crazy atomic plot.
The i-Zone Lofts are in the Carlaw-Dundas neighbourhood, a former industrial area in the City’s east end that has been undergoing a transformation, emerging as a mixed-use creative and cultural hub of workers and residents. This transformation began in the late 1990s when the old factories began to be converted to funky loft spaces. Carlaw-Dundas is a section of Leslieville, which is itself a part of the larger Riverdale part of Toronto.
Leslieville really started to boom as many new factories sprang up along Carlaw Avenue and Eastern Avenue around 1900. That year the Niagara Parks Commission approved a plan to build a massive hydro-electric generating station on the Canadian side of the Niagara River that would power Leslieville’s factories with cheap hydroelectricity. Formerly referred to as the Colgate Industrial Area, industry was attracted to the Carlaw-Dundas area by the convenient rail lines that form the north west boundary of the area.
Seeing as the old buildings comprising the i-Zone Lofts were once the Diament Knitting Mills, it makes me think that it may have supplied the Dylex Garment Factory at 233 Carlaw (and now the Garment Factory Lofts)at some point.
Looking at the 1924 Goad’s map, you can see how the southern buildings, 320 Carlaw, used to be part of the massive old Phillips factory. But there is nothing to the north, pretty much a vacant lot but for a small thin building right on the eastern lot line. Everything changed in the 1930s around there when Dundas was extended east and Gerrard re-configured. Underpasses were created to allow for grade separation between the Grand Truck (later CN) rail lines and Carlaw and Gerrard.
In the photos taking when Carlaw Avenue was widened in 1948, the Diament buildings were being used by Sturgeons (the British Paint Specialists, producers of the well-known Solignum Shingle Stains, manufacture finishes and protective coatings of all kinds and supply also certain English products for the finest type of finishing, such as Rylard Varnish, Hall’s Distemper and Perfexcion Enamel) at 330 Carlaw Ave.
You can see from above that the i-Zone Lofts is a complex of buildings, add-ons and addition. Look at a satellite image and you can see the building fronting Dundas, with what appears to be one or two additions on the southern edge. Then there is the rectangular building at 326 Carlaw, north of the laneway. That might be one building with differing roof portions, or it is 3 different stages on construction. Then there is the piece that joins them. Either one mishmash of an addition, or possibly 4 separate pieces. If you have ever been inside, then you know what I mean, it is obviously a lot of different and disjointed bits cobbled together over the years.
Interestingly, the order in which the City received re-zoning applications to allow for residential use of the old industrial buildings on Carlaw was 233 Carlaw (Garment Factory) first, sometime prior to 1997… which makes me wonder why it took 10 years before Atria actually created the Garment Factory Lofts. Next was i-Zone, though the address given was for the southern building at 320 Carlaw, which is not part of the i-Zone lofts. Last was 245 Carlaw, the old Wrigley building. I had always assumed that Wrigley was first, but it seems I was wrong. There may have been people living in it before anyone else – illegally I might add – but they were last (other than the Printing Factory) to make a bid for proper residential conversion to lofts.
So all we know is that they were built after 1924 and before 1948. I can’t pin it down any more than that. And I have no idea when they became a knitting mill. Dylex probably built their factory at 233 Carlaw sometime in the 1960s, and we know that Diament supplied them. I have also seen a photo that appears to be Carlaw, showing an ad for Diament (or a sign on a building they occupied) dated from 1962. That photo does not appear to show the building at 233 Carlaw. So it seems that Diament existed as of 1962. So the building was built sometime between 1924 and 1948, likely by the British paint company Sturgeons. And then at some point between 1948 and 1962 it became Diament. That is probably when the portion at 1159 & 1173 Dundas was built, as it appears to be more mid-century than 1930s or 1940s industrial. Matching up appearance-wise with the garment factory at 233 Carlaw and you can see more and more of the connections.
In the 1990s it began emptying out and the first application to the city to convert to lofts was made in 1997. Atria then began converting and selling in earnest in 1998. Heck, even now the builder is still selling the odd unit. Long-term rentals that have left the building and now those units are up for sale. THESE ARE THE ONLY RAW SPACES IN TORONTO YOU CAN STILL BUY!!! If you want a massive raw space, this is it.
I wish I could remember more of a story told to me years ago by the architect Joe Lobko. It was a tale of 2 warring families and their fight over land in around Carlaw and Dundas. Something to do with the old railway behind 245 Carlaw, at the edge of Boston Avenue. One rented parking to the trucks of a Chinese delivery company just to irritate the other. Unfortunately it was more than a few years ago and I don’t remember all the details. But there are always amazing stories hidden in the old buildings that remain around the city. This is why I love to dig up their histories and share them with you all. If you are going to live in a loft, in a historic building, then you should know its story!
Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write every article, some are reproduced here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.