The Starwood Centre lofts are sometimes called Soho South, as the developer has 2 other office conversions in Midtown Toronto known as the Soho Lofts at 188 Eglinton and Soho Bayview at 562 Eglinton. The lofts at 477 Richmond were originally constructed as an office building called the Starwood Centre, whose name can still be seen above the front door.
While still just as much an office building as a residence, this live/work building rises 10 storeys above the southeast corner of Richmond and Brant Streets. The Starwood Centre Lofts contains 104 units, a mix of commercial and residential spaces that range in size from 500 to over 2,000 square feet.
The corner lot was vacant in the 1980s and the land was sold in 1989. A company known as the Richmond Brant Group started selling units that same year, in 1989, with projected occupancy in 1991. They were originally selling the building as office condos, so the units had already been divvied up, and were sold as commercial units. You can still see commercial sales and rentals on MLS today.
It doesn’t seem like it was ever truly “converted” – just seems that suddenly in 1997 a bunch were sold as residential. I don’t know what machinations occurred at the City to allow people to live there, but it would have happened around 1996.
The first residential sale on MLS was in 1996, though most followed in 1997. The original seller of the residential units was 477 Richmond Street West Limited, even though we know it was Mastercraft Starwood (though I am unsure of who is behind the Richmond Brant Group). The building was called Soho Lofts back then in the MLS listings, but the floor plans said Starwood Centre. Easy to see why people use both names!
The resulting residential loft spaces are almost all single level spaces that offer concrete floors, pillars and ceilings reaching 11 feet. I have seen at least one owner that has added a mezzanine to add to the livable space. The unique nature of the building leaves it open to some interesting uses as well – current neighbours include a modeling agency, men’s grooming studio and even a consulate. Plans here are open and bathed in natural light from the massive windows inside. Lack of deeded parking is one downfall, though is it available for rent monthly (as with the other 2 Soho Loft buildings).
The loft sizes are big, with most in the 1,000-2,000 square foot range. Ceilings are high, allowing for great floor to ceiling windows. The concrete floors and columns, as well as the exposed ducts, make the units seem very lofty for an ex-office building.
Having a cupcake shop in the building doesn’t count as an amenity. Because the structure wasn’t originally built for condo-dwellers, there’s no fitness centre, party room or yoga studio.
Seems that Mastercraft Starwood built this building. Originally pitched as “Starwood Centre, ideally situated in the heart of downtown Toronto, is a state of the art high-tech 100,000 sq. ft. office building. Starwood Centre has attracted some of Canada’s leading software companies, such as Side Effects Software, Sigma Systems, Godwin Networks, Software Guaranty, and Sandborg Projects. Starwood Centre harnesses the widest range of technological innovations to create a superior environment.” A photo of the building was on the front page of their site for a long time.
The Starwood Group is/was headed by Bruce Greenberg. Converted in 1996. Still live/work, there are businesses in the building. Bruce Greenberg is the son of John Greenberg, the scion who launched Mastercraft Starwood in 1951 and built condos across Ottawa, with his first building (an apartment) completed in 1956. Bruce moved on to Toronto, with his first Toronto project completed in 1982. While Starwood has moved back to focus on Ottawa construction, they do still maintain an office at 188 Eglinton, on the 8th floor.
The building is still mentioned on their website, with a photo of it on the main page. Clicking through, you can still find the page describing the project. While the link that leads to it is on a list of residential conversions by Mastercraft Starwood, the page about the building itself sounds like they are promoting a commercial building.
They brag about the State-of-the-Art Telecommunications Infrastructure:
* State-of-the-art fiber optic cable network system
* Bandwidth for High Speed Internet Access (ISDN, T-1 Lines available)
* Satellite ready
And the Building Design Features:
* Energy efficient water source heat pumps for heating/cooling
* 104 climatic zones with separate control
* 4 levels of underground parking
* Security card access
* 465 opening windows provide fresh air
* 11 ft. ceilings, low “E” glass, 3 high speed elevators
* Steps from Light Rail Transit on Spadina
No matter, the end result is a pretty cool hard loft semi-conversion in the heart of Toronto’s cultural & entertainment centre. Enjoy city amenities nearby including parks, theatres, galleries, bistros & retail. The Starwood Centre Lofts are centrally located south of Queen, west of Spadina Avenue. Close to the newly renovated AGO, the fashion, financial, sport & entertainment districts.
Even if the parking is rental only, you don’t need a car to live here. Lots of TTC and public transit routes including the 24-hour Queen streetcar and University subway line – or you can easily walk or bike to your destination. Just to the north you can shop and dine on cool Queen Street West in the indie clothing shops and the local cafes. Buy fresh produce in Kensington Market a few blocks north, walk the dog in Alexandra Park, enjoy leafy walkways of Trinity Bellwoods Park & Community Centre. Take the kids to St. Andrews Playground (the city’s first civic playground).
While the spot 477 Richmond occupies may not be all that historic, the plot across the street has a long and interesting history. In 1837, this city block was set aside for a public market, the third of its kind after the St. Lawrence Market and the St. Patrick’s Market. The market was built in 1850 and named “St. Andrew’s Market” after its city ward. It served as an important commercial center for what was then Toronto’s west end.
A fire in 1860 destroyed the first market buildings. They were replaced in 1873 by the much larger St. Andrew’s Hall and Market, designed in Renaissance Revival style. The building housed a police station, a community hall, a public library branch, as well as the market sellers of fresh produce and butchers.
In the 1870s, St. Andrew’s Market began to lose some of its relevance as a commercial hub. In 1889, an addition was added, however by 1900 the market stalls were mostly empty. The buildings were demolished in 1937, and replaced by a water works building. The awesome Art Deco facility still stands today, which is undergoing a pretty amazing transformation.
The southern section of the Market was used as a public park since the 1880s, becoming St. Andrew’s Playground in 1909, the first City of Toronto property dedicated to, and equipped for, supervised children’s play. And it is still a playground today. When I was in grade 2 (back in 1978!) I went to Brant Street Public School, when it housed Toronto’s first alternative school, and we used to play there when we needed grass under our feet. An old building, constructed in 1928, it was at the heart of the debate surrounding corporal punishment in public schools in the 1970s. This may have led to it being turned over to the ALPHA program.