A setback for Sidewalk Labs

The proposal deadline  for  Quayside District, a joint venture between Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto has been postponed until next spring.  Plans for the ambitious project which is touted to be a city within a city encompassing 12 acres of a former industrial site at the waterfront, has been delayed to give the partners additional time to more accurately reflect the consultants findings and to give careful consideration of the public’s feedback.  Details can be found here


Within Striking Distance

Certain topics re-appear in this blog as their importance and significance to the city ebbs and flows.  One such subject matter is City Council’s debate over the issue of allowing Laneway Housing to proceed from wishful thinking to rubber-stamping.  As Edward Keenan of the Toronto Star reported on June 6, 2018, it would appear that the city is within striking distance of council approval and, as the motion has been put forward the anticipation is building.

While not a cure-all for the rental crisis, it is a step in the right direction allowing homeowners to renovate and re-purpose dilapidated and unused sheds and garages into viable rental units.    Not only does this benefit the owners in gaining income to help pay their own living expenses, but offers diverse options to mid-income renters in search of a neighborhood dynamic.  Breathing new life into often times run-down garages and out-buildings, seems to be a win-win situation for owners and prospective tenants alike.  And thankfully, City Council appears poised to push the button. Read more here


Rising to the occasion

The Real Estate News Exchange reports two joint venture developments are being proposed for the city, which would provide much needed affordable rental housing in the years to come.   The first is Waterfront Toronto Quayside located in the West Don Lands area close to the Distillery District, and will be home to 1500 rental and retail units.  Initial occupancy is slated for 2021.

The second development will be located in the Yonge/College area within walking distance of the College TTC subway station.   It is proposed to have a total of 700 units of which 30% will be designated for affordable rental housing for a minimum of 40 years.  However, the purchase of this land is still in the process and not expected to close until 2019.  Find more information on the projects and the developers involved here

Wellington West

Developers are seeking the city’s approval to build a number of high-rise buildings in this traditionally mid-rise neighbourhood.  The city’s resolution to allow construction of buildings no higher than 45 meters along Wellington between Portland and Spadina is being challenged by some developers at the OMB.  Some feel that the pending dissolution of the OMB to make way for a new less developer-friendly board  may be the catalyst in the rush to have applications on the table before it happens.

At least 6 proposals for buildings ranging from 55 – 78 metres – well in excess of the allowable 45 meters –  are up for review.  Some residents and business owners are concerned over how these proposed buildings will impact the neighbourhood and question why the city would consider changing the current height limitations.  The proposals paint a new face to this traditionally low/mid rise community, that many feel will cast a negative shadow on the heritage designated buildings in the neighborhood.  For more info on what’s proposed, read here

And the Award Goes To…

For the second consecutive year, Diamond Schmitt Architects has won the Office Development of the Year Award for the new Globe and Mail Centre.  The unique building design featuring shifting floor plates and 10 ft high windows is located east of the downtown core in the up and coming St. Lawrence neighbourhood.  Find out more here.

Kids Build Cities

At a recent neighbourhood consultation for the redevelopment of Mirvish Village, Smart Density Architect, Naama Blonder, introduced an innovative strategy to help diffuse some of the angst that often occurs when a neighbourhood gets together to discuss the ramifications of a pending development.   Bonder developed an oversized board game called “Kids Build Cities” to allow kids and their parents to experience the often overwhelming challenges developers experience today – particularly when dealing with height and density issues.  To win, players must build a city block comprising all aspects of a functioning neighbourhood including housing, schools, parks, fire stations etc.   The player chooses the placement of elements and finds solutions for the challenges that go into developing or redeveloping a neighbourhood.  Blonder found the kids’ creativity engaging and the community consultation less combative by engaging in the exercise.

Read more on Kids Build Cities  here. 


Privacy Concerns at Quayside Waterfront Project

A public consultation held on March 20th for the proposed high-tech district planned for the port lands, saw hundreds of people in attendance.  The primary concern for those in attendance, was how the data that would be collected by sensors monitoring and controlling everything in the vicinity would be used.  Privacy concerns such as if the data would be sold and/or used for advertising purposes went unanswered as attendees were told the agencies in question are still in the negotiating process.

The Google-affiliated company, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto co-hosted the public consultation and pledged that residents in the Quayside district proposed for the former industrial site located at Queens Quay and Parliament Street, would need to feel “comfortable and respected” and would not be monitored for the wrong reasons.

In light of the recent Facebook scandal where it is alleged that the personal data of millions of Americans was harvested without their authorization by an outside company for the purpose of targeting voters during the 2016 campaign, residents have valid cause for concern.  Unfortunately, their unease over these matters was not lessened at this public consultation.

Planning is in full swing with the City of Toronto’s examination and studies on the effect of building a light rail network across Toronto’s waterfront.   The estimated price tag for this transit addition is in the $2-billion range.  In addition, Sidewalk Labs is spending $50 million on preliminary work including consultations, showing strong commitment to the project and its strategic outcome.    Plans are not expected to be completed until 2019 however Sidewalk Toronto announced that it will be opening an office and exhibit space near the Quayside site which will be open to the public sometime this summer.  For more information on the Sidewalk Waterfront project, click here 


Bringing up the rear

In a recent blog article,  Brandon Donnelly  makes the correlation of the “rear houses” of yesterday to the lane houses of today. Last year at this time, we did an article for our  blog entitled “Laneway Reinvention” which spoke to the benefits for both landlord and tenant alike, should the city start allowing more of these builds to occur.    The need for affordable housing has transcended generations and is as relevant today as it was in the early 1900’s.  As Brandon’s article surmises, is it possible that the mindset of the 1900’s rear houses which rapidly declined into slums has a bearing on why the city tends to look unfavourably at resurrecting this ingenious use of space.    Perhaps it is time the city took a more modern day look at the benefits this type of affordable housing could play out in the Toronto of today.  Click here to read more.


Fill it up!

The first phase of the Toronto Port Lands makeover has begun, as reported in onsitemag.com, here. This billion dollar project has been on the agenda for a long time so it is a good sign to see movement on Cherry Street as the lake fill begins.  The project is a win-win for Toronto as it moves to protect the area from flooding while generating a vibrant new community within the downtown core.

Introducing…Post Lofts!

Grove is pleased to be part of an exciting new project coming this fall.  Located in Leslieville at 1249 Queen Street East, the 6 storey, 29 unit Post Lofts  is scheduled to break ground in late autumn.  Units are going fast and the building is already 65% sold and is expected to sell out before the start of construction.

Grove will be providing both Project and Construction Management services for the project.  We look forward to working with the owners, Condoman Developments Inc. as well as ICON Architects, in bringing another great residential/retail building into the community.