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Dufferin Bridge closed to pedestrians

The Dufferin Bridge closes to pedestrians today while Metrolinx checks it for potentially dangerous loose concrete.

According to Frank Clarizio, the city's director of capital works delivery for the department of Engineering and Construction Services, the 10-day closure is the result of a recommendation of one of the city's consulting engineers.

The closure to pedeistrians and cyclists comes almost four months after it was precipitously closed to vehicular traffic, and five years after the original report suggesting the century-old bridge was in urgent need of repairs was released in 2008.

The clearing of loose concrete, known as scaling, is Metrolinx's responsibility, as the brdige runs over GO Transit tracks, and any falling chunks would be endangering its trains.

During the closure, pedestrians and cyclists looking to get to the Exhibition grounds can use Atlantic Avenue.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Frank Clarizio

New development charges pass ahead of deadline

The amount of money developers are subsidizing the city’s infrastructure with is going up dramatically.

Development charges are the way the city extracts money from the companies building all our new condos and office towers to help defray the costs of, among other things, transit, water and sewer, roads and parks. They come up for renewal every five years, but this year, the city in its eagerness has already reached the penultimate step in approving an average of a 70 per cent increase in the rates seven months in advance of the April deadline.

"For a two-bedroom condo, the rates are increasing about 70 per cent, from about $12,000 a unit to just over $21,000," says Rob Hatton, the director of strategic initiatives in the city’s corporate finance division.

The almost completed Aura at College Park, for instance, would pay the city and its residents about $20 million in development charges under the new system.

The rates for single-family dwellings is rising even higher, by 78 per cent.

"It’s a substantial increase," Hatton says, pointing out that even thought it’s slightly less than the last increase five years ago, that increase was belayed in response to the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

"The city is clearly growing," he says, "so we’ve had to make significant investments to maintain service levels."

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Rob Hatton

Toronto gets a new Green Standard

For the first time since 2010, the city's got a new standard for just how green all our new buildings must be.

The new Toronto Green Standard divides buildings into two tiers. Requirements for the first tier are mandatory, and include energy efficiency targets 15 per cent higher than the Ontario Building Code and tree planting that’s in line with the city’s 40 per cent canopy.

Tier two goes much further, mandating, for instance, that wiring must be roughed in to every level of parking, allowing the installation of electric vehicle charging at any or every parking space, energy efficiency 25 per cent higher than the building code, and the so-called re-use option, which encourages developers to retain facades, walls and floors of existing buildings not listed on the heritage register rather than demolish them wholesale. The goal is not only to preserve the city’s built form, but to stem the tide of building materials into our landfills.

"Adaptive reuse is a great thing," says Joe D’Abramo, the city’s director of zoning and environmental planning, "and we’ll give them credit if they do that."

Developers who check off at least eight requirements on the tier 2 list are eligible to receive a 20 per cent discount on their development charges, which can amount to more than $10,000 per unit.

One final change that will please some and rile others: New buildings in the inner city, defined as east of the Humber, south of Lawrence, and west of Victoria Park, now have to provide bicycle parking at the rate of one per residential unit. Outside those limits, the rate is 0.75 per unit.

The new Green Standard goes into effect in January.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Joe D’Abramo

Big building draws criticism, promises boost in Stouffville

Stouffville’s not accustomed to development downtown, and its residents have been antsy about a proposed new condo building.

It’s not a tower exactly. In fact, the variance that city council just approved was for a four metre extension – from 14 metres to 18.

The real concern seems to be the effect the new building built by Geranium Homes for Pace credit union, which already has a two-story building on the site, will have on the historic nature of the Markham suburb’s core.

"The heritage committee in the town worked with the developer to come to the final look and presentation," says Whitchruch-Stouffville councillor Rob Hargrave, saying that it went through five drafts. And though the committee is still "not 100 per cent" happy with it, council has given its approval. Citizens have until about the end of the month to appeal the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Hargrave, who was the only councillor to speak in favour of the development at last week’s public meeting on the subject, says that part of the problem is that though Stouffvilliers are used to development on surrounding farmland, redevelopment in the core is a novelty.

Hargrave estimates that $20-million development could generate as much as $3 million in revenue for the city annually in increased economic activity spurred by the 67 new condo units.

In addition to the credit union, there are several 80-100-year-old wooden houses on the site that would be demolished.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Rob Hargrave

Harbord Village sets the lane-naming standard

"Harbord Village is always like this. You ask them to do something, and they turn it into a piece of genius."

Councillor Adam Vaughan is talking about the lane-naming that's been going on in and around Harbord over the past several weeks. Naming laneways around town has become a priority for the city in the last couple of years, as emergency services makes it clear that it can help them locate people and situations more precisely, and communities have used the opportunity to celebrate themselves.

Harbord Village has used its namings as an impetus to remind its residents, and the city at large, of the neighbourhood's history, organizing events around each naming, and setting up a website to provide more details.

Recent laneways have been named in honour of Barbara Barrett, founder of the Toronto School of Art, the Greenberg family, several generations of whom have lived in the same Harbord Village house for about a century, writer and poet Barker Fairley, and Albert Jackson, Toronto’s first black postman, who lived in a house currently occupied by literary editor Patrick Crean. According to Vaughan, there were guests from as far away as Atlanta who came in for the naming ceremony back on July 6.

The lane that's received the most attention, though, is the Boys of Major Lane, named for six boys, all from Major Street, who fought in WWII. Only two, including the aforementioned Greenberg family’s son Joe, returned.

Vaughan says the next neighbourhood that will be announcing its line-up of lane-names will be Seaton Village. They’ve got a tough act to follow.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Adam Vaughan

Billy Bishop town hall draws 500

Five hundred people showed up to the first town hall discussion of Porter Airlines' proposal to extend the runways at Billy Bishop Airport.

"There was a split," says acting director of the waterfront secretariat Fiona Chapman, "as there usually has been in the meetings, between residents of the waterfront, who are directly affected if you like, and the overall city."

According to Chapman, though there were more voices in favour of the extension, which would allow small jets to take off and land at the downtown airport, they were still outnumbered roughly two-to-one by those opposed.

The opposition was mostly comprised of people in the airport’s immediate vicinity. Their complaints included noise, pollution, traffic, and ecological disruption.

Those in favour spoke of the convenience of being able to board a plane for, say, Vancouver at the base of Bathurst Street, as well as the economic benefits to the city, including one comment from a cab driver explaining the good it would do for him, as well as the hospitality industry. The issue of "gateway experience" – people’s first impressions of Toronto coming straight into downtown instead of the tangle of highways and light industrial land they’re greeted with at Pearson – was also bruited.

Counter-arguments to one of the most popular concerns, noise, included the unprecedented silencing technology behind Porter's proposed jets, Bombardier’s CS100s, the so-called "whisper jets," and the fact that there would be a curfew on whatever noise there was, unlike, as one audience member pointed out, the streetcar that ran 24 hours outside his window.

There will be further public consultations before the Dec. 5 deadline for a final report to City Council.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Fiona Chapman

George Brown tops off Green Building Centre

The Green Building Centre at George Brown College’s Casa Loma campus celebrates its topping-off this week, having reached its full height on the way to a March, 2014 completion.

And perhaps not unsurprisingly for a building that’s part of the college’s Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies, things have been going pretty smoothly.

“I've been waiting for shoes to drop," says the school’s dean, Nancy Sherman, “but as far as we can tell, everything’s going according to plan.”

The $4-million renovation and construction is part of a $13-million school overhaul, including $3-million in new equipment. When the renovation and expansion began, the school had 3,000 students. This includes $6.6 million in federal funds from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario’s Prosperity Initiative. By completion, the building should be able to accommodate 5,000.

With the extraordinary amount of construction going on in and around the city, the school is in particular demand and has been for sometime. The current expansion is meant to take a bite out of what Sherman describes as fairly substantial student waiting lists.

The centre was designed by KMA Architects and is being built in conjunction with MHPM property management.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Nancy Sherman

Vaughan gets a new hotel

Vaughan’s got a new hotel.

The aspirationally urban suburb, which is getting its own subway stop soon and is constructing a new downtown core to welcome it, is now home to Canada’s first Element hotel, a contemporary take on an extended-stay hotel that up to now has been built in business centres such as Miami, Las Vegas, and Houston. Part of the Starwood group of hotels, Element features big windows, bikes to borrow and electric car charging stations.

The seven-storey, 152-suite hotel, built by the Zen Group of Companies that owns the business park on which it sits, has applied for LEED silver status.

Construction began in April, 2012 at the intersection of Highways 7 and 27 in southwest Vaughan. According to its general manager, John Caneco, it’s 10 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes to Vaughan’s new downtown.

According to Vaughan’s municipal website, the city has more than doubled in size over the past 20 years, growing in population from 111,359 in 1991 to 288,301 in 2011, and the city’s expecting that there will be 780,000 Vaughan-based jobs by 2031.

The hotel was designed by Burlington-based Chamberlain Architects, Constructors, Managers.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: John Caneco

2013 design awards prefer context to exuberance

The Toronto Urban Design Awards that were handed out Sept. 11 had, for the most part, one thing in common: You wouldn’t notice a single one of the winners if it were built in Shanghai or Doha.

"The buildings looked like good urban buildings this year that won awards," says James N. Parakh, the city’s acting director of urban design. "They weren’t buildings that won for architectural exuberance."

Parakh, a former architect who did work in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi with WZMH Architects, says Toronto excels where those more glamorous cities fail.

"The mayors of those cities are starting to realize that if you’re talking about the aesthetics of a skyline, one landmark building is great, two, if strategically placed, can also be great. But if every building is a landmark, it just looks unsophisticated, cluttered."

Parakh's personal favourite among this year's winners is the not unexuberant Shangri-La Hotel. He likes it for the way it sits on its site, the way it incorporates its public art, and the way you can experience the city's urbanity from inside. (On the downside, the building was picked out specifically in a 2012 New York Times piece for its role in the city's bird deaths.)

The Brick Works is another winner he points out., "It's very much a people place," he says, "and contributes to its context. It’s more than just a collection of buildings. It's something that works in conjunction with its events program and has created a new focal point for the community."

This year's jury members were KPMB founder Marianne McKenna, Sturgess Architecture principal Jeremy Sturgess, University of Guelph landscape architecture professor Cecelia Paine, Urban Strategies Partner Eric Turcotte, and Spacing publisher and creative director Matthew Blackett.

Other winners include the Mt Dennis Library, the 11 Division police headquarters, Cube condos and, with an award of merit, the Linea Bayview Townhomes by Symmetry Developments.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: James Parakh

Etobicoke retirement home proposal turns into a condo

A three-storey, low-cost rental building at Bloor and Kingsway that’s been slated to be demolished in favour of a retirement home since 2009 has been sold, and is now going to be a condo.

The site, a prime corner lot at 2800 Bloor Street West, currently houses a 10-unit rental building. The old proposal, approved by council four years ago, was for a seven-storey seniors residence with 86 rooms and three rental apartments.

The new building would take the address 4 The Kingsway.

Without getting any further approvals, the applicant -- North Drive Investments -- can build their own seven-storey condo, but are looking to add two more floors on top to make make 44 condo units, along with five townhouses.

The architect has been announced as Richard Wengle, known for his work on single family dwellings in Forest Hill, cottage country and other monied spots. Interiors will be by Brian Gluckstein, who had a similar clientele, in addition to a line at The Bay.

According to Susan O’Connor, Councillor Peter Milczyn’s executive assistant, Etobicoke Community Council planning staff will likely set a date in October or November to commence public consultations on the proposal.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Susan O’Connor

Billy Bishop public consultation happening on Thursday Sept 19

The public will get a chance to see what all the Billy Bishop airport hubbub is about on Thursday, Sept. 19. That's when a presentation will be given in the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place in salon 105.

Issues discussed will include noise, safety, economic impact, and public health, stemming from Porter Airlines proposal to extend the runways to allow for jets.

Billy Bishop airport currently only allows propeller planes.

There have already been two information workshops, at which technical consultants and city staff discussed concerns with members of the public.

Porter has proposed to extend the runway a total of 168 metres to allow them to use new Bomabardier CS100 jets, touted as the quietest in the world. Porter has also put a secondary proposal on the table to increase that extension request to 200 metres.

Anything to do with the island airport involves a greater than usual degree of complexity, given its governance by the so-called Tripartite Agreement between the city, the Toronto Port Authority, and the federal government, all of whom must agree on whatever changes are to be made.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. If you cannot attend, you can also have your say online.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Deborah Blackstone

Market Street still awaits its sidewalk resuscitation

When developer Paul Oberman died in a plane crash in 2011, Market Street, and the buildings that line its west side across from St. Lawrence Market, was much on his mind.
As early as 2010, Oberman told Yonge Street that restaurants would be going in on street level, and that the work, which was scheduled to begin the month after he died, would be finished by 2012.
The LCBO at Market and Front, which was also part of the project, has finally opened, but the delays have meant that Temperance Street has stolen Market’s thunder, becoming the first of at least three such street restorations that had been planned in the city’s core to be completed.
Oberman’s company, Woodcliffe, was a leader in what's known in the development industry as adaptive re-use, the thorough renovation and reconception of old structures and spaces. Before Market Street, Woodcliffe was responsible for the Toronto North Stations becoming the LCBO’s Summerhill flagship store. Woodcliffe also owned the Flatiron Building, which was sold after his death to Clayton Smith’s similarly focused Commercial Realty Group, which recently completed its work on Temperance Street, anchored by the Dineen Building.
The third such street rehabiulitation in the works is St. Nicholas, an alley parallel to Yonge running south fron St. Joseph that MOD Development’s Gary Switzer has promised to turn into a shop-lined street as part of his Five project.
The restaurants on Market Street – which Woodcliffe tried to get re-named after Oberman – didn’t open in time for the summer. And after three weeks of communications neither Woodcliffe nor their PR agency, Vicbar, was able to tell Yonge Street what the source of the delays – or the unattractive metal corrals that have appeared on the street, presumably to house small sidewalk seating areas – was.
Let’s hope it's nothing serious.
Writer: Bert Archer

Mt Pleasant underpass mural nears completion

If the name hadn’t already been taken, Toronto might have been known as the Grey Lady. Even the recent flourish of condo development has added little to the city's palette.
This is where Street Art comes in.
For the past two years, this tiny sub-section of the city's transportation division has been underwriting murals all around town. Its latest, a two-sided piece by Ian Leventhal in the Mt Pleasant underpass at Bloor, is due to be finished next week. Another of his works is visible to motor commuters just off Bathurst Street at the 401.
"People are finally starting to notice the art around the city," says the program's manager, Lilie Zendel. The 22-storey mural of a Phoenix on 200 Wellesley, the apartment building that suffered the hoarding-related fire last year, is probably helping out on that front. (There’s talk that one may end up being the world’s highest, though it has some competition from the 70m high piece by German artist Hendrik Beikirch in Busan, South Korea.)
"We're trying to encourage walking," Zendel says, "and one of the ways you do that is to improve public space." She says they took some inspiration from Philadelphia’s 30-year-old mural program that started out as a graffiti prevention initiative and grew into itself over the years.
In addition to subsidizing and orchestrating these murals–it pays no more than 70 per cent of the cost--Street Art has put up an artist directory to help business owners commission their own pieces if they like.
The latest program, to be announced shortly, is called Outside the Box, for which they’ve hired two artists to create wraps for traffic light boxes, from which the city spends an inordinate amount of money each year removing tags and other graffiti.
Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Lilie Zendel

Temperance Street gets less temperate, more fun

If  you’ve been to lower Yonge Street at any point this summer, you’ll have noticed that Temperance Street, located just north of Adelaide, has utterly changed.

It used to be a side street. At some point, there was a café there haunted mostly by bike couriers. It was the sort of street that even native downtowners might not be able to place if it came up in conversation (which, naturally, it never would).

But thanks to developer Clayton Smith, it’s now the place to be on lower Yonge.

With Dineen Café right on the corner, backed up by The Chase Fish & Oyster and, upstairs, the higher-end Chase (with its rooftop balcony), all with sidewalk patios, the street is precisely what Woodcliffe wants Market Street to be, and what MOD Developments wants for St. Nicholas Street, part of its Five St. Joseph development, to be: A lively, populated street that serves both the developer’s building and becomes a neighbourhood hub. The fact that Smith has succeeded ought to give hope to those other developers, and also raise the bar for them.

"It's tough to find those unique destinations in the core," Smith says. "King West has that kind of feel, and by the Mirvish buildings, but not in the core really. That was the vision."

One of the reasons it’s so populated is that the renovation, a pristine example of adaptive reuse, was done so thoroughly and so well.

"We had some tremendous trades on the site," Smith says, quick to point out where that particular portion of the credit is due. "The copper work was amazing."

Some of the other credit goes to architect George Robb and Empire Restoration.

But it's Smith's baby, and his wheelhouse. He's also the guy who recently bought the Flatiron Building from the city’s other prominent restorative developer, Woodcliffe.

It's not the most profitable way of going about developing a site. Smith admits it would have been cheaper to tear the 117-year-old building down and put up something more straightforward. He even found a 2009 demolition permit issued to a previous owner. (Phew.)

But he’s not interested in that kind of developing. He even refused Starbucks' enthusiastic offer to take the corner space from him on very favourable terms, and leased it to John Young to make the Dineen Café, named for the building, itself named for its original owner and occupier, W. and D. Dineen Co. hatters and furriers.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Clayton Smith

Food trucks make it into city parks

Hot dogs are great. Sausages and veggie dogs, too. But for a while now, Torontonians have come back from their trips abroad and wondered, more and more loudly, why Toronto’s street food is so limited.

The city finally started listening, and tried out A La Cart. It didn’t work. Now they’re back with a new food truck pilot program.

According to Richard Mucha, acting director of licensing services at the city, and the guy in charge of the folks who tell us what we can and can’t eat on the street, it’s all been in response to a change in provincial regulations two years ago that expanded what was considered safe.

"A report had gone to the city council last year with regards to recommendations and expanding menus," he says. "Safety is always a concern, and we work with our partners in Toronto Public Health, but at this point, what we’re focusing on is running the pilot with food trucks in order to assess the feasibility of expanded street food."

In addition to safety, there are other licensing and practical concerns, like how the food trucks will share space with traffic of various sorts, pedestrian and otherwise.

"To gauge how that is going to play out, we’re running the pilot program in a number of parks around the city," Mucha says, including Allan Gardens, Canoe Landing and Sherbourne Common.

"Based on the information we get, our division, MLS, will be reporting to the Licensing and Standards Committee next spring, or at least in advance of the spring season." 

At which point, we’ll find out if we’ll be able to buy our cupcakes and quinoa salads on the streets in the long term.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Richard Mucha
Photo: Adam Groffman
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