Archives for posts with tag: condo

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Toronto is condo boom town. The explosion of development within the last ten years means that Toronto will be left with buildings that will be associated our time: the 2000s and 2010s.

Love them or hate them, 2000s condo design has a certain ubiquity — an immediately recognizable look that makes them identifiable among tall structures from other eras and that serve other purposes. Their heavy use of glass, the uninventive balcony design, the bluish, greyish colouring, all point to buildings that are unmistakably condos built in the last ten years. And there are a lot of them.

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Toronto condos from the 2000s have a certain ubquity

The Condo Box Project

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Using wheat paste, my street art collaborator Glo’erm, and I, transformed a Canada Post drop-off box into a mini-Condo. Their ubiquitous design, as described above, mean that the box is immediately recognizable as a condo.

The box is placed on Ossington, just south of College — a neighbourhood at the edge of condo boom town. Its mini-ness leaves the effect that this condo has, like its larger counterparts, somehow naturally emerged, like a mushroom in the forest. Its spawning feels inevitable and uncontrollable — a feeling many Torontonians have about the current explosion in, often low quality and sloppily placed condo developments.

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The size also puts passersby in the position of an urban planner or developer looking out over a model of the city. Its a position of power, that ordinary citizens do not occupy. But this position points to the agency we do indeed have over shaping our city. Like the planners and developers, Torontonians do have some say in the city they inhabit — the democratic processes may be somewhat broken, but political agency can be accessed, if only we had the motivation.

Another interesting phenomenon will be the box’s decay over time. Inevitably, the wheat pasted paper panels will begin to fade and strip away. Will this hyper-sped process of decay predict what the condos being built today might look like in the future? As they say, time will tell.

This post originally appeared on Urban Toronto

Toronto is a condo boom town. With the highest rate of condo construction in North America, Toronto’s cityscape has been dramatically altered by the doubling of condo towers in the last decade.

But are condos contributing to a liveable city? Or are they the product of a global investments game, sacrificing quality for profit to the detriment of the innocent Torontonian condo-dweller?

Condo Game Doc Zone CBCThe Condo Game airs on CBC’s Doc Zone on Thursday November 21 at 9pm

We know that UrbanToronto readers have strong opinions about these matters as Toronto continues to verticalize, and we are excited that CBC Television’s Doc Zone will explore these pressing questions in ‘The Condo Game’, a documentary by Bountiful Films airing next week, Thursday Nov 21 at 9pm.

The documentary will examine the forces at play behind Toronto’s fast paced market, exploring finance, construction and the future of the condo. The integrity of city planning in effecting the shape of the city will be examined, along with analysis of the forces of a booming market.

Check out the trailer, and read more about the documentary on CBC’s website.

Retail podium

Depending on your politics, there is much to gripe about when discussing condo development in Toronto. Some qualms are knee-jerk reactions to a lifestyle of hyper-consumerism not cared for. Other criticisms are directed toward the financing of the buildings — reported to be fuelled by international real-estate investors that care little about the quality of a condo’s building materials or its contribution to the city. 

I think one of the greatest failures of recent condo development in Toronto is the homogeneity of retail podiums that seem to be planted at the bottom of every new construction. About a decade ago developers finally got the memo from post-Jane Jacobs planners that mixed-used development makes good city. Retail at street grade, residential above ensures that the messiness of city commerce enlivens a streetscape, creates spaces for social interaction, and fosters citizen surveillance and propriety over city space. 

Retail podiums are certainly a good feature, when done right. Something, however, has gone terribly wrong. The square footage of space provided by retail spaces at street level in new condos is typically so huge that only Shoppers Drug Mart, TD Bank and Starbucks are the only retailers wealthy enough to afford the rent. In the very technical bylaws that now require retail at street level, a bit of urban magic has been lost. The guidelines do not specify minimum or maximum square footage, so in the interest of efficiencies and obtaining reliable tenants, major corporations and banks are the go-to to fill the (very) large retail square feet vacuum. 

There are a number of reasons why this isn’t a great situation. First, it creates a suburban kind of inner-city monotony, where the same landscape constantly repeats itself. The store fronts are so large and corporately sanitized that walking by them feels drawn out, bland and boring — not conducive to the messy, fine grained rhythm of constantly punctuated, organically grown urban space. Second, it doesn’t allow small businesses to thrive. Small businesses ensure localized economic benefits, plus spill-over benefits such as entrepreneurs that care about, and thus contribute to, their neighbourhoods.  

I am always genuinely peeved to see a perfectly fine condo building tarnished by retail that’s too big for anything but Shoppers Drug Mart. That’s why my heart skipped a beat when I saw that “Bari’s Fine Food” had just been opened in the podium of 530 St Clair West at Bathurst (that is, re-opened — it apparently occupied the building that was demolished to make way for the new condominium). Bari’s is a local business, feels unique and at home in its location and is a welcome contrast to the TD Bank and Starbucks that share the condo’s podium further east. 

While the  phenomenon of retail at street level in new condominiums is a welcome step in making good city, it would be all the better if the bylaws went the extra step to assure space is made for small businesses. This would accomplish the above-mentioned goals of increasing local propriety of city space, investing in local economies, and achieving a fine grain of vertically articulated urban space — Imagine a city of sparkling new condo towers, with messy, niche, and unexpected store fronts animating the street and contributing to the city with their hard work — and what a pleasure it would be to walk by.

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A new temporary landscape has emerged in Toronto — a direct consequence of the transformational condo boom that is making this city decidedly more vertical.

Condo narrows occur when two condo-construction projects flank both sides of the same street. Protective construction sheds envelop the side walk and spill over into the street, narrowing a thoroughfare’s width. The effect is a tightening of space. Funnelled into a condo-narrows, flows of pedestrian and auto traffic slow as they are constricted through narrow and cordoned off sidewalks and streets.

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The example I’ve photographed is a condo-narrows in its early stages on Charles Street west of Jarvis. The condo construction has yet to emerge from the foundation and rise above the construction sheds, but when it does it will further canyonize the space. As sun light is blocked and shafted, the feeling of passing through will feel more constricting, like entering a deep desert chasm.

A condo-narrows then, is effectively a sign of things to come. When the sidewalks and roads are narrowed by construction sheds flanking both sides, this is a preview of new building forms that will emerge, leaving a  mark of city space that is permanently constricted.

Toronto’s electric mountain range is growing.

I hear they’re calling it “Tall-ronto” these days…

Toronto!

You have a new type of street furniture to join your highly esteemed offerings of Astral Media benches, trash cans, bus shelters and “info pillars”!

It’s the ever-ubiquitous, prodigious in its immense geographic coverage, the find-it-on-every-corner Condo sandwich board!

Today, these low-profile objects literally cover Toronto’s downtown streets. Passersby can easily revel in the wide selections of “authentic” loft lifestyle condos advertised on every street corner, and luckily are even pointed in the right direction.

Just another effect of the incredible number of condominiums being built in Toronto on the city’s streets.

UPDATE!

Dan Bergeron, as part of the Luminato Festival, has created an incredible condo sandwich board sculpture, highlighting the incredible rise in Toronto housing prices since the 1970s. And it’s located at the crossroads of St James Town, Cabbagetown and Regent Park! Woah!