March 12, 2015

The Daily Durning: Vancouverism in Toronto

Chris Hume in the Toronto Star:


Proposal for Honest Ed site a deal we can’t refuse


A development proposal from the new owner of the Honest Ed site at Bloor and Bathurst won’t please everyone, but not for lack of trying.

honest-eds3.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxThe plan, designed by Vancouver architect Gregory Henriquez with Toronto landscape architect Janet Rosenberg, is a continuation of the traditional city by other means. Where almost any other developer would have opted for multiple glass-and-steel condo towers dozens of storeys tall, Westbank, also from Vancouver, sees a largely lowrise to midrise scheme organized around a grid of laneways reminiscent of 19th century Toronto. A 29-floor tower at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst will anchor the scheme, which then drops down to 10 storeys and less. …

Planners must be pinching themselves; though they’ll find lots to complain about — they think that’s their job — this project is light years ahead of the usual development stuff seen in Toronto, where developers and their designers generally amuse themselves and buyers trying to think outside the architectural box.

onest-eds-twoIncluded in the Westbank proposal are 1,000 housing units — all rental — as well as small shops, a covered market and pedestrian pathways leading through the 1.8-hectare property. …

The beauty of Westbank’s proposal is the emphasis on variety. Above all, the attention to small things as well as big inspires confidence in this project.

It’s no surprise Westbank comes from a city where developers are held to a higher standard than they are in Toronto. Focused on results, Vancouver’s approval process is much less political than ours. Developers there seem to have grasped the fact that in the long run, adopting a city-building stance pays off.

It may cost more in the short run, but over time not only does real estate retain its value, so does the city.

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  1. An intriguing plethora of mixed uses, hopefully public covered streets and lanes (an unrealized potential here in our cold country), and weave of building masses and textures.

    One wonders, though, what it will look like if the Ontario Municipal Board ever gets its hands on it. There the architects and planners curtsey to the lawyers representing the bottom line interests.

  2. A covered market! Why doesn’t Vancouver have one? (I wouldn’t count Granville Island as it is a market in a building).

  3. Nice… as long as Westbank can figure out how to build buildings in Toronto that don’t have glass falling from the 40th floor…

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