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Ontario's Cottage Country—essentially everything from an hour to five hours ouside of town—is a vast expanse of land and waterscapes. Marked variously by forests, farms, villages, wilderness, beaches, canals, rustic cabins… and strangely, wonderfully enough, a re-envisioned Modernist shoe factory, now remade as a remarkable mid-sized apartment building surrounded by getaway country… in Batawa.

Batawa? That's a name that won't be familiar to all, but to others it may be legendary: Batawa is a former factory town on the Trent River and Canal a few kilometres north of the 401 at Trenton, about an hour or so east of Toronto, depending on where you're driving from.

The Trent River and Lock No. 4, just south of Batawa, image by Craig White

The town quickly came into existence in 1939 when Thomas Bata, son of the Bata shoe company's founder, fled Nazi aggression in Europe, bringing 100 Czech families with him. Purchasing 25 adjacent properties by the Trent River in Eastern Ontario, Bata built homes for his workers with they could rent at reasonable rates, just a couple minutes walk from the shoe factory. By the mid-1940s the town had 300 homes and 1,000 residents while the factory employed about 2,000. Batawa also boasted a recreation hall, schools, churches, shops, a post office, a bank, and plenty of sports and recreational infrastructure to make the outdoors fun for those who lived there.

The 1939-built shoe factory is now the BatawaLofts, image by Craig White

In 1964, Bata's Canadian headquarters moved to Toronto, consolidating with a world-wide headquarters in Don Mills, where the Aga Khan complex now stands. At that point Bata operated in over 80 countries around the globe, producing about 175 million pairs of shoes annually in about 70 factories and selling them in around 5,000 stores. By the 1990s, Bata was struggling in Canada with cheaper imports, and in 2000 the Batawa factory was closed. In 2001, Bata's Canadian she stores were closed, and the world headquarters were moved to Lausanne, Switzerland.

Looking towards the front door of BatawaLofts, image by Craig White

Thomas Bata and his wife Sonja (she had trained as an architect) elected to stay in Toronto, however. The pair were prolific philanthropists, particularly in post-secondary education and in cultural pursuits. Sonja's collection of footwear from around the world triggered the building of the Bata Shoe Museum at Bloor and St George streets, with it opening in 1992. With production having left Batawa in 2000, Sonja was determined to reinvigorate the town—about 100 of the 300 homes remained—and find a new life for the former shoe factory.

A corner suite with a the town and ski hill backdrop, image by Craig White

It took years, but Sonja Bata was persistent, and while she passed away in February 2018, the re-envisioned factory was coming together, ready late that year with ground and second floor commercial spaces, and residential rental suites on floors three through five, dubbed the BatawaLofts. Interiors were totally rearranged and updated, and sealed in behind modern windows, to a design by Quadrangle and Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

A corner suite with a countryside backdrop, image by Craig White

The lofts are spacious, have high ceilings, and great views of the surrounding countryside. They are available as one bedrooms from 590 to 750 ft², one bedroom + dens at 610 or 810 ft², two bedrooms from 960 to 1,250 ft², and two bedroom + dens at 1,080 or 1,220 ft².

Sheltered seating area atop Batawa Lofts, looking east, image by Craig White

While all suites have balconies, up top, a new terrace on the roof offers sheltered and open space to gather and take in the views of the rolling countryside and the town. The townsite of Batawa has plenty for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy with skiing on the hills and trails, three hockey rinks, and facilities for more wintertime sports, while in summer the recreational opportunities include mountain biking and hiking, a "dinosaur dig" for kids, and plenty more. The town has many social clubs, while it's a short drive from here to Sandbanks Provincial Park and Prince Edward County's wine and artisanal food producers.

Looking northeast from sheltered seating area atop Batawa Lofts, image by Craig White

This is just the start for the rejuvenation of Batawa. You can find out much more about it on the official website.

We also have additional details of the history of Batawa and Sonja Bata's plans, along with more recent images, that can be found in our dedicated thread for the project. Want to get involved in the discussion? Members can post in the thread, or you may leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.

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A proposal for the northeast corner of Adelaide and Portland streets in Toronto’s Entertainment District continues to evolve in a recent resubmission. Originally proposed in 2016 as a 12-storey condominium development, the Sweeny &Co Architects-designed plan evolved into a 14-storey building by the time a refined version of the project was first resubmitted for rezoning. Now, with an application for Site Plan Approval submitted by developer Minto Group to the City, the plan has made another significant evolution that includes major revisions to the architectural expression.

121 Portland, image via submission to City of Toronto

The most noticeable change is to the exterior, which has been redesigned in response to comments from City planning staff who wanted a "more solid materiality." The revised exterior features a grid of white and copper-hued precast concrete panels, metal balustrade balcony guards, and a mix of opaque spandrel panels and metal slab edge coverings on upper floors.

Exterior details for 121 Portland, image via submission to City of Toronto

Other changes include increases to both the building height and unit count. The new plan measures 8 feet higher than the previous iteration, reaching a maximum height of 49.3 metres. The building would meet the Portland and Adelaide intersection with 276 m² of retail on the ground floor, with 9,469 m² of residential space housed on the levels above. Retail and residential units would mask two levels of above-grade parking.

Base of 121 Portland, image via submission to City of Toronto

A total of 118 condominium units are proposed, an increase from the previous iteration's 105. These suites are planned in a mix of 48 one-bedrooms with average sizes of 53 m², 46 two-bedrooms with average sizes of 73 m², and 24 three-bedrooms with average sizes of 81 m². 

Residents would have access to a total of 472 m² of amenity spaces, 236 m² each of indoor and outdoor amenities. The indoor amenity area is proposed to share the 14th floor with residential units and mechanical space, with stairs and an elevator connecting residents with the outdoor space above on the building’s roof.

Skyline, 121 Portland, image via submission to City of Toronto

Additional information and images can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.

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At last week's meeting, the Toronto Design Review Panel (DRP) got a glimpse of the latest version of Pinnacle Etobicoke, one of two massive multi-tower redevelopments currently underway along Dundas Street west of Kipling subway station. In a rare occurrence, Panel members were nearly unanimous in their criticisms of the project, expressing a rather lacklustre reaction to the project.

Rendering of Pinnacle Etobicoke, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

Headed by Pinnacle International and designed by Turner Fleischer Architects, Pinnacle Etobicoke proposes to build 9 towers ranging in height from 25 to 43 storeys, containing a total of over 3,100 residential units, office and retail spaces, and two new public parks. (One tower, 'Cypress', greyed out to the left of the highlighted towers in the image above, is already under construction and not subject to this design review.)

A previous iteration had been approved for rezoning several years ago, but in 2017 Pinnacle resubmitted for rezoning to increase the density of the remaining 8 towers. That resubmission has been scaled down and revised, and it is this revised version that was presented to the Panel for feedback. A Site Plan Approval application for Building 2, the two furthest left of the highlighted towers in the image above, has also been submitted, which is being reviewed concurrently with the rezoning resubmission.

The master plan for the site includes six residential towers ranging in height from 34 to 43 storeys aligned in a row along the south edge of the site. To the south of the row of towers, a linear park stretches ove r a transit reserve, held by the TTC for a future westward extension of the Bloor-Danforth line. To the northwest of the row of towers, two more residential towers of 25 and 27 storeys sit atop an 8-storey office and retail podium. (In the northeast, the 25-storey Cypress tower is currently under construction beside Concert Properties' recently completed first tower at The Kip District.) Between these is a new 6,377-square-metre public park, bisected down the middle by a public street.

Site plan, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

The Panel members were all in favour of redeveloping this site with more density, and generally supported a mixed-use multi-tower development at this location. They were also pleased with the quantity of public parkland provided in the master plan. But their supportive comments stopped there, as they largely criticized the lack of character and variety in the proposal, saying that the project had all the right ingredients but fell short on the execution.

Rendering looking east across north park, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

First, Panelists were rather displeased with the "overbearing sameness" of all the towers. Claiming that it is "the same type of tower plate that is just repeated, stamped across the site, delivering a lot of the same type of unit", they encouraged the designers to "shake things up a bit" and "grant some relief in the typical tower-podium format". They suggested that the design team differentiate the architecture of the towers at different scales, providing more diversity in the materiality of the buildings, in the heights of the buildings, and in their placement on the site.

Rendering looking south from Dundas, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

Another issue brought up by the Panel was the lack of diversity of residential unit types. The current unit mix features 1,781 one-bedroom units (62.19%), 1,076 two-bedroom units (37.57%), and a mere 7 three-bedroom units (0.24%). Panelists expressed disappointment in the lack of larger three-bedroom units, and asked for more variety in the types and sizes of dwellings offered. As one Panel member put it, "If you want to encourage mixed use, you also have to have mixed demographics, it's not just residential, office, retail….you need to have more larger units".

Rendering looking east from Shorncliffe Road, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

The largest criticism from the Panel was the lack of character in the master plan, and the lack of a central organizing idea that would be used to distinguish this neighbourhood from others. "This is what you do when you meet all the minimums", one Panel member stated, claiming that it felt like a planning exercise that simply checked all the right boxes of the Tall Building Design Guidelines, but lacked consideration of the human experience. As another Panelist commented, "The monoculture aspect of it is hitting me the most...there's no discernment, no hierarchy, no distinctions to be made...there's too much engineering and not enough architecture". The Panel lamented simply that, "the project needs some heart".

Rendering looking southeast from Dundas toward Building 2, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

With regards to the public realm, the Panel encouraged the design team and the City to move the road that divides the north park in two, instead combining it into one larger park. They also pointed out that with the row of towers to the south, this park will be covered in shadow for significant portions of the day. With respect to the southern linear park, they felt that there was not enough of a strong connection between it and the rest of the site, as the grand space simply ends unceremoniously at narrow passages leading to the north.

Rendering looking west from park, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

Finally, in terms of density, several Panel members felt that there was one tower too many, and that perhaps removing one or two might help solve some of the issues previously stated.

In the end, the Panel voted unanimously for a redesign, suggesting that the project head back to the drawing board to come up with a more engaging concept.

Rendering looking south through park, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

We will keep you posted as plans for Pinnacle Etobicoke continue to evolve, but in the meantime, you can tell us what you think by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.

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Since the Park Hyatt hotel closed its doors at Avenue Road and Bloor back in November 2017, the Oxford Properties-owned site at the west edge of Toronto's Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood has been undergoing a major reinvention. Designed by KPMB Architects with ERA Architects overseeing heritage elements, the project is expanding the complex's 1936-built, 17-storey south tower with a relocated bank of elevators and new top floor while converting hotel and office spaces into retail and 65 new luxury rental apartments. 

South Tower at the Park Hyatt, image by Forum contributor kingpark

We last checked in on the project about three months ago when the steel skeleton of the new elevator bank had begun to climb the south tower's north wall beside Avenue Road. In the time since, the steel climb to the top of the 17-storey tower is complete, and is now being enclosed. At ground level, the low-rise arm that connected to north and south towers is being entirely rebuilt with a larger connecting volume.

South tower addition at the Park Hyatt, image by Forum contributor ADRM

Views from the south show how the rebuilt top floor is set back from the tower's parapet wall. A larger rooftop bar and a new event space all with a more generous terrace will open up top when complete. Below, the tower's previous mechanical facilities will be relocated to a new mechanical penthouse level within the addition, freeing up space for the new publicly accessible spaces.

Looking north to South Tower at the Park Hyatt, image by Craig White

The 1956-built Post-Moderinzed north tower will remain as a hotel, but with updated suites and amenities. The low-rise connecting arm is coming together quickly along Avenue Road, and will eventually house a porte cochère, new reception area and lounge, bar, ballroom, and dining areas.

Central section and north tower at the Park Hyatt, image by Forum contributor kingpark

Additional information and images can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.

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Since the Park Hyatt hotel closed its doors at Avenue Road and Bloor back in November 2017, the Oxford Properties-owned site at the west edge of Toronto's Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood has been undergoing a major reinvention. Designed by KPMB Architects with ERA Architects overseeing heritage elements, the project is expanding the complex's 1936-built, 17-storey south tower with a relocated bank of elevators and new top floor while converting hotel and office spaces into retail and 65 new luxury rental apartments. 

South Tower at the Park Hyatt, image by Forum contributor kingpark

We last checked in on the project about three months ago when the steel skeleton of the new elevator bank had begun to climb the south tower's north wall beside Avenue Road. In the time since, the steel climb to the top of the 17-storey tower is complete, and is now being enclosed. At ground level, the low-rise arm that connected to north and south towers is being entirely rebuilt with a larger connecting volume.

South tower addition at the Park Hyatt, image by Forum contributor ADRM

Views from the south show how the rebuilt top floor is set back from the tower's parapet wall. A larger rooftop bar and a new event space all with a more generous terrace will open up top when complete. Below, the tower's previous mechanical facilities will be relocated to a new mechanical penthouse level within the addition, freeing up space for the new publicly accessible spaces.

Looking north to South Tower at the Park Hyatt, image by Craig White

The 1956-built Post-Moderinzed north tower will remain as a hotel, but with updated suites and amenities. The low-rise connecting arm is coming together quickly along Avenue Road, and will eventually house a porte cochère, new reception area and lounge, bar, ballroom, and dining areas.

Central section and north tower at the Park Hyatt, image by Forum contributor kingpark

Additional information and images can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.

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Today's Photo of the Day features a view of Toronto's skyline as seen from a high-rise in the Regent Park neibhourhood. Captured by Forum contributor skycandy, this west-facing shot shows a number of cranes helping to extend the skyline east of the Downtown Core.

Toronto skyline, image by Forum contributor skycandy

Want to see your work featured as Photo of the Day? Head over to the City Photos & Videos section of the Forum, or submit your images to our Instagram or UrbanToronto Flickr Pool for your chance to be featured on our Front Page. 

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Declining attendance is a reality that many church congregations face these days, often leading them to tough decisions about what to do with their buildings—buildings which often bring great character to their neighbourhoods. The answer is often to sell the property, with nearby residents who care about the quality of their streetscapes left to place their hope in developers who respect the architecture and feel of the neighbourhood. In the case of High Park-Alhambra United Church, new owners Medallion Capital Group sat down with the locals to take into account their vision for the reimagined site.

Looking southwest across Annette and High Park Avenue to 260 High Park, image courtesy of Medallion Capital

The result for 260 High Park Avenue—on the southwest corner with Annette Street—is a four-storey complex that retains much of the heritage features of the church, while echoing its massing in a contemporary extension that forms a U-shaped massing which will rise where the church's Sunday School and surface parking lot have been. 

Looking southeast from Annette Street to 260 High Park, image courtesy of Medallion Capital

The design work to transform the site has been given to three teams of architects; Turner Fleischer is handling the modern parts of the complex—to be clad primarily in a brick that's complementary to the existing church walls—ERA Architects will exercise their expertise in heritage conservation aspects, and a first-timer in Toronto, Finegold Alexander Architects of Boston, renowned for sensitive church conversions, are making the best of out the heritage spaces of the church to create exceptional suites within the former sanctuary.

The courtyard between the former church and the new addition at 260 High Park, image courtesy of Medallion Capital

Landscaping designed by MEP Design will blend the development into the tree-lined streets of the High Park neighbourhood, and give the courtyard entrance to building a garden ambiance. Inside the lobby doors, a 24-hour concierge will be positioned in a space designed by Toronto's esteemed U31. Their chic spaces will marry the serene, traditional qualities of the church and neighbourhood setting with the warmth of natural materials in clean, modern lines and with the latest in conveniences. Indoor amenities will include a multi-purpose lounge with fireplace, party room with custom kitchen and private dining area, a fitness centre with cardio equipment, a yoga studio, sauna and change rooms, while outside, a patio will be found adjacent to the ground level party room, and a rooftop terrace will give residents a treetops view of Toronto's now numerous far-flung skylines.

The party room at 260 High Park, image courtesy of Medallion Capital

Suites in the 55-unit contemporary portion of the complex—ranging between 632 and 2,567 ft² and starting in the $600,000s—are already on sale and are close to 70% sold out. They come in one-bedroom, one-bedroom+den, two-bedroom, two-bedroom+den, and three-bedroom+den layouts. Sales of the 15 Sanctuary Church Loft suites are beginning soon. They will range between 837 and 3,081 ft², come in one-bedroom, one-bedroom+den, two-bedroom, and two-bedroom+den layouts, and be priced between $1M and $4M. Sanctuary Lofts will feature stained glass windows, have ceiling heights that average 10 feet, some with vaulted ceilings. Some Sanctuary Lofts are multi-level units.

All suites will feature smooth ceilings, custom European cabinetry, quartz countertops and backsplashes, Miele appliances, designer baths with rainfall showerheads, cabling to support high-speed entertainment and communication services, and many more high-end features and finishes. With Wilkinson Construction taking on the project, Medallion Capital Group principals Chris Giamou and Mike Giamou are confident enough in the quality of their final product that they have each purchased suites within the complex. 

The roof terrace at 260 High Park, image courtesy of Medallion Capital

260 High Park's presentation centre can be found at 2150 Bloor Street West in Bloor West Village. Hours are Saturday to Thursday 12 to 5 PM, closed on Fridays. 

Additional information and images can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.

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Years after redevelopment plans were first floated for Newtonbrook Plaza on Yonge Street at Cummer Avenue in North York, the aging retail plaza is now being cleared for a new high-rise community by Aoyuan International, known as M2M Condos. Before the five-tower, Wallman Architects-designed development can rise, crews are working to remove existing buildings on the site's approximately 32,000 m² footprint.

Aerial view facing east over Newtonbrook Plaza, image via Google Maps

Following the issuing of permits in late 2018, crews from Lions Demolition mobilized on site to begin teardown in the final weeks of the year. By late January, structural demolition began for an 11-storey office building at the south end of the site's Yonge Street frontage. By the start of March, the office tower was gone, and work had begun on removing the retail plaza itself.

Office tower demolition as seen in February, image by Edward Skira

By April, work had moved on to the old grocery store at the north end of the site, a task which wrapped up by the end of the month. The loss of this particular amenity is only temporary though, as a new and improved grocery store is planned as part of the redevelopment. 

Grocery store clearance, mid-April, image by Edward Skira

Now well into May, only a central section of the retail plaza remains standing, home to the M2M Condos presentation centre. With the first phase's two towers set to rise at the south end of the site where the former office building once stood, the central section of plaza may remain in place for a while for sales of upcoming phases.

Remaining section of retail plaza at M2M Condos site, image by Forum contributor Roundabout

The project’s first phase will bring two towers of 34 and 36 storeys to the south end of the site, with a combined 541 condominium units. Residents will enjoy a long list of amenities, while first phase and future phase residents will also have access to a selection of community amenities including daycare and community centres.

Additional information and images can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.

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New towers are rising all across Toronto, but some density increases are more complicated than others. One of the more notable projects under construction in the city is the expansion of the 1977-built LuCliff Place site at 700 Bay, where KingSett Capital is adding new space both beside and on top of an existing building. Designed by Quadrangle, six new levels are being built atop the existing 25-storey LuCliff Place, while a 32-storey addition replacing a former two-storey podium is rising at the site's west end.

Looking southwest to 700 Bay, image by Forum contributor Red Mars

It's been a full four months since we last checked in on the project, and plenty of progress has been recorded in the time since. Back in January, the west addition stood four levels above grade, and has since risen about a dozen more floors, with work currently underway on forming the 16th level. With the west addition now roughly 50% of the way to the top, a construction hoist has been installed on the south side of the new build.

West addition at 700 Bay, image by Forum contributor Benito

Cladding installation has also begun for the west addition, coming in the form of white aluminum panels surrounding window wall cladding with glazing, dark mullions, and louvres, and installed as far as the 5th level so far, offering hints of how the west addition will look upon completion next year.

Looking south to 700 Bay, image by Forum contributor ProjectEnd

The rooftop addition has also made a fair bit progress since January, when three levels had been formed atop the existing tower. Since then, the remaining three levels having been added, bringing the tower's main volume to its final 32-storey, 95-metre height. The rooftop addition all gradually stretch further west.

Rooftop addition at 700 Bay, image by Forum contributor Red Mars

Additional information and images can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.

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