From the Globe Real Estate Section, by John Bentley Mays:
Vü may jump-start east downtown renewal
JOHN BENTLEY MAYS
From Friday's Globe and Mail
After a century of neglect and dilapidation, Toronto's downtown east of Yonge Street is gradually coming back to life — very gradually. It's high time for things to get seriously moving there.
Queen Street West, for its part, has been transformed from a desolate skid row into a bouncy avenue of clubs, restaurants and shops in just 25 years. Other strips in the west-side inner city are being revived by smart investment, especially in new housing. But despite strong growth elsewhere, the renewal of such formerly grand streets as Church, Jarvis and Sherbourne continues to lag behind the rest of the city.
One sign of progress, however, is the appearance of new east-side condominium projects attractive to people affluent enough to support the shops and services that liven up a street. For an example of what I'm talking about, take Aspen Ridge Homes' Vü, slated to rise next spring at the corner of Jarvis and Adelaide streets.
Lofts with 10-foot ceilings are currently on the market for between $150,990 and $307,990, while apartments are for sale between $162,990 (a 485-square-foot studio) and $517,990 (a 1,200-square-foot two bedroom with den).
The design of Vu — with twp towers (15 and 24 storeys) and an eight-storey podium, bundles tightly around a little courtyard on a single block — is less about high style than solid city-building. Given that some people may feel apprehensive about the area, the building's relationship with the city is somewhat guarded. (Hariri Pontarini Architects)
These are sensible prices for deep downtown properties, it seems to me —especially in view of the fact that a certain amount of urban pioneering will be required of anyone who moves there. Vü and other high-density residential developments — notably The Spire at Church and Adelaide — will surely draw more services, shops and restaurants to the area, but it may take some time for local life to become even a little sophisticated.
Designed by David Pontarini, founding partner in the Toronto firm Hariri Pontarini Architects, Vü is less about high style than solid city-building. Its three main structural elements — two towers (15 and 24 storeys) and an eight-storey podium, bundled tightly around a little courtyard on a single block — are intended to be artistic responses to their urban context.
The use of much brick and mortar in the street-level parts of the complex was prompted, Mr. Pontarini explained, by the brick industrial façades that abound in the neighbourhood. The towers of glass and steel are more urbane and openly modernist in inspiration — tall, but not too tall for the generally low-scale environment. The higher of the two towers, marking the corner of Adelaide and Jarvis, does good urban service by providing a monumental focus and termination for Adelaide, which jogs sharply at this intersection.
Townhouses open directly along the George Street façade of the project, enhancing its linkage to the street-level life of the city. But the area's long history as a haven for needy and unpredictable people is not going to be undone by a single spiffy condominium development. So it is that Vü tends to be somewhat more guarded in its relationship to the city than developments of its kind in other parts of town.
Cars come inside the inner courtyard; there are no drop-off points along the edges. The elevator lobbies for the towers are tucked well inside the structure, and well away from the sidewalks. And the most conspicuous pedestrian entrance is not on one of the more exposed sides (Adelaide, Jarvis, Richmond Street East) but along little George Street. I have no problem with this emphasis on security, by the way. Anything that makes it easier for people to get past their apprehensions about living on the east side is fine by me.
This part of Toronto, after all, should be quickly repopulated, and treasured by its new inhabitants, and by us all.
It was in this place, in 1793, that John Graves Simcoe laid out the first thoroughfares of the tiny town of York; George Street was the original townsite's western boundary. But in the mind of Simcoe — despite the harsh wilderness conditions of early life here — York was never to be just another frontier settlement. It was to emerge as a fine, large city, with stately buildings in the classical manner quickly replacing the log cabins of the first settlers. A great university would arise here, along with a botanical garden, learned societies and other institutions of high civilization.
Some of Simcoe's visions have been realized in the city that came into existence after the 1790s — but few in the exact clump of city blocks where Hogtown got its start. Vü and other developments on the east side will be a success, at least from the standpoint of those who love Toronto, if they help breathe new life into our ancient townsite, and inspire still more investment of money and energy into this area of long-neglected urban heritage.
We don't have an official thread yet for Vü.