This past Friday we visited the site of Canderel’s Aura at College Park, along with Mike Egden, the winner of our recent Instagram contest, for our first look inside the 78-storey megaproject at Yonge and Gerrard. In the days leading up to our visit, we gave users of our Forum section the option of asking questions about the development, which we put to Riz Dhanji, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Canderel. Here are your answers, along with a tour of the building!

Rendering of Aura by nighttime, image courtesy of CanderelRendering of Aura by nighttime, image courtesy of Canderel

For the first question, Forum member ‘sub-URBAN’ asks; “will there be any architectural lighting?”. A very good question—likely stemming from a market rendering above, depicting white strips of light running up the tower’s upper floors. Though some have assumed that this was merely artistic license, Riz Dhanji confirms that the building will in fact be lit at night. LED lighting will start at approximately the 70th floor. The staggered strips of lighting could be read as rain drops running down a window. LED floodlights will also be used to light the crown from the outside. 

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoAura at College Park, image by Jack Landau

Forum member "rpeters" asked "How many floors worth of mechanical-roof will be going up/how many meters of mechanical/roof?" The roof will be peaked in a couple of spots, but we were told 40 feet above the top of the penthouse. Sorry we do not have a more precise answer related to the sloped peaks.

Forum member ‘whatever’ asks “What's going on with the missing display screen in the ‘notch’ at the corner of Yonge/Gerrard?”.  In short, the sign and its details are currently being finalized with the City of Toronto. The electronic signage should be installed by mid-2014. 

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects Toronto"Notch" at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard, image by Jack Landau

User ‘dougtoronto’ asked about “the rationale behind the uneven floor heights”.  Due to the massive size of Aura, mechanical services are spread throughout the building, meaning that on some floors pipes and conduits need to run horizontally from one vertical stack to another. On those transition floors, the pipes are hidden between ceilings and the next floor slab, and the means that those floor-to-floor heights must be greater.

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoVarying floor heights can be seen on Aura at College Park, image by Jack Landau

Just for the sake of reference, here is a peek inside of one of these mechanical floors. These units are hidden behind the spandrel panels at the top of the east "box", about 58 storeys above Yonge Street.

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoThe interior of one of Aura's mechanical floors, image by Jack Landau

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoThe interior of one of Aura's mechanical floors, image by Jack Landau

Forum member ‘innsertnamehere’ asks “When will the park renos start?”, referring to the adjacent College Park greenspace, also known as Brabara Ann Scott Park. Canderel will be spending $3.5 million on fixing up the park, with work commencing in either Spring or Summer of 2014. 

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoBarbara Ann Scott Park, image from Apple Maps

Forum member ‘Ramako’ asked a two-part question about the polarizing underground retail portion of Aura, inquiring about Canderel’s reasoning behind the “micro-retail spaces” as well as asking whether the spaces have been designed to allow future consolidation into larger units. 

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoOpen stall in the largely vacant food court on Aura's P1 level, image by Jack Landau

Below-grade retail spaces in high-traffic urban areas tend to be ideal locations for large supermarkets and small independent retailers. An exclusion clause in Canderel's purchase agreement of the site prohibited them from including a supermarket or grocery store at Aura, which resulted in the divided space underground. The decision was made to market the spaces as condominium retail units, not unlike those in Pacific Mall just over the Scarborough boundary in Markham. Some adjoining units are owned by the same unit, meaning that some could be combined into larger units.

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoBelow-grade retail at Aura, image by Jack Landau

Those unfamiliar with Aura may be wondering as to how retail can open in an unfinished building. With a building of this size, it is in the financial interest of all involved parties to expedite the opening of the building’s lower floors. The retail podium here was able to be opened by attaching a sizeable temporary metal fall-protection canopy which cantilevers beyond the building’s lower floors. Aura’s podium is now alive with the buzz of shoppers and restaurant-goers as construction continues on the tower’s upper floors.

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoAura's podium viewed from the northeast, image by Jack Landau

In addition to the Marshalls and Bed, Bath & Beyond stores which opened first, two bank branches, a Hard Candy gym owned by Madonna, and a restaurant/bar have recently opened up shop in Aura’s podium. Below, we take a quick look through the newly opened restaurant anchoring the corner of Yonge and Gerrard; Red’s Midtown Tavern.

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoInside of Red's Midtown Tavern on the ground floor of Aura, image by Jack Landau

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoInside of Red's Midtown Tavern on the ground floor of Aura, image by Jack Landau

To the immediate west of Red's, another restaurant space is in the works. 'Scaddabush', the new name of the recently rebranded 'Alice Fazooli's' chain of restaurants, will open on Gerrard Street next year.

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoA look inside the future 'Scaddabush' restaurant, image by Jack Landau

The podium floors aren’t the only part of Aura seeing new tenants right now. Occupancy has begun on the lower tower floors, and residents are now getting their first taste of life inside the 78-storey, Graziani + Corazza Architects-designed tower. A look around some of the unfinished suites in the tower’s middle section hints at some of the dramatic views to come in the next installment on our visit to Aura at College Park. Suites in the second bank of 3 elevators should begin occupancy in February, 2014. (There are 3 banks of 3 elevators each for the residential floors.)

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoUnfinished suite on one of Aura's upper floors, image by Forum member drum118

Nobody asked about loft units in the building, but there are some. You can see an unfinished parapet wall in the image below; there's a bedroom to the left of that, a living room below. That's quite the corner window (which you're only seeing a small part of)!

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoSoutheast view from a corner suite with loft bedroom parapet wall visible on the left, image by Craig White

Here's a couple of really unfinished loft units. Their time will come!

Stairs will connect lower and upper floors in loft suites at Aura, image by JackStairs will connect lower and upper floors in loft suites at Aura, image by Jack Landau

This until has quite the terrace just outside its combined living room/dining room/kitchen.

Aura at College Park Canderel Stoneridge Graziani + Corazza Architects TorontoSouthwest view towards terrace, image by Craig White

The impressive views from within the unfinished suites are only a small taste of what is to come. Tomorrow we will take you out on Aura’s upper terraces for an unobstructed look around downtown Toronto. Until then, additional information and renderings can be found in Aura’s dataBase file, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Click on the associated Forum thread links, or voice your opinion in the comments section provided at the bottom of this page.