Although they have only been in business since 2002, Streetcar Developments has already made a big impact in some of Toronto's trendiest neighbourhoods. Much of their new building stock is located east of the Don Valley Parkway and around Queen Street East in the Riverside District, steps away from Streetcar's offices. Two of Streetcar's recent developments, Sync Lofts and Edge Lofts, have transformed underutilized sites on Queen Street East into modern mid-rise condominiums. But, according to the company, the best is yet to come.
An expansive new project by Streetcar is set to transform a 4.5 acre Queen Street East site between the Don Valley Parkway and Broadview Avenue. Dubbed Riverside Square, the development will revitalize a plot of land that is currently occupied by a Toyota dealership (677 Queen Street East) and two large Tippet Richardson warehouses (77-79 East Don Roadway). The plan includes 894 condominium units within four buildings that vary in height, with the taller structures located away from Queen Street in order to maintain its mid-rise integrity. Buildings facing Queen Street will only be four storeys tall, rising to seven storeys as the building pushes back into the site. A 24-storey point tower will be located in the rear centre of the property to ensure that shadow impacts on Queen are minimized.
Though Streetcar's specialty is condominiums, they will not be the only feature of this project. Perhaps Riverside Square's main selling point is the pedestrian-friendly woonerf street that will be animated with a variety of large and small retail spaces. Combined with new retail spaces fronting onto Queen, Streetcar hopes to include a grocery store, restaurant, cafe and daycare within the site.
The property will require a completely new configuration that will see Munro Street extended south beyond Queen and terminating at a new public plaza within Riverside Square. "We're mid-rise boutique developers, so when we get into these larger sites, we try to break it down into more manageable chunks," said Founder and President of Streetcar Developments Les Mallins.
Another street will connect Munro to East Don Roadway, where five new urban showrooms facing the Don Valley Parkway—including the relocated Toyota dealership—will be integrated into two of the proposed buildings. This will complement the existing BMW and Mini dealerships in the area which can easily be viewed from the busy DVP.
The project will accommodate 722 parking spaces in total, including 536 residential spaces. In addition to vehicular spaces, there will be 851 spots for bikes available. These parking facilities plus loading and garbage collection will all be located in the project's underground area, eliminating the use of intrusive surface parking lots.
Mallins emphasized that the project will be connected to its surroundings both visually and physically. To do this, Streetcar is proposing several bike and pedestrian connections to alleviate transportation barriers in the neighbourhood. Though municipal officials will have to approve the idea, the current plan is to extend East Don Roadway south underneath the Eastern Avenue overpass to an unused 3.6 acre green space within the Eastern Avenue DVP on-ramp. This green space will become publicly-accessible and provide pedestrians and cyclists with a safe connection to Eastern Avenue and Corktown Common.
"This stretch of Queen hasn't been as successful as Leslieville," said Mallins. "This stretch between Broadview and the DVP, with its biggest frontage being taken up by a car lot, has been tricky. What this development does is unlock that."
Riverside Square will be built in phases, with the plot of land west of the new Munro Street extension being constructed first. RAW Design will be responsible for that first half with the second half designed by Giannone Petricone Associates.
Streetcar is also making an investment in a local landmark at the corner of Queen and Broadview. The New Broadview House Hotel, currently home to the strip club Jilly's, was built in 1893 and originally served as an office building. It became a hotel and then transitioned into its current use as a boarding house. The building has seen better days. Its interiors are beginning to crumble like so many of Toronto's historic structures. Even worse, the building lacks the heritage designation that would help ensure the property is kept in good condition, though the City has signaled its intention to designate.
Seeing that the building needed work, Streetcar bought the property and hopes to transform it into a boutique hotel with a ground floor restaurant and rooftop patio. "Riverside is well connected and very accessible so there's no reason that this couldn't be a destination", said Mallins. Jilly's has since closed and residents have been relocated to accommodate the renovation work that will be starting shortly.
The restoration of the former Broadview Hotel combined with the construction of a brand new walkable community at Riverside Square will help this stretch of Queen match the ambiance that has made the street famous. Ranging from one-bedroom to three-bedrooms, condos at Riverside Square start at $239,900 and offer numerous amenities, including a fitness room, swimming pool and rooftop terrace.
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